“What you need to know to succeed in a startup is not expertise in startups, what you need is expertise in your own users” – Paul Graham.
This post contains points that resonated with me from Paul Graham’s lecture to Stanford about the counterintuitive aspects of running a startup and how to have ideas. Y Combinator has distilled its experiences and insights about how to start a startup into a series of lectures for Stanford University. Most of the lectures are delivered by people with an impressive track record of hypergrowth in their companies and huge exits under their belt.
- Startups are counter-intuitive. You have to learn to suppress your impulses sometimes and not let your natural instincts lead you astray whilst you take the time to learn some new habits. However, you can trust your instincts about people because you’ve gained those over time through experience. Your instincts about starting a startup haven’t necessarily been formed over time and experience and so need to be watched carefully.
- You don’t need expertise in startups to start a startup. What you need is expertise in your users.
- Most young founders, when starting a startup, wonder about the the rules and tricks of this new game. They wonder what the shortcuts are and how to game the system – stuff like how to convince investors of X and how to growth hack etc. The ‘trick’ is to: make something that users love, and then tell them about it; then when the startup starts growing fast, simply find investors and show them.
- Starting a successful startup is like having kids; it’s a major, life-altering, experience. A startup is all consuming. You never get to see this because successful startup founders like Larry Page are not allowed to show weakness or fear and also they would get less than zero sympathy for having difficult days. As your startup becomes successful, your worries do not become less. They just become different.
- You can’t tell whether you’re going to be any good at starting a successful startup until you try. It will change you a lot if it works out. You can’t predict how tough and ambitious you will become.
- The best way to think of startup ideas is not to think about start up ideas. Instead think of other things. Have other interests. The best startup ideas have arisen out of side projects. Learn about things that matter; work on problems that interest you and with people you like and respect. If you’re interested in generally interesting problems, then throwing yourself into that interest energetically is the best way to prepare for startup life. Live in the future…think about what you would like to see in the future.
- Learn powerful things for their own sake and your natural inclinations may lead you to becoming a successful startup founder. Don’t learn things with the ulterior motive of wanting to become a startup founder.
- You will know when a side project is turning into a startup because it will begin to take up ever larger portions of your time.