by Geoff Ralston4/19/2022
Tim Brady and I go back a long way. Tim was already at Yahoo! when my company was acquired in 1997. Of course, Tim was there. In fact, he was Yahoo!’s first employee and ran a group called “production” until he eventually became Chief Product Officer. Tim was, in many ways, the conscience of Yahoo! He kept us focused on the customer experience in an era when it was too easy to toss that aside in a search for revenue. My connection to Tim and what he meant to Yahoo! grew when I succeeded him as CPO in 2002, as he left in search of new adventures.
And what adventures! Tim first studied history with an eye to perhaps earning a PhD and then teaching. Subsequently, he became an excellent chef by taking an intense course from San Francisco’s Tante Marie's cooking school, and then returned to his operator roots and took on the CEO role at QuestBridge, an educational non-profit helping connect low-income students with elite colleges around the country.
We stayed in contact over the years and when I began thinking of starting something in the educational technology space in 2010, it was natural for us to begin batting ideas around. When we started toying with the idea of an edtech version of Y Combinator we naturally checked in with our former Yahoo! colleague Paul Graham and he not only thought it was a great idea, he offered to help! That launched Tim and me on our amazing Imagine K12 adventure together where we funded over 80 great edtech companies over five years.
PG, in his seminal essay “How to Start a Startup”, said you should always look to find “animals” as your co-founders, and Tim is an animal in the best of all possible ways. He is the kind of guy who solves problems and gets things done. When we realized that the two of us were going to need to write a whole bunch of infrastructure software in order to support our new accelerator, Tim didn’t hesitate. He leapt in with PHP and MySQL and in short order, we were up and running. Together we ran Imagine K12, funded all the companies, and wrote all the code we needed to accept applications, create a community, and run Imagine K12. He never let a problem go unsolved, was always kind, optimistic, and super thoughtful. He was the best possible choice as a cofounder. Our time together at IK12 ranks as one of the highlights of my career, with memories of amazing companies, epic IK12 poker tournaments - which became a much-anticipated annual event - and memorable end-of-batch events where Tim would often cook up an amazing paella.
In 2016, when we merged with YC, Tim joined me as a YC Group Partner and scarcely missed a beat in helping many hundreds more companies grow and thrive. He has remained passionate about making the world a better place, by helping YC companies make things people want, and by being the main person who worked with the non-profits YC occasionally funds. His affability, his integrity, his positivity, and his deep commitment to adding value will be sorely missed. It has been my great, great pleasure to have Tim as a colleague and a friend, and wish him only the best in whatever adventures lie ahead in his, always epic, journey.
Geoff Ralston is the President of Y Combinator and has been with YC since 2011. Prior to YC, he built one of the first web mail services, RocketMail which became Yahoo Mail in 1997.