Startup School Radio: YC's Michael Seibel on the Toughness of International Founders

In the latest episode of YC's Startup School Radio, a podcast that features stories and practical advice about starting, funding, and scaling companies, our host Aaron Harris first sat down with his fellow YC partner Michael Seibel, who talked about his experiences co-founding Justin.tv/Twitch and Socialcam, and his work traveling around the world meeting startup founders. In the second half of the episode he interviewed Wade Foster, the co-founder of app integration platform Zapier, which launched out of YC's summer 2012 class.

You can hear the episode in its entirety on SoundCloud here and on iTunes here.

One especially interesting part of Michael's interview is when he talked about his focus on seeking out top startup founders internationally:

Aaron Harris: You've traveled all over the world meeting founders. I think you've probably traveled more widely than almost anyone I can think of in terms of meeting founders in different places... Are there different signs that you see in other places that aren't the valley, that are good indicators of people being committed and passionate?

Michael Seibel: You know what's really interesting? When I meet founders across the board in the States and outside of the States, I basically feel as though the ones that I'm really impressed by are the ones that don't let anything get in their way. And whether fortunately or unfortunately, for international founders, oftentimes, especially for startups, that means finding a path to America.

Aaron Harris: Interesting. Because there's more funding here? It's more accepted here? What is that?

Michael Seibel: There are two things I did not realize this about America until I left America. First of all, the terms and the amount of money available in America is massive.

Aaron Harris: And by "terms" you mean?

Michael Seibel: Meaning founder friendly terms for funding, for terms that don't deep-six your company from day one. The number of funds that can actually write a $10 million check on Sand Hill Road, just one road in Silicon Valley, is more than the number of funds that can write a $10 million check in all of Italy. And I bet that number's actually most countries in Europe. So that's the first thing. The second thing is America has a huge population that all speak the same language with the same culture.

Aaron Harris: Right. Yeah, there aren't a lot of homogeneous populations like that, that you can target. I mean, China's an example, but it's closed to anyone not in China. One of the things I think about when meeting international founders, they're often just tough to a level that you don't normally see of first time founders here, because I think they actually have to overcome so much more. If you're coming from India, from Delhi, rising above the other startups there, and then getting here, getting to us, you are just...

Michael Seibel: Well, it's about life. We have one founder from Colombia who, when he was growing up, there was violence. We had one founder who grew up in Croatia during the Balkan Wars.

Aaron Harris: Where half the country was leveled.

Michael Seibel: I mean, literally, I remember I was in Croatia visiting a founder and he told me this story about how up there in the hills somebody had a gun and was shooting down on this little valley that we were standing in. That was his life memory. So, yeah, they are tough.

Aaron Harris: And I think when we look at companies, one of the things we're trying to identify most is toughness.