Paul Graham’s plan to give away his best billion dollar ideas? That was so last week. The man who pioneered the practice of the startup idea freebie has taken his “Don’t worry about coming up with your own concept” theory to its logical extreme. Now, you don’t even need an idea. At all.
On the Y Combinator blog yesterday, Mr. Graham, a partner in the prestigious incubator, let the world know about a little experiment they’re trying with this the next cycle of applicants: “If the only thing holding you back from starting a startup is not having an idea for one, now nothing is holding you back. If you apply for this batch and you seem like you’d make good founders, we’ll accept you with no idea and then help you come up with one.”
It sounds to us like a riskier version of “fund the entrepreneur, not the idea,” only without forcing them to clear the hurdle of at least being able to generate and articulate one compelling concept.
Where’s the logic in that? Mr. Graham says he realized Y Combinator had already sort of sanctioned the practice:
“A lot of the startups we accept change their ideas completely, and some of those do really well. Reddit was originally going to be a way to order food on your cellphone. (This is a viable idea now, but it wasn’t before smartphones.) Scribd was originally going to be a ridesharing service.”
While some eager beavers thought sidestepping the “we’re too early” excuse was a good thing (“No one is earlier than this,” wrote @dess_e.) Others seem to imply that in these frothy times, a barrier to entry is not a bad idea.
— Michael Friis (@friism) March 14, 2012
And what of those who just wanna be part of the hard-work-and-world-change startup lifestyle?
They need a reality check, implied serial developer Yong Fook. Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams (who had a great idea that ended up failing) agreed.
Amen “@yongfook: If u want to “do a startup” but don’t have an idea you’re passionate about, you’re just in love w idea of being a founder.”
— Jonathan Abrams (@abrams) March 14, 2012
That one got 39 retweets, including one from Dennis Crowley, who’s managed to come up with a few concepts on his own.