Aug 30, 2022 - Economy & Business

Garry Tan is the past and future of Y Combinator

Garry Tan at a conference in 2018.
Garry Tan in 2018. Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images.

Garry Tan was a Y Combinator founder in the summer of 2008, back when the famed startup incubator was known for its exclusivity. But Tan has no plans to return YC to its limited roots, when he takes over as president and CEO early next year.

What Tan's saying: "There are some people who say only 10 or so companies matter per year and some say it's 100 or hundreds of companies per year that matter. I'm a believer in the hundreds."

  • There were 21 startups in the same batch as Posterous, which Tan co-founded and later sold to Twitter.
  • The most recent summer batch was more than 10 times larger, despite having been culled from the 414 startups involved last winter.

Sam Altman, a former YC president and current CEO of Open AI, agrees with Tan’s approach: “The people who complain about YC batch sizes are the people whose goal is to tell everyone for the rest of their lives that they went to Harvard. If you want to create a really good startup, and to benefit from YC’s advice and network, the program getting bigger is better.”

VC angle: Tan's path back to YC, and its impact on the venture capital firm he co-founded (Initialized Capital), are a bit less clear.

  • Tan says he only began talks with YC within the past several weeks, and demurred when asked if he had been in competition with longtime YC exec and longtime friend Michael Seibel.
  • He adds that some limited partners in Initialized Capital, which last year raised $700 million for two funds, were aware of the negotiations. But he declined to say if LPs must vote to continue to funds' investment periods, due to keyman provisions, except to say that Initialized is "in the middle of figuring all that out."
  • Tan will be succeeded as managing partner at Initialized by Jen Wolf and Brett Gibson, with sources saying that Wolf for years has been in charge of the firm's day-to-day management (Tan didn't have any direct reports).

The bottom line: YC reached into its past to transition into the future.

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