Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II

Lecture 2: Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II

Link: How to Start a Startup

(You can find notes to the other lectures here.) 

Sam Altman (@sama)

As a student trust your instincts to identify if a market is going to be big.

One of the hard parts about running a startup is that it is real life.
Just keep going.

Cofounder dating is crazy.

The track record for founders who don’t already know each other is really bad.

It is better to have no cofounder than a bad co-founder.

You need somebody who behaves like James Bond rather than somebody who is an expert in a given domain.

Take advantage of school.

You want a tough and a calm co-founder.

It sucks to have a lot of employees. Be proud of how few employees you have.

At the beginning you should only hire when you have a desperate need to.

The cost of getting an early hire wrong is very high.

Hires really matter. These people go on to define your company.

When you are in hiring mode it should be your number one job to get the best people.

The best people know you should join a rocketship.

If you’re going to join a startup make sure it is a rocketship.

The amount of time you should spend hiring is either zero or twenty-five percent.

If you compromise and hire somebody mediocre you will always regret it.

Every person in a startup sets the tone.

The best source for hiring is people you already know or other people in the company already know.

Personal referrals are the trick to hiring.

Experience matters for some roles and not others.

For most of the early hires experience doesn’t matter much and you should go for aptitude.

Most first-time founders are terrible interviewers but good at evaluating somebody after they have worked together.

Call references.

Good communication skills tend to correlate with hires that work out.

For early employees you tend to want somebody with a real risk-taking attitude.

Look for somebody who is maniacally determined.

You need unstoppable people.

You should aim to give ten percent of the company to the first ten employees.

Your employees are the ones that build the company over years and years.

Be as generous as you possibly can to employees.

One things that founders forget is that after hiring employees you have to retain them.

As a founder you have to give your team all of the credit for the good things that happen and you have to take responsibility for the bad stuff.

Fire fast when it is not working out.

The co-founder equity split discussion does not get easier with time.

if you’re not willing to give a co-founder an equal share of the equity that should make you think hard about whether you want them as a co-founder.

Every founder, including yourself, has to have vesting.

With vesting you’re pre-having the conversation if one of you leave.

Co-founders should work in the same location.

Execution, for most founders, is not the most fun part of starting a company but it is the most critical.

The way to have a company that executes well is to execute well yourself.

Whatever the founders do becomes the culture.

Focus is critical.

Most startups are not nearly focused enough.

One thing about starting a startup is that you get no credit for trying. You only get credit if you make something the market wants.

If you work really hard on the wrong things no one will care.
You can’t be focused without really great communication.

Growth and momentum are something you can never lose focus on.

You should always know how you’re doing on your metrics.

The secret to startup success is extreme focus and extreme dedication.

Startups are not the best choice for work-life balance.

You generally need to be willing to outwork your competitors.

Set a quality buy that runs through the whole company.

Be decisive.

You can do huge things in incremental pieces.

Momentum and growth are the lifeblood of startups.

Always keep momentum.

Always keep growing.

Set an operating rhythm.

Don’t let the company get down because of competitors in the press.