Startup veterans talk Silicon Valley mystique and advice for new graduates

20 May

Stanford hosted a 50th anniversary event recently in honor of its computer science department and more than 600 people showed up to celebrate, including Counsyl CEO Ramji Srinivasan (Stanford ‘03). He spoke on the Startup panel with three other accomplished Stanford graduates – Sam Altman (‘07), president of Y Combinator, Clara Shih (‘05), CEO of Hearsay Social, and Jerry Yang (‘90), formerly of Yahoo and now founding partner at AME Cloud Ventures. Moderated by Kara Swisher, the Executive Editor of Re/code, the hour-long talk ranged from an examination of Silicon Valley mystique to what you’d do differently if you were graduating today.

All four panelists noted how much friendlier the startup environment has become for Stanford graduates since they left the school. They also agreed that Silicon Valley, with its high density of talent, is still a good place to launch a business.

For Ramji, Paul Graham’s book, Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, was an early inspiration and part of the reason he gave up his post-Stanford job at Morgan Stanley, where he’d covered the Internet industry as a research analyst. “It got me excited about the idea of returning to Silicon Valley and doing something more important,” he says.

His advice for new graduates? Consider healthcare. “Healthcare is insanely backward,” he told the audience, “which makes it a huge opportunity for new graduates. Information-driven technology that helps patients make decisions needs good people.”

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