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Thread: ycombinator: It chaps my hide.

  1. #1
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    ycombinator: It chaps my hide.

    I dunno. I'm late. I got on it yesterday for the first time. Today, I wrote something and got negatively rated. Who can downrate people, just mods, right?

    Here's what I wrote:

    ... Meanwhile, there's now an industry built on telling children their dreams really can come true if they accrue enough ycombinator karma. Way to harness that aptitude, baby.
    And also,

    I'm not the one who throws $18k at a time down a well just to get a high school kid to suck up to me and think I'm a god.
    But the thing is, that's exactly what they're doing. The rest of us are scrubbing white linoleum for humanitarians, like Andrew Deadman Gleason sez.
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  2. #2
    Retired SCORM Guru PAlexC's Avatar
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    I have no idea what you're prattling on about, but I have a buddy who got his startup launched through them.

    If you have half a business sense you realize Paul Graham is no God, but yComb is a good option to get your idea off the ground and start to network with people. If you believe too much in them, you will fail.
    "What really bugs me is that my mom had the audacity to call Flash Kit a bunch of 'inept jack-asses'." - sk8Krog
    ...and now I have tape all over my face.

  3. #3
    Flashkit historian Frets's Avatar
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    I'm lost. Fill in the back story for me.

  4. #4
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    Basically, ycombinator puts themselves out as running a "startup school" where they'll invest $10k to $30k in your web2.0 type whimsical idea or whatever - usually in the case where the person with the idea hasn't already coded anything and may or may not actually know how to code at all. They mill a lot of kids through the system and "incubate" what works. The thing is, that's not a lot of money to invest in a startup. It's miniscule. But in return, they expect their "founders" to come live in the bay area and go through their 3-months of intensive revision of their ideas, etc.
    Moreover, who receives the funds appears to be based at least partly on a system of patronage of their news aggregator / bbs, and the voting system on it.

    Obviously, investors can set their own terms for investing in projects, but in this case it seems that making money isn't their primary goal. I'm of the mind that they're looking to spend as little as possible to have control and put themselves in a position to dismember their "founders" ideas, humiliate them and show them who's boss over a 3-month brainwashing / asskissing session. The whole thing just rubs me the wrong way, which is exacerbated by the fact that they don't take criticism well, apparently, and that the kids who are on the board hoping for a shot all seem so starry-eyed about the possibility of being taken advantage of.

    I guess one man's idea of being taken advantage of is another's idea of a big break...
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  5. #5
    pablo cruisin' hanratty21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshstrike View Post
    I'm of the mind that they're looking to spend as little as possible to have control and put themselves in a position to dismember their "founders" ideas, humiliate them and show them who's boss over a 3-month brainwashing / asskissing session.
    Not sure about this part. Sounds like you have some personal gripes with these guys or their process, but I don't see their 'service' quite the same way. So be it.

    Also, I don't see any forum link on their site...am I missing something?
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  6. #6
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    It's news.ycombinator.com. Be careful, it's strangely addictive.

    I actually didn't know anything about it until two days ago and I have nothing against them personally. But I do know the type of investor who wants a great deal more input in a project than his stake rationally should get him. Attaching riders like "you have to move here and sit through our classes for 3 months and agree to take no other work" is pretty extreme for $10k, if they aren't going to pay your salary on top of that. I think it's exploitative. I should note that the first thing I tried to do when I heard about the site was submit a project that I've been coding for two years...these facts became clear to me only by the questions as I went along through the submission form. By the end of the form, I was basically lecturing them on why no serious coder is going to give up all work and move cross-country for three months for that kind of money. That's okay with them, though, since they don't expect their "founders" to have written a stitch of code. They also don't like it if there's only one "founder" - they want 2 at least - and they expect to know why both can't move to the bay area for three months.

    Basically, I think it's someone having a cheap thrill at getting to play lecturer to a bunch of kids, but I think it's also exploitative in the sense that kids are lining up for it without realizing they're selling their souls for peanuts.
    Last edited by joshstrike; 10-25-2010 at 01:15 PM. Reason: grammar
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  7. #7
    Total Universe Mod jAQUAN's Avatar
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    So its basically American Idol for tech-startups.

  8. #8
    pablo cruisin' hanratty21's Avatar
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    After reading a few random posts it seems like a very immature group of hopefuls with nothing better going on in their lives...jAQUAN basically nailed it.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    Yeah, jAQUAN definitely nailed it there.

