Y Combinator is creating a nonprofit research lab aimed at creating technology “that shouldn’t be owned by any one company.” To accomplish this, chief executive Sam Altman says he’ll be donating $10 million to jumpstart YC Research to further innovation beyond the startup scene.
Although part of the Y Combinator organization, it’s going to be run outside of the scope of its standard startup investment practice. In fact, any intellectual property developed within the lab will be made available to everyone — for free. Altman wrote that although researchers will have full discretion over when work will be released, due to the autonomous and open nature of YC Research, collaboration with other institutions is welcome.
“We’re not doing this with the goal of helping YC’s startups succeed or adding to our bottom line,” Altman explained. “At the risk of sounding cliché, this is for the benefit of the world. As we’ve seen throughout history, new technological breakthroughs help all of us. Fundamental research is critical to driving the world forward, and funding for it keeps getting cut.”
All researchers will be full-time employees, receiving both a salary and equity in Y Combinator as part of their compensation. The hope is to announce the first group of projects being researched within the next month or two.
In a way, you could think of YC Research as Y Combinator’s Google[x], where it’s going to focus on moonshots. So while you’ll probably still see smart showers being demoed at Y Combinator’s demo day, YC Research may be focusing on self-driving automotive technology, medical technology, ways to benefit social causes, and more.
When we spoke with Altman and Y Combinator cofounder Jessica Livingston earlier this year, one of the central themes was this constant desire to help startups. “We always wanted to fund the best startups,” Livingston said at the time. “We wanted to help startups at whatever stage they’re in become a billion-dollar company.” It’s quite possible that by addressing long-term problems and open-sourcing the solution could result in more startups being born. And that’s not a bad thing in Y Combinator’s book.
Clearly Y Combinator is evolving under the leadership of Altman, who spurred the organization to launch a fellowship program, brought onboard a permanent chief operating officer, and restructured things so that Hacker News is officially an autonomous unit.