TechStars Was Created When Y Combinator Turned Down An Offer To Partner With Its Founder

paul graham

TechStars and Y Combinator are each others’ greatest competitors. 

They’re both world-renowned startup accelerators that give a handful of entrepreneurs a fighting chance to survive in the harsh startup world.

Y Combinator has produced startups like Dropbox and Airbnb. Techstars has produced lesser known but promising startups like Coursekit and CrowdTwist.

Y Combinator was founded in 2005, before TechStars. It was an inspiration for TechStars, says founder David Cohen.* In fact, Cohen originally wanted to partner with Y Combinator. He founded TechStars when Paul Graham turned down his offer to launch a Boulder branch.

According to Inc:

In late 2006, Cohen wrote an e-mail to Graham asking if he could partner with Y Combinator to create a Boulder branch. Graham, who declined to comment for this story, refused. “He basically told me to fuck off and die,” Cohen says, his voice dripping with bitterness. Cohen went ahead with the program anyway, under a new name. He printed a brochure and finagled a meeting with Feld, who in a matter of minutes agreed to invest.

We spoke with Cohen about his quote in Inc and Paul Graham’s reaction. He says he has no ill feelings towards Graham or Y Combinator.

“That quote about Paul was taken out of context, I said it jokingly, in passing, and I regret saying it,” says Cohen. 

The TechStars program is in multiple cities across the nation and its New York City program alone attracts about 1,500 applicants per session.

*This post originally focused on the Inc quote, “fuck off and die,” but since it was misleading and taken out of context, we’ve revised accordingly.

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