Lecture 20: Later-stage Advice
Link: How to Start a Startup
(You can find notes to the other lectures here.)
Sam Altman (@sama)
In most companies of under 20 to 25 employees most are structured with everyone reporting to the founder. That is what you want at that stage.
When lack of structure fails it fails all at once.
What works at 20 to 25 employees fails disastrously at 30 employees.
All you need if every employee to know who their manager is, and there should be exactly one, and every manager should know who their direct reports are.
The most important thing is that there is clear reporting structure and that everybody knows what it is.
Clarity and simplicity are the most important things.
Before product/market fit your only job is to build a great product.
The biggest shift is being a founder is moving from building a great product to building a great company.
The wrong answer is to stay in hero mode until you burn out.
Write down how you do things and why you do things.
Codify how you do things.
People need to know how they are doing pretty quickly.
One thing that is important when it comes to H.R. is equity.
Equity is one area where investors always give bad advice.
Always stay in front of people’s vesting schedules.
Get an options management system in place.
When you cross 50 employees there is a new set of HR rules you need to comply with.
Monitor your team for burnout.
Have diversity in hiring early. You’ll be able to ramp up hiring more quickly in the long run.
Small teams are naturally productive most of the time.
It is important to keep reiterating the message about the road map and the goals.
You never want to put a process in place that rewards the process. The focus has to always be on great product.
All-hands meetings should be at least once a month.
The single hardest thing in business is building a company that does repeatable innovation and just has this ongoing culture of excellence as it grows.
Eleven months after launching you should file for provisional patents.
Very few founders thing long term.
Ignore acquisition interest.
Startups fail when founders quit.
Don’t outsource the key messaging.
The biggest PR hack you can do is to not hire a PR firm.
Pick three or four journalists that you establish close relationships with.
Developing a personal connection with anyone you’re trying to do any sort of deal with is really important.
The way you get deals done and get good terms is to have a competitive situation.
You have to ask for what you want.
You want diversity of background. You don’t want diversity of vision.
Hire people that are complementary and aligned towards the same goal.
If you don’t want to be the long term CEO of a company you probably shouldn’t start one.