Y Combinator, which trains and invests in startup founders, has been intent on expanding the geographic diversity of the companies it includes in its twice-yearly accelerator program. But this summer’s group of participants was particularly far flung.
One co-founder who spoke to Kate for her story on Michael Seibel, CEO of YC’s startup accelerator, called from Oahu. Another pair of founders tuned in from their homes in Chandigarh, India. Altogether, the 220 graduates hailed from more than 25 countries, and many planned to operate remotely. Such physical dispersion partly stemmed from the pandemic, which led YC to hold its first fully remote-only program.
Yet the idea that the next generation of founders would come from outside Silicon Valley was gaining traction before the pandemic, driving aspiring founders and investors to put down roots in Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio and other cities. The shelter-in-place mandates, which prompted employers like Facebook to talk about extended “work from anywhere,” gave the trend momentum. Encouraging high-paid tech workers to relocate and backing founders in other cities has a twin appeal, spreading tech’s wealth—and relieving pressure on the region’s housing and transportation.
Many Silicon Valley leaders, however, have maintained that there’s value in proximity to the region’s investors, mentors and potential hires. At YC’s demo day, it was Marc Andreessen—the Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz co-founder—who gave voice to that view. He encouraged the entrepreneurs to consider setting up their headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, extolling its place as a center of innovation, according to two founders. It would be interesting to find out how many of YC’s batch of graduates heed his call. — Laura Mandaro