Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, will receive an honorary doctorate of engineering during convocation ceremonies on Saturday, June 17, 2017. An American seed accelerator that was described by Fast Company as “the world’s most powerful start-up incubator” and by Fortune as “a spawning ground for emerging tech giants,” Y Combinator has been a key contributor to the success of many Waterloo Engineering alumni-based companies, including Thalmic Labs, PiinPoint, Pebble, Vidyard, BufferBox, Amulyte and Reebee.
As president, Altman has been a keen supporter of Waterloo Engineering. When asked by New York Times reporter Frank Bruni which school stands out most in terms of students and graduates whose ideas take off, Altman cited the University of Waterloo.
Recognized as one of the Fortune 40 under 30 Young People in Business, Altman became president of Y Combinator at the age of 29. As a technology entrepreneur, he created his first start-up, Loopt, when he was just 19. He has also served as the CTO of Green Dot and acting CEO of Reddit, and founded Hydrazine Capital to become a successful investor in technology companies before taking over the reins at Y Combinator.
Altman and Elon Musk are co-chairs of OpenAI, a non-profit whose goal is to advance digital intelligence in a way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate a financial return. As a strong supporter of nuclear power, he is the chairman of the board for two nuclear power companies, Helion Energy and UPower Technologies, Inc.
Altman’s connection with Waterloo is an inspiration for students with startup aspirations as he demonstrates the entrepreneurial and innovation excellence our University holds as its highest standard, and he has in turn been a fervent supporter of engineering education.
“Waterloo is probably the best up-and-coming start-up city in the world,” said Altman. “The breadth of exposure to different sorts of engineering that you learn, the co-op program, and the way that there is just such a culture of thinking about problems in the world and ideas; …it’s really good.”