Twitter was abuzz Tuesday over a long thread written on Monday by Bolt CEO Ryan Breslow, who claimed that Stripe and Y Combinator are “mob bosses,” using “every power move imaginable” to block competitors from becoming successful.
In other words: Silicon Valley is cutthroat. Who knew?
Or at least, that summarizes most of the replies on Twitter. Few deny that there’s a powerful hierarchy in Silicon Valley. Most agreed with Breslow’s assertions about Y Combinator’s influential stature and Stripe’s impressive cap table. But given that Bolt was initially rejected from Y Combinator, and competes directly with Stripe in payments, most onlookers are taking the tweetstorm as a pretty low blow.
“I hold no interest in Stripe, Initialized is not an investor … but this take by a Stripe competitor is just dishonest,” tweeted Initialized Capital co-founder Garry Tan, a former Y Combinator partner. Joe Benjamin, the founder of Profs, called it a “marketing stunt.”
The tweets gave Breslow’s account of Bolt’s rise to its current $11 billion valuation (it raised $355 million this month). The storyline was familiar to most starry-eyed entrepreneurs: a great product that VCs and peers didn’t initially see value in, but that rises to be a top competitor in the field. But in Breslow’s telling, VCs and customers ignored Bolt in the early days because it wasn’t part of Y Combinator, and Y Combinator formally and informally backed Stripe.
As evidence, Breslow pointed to the fact that few well-known VC firms that invested in Stripe showed interest in Bolt. He didn’t help himself by falsely claiming that Lyft selected Stripe as its payments processor because both were Y Combinator companies — Lyft is not, which Breslow later acknowledged — or ignoring that Y Combinator backed payments startup WePay in the same batch as Stripe.
Breslow continued to double down on his argument Tuesday as the discussion continued, with some observers claiming the pushback actually supported his point, as evidence of how Silicon Valley circles the wagons.