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Vanity Fair: Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

Author: Randall Stross
October 1, 2012

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Randall Stross follows one of the summer 2011 start-ups considered by Y Combinator for the summer 2011 batch of investments from tryout to "Demo Day," to see what it takes.

Kalvin Wang and Randy Pang are hackers, the ones who write software. Jason Shen isn't, but he's a self-described "start-up sales guy" and has a general-purpose ability to persuade. His personal blog is "The Art of Ass-Kicking." The three are each about 24 years old, recent graduates of Stanford and Berkeley, roommates living in San Francisco, and fast friends.

They would like to launch their own start-up together. What the particular business will be is not firmly settled—it changes day to day. In the meantime, they have been selected as finalists who are being considered by Y Combinator for the summer 2011 batch of investments. They are one of about 170 teams—it seems a bit early to refer to them as "companies"—that have been invited to Mountain View, California, in Silicon Valley, for a brief interview. Kalvin and company possess nothing more than an idea for a start-up, and a transitory one at that. The "seed" in seed-stage investing doesn't get much smaller than this.

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