At the ripe old age of 27, Ryan Breslow has already notched a list of big achievements. He’s built one-click payment platform Bolt into an $11 billion company, bringing his personal net worth to over $850 million. He’s also elevated his profile and won public esteem by advocating for a four-day work week.
Now he’s apparently trying to tackle another intriguing challenge — exposing Silicon Valley’s secret power structure.
Earlier this week, he posted a tweet thread (which has since gone wildly viral) calling payments giant Stripe and startup incubator Y Combinator “the Mob Bosses of Silicon Valley.” In the thread, he detailed how his first 7 years as a startup founder were “brutal,” beginning with being rejected by the influential startup accelerator, and then struggling to get traction with venture capital firms.
“Meetings would go phenomenally well,” he tweeted. “VCs would get excited, and many even commit to term sheets. Then, mysteriously, they would back away.”
Then he said he later learned that “Stripe had deliberately taken checks from nearly all the top-tier Silicon Valley investors in order to block new companies.”
Founded by brothers John and Patrick Collison in 2007, Stripe has grown into a major player in the e-commerce industry and is currently valued at $95 billion. Stripe is also one of the biggest success stories associated with Y Combinator, which supplied early-stage seed funding and support to the company.
Y Combinator, co-founded by computer scientist and venture capitalist Paul Graham, is sometimes called the “Havard of Silicon Valley.” The accelerator has launched more than 2,000 startups including Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit, DoorDash, and Coinbase. It also maintains one of the industry’s most-read information sites, Hacker News.
Breslow alleged that one of the ways Y Combinator showed favoritism for Stripe, at Bolt’s expense, was by bumping posts about Bolt off the top of the site and allowing for a Stripe related post to rise to the top spot instead. (Hierarchy of posts on Hacker News is supposed to be determined by user engagement and an algorithm, not by a human picking what goes where.)
“We had several major product announcements that were game-changers at the time” including “zero fraud guarantees” and “1 click checkout,” Breslow tweeted. “Both had organically made it up to #1 on Hacker News with 100s of upvotes. Within the hour, Stripe had posted, gotten theirs to #1, and ours was gone.”
He continued: “We had put incredible work into highly technical blog posts to educate the community on how we did payments differently.”
“The post would rise, then disappear,” he said. “It was crystal CLEAR to me: Bolt was not welcome on Hacker News.”
We reached out to Stripe and Y Combinator to see if they had any comment on Breslow’s screed, and we didn’t get a response from either. Supporters of the company and the startup accelerator were quick to dismiss the Bolt founder’s comments on Twitter, however.
Garry Tan, a former Y Combinator partner and founder of VC firm Initialized, noted that Bolt competes with Stripe and said Breslow’s claims were “just dishonest.” Another tech founder, Joe Benjamin, described Breslow’s screed as “a marketing stunt.”
Coming out even stronger, Sequoia partner Shaun Maguire described the thread as a “steaming pile of [poop emoji].” (Breslow replied that the powerful VC firm was also part of the “Mob.”)
Although Bolt has managed to become a success, raising more than $1 billion in funding, Breslow appeared to imply that Silicon Valley’s ethos of meritocracy was only skin deep.
“To be clear, I welcome competition,” he tweeted. “But here’s the thing… the ONE thing I can’t stand is a facade.”