Paul Graham and Y Combinator to Leave Cambridge, Stay in Silicon Valley Year Round

1/22/09Follow @bbuderi

Viaweb founder Paul Graham and his legendary startup incubator Y Combinator, which is arguably the most vibrant, innovative technology startup school in the country, are no longer going to be part of the summer scene in the Boston area. In a message posted on the Y Combinator website (I think last night sometime), Graham has announced that he will no longer alternate between Mountain View, CA, in the winter and Cambridge, MA, in the summer, and instead will stay in Silicon Valley year round.

Graham says the reasons are mostly personal, having to do with the impending birth of his child and the desire not to try and be a bi-coastal parent (Graham’s wife, Jessica Livingston, is a Y Combinator partner):

The reason has nothing to do with startups: it’s because Jessica Livingston and I… are expecting our first child any day now. We used to think we’d continue to alternate between coasts after we had kids. But as soon as the prospect became real, we knew we wouldn’t. We had to choose, and Palo Alto seemed a better place to raise kids than Cambridge, so we chose that.

But that said, Graham’s post still contains what some might consider a pretty devastating assault on Cambridge and Boston. For instance:

We never tried to claim to the startups in the summer cycles that it was a net advantage to be in Boston. The most we could claim was that we could mitigate the disadvantages sufficiently well—for example, by flying everyone out to California to present to investors at our Mountain View office. But we did worry that the Boston groups were losing out. Boston just doesn’t have the startup culture that the Valley does. It has more startup culture than anywhere else, but the gap between number 1 and number 2 is huge; nothing makes that clearer than alternating between them.

But while Silicon Valley is a better place for startups than Boston, that isn’t why we chose it. If Cambridge seemed a better place to raise kids, we would have stayed there year round instead.

I e-mailed Graham to learn more, but he had not responded by the time of this post. I was a little surprised by his reason for leaving the Boston area, though. I’m  from Northern California myself, and Silicon Valley certainly has better weather and lots going on for kids. But I happen to believe that if you want a truly diverse and multi-dimensional cultural environment for your kids, Cambridge is a far better choice. (My wife, Nancy Walser, was on the Cambridge school board for eight years, so I have had a first-hand view of the educational system here.)

In any event, the full-time departure of Graham and Y Combinator is a real loss for the New England innovation community. But the area is rich in innovation—and now there is now a wide open opportunity for something new and different to take their place.

You can read Graham’s full post here.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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