Advice from Startup School 2014

Y Combinator’s annual Startup School is one of my favorite startup-related events. I haven’t been lucky enough to be picked to attend in person but have always tried to watch them live. They are so inspiring that I always want to get back to working on my startup before the intermission!

With this being the month that I’m clearing out a huge backlog of content, and with this being so much great advice, these notes from Startup School 2014 have got to be posted in the first week.

Enjoy and good luck with your startup!

Ron Conway

You are an entrepreneur for life.

Most entrepreneurs correctly self-select.

Entrepreneurs are born with some of the basics.

Starting a company is the hardest thing on earth to do.

You have to learn to hire a management team.

The really great entrepreneurs are 24/7.

You have to be a good communicator. You have to get others as excited as you.

Your idea has to be infectious enough to find a co-founder.

A need and an idea are what big companies are based on.

The realization that other people might want it comes afterward.

After serendipity you have to start working on product/market fit.

Most co-founders end up collaborating and come up with the idea together.

A lot of ideas that seem like they are bad end up being huge. It is about persistence and conviction about your idea.

Have rifle focus on the product.

Danae Ringelmann

If you are that pissed off about something then do something about it.

When you care about something and you spew it to the world people that also care about it will join you.

The Internet is the most democratic tool out there.

Focus on your why.

There will be dark periods.

Your why gets you through the early years.

You have to be passionate about what you are doing in spite of reason.

In order to empower the word you have to be everywhere in the world.

Having a really good why attracts amazing people.

The best people can work anywhere.

Your why attracts your customers.

Be intentional with your culture.

Culture is who you are and how you are. It is the people within your team and it is how you behave every single day.

A culture is happening whether you know it or not.

Find partners and team members that are nothing like you.

Values and behaviours start with you as the founder.

Over time revisit behaviours.

Culture is not a top down thing. It is not something (as a founder) you can create. It is something you can influence.

Technology is not the end–it is just the means to an end.

Kevin Systrom

You don’t have to be the best but you have to be dangerous.

You need to find people drawn to the idea you build and they will take it and make it better.

What people tell you and how people act are very very different sometimes.

Sometimes it is not about the idea you are working on but about the skills you learn while working on it.

There is no perfect next move.

It take trying, trying, and trying again.

Every little experience adds up.

Go to where the people are (that you want to be around and learn from).

Hiring starts well before you need people.

Be relentless.

99% of ideas don’t work.

You have to be your own advocate.

It takes a lot of hard work once you are lucky.

You can’t build a community from scratch easily.

Reid Hoffman

Think in term of economic ecosystems.

If you don’t get the first million then the hundreds of millions don’t happen.

You really have to think about how to break through the noise.

The number of companies (started) that really matter every year is between one and five.

Look where other people really aren’t.

What problem do I need to tackle aggressively to think I am on the right path?

You want to raise more than you are going to need to get to a milestone that is going to make a major difference in the company.

The money isn’t what gives you the time–it is the market.

Just because you say you have a network does not mean you have a network.

With integrity appearance matters as well as substance.

Jim Goetz and Jan Koum

Lack of focus creates challenges for a company. (Jim Goetz)

Focus on your existing users. (Jan Koum)

To get it right is a lot of hard work. (Jan Koum)

Eric Migicovsky

You have to launch early and often.

If you are looking for press there is no wrong way to do it.

Every hardware company is going to be asked if they can become a software company.

Andrew Mason

You don’t need to be reading business books on how to get good at business.

Most startups have this phase when things are not working.

Come up with a playbook you can rinse and repeat and use over and over again.

People aren’t usually evil, crazy, or stupid.

It is the million little decisions that really make the difference between success and failure.

Think of a business as an opportunity to inject an idea into the world that hopefully makes a difference.

Values are the behaviours or principles you religiously adhere to in your company. NO amount of data will sway you from those principles.

Michelle Zatlyn & Matthew Prince

There is no silver bullet. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Sweating the little details make a significantly bigger difference in being successful. (Matthew Prince)

Eventually you have to ship product. (Michelle Zatlyn)

If you’re fighting with your co-founder about who does what you probably have the wrong co-founder. (Matthew Prince)

Sharing the same vision, and trusting one another, makes a great founding team. (Michelle Zatlyn)

As a startup your greatest asset is momentum. You have to make product. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Momentum is how really big companies get built. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Sometimes when you know a lot about an industry you don’t check your assumptions enough. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Good engineers want to work on hard technical problems. (Michelle Zatlyn)

If you can see all of the problems it probably isn’t a big enough of an idea. (Matthew Prince)

When you think about the idea you’re working on make sure it is big and it matters. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Pick something you’re going to put your blood, sweat, and tears into because there is going to be a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Once you make a decision about who to take money from–it is very hard to get out of that decision. It is okay to ask questions up front. (Michelle Zatlyn)

Hosain Rahman

If you believe in what you think is right…then stay the course.

When you actually go focus on–ruthlessly–what you are trying to solve–you can transform your business overnight.

Don’t forget the lessons from when you are on the ground getting your teeth kicked in.

You have to make stuff that people will pay more than you pay to make it.

Emmett Shear

Don’t give up.

Four-person founding teams are generally a bad idea.

Identify the users that are the most important.

Don’t do business development deals. As a small company they are useless.

If you keep at it you will get better.

Make sure you take care or your mental and physical health because it is a long road.