Startup accelerator Y Combinator is a helpful resource for entrepreneurs looking for mentorship through the tough process of building a company. Unfortunately, it’s a very resource-intense program, in that the accelerator’s partners can only devote time to so many startups without being stretched too thin.
While hundreds of entrepreneurs get to go through the program each year, there are thousands more around the world who could benefit from the lessons imparted at YC. Y Combinator president Sam Altman says he started kicking that idea around about a year ago, and the result is a new lecture-based class at Stanford called “How to Start a Startup.”
Beginning one week from today, the class will offer a series of lectures, including how you get and evaluate ideas, raise money, build a product people will like, and grow. While Altman will run the first two lectures (there will be two per week for 10 weeks), the plan isn’t to simply have Y Combinator partners stop by and idly chat about their thoughts on startups — though one would imagine that would be sufficient to draw a crowd.
Instead, the accelerator is bringing in the biggest names in Silicon Valley investing to teach lectures in the subjects they’re best known for. The list of speakers includes industry heavyweights like Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Ben Horowitz and Marissa Mayer, with each given 50 minutes per lecture to impart what they consider the essentials of their topic.
Altman notes that, while the lectures will certainly offer attendees knowledge that will help them get off the ground with confidence, they’re no replacement for the full YC experience. “Maybe 30 percent of advice needed to start a startup is generic and covered by this course,” he told TechCrunch in a phone call.
An observation frequently made about Y Combinator is that it seems in some ways to be the tech world’s equivalent of going to business school. In a recent News Genius annotation of an article from The Information, Altman wrote, “I don’t think I agree with this metaphor—very few of the people we fund at YC are making a decision between business school and YC. It’d be more accurate to say we’re disrupting taking an engineering job at Google or Facebook.”
YC’s new class at Stanford seems to follow that model. The class is being taught within the computer science department and is limited to engineering students.
Still, a 250-person venue doesn’t seem like the best place to try to reach the thousands of people that will want to hear what the class’s lecturers have to say. That’s why each lecture will be available via YouTube and iTunes Connect shortly after they take place, and associated reading materials and assignments will be linked to on the course site. To keep in touch with others following along with the lectures from afar, there will be a forum and Facebook group available to discuss their content and provide further opportunities to learn from those involved in startups.