Before the Startup

Lecture 3: Before the Startup

Link: How to Start a Startup

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


Paul Graham (@paulg)

Startups are very counterintuitive.

You can’t trust your intuition all of the time.

You don’t need people to give you advice that doesn’t surprise you.

Work with people you genuinely like and respect and that you have know long enough to be sure.

There are a lot of people that seem likable for a while.

What you need to succeed in a startup is not expertise in startups.

What you need to succeed in a startup is expertise in your own users.

The one thing that is essential is making something people want.

In college classes most of the work you do is as artificial as running labs.

The best way to convince investors is to start a startup that is actually doing well and then tell investors so.

The way to make your startup grow is to make something that the users really love.

All users care about is whether your software does what they want.

You have to have something people want and you only prosper to the extent that you do.

It is not in your interest to fool investors.

The difficulty of being a successful startup founder is concealed from almost everyone who has done it.

Do not start a startup in college.

The bigger problem you’re trying to solve is how to have a good life.

Usually the way for startups to take off is for founders to make them take off.

Starting a startup is really hard.

Starting a startup will change you a lot if it works out.

If you’re terrified of starting a startup you probably shouldn’t do it.

If you want a startup in college the only two things you need initially are an idea and co-founders.

The way to find startup ideas is to not try to find startup ideas.

The way to come up with good startup ideas is to take a step back.

The very best ideas almost have to start a side projects because they are such outliers that your conscious mind would reject them as ideas for companies.

Learn a lot about things that matter. Work on problems that interest you…with people you like and respect.

If you want to do a startup what you should do in college is learn powerful things.

Business school is to teach people management and management is only a problem with a startup if you are sufficiently successful.

The best way to learn how to start a startup is to just try it.

Ideally you’re successful before you hire two or three people.

The first hires in a startup are almost like founders. They can’t be people you “manage”. They have to be your peers.

As a general rule you want people who are self-motivated early on.

There is a difference between prices being high and a bubble.

Valuations being high does not mean a bubble.

Having kids causes you to focus because you have no other choice.

You will know when it is a good time to turn a side-project into a startup.

You will know it will become a startup when it takes over an alarming percentage of your life.

Do things that don’t scale.

When starting a startup many things will be going wrong. You can’t expect everybody to be perfect.

The advantage of hiring people you like far outweighs the disadvantage of having a small monoculture.