    When I came across the board (I found the board before I knew what it was), I liked it. Anyway, thing is, I've been in the unfortunate position of working for startup "visionaries" several times in my life, who mostly knew nothing about code, were rich kids right out of college and figured they could own the world if they used the words "space," "social," and "web 2.0" enough times. This has really been simmering since 1997/98. I've gotten a little bit Travis Bickle about it as the years have ground on and the same wave of stupid ideas keeps crashing over and over, with crop after crop of bright eyed young turks. So from that perspective, the way I see this ycombinator thing is that they've had the idea of monetizing these idiots -- harnessing the wave power, without moving the boat. So it's basically selling a seminar on how to make money, but instead of selling the seminar for cash, they're selling it for a piece of your soul. That puts it more in the category of scientology than reality tv, although that line gets more blurred every year (i.e. to what extent are reality tv participants selling their souls and future reputations to a cult? to what extent are scientologists on camera 24/7?)

    I'm just venting 'cause it triggered something in me which is, at its core, just a huge disdain for people who band together to pretend to be non-conformists.
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  10. #10
    Flashkit historian Frets's Avatar
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    I had a buddy sucked something similar in 98. Company laid out all this cash then squeezed out the slackers and sent those who had a clue off as netslaves. They had this strange pyramid scam that when all was said and done real coders were making sub minimum wage.

  11. #11
    Total Universe Mod jAQUAN's Avatar
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    It's that same mindset from the documentary, "Startup.com" Brainwashing seminars are nothing new. My uncle, a very intelligent person got sucked up in one and nearly had my brother signing up before I did a quick google to show how much b.s. these people were spewing. If you really have no clue or confidence or personal achievements, you'll eat it up. I support Ycomb for being clever enough to take advantage of it. What I feel disdain for is the constant reminder that regardless of how much control I take of my own destiny, I'm still ultimately at the mercy of masses of hysterical idiots.

  12. #12
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jAQUAN View Post
    What I feel disdain for is the constant reminder that regardless of how much control I take of my own destiny, I'm still ultimately at the mercy of masses of hysterical idiots.
    Brilliantly put. I'm not sure exactly when the floodgates really opened up for the d-bags to become "startup founders" by their d-b-ness alone, but it definitely happened early and was already in full swing by '98. The thing is, making software isn't like pitching a TV show, no matter how hard they try to make it seem that way. The guys who mill around Hollywood kissing up to each other at least are mostly literate in what they're doing, to the extent that they can read a script and make sense of what it says. Having a bunch of business grads who think they're Jerry Maguire try and do the same thing with web and code is kind of like adding a layer of abstraction -- they can't understand what the script says, so it's sort of like they're trading in derivatives. If that's true, then ycomb is kind of, really, bundling derivatives. And we know how that goes. Ultimately, it's the producers of value who get screwed by the parasites. Same old story; harder because in our industry, people with brains tended to stay ahead of that mob for awhile.

    How many more startups do we need that organize your friends and bookmarks, or let you share code or scribble on whiteboards? When does the long tail become a drag?
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  13. #13
    Official Vermont Photo Mod WannaBe_80z's Avatar
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    If you had all the coding slaves in the world and money was no object and you had total creative control over the project what would YOU create?

    Just curious since I've only ever seen you rant about other coders being idiots and crap software.
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  14. #14
    Official Vermont Photo Mod WannaBe_80z's Avatar
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    double.
    Last edited by WannaBe_80z; 10-27-2010 at 04:21 PM.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    Nothing I couldn't do by myself.

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    'k?


    [edit]. Just to clarify, this isn't about coders being crap. It's about ppl who don't know anything about code making all the money off our backs, by packaging creativity and clarity in thought into a soundbyte. I don't mean to come off as bitter or rude, but the fact is that most coders who have chops can do things on their own without sitting under a stifling hierarchy of business school mooches who do nothing but skim off the vast majority of our potential income. Is $18k enough to start a site that you can't start for the $1k you saved working the summer at Ben & Jerry's? Really? What's that extra $17k going to buy you? If you have a model for making money with it, why not code it, throw it on a shared server, do some marketing and then upgrade when it starts turning a profit? I've seen guys thrown $100k down on servers and infrastructure before they even had a single user, without batting an eye. I've taken meetings with more "new media" guys who didn't know what PHP was, than I know coders. Who's useful and who's unnecessary? I'm not out to bust coders or great ideas or the legitimacy of startups, I'm saying, Do It Yourself, and btw, let's not let converts, followers, sycophants and conformists dictate that we have to bend a knee to this artificial hierarchy of tweetedness, duggness, redditness, likes and googlability they're trying to create.
    Last edited by joshstrike; 10-27-2010 at 04:26 PM.
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  16. #16
    Total Universe Mod jAQUAN's Avatar
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    I would like to hear our own YDEK's opinion of this since he did exactly that. Busted his own ass to create a revenue stream that paid for his development of a needed app.

