Sridhar Ravichandran : Writings

Analyzing YC’s Top 100 Companies list by Vintage

I looked at the data YCombinator published recently and ran a quick analysis on it. I scraped it and parsed the data into a CSV, along with some of YC’s historical data. Link:

Charts (more below, after analysis):

Key insights:

* I am not sure if YC is including jobs created by the company prior to the investment being made, this might inflate the number.

Interesting questions to ask:

More charts:

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Joi Ito on Culture & Values

My first introduction to Joi Ito’s work came via his investment in our online gaming company, GameVentures in Singapore a few years ago. Since then, I’ve followed his work closely as he’s just generally awesome. Loved this particular blurb from a recent interview.

Ito: Making maps is a long and very expensive process, and the idea of compasses over maps is that one should have a goal, vision, or long-term, detailed plan, especially as the world is complex and always changing.

Somebody once told me a story about a film director who said that the difference between a great and a not-great film is that you have an image of what the movie is in your head. When everyone reads a script, everyone can imagine a completely different movie.

A great director’s job is making sure that everyone on set is making the same movie in their heads, whether it’s a craft services person, a driver, or the director of photography. That’s the idea of the compass. It’s that we know where we’re all trying to go.

You can also look at Wikipedia, an organization with neutrality as a stated goal. The community believes and buys into the organization’s whole ideology, but it also allows individuals to all do different things while those values hold the entire project together.

A lot of organizations and traditional, industrial-age institutions have been about plans, structures, and preparation, but we’re all aware that agility, speed, and the ability to pull from a network is much more important in order to all make the same movie.

Full interview with Joi here.

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Listening vs Hearing (or why I love Vinyl)

Found this great piece in the NYT courtesy of a colleague at SoundCloud. The ideas that the author talks about, although mostly rooted in biological reasoning really resonated with me. It also brought to light things I (and most of the digital music generation) have been taking for granted.

Or, why I love Vinyl – from the giddy schoolboy excitement of running home from the record store, to opening up the sleeve to unravel the mysteries within, to finally holding a piece of art which warrants and demands your complete attention – is a feeling that is not easily captured by digital mediums. Unless one is a complete flummox-head, it is hard to ignore the wonderful all-encompassing blissful warmth and vibe of an LP, given the sonics of which are being faithfully reproduced by a worthy system.

Digital music, I love thee and you have your place – but 320kbps or not, I’m not going anywhere from my beloved LPs.

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Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst

Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart – a poet, journalist as well as a musician, wrote his Ideen while in prison for insulting the mistress of the Duke of Württemberg. It was not published until 15 years after his death (1806), so it had no influence on his contemporaries. The title of the book, literally translates to “Ideas to the aesthetics of Music”.

I’ve always been curious about the nature of keys and musical modes; trying to understand the underlying nature of gravitating to certain keys subconsciously when writing or improvising. I applied Schubart’s writing and ideas to some of my own music and was quite surprised to see what unravelled. If you write music, or know the keys of some of your favourite songs, try reading what’s below to further unravel artistic intent. However, do note that with all things that abridge, there are variations, complexities, contradictions and more.


Translated by Rita Steblin in A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. UMI Research Press (1983).

C Major
Completely Pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naivety, children’s talk.

C Minor
Declaration of love and at the same time the lament of unhappy love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies in this key.

Db Major
A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.–Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key.

C# Minor
Penitential lamentation, intimate conversation with God, the friend and help-meet of life; sighs of disappointed friendship and love lie in its radius.

D Major
The key of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, holiday songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set in this key. (Stepping Stones)

D Minor
Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood. (Dark Sands, Innerworld, changes from D major to a D minor interlude)

Eb Major
The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God.

D# Minor
Feelings of the anxiety of the soul’s deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key. (Blue memories, I don’t agree)

E Major
Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major. (Folked 🙂 )

E minor
Naive, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major. (India, Transcend)

F Major
Complaisance & Calm.

F Minor
Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave.

F# Major
Triumph over difficulty, free sigh of relief utered when hurdles are surmounted; echo of a soul which has fiercely struggled and finally conquered lies in all uses of this key.

F# Minor
A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language.

G Major
Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,–in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key.

G Minor
Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.

Ab Major
Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.

Ab Minor
Grumbler, heart squeezed until it suffocates; wailing lament, difficult struggle; in a word, the color of this key is everything struggling with difficulty. (Delusia)

A Major
This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one’s state of affairs; hope of seeing one’s beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God. (My favourite Vai song, Die to Live is in A major and I cant love that song enough, and so is Searching)

A minor
Pious womanliness and tenderness of character. (While my Guitar gently weeps, moves around between A minor and A major)

Bb Major
Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world.

Bb minor
A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key.

B Major
Strongly coloured, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring coulors. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere. (Satriani’s masterpiece Always with me always with you, walks around B major and B minor with Satch’s traditional modal interplay genius)

B Minor
This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting ones’s fate and of submission to divine dispensation. (Divinity)

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Ideas are but iterations in a local, but specialized evolutionary landscape, with an intent to surpass the usefulness of the state of the current. No such thing as a perfect idea, just as there’s no such thing as a perfect evolution.

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Lessons from the Hermit Crab

I found this pretty amazing analogy in Derek Sivers’s summary of The Art of Learning.

The Hermit Crab grows inside until its shell is no longer able to accomodate it, when it leaves and goes on to find a new shell. It is at the most vulnerable state in that period of transfer, prone to predators.

Entity theorists think “I am smart at this” and attribute success or failure to ingrained and unalterable level of ability. They see it as a fixed entity that cannot evolve. Someone stuck in an entity mindset is like an anorexic hermit crab, starving itself so it doesn’t grow to have to find a new shell

I’d like to draw a parallel here. It is that state of vulnerability that one fears, when one must take up new challenges and or responsibility, or even embrace change. People forget that the end result is always growth, the crab only leaves when it has outgrown its shell.

And in the even bigger picture: In order to achieve complete excellence, you must be vulnerable at some point or the other.

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Musical Inspiration

Sometimes I tend to think hard, rather too hard on writing a ‘great’ song. Funny thing, results are almost always the opposite of what is desired. I find that the most beautiful music flows through me when I’m approaching it with an open mind. A defenselessly vulnerable state of mind.

During such moments I feel the music, and I know it’s not coming from me.

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Always in Song

When was the last time a melody, a progression, a moment of sonic genius, a phase, a passage came crashing down into you, your heart, your brain and your body – bringing along with it a whole load of emotion and memories? I had my moment right now.

It may prove futile to try and convert my current state of awareness into a redundant, linear pattern of prose – a job that gets harder with my limited vocabulary. However, this is the essence of music, folks. Something you begin to love the deeper you get into it. As you start associating every aspect of your life with music, consciously or subconsciously, it begins to behave as a harness, a running hard disk cache of those ‘moments’ your everyday life. Here’s to more of those moments.

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