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PRODUCT.|PHILOSOPHY.|LIFE.

Starting up

I'm sharing a few excerpts from Paul Graham's guest lecture at Sam Altman's Startup class at Stanford. I suggest reading the full article, but here are a few lines that really resonated with my thinking.

If founders' instincts already gave them the right answers, they wouldn't need us [partners]. You only need other people to give you advice that surprises you.
The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you're solving for them. Mark Zuckerburg succeeded despite being a complete noob at startups, because he understood his users really well.
Starting a startup is where gaming the system stops working. Gaming the system may continue to work if you go to work for a big company. Depending on how broken the company is, you can succeed by sucking up to the right people, giving the impression of productivity, and so on. But that doesn't work with startups. There is no boss to trick, only users, and all users care about is whether your product does what they want.
It's exciting that there even exist parts of the world where you win by doing good work. Imagine how depressing the world would be if it were all like school and big companies, where you either have to spend a lot of time on bullshit things, or lose to people who do.
Do not start a startup in college. How to start a startup is just a subset of a bigger problem you're trying to solve: how to have a good life. And though starting a startup can be part of a good life for a lot of ambitious people, age 20 is not the optimal time to do it. Starting a startup is like a brutally fast depth-first search. Most people should still be searching breadth-first at 20.
If you make a conscious effort to think of startup ideas, the ideas you come up with will not merely be bad, but bad and plausible-sounding, meaning you'll spend a lot of time on them before realizing they're bad.
...it's how Apple, Yahoo, Google and Facebook all got started. None of these companies were even meant to be companies at first. They were all just side projects. The best startups almost have to start as side projects, because great ideas tend to be such outliers that your conscious mind would reject them as ideas for companies.
So strangely enough the optimal thing to do in college if you want to be a successful startup founder is not some new, vocational version of college focused on "entrepreneurship". It's the classic version of college as education for it's own sake. ...what you should do in college is learn powerful things. And if you have genuine intellectual curiosity, and that's what you'll naturally tend to do if you just follow your own inclinations.

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1 comments:

  1. Even I've been following this class avidly. Superb set of speakers! Coincedentally, I posted the same excerpt yesterday on my blog - http://prakhar.me/articles/just-learn/ :D

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