Teslas jockey for one of 12 electric-vehicle charging stations in the parking lot. A sea of mostly men gathers in the lobby of the Computer History Museum, some giving each other quick hugs. “How’s my investment going?” one shouts to another across the room. A bell chimes, and it begins to feel like church. The boisterous crowd files quickly into the auditorium and becomes quiet. The doors close. Demo Day is about to begin.
Over the next two days, entrepreneurs from 132 start-ups pitch well-rehearsed two-minute spiels about how they are going to change the world. Turns out, there are countless ways to do that. Radar sensors on bedroom ceilings in nursing homes. Drones that check utility lines. Machine learning for cargo shippers. A laundry-detergent subscription service aimed at men.
On average there’s a future billion-dollar company in every group, Michael Seibel, CEO and partner at Y Combinator, tells the Silicon Valley investors. “Your job is to figure out which one it is,” he says. His firm helps entrepreneurs develop their ideas.