Michael Seibel is a remarkable story of startup founder turned startup backer. A political science graduate from Yale, he co-founded Justin.tv, the video-sharing platform that later became Twitch and was acquired by Amazon for $970 million in 2014. Seibel’s second company, Socialcam, another video platform, was acquired by Autodesk in 2012, less than two years after it launched. Now 39, Seibel has become something of an advocate for tech in the Global South, as managing director of Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that helped propel once-small companies, including Dropbox, Stripe, and Airbnb, into the big leagues.
Since he joined YC in 2014, Seibel has significantly widened the pool of startups entering the accelerator. Between 2009 and 2014, YC invested in just two African startups, including Wave, from Senegal, now a unicorn. But since 2015, with Seibel making regular trips to Africa and Latin America, the company has backed a healthy cadre of startups in the early stage, including Paystack, Breadfast, Reliance Health, and Flutterwave, now a unicorn and Africa’s most valuable startup. For Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 batch alone it backed 24 African startups. Several insiders point to Seibel for planting the seeds with his firm.
“Michael Seibel saw the potential in this market when very few people did,” said Iyinoluwa “E”Aboyeji, general partner at Future Africa and a co-founder of Flutterwave. “He set off a chain reaction that has mainstreamed African participation in YC and brought global attention to African startups.”