Y Combinator

Alexis Ohanian, Rap Genius and Other Y Combinator Grads Hate on Silicon Valley at NYU Panel

The Rap Genius guys never wrote a business plan.
 Alexis Ohanian, Rap Genius and Other Y Combinator Grads Hate on Silicon Valley at NYU Panel

Mr. Ohanian (Photo: Twitter)

Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian hosted a talk at NYU last night featuring a slew of fellow Y Combinator grads. The Rap Genius guys were all there, as was Shoptiques founder Olga Vidisheva, and Tutorspree founders Aaron Harris and Josh Abrams. The conversation mostly revolved around all of their transitions from the business world to the tech scene, but the night got interesting when Mr. Ohanian urged the panel to hate on Silicon Valley.

“We were hating on the Bay Area,” he said. “And I think we should do that a little more.”He then begged the aspiring founders in the audience to make a passable burrito chain in New York because it was the only thing the West Coast had to offer. The NYU crowd was quick to suggest Dos Toros, the New York chain that serves burritos “Mission-style” like their West Coast inspiration, Gordo’s.

Mr. Ohanian asked the panel, “One of the things I see time and time again is that we have companies who went to the West Coast and then come screaming back to New York. What was the driving force to come back to New York?”

Rap Genius’ Ilan Zechory took the question first. “It’s where we lived,” he said. “It’s where our friends were. There are no women in the Bay Area, genuinely. We never considered moving out there. We always felt like our West Coast trips were, like, all of us in a Nissan Xterra, in like a Weston, with some weed, trying to steal bags of money to bring back to the East Coast.”

Tutorspree’s Mr. Harris said that the East Coast was “best for our business,” but emphasized there was a major epicurean reason at play here. “Most importantly,” he said. “The other side of the coin of the burrito question is that there’s no good pizza in the Bay Area. You can’t get a decent slice in half of the country. I’ll throw bagels in there too. If I’m going to work for a long amount of time, I need pizza.”

Audience favorite Ms. Vidisheva said that she couldn’t manage to make her business successful while being so far away from the fashion companies in New York. Plus, there were better hires to be had in Silicon Alley. “The California mentality of ‘let’s chill today’ doesn’t fly in New York,” she said.

The talk wrapped up with Mr. Zechory doling out this nugget of advice to the audience: “Don’t write a business plan.” Mr. Ohanian was pretty surprised and asked him if that were really true. He confirmed and said, “We’ve had some tabs open…maybe we’ve opened a PDF.” He then touted their $15 series A investment from Andreessen Horowitz and the crowd went wild.