  17. #17
    pablo cruisin' hanratty21's Avatar
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    @joshstrike - I'm not so sure I can buy into your 'business people making money off our backs' theory. The truth of it is that what they are selling is THEIR expertise. Whether you believe they have any or not is another story. As someone who's seen it from both ends I can tell you that many developers look at themselves as a creative force. I disagree. I look at a developer as an architect of sorts. Then you have coders who work as a team to create said end product. Somewhere on the periphery there has to be business side folks...whether they are project manager types who guide the priorities of the effort, sales people who help keep the lights on or true business, investor-types who decide whether or not to fund said project. I don't think this thread needs to be a pissing match of who's the better monetizer of these efforts, but the truth of it is...if you are on the creative side of it, you're probably not the best person to determine that. These people are providing that service. And guess what? They've figured out how to MONETIZE their OWN service!!! I say good for them. An idea is just that until it's implemented...and by implemented...I mean implemented correctly.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    Look, I can't disagree with much of what you're saying because obviously anything larger than a one-man-band is going to need a hierarchy to function, and in that hierarchy, not every coder is a designer and salesman and architect and businessman as well; in fact, you probably don't want them to be. You want specialized organs in the business and people who can sit down and focus on the mundane stuff.

    I'm just saying the equation can be flipped either way. You can have a company run by a guy like Jobs -- who also chaps my hide, but who you can't help but respect -- someone with both technical prowess and vision and business potential who hires the sales people and lawyers and narrower-scoped coders and tells them what to do. Or Gates or Page & Brin. Or in a non-tech company, a guy like John Breeding... Or you can have something that's run like, you know, EA or Activision, where the top hierarchy has long since metastasized into these business regimes who lack both creativity and technical prowess, where the lawyers run the show and everything new is a derivative of something safe that was tried before...and the little creativity that filters up from the studios is generally malnourished or squashed outright.

    In the case of founding a web startup, then, and assuming you're a creative and technically capable person, it just doesn't make sense to start one by putting yourself at the mercy of someone else's legal team from day one, for a pittance you could theoretically raise in any number of other ways (or not at all if you had a working business model from the get-go).

    I wasn't trying to make it sound like I'm a communist or something, advocating the workers taking over the means of production, etc. I'm actually saying the opposite -- I'm saying Dagny doesn't need Jim. It's that inherently, individual creatives in IT already own the means of production, not as part of a union but simply because the tools are cheap and abundant, once you figure out how to use them. As a startup operator, if you can hit the manuals and figure out how to solve a technical problem, you can probably also hit the legal books and figure out what you need to know.

    For instance. I had a lawyer who wanted to come onboard with the casino project last year, for a piece of future rev's, and I was thrilled at the idea. Before we'd even signed a contract, the guy started haranguing me with all these things he thought could be changed about the structure of the site, the look of the graphics, etc. They weren't informed ideas and I wasn't looking for a lawyer to help me with site architecture. I was like, seriously? That's not your role here. I kept looking and found two lawyers on the same terms, who don't want anything to do with running it, but are creative thinkers in their own rights and who love parsing the law the way I love parsing a regex. That's how it should work. I'm saying, it depresses me to see kids with good ideas selling their souls.
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  19. #19
    pablo cruisin' hanratty21's Avatar
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    Are you sure you're not just pissed b/c they didn't like the idea you posted? No offense, but it sure sounds like it.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member joshstrike's Avatar
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    No. Like I said, I started by just trying to post an idea -- a functional startup that's almost out of beta, actually. By the end of the signup form I had gotten a clear idea of what their requirements were, at which point I pretty much started lecturing them. In no serious way did I even attempt to submit a proposal, let alone actually wait for a response. To paraphrase, it was pretty much like this:

    Y: "Could use $18k to fund your startup?"
    Me: "Sure could."
    Y: "Fill in this form and we'll consider it."
    Me: "Okay, sounds good."
    Y: "Are you available to move to San Jose, promise not to work on any other projects for three months, have cofounders who are willing to do the same, oh yeah and attend our seminars?"
    Me: "Thanks for wasting my time."
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