Entrepreneur Sam Altman and Tyler Cowen Talk Y Combinator, Superheroes, and More

On Monday, Sam Altman joined Tyler Cowen for a special, live recording of Conversations with Tyler at The Pearl in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco.

Known as one of the most creative people in Silicon Valley, Sam Altman dropped out of Stanford University to hack, build, and create.

In 2008, at age 23, he presented his location tracking app, Loopt, at Apple's worldwide developer's conference where Steve Jobs called the app “cool.”

Altman joined Y Combinator as a part-time partner in 2011 and became president in 2014. He is also co-chairman of OpenAI, a nonprofit research company he founded with Elon Musk and Greg Brockman in 2015.

At The Pearl, Cowen questioned Altman on the power of Y Combinator over other “accelerators,” the biggest strength startups have over large companies, the future of artificial intelligence, and how to calculate risks.

“Internalize that most things in life aren’t as risky as they seem,” advised Altman about confronting risks and changes within an organization and in life.

Y Combinator, an accelerator company based in Mountain View, California, provides early-stage seed funding, training, and coaching for startups to help them build impressive products and market them to investors on a larger scale. It is highly selective, with an acceptance rate lower than Harvard’s. The company has discovered and invested in several major industry disruptors, including Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox.

Cowen asked Altman how the tech industry has impacted the Bay Area, what valuable skills he learned from playing poker, whether Spiderman, Batman, Aretha Franklin, and Napoleon Bonaparte would be good company founders, and much more.

“An incredible understanding of human psychology…that’s a quality consistently among our best founders,” Altman noted about one of the traits he finds consistently prevalent among many company creators.

Celebrated polymath and economist Tyler Cowen explores the minds and methods of today’s top thinkers on the Conversations with Tyler podcast. Cowen’s research leads to stimulating and surprising questions that provoke guests into deep examinations of their work and how they see the world.

Sam Altman’s Conversation with Tyler episode will be available on Medium or your favorite podcast app at the end of February. To stay up to date with all things #CowenConvos, sign up for our newsletter, listen to the latest episode with economists Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama, and follow us on Twitter.