Sam Altman’s plan for Y Combinator is entering a new phase.
Since taking over in 2014, Mr. Altman has expanded the number and breadth of companies that YC funds. Now he’s launching a non-profit YC research arm that he’s financing with $10 million of his own money. Waiting in the wings: a still unannounced venture fund for further investments in YC companies that Mr. Altman won't yet discuss.
The idea for YC Research is to solve the problem that startups, while good for ideas like mobile apps, aren’t ideal for coming up with important scientific breakthroughs. “Startups work best when you know the question and you know how to answer it,” Mr. Altman said in an interview at YC’s threadbare San Francisco office. That doesn’t apply to more “open-ended” fields like artificial intelligence, antivirals or basic research.