Amazon: The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School for Startups
(referral link – help me buy new books!)
After reading this post about DIY Y-Combinator I wanted to find out exactly what happens in YC.
When considering an idea, figure out how it expands. When doing so, think about how it affects the world as it is, not what the idea does. Example: app that gathers photos from a users Facebook profile and creates a photo book. Can eventually be expanded to replace yearbooks.
Also ask, would someone pay for that? Nobody would pay to save themselves a single click (full text of links in Twitter stream)
Look at competitors and figure out what they do that hurts them. Then don’t do that.
Beginners mind in all things – don’t dwell on how hard starting up will be (if you even know).
Sell pixaxes during a gold rush. That is, when people are creating software startups and services, sell tools they’ll need to build it. Your success is independent of theirs.
Reduce drag on things that are important. Remove obstacles that will increase resistance to doing things that move you forward. Remove distractions.
The best way to learn something is to do it.
It’s better to be a small fish in a big pond. Makes you hungrier.
Know when you create a start up that you’re competing against the odds. And do it anyway, because it’s what you want to do.
Make something that people want – something of incredible value to a niche of users who will pay.
Each time you swing the bat, you increase your odds of success. Ergo, each time you do something other than swining the bat, you theoretically decrease your odds.
Startups must be designed for scale.
“Ask yourself: ‘What do I wish someone would start a startup to do for me?’” or something for someone else that you know is a problem.
“Do you ever, in your work, say, ‘Boy, I wish somebody would just – blank’?”
Pick something you’re passionate about that you have domain knowledge in.
What will people in the future say was an unmet need today? – look forward
Solve a burning need
If you’re excited about an idea that most people are bored by, and it’s a problem, that’s an advantage.
Pick ideas where the cost of failure is low, and is basically just time.
“Friends will use stuff because they’re friends … the true test is if they start bringing other people into it … that’s something that they won’t do out of obligation to you”
Launch fast, get feedback, people can only tell you what they want when they see what you don’t do. Iterate.
You make what you can measure.
Every week, set a specific target for growth.
Imagine five years out you’re a huge company, guess why you’re a big company. That will give direction.
Find an industries influencers and influence them – that’s valuable to suppliers of that industry.
Don’t worry about domain names – it won’t break a good idea, and you’ll have money to buy the right one later.
Do work on things that matter – refactoring your code or dealing with databases is ‘work’ that won’t move you forward.
Doing the wrong thing is better than doing nothing at all.
Think 5 years down the track, what is success? What would you put on your resume saying what you did?
Rejection is inevitible, and frequent. When selling, no means not yet. There is no definitive no, only a to-be-continued.
Seeing how users interact with your product/idea and why they are rejecting you is valuable.
Start selling before your product is completed.
“Err on the side of sales. Just spend all your time doing sales and treating hacking as this side project”
Sell source code for failed startup/ideas/projects
When pivoting, if you have 2 ideas, work on both. Pick the best, or if both good, spin up 2 startups.
Look forward, but have a plan to make money now.
A startup can change it’s idea quickly, but not it’s cofounders. “Startups do to the relationship between the founds what a dog does to a sock; if it can be pulled apart, it will be.”
Your startup is never someone’s top priority but your own. Get their email address and treat them as a lead.
“When VCs decide they don’t like you, it’s based on gut feel” – the reason they give is an excuse.
Pitching the startup:
If it doesn’t feel wrong, you’re talking too fast.
Don’t use a slide that could work in another startup’s deck.
People aren’t going to work to understand you. You need to grab their attention and be simple and easy to understand.
Why you? Why not someone else?
Don’t go into too much detail.
You don’t want to be animated the whole time, and you don’t want to not be animated. Choose when you are animated. You tend to speak animatedly about the most important thing about your startup.
If a statement is not surprising, it’s probably not an insight.
Investors will often walk away from your pitch with a single noun in their mind.
Be excited about your product.
Being better (UX) than your competition is valuable in itself.
30% of YC companies will experience a split among cofounders.