Y Combinator’s Altman: ‘Don’t be afraid to do something slightly reckless’

President of Y Combinator, Sam Altman speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014. | Courtesy of TechCrunch/Flickr
Y Combinator president and St. Louis native Sam Altman will return to his hometown for the Startup VooDoo conference next week. | Courtesy of TechCrunch/Flickr

Sam Altman, a St. Louis native and the president of Silicon Valley business accelerator Y Combinator, shared some of the wisdom he’s accumulated over the last three decades in a blog post on the occasion of his 30th birthday earlier this spring.

Altman, who will speak at Startup VooDoo 2015 on June 18 in St. Louis, recommends in the post that people spend time with family and friends, enjoy the process of making money over spending money, and work hard to keep healthy, both mentally and physically.

His advice ranges from the lighthearted — “summers are the best” — to some deeper observations on life and business. Among other things, he touches on the importance of enjoying work:

“On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if you don’t like what you do for your work. Work very hard—a surprising number of people will be offended that you choose to work hard—but not so hard that the rest of your life passes you by.”

He touts the benefits of surrounding yourself with quality colleagues, bosses and employees:

“Go out of your way to be around smart, interesting, ambitious people. Work for them and hire them (in fact, one of the most satisfying parts of work is forging deep relationships with really good people). Try to spend time with people who are either among the best in the world at what they do or extremely promising but totally unknown.”

Altman offers his opinion on seizing opportunities when they arise:

“… if a great opportunity comes along you should take it. Don’t be afraid to do something slightly reckless. One of the benefits of working hard is that good opportunities will come along, but it’s still up to you to jump on them when they do.”

Altman took over as president of Y Combinator, generally regarded as one of the top startup accelerators in the world, in 2014. The accelerator counts companies like Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit among its past participants, and its former companies have a market cap of more than $30 billion, according to the Y Combinator blog.

The advice post is available in its entirety on Altman’s blog.


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