5 Important Years in the Career of Y Combinator's Sam Altman


6 years ago

"The days are long but the decades are short," Y Combinator’s president Sam Altman recently on his blog earlier this week. This post title reflects his acute sense of time, a characteristic he shares with many other high achievers.

So how did “Sama” make his life count so far? Here’s a quick roundup of some pivotal years that shaped his short yet impressive career:


That was the year Altman dropped out of Stanford, where he was studying computer science and working at the AI lab. He had a good reason to do so: he and some of his friends and classmates had raised funding for their new social geo-location startup, Loopt.

Its backer was no one else than Y Combinator (YC), whose first program was taking place in Boston at the time. After graduating, Loopt went on to raise Series A and B financing from Sequoia Capital and New Enterprise Associates (NEA).


Altman took the stage at Apple’s WWDC Conference in San Francisco to preview Loopt’s then upcoming iOS application, which made it easy for users to find nearby friends.

YC’s Paul Graham would then go on to put Altman on the same list as Apple’s co-founder:

Honestly, Sam is, along with Steve Jobs, the founder I refer to most when I’m advising startups. On questions of design, I ask “What would Steve do?” but on questions of strategy or ambition I ask “What would Sama do?”


Altman’s startup Loopt was acquired by debit card provider Green Dot for $43.4 million. Altman became Green Dot’s CTO as part of the deal, and still sits on the company’s board of directors.

This exit also allowed Altman to create his own investment vehicle, Hydrazine Capital, which backed startups such as Soylent, Verbling and Zenefits.


Altman hit the news big time in 2014 when he officially replaced Paul Graham as YC’s president. While it may have been a surprise to some due to his young age, he had already made a name for himself as an entrepreneur, investor and writer – and had been one of the venture’s part-time partners since 2011.

On a side note, Altman’s 2014 also included a stint as reddit CEO… for 8 days, while the online forum went through a management transition. It was “sort of fun,” Altman later wrote in a blog post, while expressing his delight at seeing a new team take over his duties.


Altman turned 30 a few days ago, but not before making it on Forbes famous ‘30 under 30’ list, where he was featured in the venture capital section.

Now “arguably the most powerful investor in Silicon Valley” in Forbes’ words, Altman has made it one of its priorities to increase diversity at YC, whose latest batch included 6 companies led by Hispanic founders (including Platzi).

With Latin America on his radar more than ever, Altman will be speaking for the first time in Mexico this weekend, at our very own PlatziConf.

Don’t miss the opportunity to follow Sama’s talk at #PlatziConf, which will be livestreamed here this Saturday May 2nd.
The day will kick off at 9am local time (UTC-5 hours) – click here to find your local time.



6 years ago

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