In March 2005, programmer-essayist Paul Graham gave a talk to the Harvard Computer Society on How to Start a Startup arguing that there should be more startups. Graham and his friends, of course, made millions (around $49 million) by selling their online store startup to Yahoo!

Graham decided he should do something more than talking and started a summer founders program with his cofounders so that “students, and particularly undergrads” could get funding for a summer project.

I was emailing with Paul at the time and he encouraged me to apply and maybe blog the experience so I quickly got together some friends (Simon and Sean) and we applied.

When it was announced they received 227 applications my partners were worried. ‘We’re doomed!’ they said. ‘It’s no problem,’ I explained. ‘By Sturgeon’s law, only 23 of the applications are any good and I know that a couple of those aren’t very good [this wasn’t really true], and one is ours [this makes no sense], so that leaves 20. They’re funding 10, so our chances are 50-50!’

Apparently I convinced everyone but myself for when the response came in the mail, my chest choked up and my heart started pounding. “Come see us,” it said. “[Y]our odds at this stage are now 50-50.” I told Simon. ‘Oh, good,’ he said. ‘I hope you know you’re going to be the one to go see them.’ I tried Sean. ‘Oh,’ he said. Oh? ‘Well, I just expected we’d win.’ (In Sean’s defense, he was ill at the time.)

So this weekend I fly to Cambridge, Mass. to convince them to accept us and look for an apartment. Today I got the contract we have to sign, so if any lawyers in the audience want to advise me about it, let me know. I, for one, am excited.

posted April 08, 2005 01:22 AM (Education) (3 comments) #


Stanford: Another New Beginning
Stanford: Taxonomies of Love
articles: the finest of the short nonfiction form
Giraffes? Giraffes. No, seriously, giraffes!
Stanford: Radiant Garden City Beautiful
SFP: The Story So Far
Stanford: Frown
Get Arrested
What Journalists Don’t: Lessons from the Times
SFP: Come see us


What terms are they offering you? The SFP site made clear they would pay for your living and business expenses in Cambridge this summer, but afterwards how much of your company do they own? By reaching out to young hackers, they are moving into a market without any competition — definitely providing a useful service, but also with the potential to gouge these startups for huge chunks of equity.

This has a nice summer-camp feel but the SFP’s public silence about what they own after the summer ends merits some suspicion.

Aaron’s response: Their site says 3 to 6% of the company.

posted by Shimon Rura at April 11, 2005 10:53 AM #

Let me know what your apartment requirements are. I know a couple of grad students who have to head down to NYC this summer for internships and they are looking to sublet their Cambridge apts.

That “know a lawyer” thing was a joke, right. I mean Larry Lessig might have a few in his rolodex.

posted by Mike Walsh at April 11, 2005 11:32 AM #

And they aren’t making a reality show out of the whole competition? The mind boggles.

posted by Adam Keys at April 16, 2005 01:47 PM #

Subscribe to comments on this post.

Add Your Comment

If you don't want to post a comment, you can always send me your thoughts by email.

(used only to send you my reply, never published or spammed)

Remember personal info?

Note: I may edit or delete your comment. (More...)

Aaron Swartz (