Steve Jobs Would Never Invest in a Y Combinator Startup

Steve Jobs is the cofounder and former CEO of Apple as well as probably the most well-known head of a company besides his onetime rival Bill Gates. YCombinator on the other hand is probably the most well-know startup accelerator not only in the U.S., but the world as well.

I’m sure that each and every one of those startups would kill to have Steve Jobs as a mentor or investor. To have him at least poke their startups, tell them what they’re doing wrong. Maybe even do with their ideas what he managed to do at a company that may not have invented the tablet or the smartphone, but that has certainly reinvented them in the shape of the iPhone and iPad. Steve on the other hand, would never invest or mentor a Y Combinator startup, and here’s why.

Technology. Product. Steve.

If you look at the list of Y Combinator’s latest 63 companies, it’s a treasure trove of interesting ideas and potentially revolutionary technologies. Yes, TECHNOLOGIES. That’s the first “problem” Steve could have with most of Y Combinator’s companies as business. They’re building technologies and not products, at least not just yet. As .Me’s CEO Predrag Lesic mentioned when we were talking about this topic: Steve loves new technologies. However, he likes technologies implemented as products, not just cool features that geeks appreciate.

As with computers or Pixar’s 3d graphics, Jobs could see the potential. He already productized Woz’s great ideas when they founded Apple. Obviously, for Steve it’s all about the product, not just the technology behind it. Another example is Twitter, which Steve had to see gain momentum to support in iOS after not working out a deal with Facebook which also proved itself as a web product.

What about the ideas? Again, look at the latest batch of Y Combinator companies. Munch on me is daily deals for food while Stypi is Google Wave done right. While Steve may not be a fan of web based apps, that wouldn’t be a reason to stop him investing and mentoring Stypi. It’s their ideas. They’re just too small for Steve. As Frederick E. Allen writes in his Forbes article, what makes Steve different from most CEOs is his view of the world and business. He took multiple risks with Apple on the iMac, iPad, iPhone and lets not forget – Apple itself.

Would Steve invest?

Google’s Vic Gundotra wrote on Google+ about a call he got from Steve in 2008., who he was dealing with at the time as Google’s head of mobile applications. Steve called Vic on a Sunday and asked him:

“I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”

Vic concludes his Google+ post by saying how that call always reminds him that CEOs should care about the details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.

Not a Mentor but Much More

For better or worse, Steve is a man who loves big ideas, big challenges and most of all, someone who loves details. Most of all, as Gundotra’s example show, he likes working on the details. If Jobs was interested in a Y Combinator startup, he’d want as much control as he could have and final say in product decisions. He bought the Graphics Group in 1986., that later became Pixar. A tip or two? No way. Being a mentor or investor in a startup wouldn’t be enough for Jobs.

So you’re a Y Combinator startup and want Steve’s help? Do what the Graphics Group did and get acquired. I don’t think Paul Graham would be that disappointed.


Ivan Brezak Brkan

The founder of the "Techcrunch of Southeastern Europe" - Netokracija - and ex-Techcrunch writer with years of experience writing about startups, technology and the domain industry!

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