This morning, I noted that Equity, a podcast that I help host with TechCrunch’s Kate Clark, had a neat episode coming out featuring the CEO of Y Combinator Michael Seibel. It’s embedded above in case you want to listen. (We also have some video clips coming out at some point, but that’s for later.) It’s shared here so you can find it, but also so that I could talk a bit about optimism.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about tech’s trust gap, riffing on a post written by Martin Bryant, a media friend and previous colleague of mine. Bryant wrote that he missed the days when our enthusiasm for tech was unbridled and folks were excited about getting into demos, betas, and early access groups.1 A time when, as Bryant noted, Google Wave didn’t actually have to do anything useful for us and the rest of the Internet to pile through its doors, ready to explore and have fun and share. (Google Wave’s launch made for a very fun day to be online; I miss the Google of the era.)
Things have since changed. Now ensconced in the techlash as we are (read this for a taste of how things are progressing at the national level), public sentiment regarding tech has soured.
But I got a few things wrong in my notes on Bryant, tech, and the current market sentiment regarding the industry. I’d hazard that I conflated the market’s views of large tech companies with the market’s view conerning new tech. These are often the same thing, but not always.
For example, TikTok has become a household name in a short period of time because it’s fun as heck and adds laughter to our lives. That’s a material value proposition. You can like TikTok and other new social apps and still worry about Facebook and its place in the marketplace. (That TikTok is the result of an acquisition by a huge company is irony for a different day.)
All this brings me back to Y Combinator. If you listen to the above podcast, you’ll hear me saying more nice things in one episode than I usually manage in a month. Why? Because before we recorded the interview, I sat through a dozen or so startup pitches (Kate, to her credit, did the whole day). And when I listen to hard-working people tell me about what the future could look like, I get excited.
About the companies, primarily, but also about Y Combinator itself. What can I say? I love science fiction. I love what’s next. It’s that element of tech—the future potential of it—that persuades me to go beyond its cashflows and value and dig into the industry.
I’m not worried about being a bit too kind in the episode, but I did want to explain why. It felt good to be jazzed about ice cream robots, on-demand wellness meds for huge countries, and everything else that’s being cooked up by founders.
And as Seibel tells us during the conversation, nearly a third of the companies pitching during this brace of Demo Days will go on to raise a Series A. That’s exciting.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.