Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame recently mused on what he sees as seven “Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas” in areas ripe for revolution. Interestingly, Search tops the list, an area which we feel could actually do with a few revolutions to populate the field with a more competitive landscape of players. And we must say, we can’t disagree with the clear, though daunting, opportunities for shake-ups in the other areas identified by Graham.
But what we find perplexing is that Y Combinator’s investment habits, like those of most investor outfits, run directly at odds with Graham’s thesis in this essay: that the biggest opportunities for revolution often sound like the craziest ideas at first. Graham points out the flawed reasoning in investors’ so often shying away from projects trying to pull off these sorts of major revolutions, but Y Combinator itself mostly gravitates toward startups making relatively small, iterative progress on existing idea spaces. And with the numbers game it plays with small investments over many young companies, Y Combinator has the perfect investment model to engage in some serious experimentation. It’s gratifying to hear these kinds of arguments coming from someone as widely listened to and respected as Graham is, but there is no reason for him to be passively voicing them. Respectfully, Paul Graham, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.