Michael Seibel discovers and advises young startups. He joined Silicon Valley’s elite startup incubator Y Combinator in 2014 as its first African American partner and is committed to bringing more minorities into the competitive three-month long program.
Seibel -- who studied political science at Yale University -- is a successful entrepreneur in his own right. He cofounded Justin.tv in 2007, which became Twitch in 2014 and sold to Amazon for $970 million. In 2012, he cofounded another company called Socialcam -- which sold for $60 million.
Seibel, 33, has also had an impressive track record when it comes to funding and advising companies, including Waze -- which sold to Google for more than $1 billion -- and Cruise – which was snatched up by GM for a similar price tag earlier this year. His investments span from travel (NexTravel) to health and beauty products for people of color (Walker and Company).
What about your job most excites you?
I get to advise over 250 great early-stage startups every year. Through them I learn about the future innovations that will shape the world. Strangely enough, these companies don’t fit the YC stereotype. They span many verticals: enterprise hardware/software, marketplaces, consumer hardware, biotech, aerospace and SAAS. We also see a diversity of founders from all different types of socioeconomic backgrounds, countries (over 15 countries at typically represented in each batch), ethnicities, gender, and all different age groups.
How many hours do you sleep?
I usually fall asleep between 11pm - 1am and I wake up between 6:30am - 8:00am.
What do you eat for breakfast?
I like to cook, so sometimes I’ll eat eggs. More often than not, I’ll heat up leftovers or skip breakfast.
If you could be pitched to by one person, who would it be?
I love being pitched and I would never limit it to one person. I want people to feel as though anyone can reach out to any YC partner. That is why I have this job.
What’s on your home screen?
I’ll go left to right top to bottom: Messages, Camera, News Folder (Techmeme, Google News, Twitter, Reddit, The Macro), Travel Folder (Tripit, United App, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, various other airline apps), Health Folder (Withings, Apple Health App, Strong), Video Folder (Netflix, Youtube, Xfinity TVGO), Audio Folder (Casts, Spotify, NPR One, SoundCloud), Talk Folder (Whatsapp, FB Messenger, Slack, Skype, GroupMe), Y Combinator Folder, Smart Home Folder (Sonos, Lifx, Alexa, Nest, Harmony), Google Maps, Facebook, Notes, Clock, Luxe, Uber, App Store, Settings, Tesla, Productive (I should use this more), Wallet, Stocks, Google Calendar, Postmates, Phone, Gmail, Chrome, Wunderlist). That’s a lot to write down!
How often do you exercise?
Not as much as I should unfortunately.
What app can’t you live without?
Uber and Luxe. Both give me access to transportation. Uber everyone has heard of. Luxe is a car app where they park your car, keep it clean, keep it charged (or gassed up), and bring it to you where and when you need it.
What's your favorite city and why?
New York is my favorite city to visit because there is always something to do, someone to meet, and something to discover. One day in New York feels like 3 days in any other city. San Sebastian, Spain, is my favorite city to eat in because of the amazing food culture and the crazy pinxtos. San Francisco is my favorite city to live in because it is the heart of the tech world and we get to see everything first.
What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?
Stripe is a company that most people haven’t heard. It makes it easy for developers to accept payments in their apps/websites, and it is one of the biggest online payment processors in the world. Before Stripe, building online payment was a huge pain in the ass.
Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?
I only follow four people on Snapchat, and I have never created a snap so that would probably count.
What are you reading right now?
Artifact, a science fiction book by Vaughn Heppner. I either like reading fun war-based sci-fi, books about the lives of chefs, or dry historical non-fiction.
Do you think there’s a tech bubble?
I guess I don’t care. I think tech is driving most of the innovation and will continue to for a very, very long time. Whether people or overvaluing or undervaluing it in the short term just doesn’t matter to me. In the long term, you would be a fool to not be long on tech.
Best piece of advice you've been given?
“Launch!” by Paul Graham, referring to Justin.tv in spring 2007. Basically the idea that you are nothing until you launch has stuck around with me. Lots of people (including me) like to talk about cool shit -- but you are nothing compared to the people who are doing cool shit.
What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about what I want to be when I’ve grown up. I’m 33 and have been relatively successful in business, but I don’t think the first line of my obituary has been written yet. Also thinking about how I am going to raise my kids and what I can learn from how my parents raised me and my siblings (they did a great job).
If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Exercise more, go to class a little more (but not too much), extract all the life experience out of college that you can, and get ready to work hard (because your 20s are going to be a lot of hard work). But to be honest, more than anything else I would have told myself to develop a regular exercise habit.