If you run a startup, you can probably agree with Paul Graham, CoFounder of YC…. It is a weird space to be in. It’s a world where moving fast is too slow and shipping something that is not perfect can be a good thing. Unlike in school where your final product is what gets the grade… startups are an ever-evolving amoeba that you have to closely listen to or you will probably fail.
Startups really go against the gut.
So what doesn’t go against the gut? People. That’s not to say that you can’t have misgivings or that you should only trust the kindest, most loving person you know to run your business (because let’s face it, a lot of times it’s not always the nice person that is the hustler and gets the dirty work done)… but people generally follow a rule and according to Paul Graham, you usually know fairly soon after meeting them whether they are a good fit for you and your ideas. •Note, it is still not good to commit though without fully vetting and knowing them because people… well they still are people and when the going is tough, the claws will come out.
But back to the gut.
According to Paul Graham, to start up a startup (say that 3 times fast), you don’t need to be an expert in startups, you need to be an expert in building what people want. Going through the motions of starting a startup doesn’t get you any closer to success unless your only goal is to say you have a startup on paper. In this lecture, Paul Graham calls it playing house. We listen to the webcasts and attend the seminars and we try to follow the models that made others successful because that is what our gut tells us to do. It says, model yourself after this person and you will be a success story. So we listen and we play house and then months or maybe years later, we realize that our house was built on the terrible foundation of a product that no one wants… and then, we are screwed.
That’s called “gaming the system”. You see, many startups feel if they fake the funk long enough, ie, get great office space, raise some money etc… that it will eventually all work out. But… if you don’t have what people want, your startup is doomed.
But you may be thinking… startups are easy. I’ll do this part-time while I figure out what I really want to do. According to Paul Graham, not so. If you expect to succeed, you need to expect for your startup to consume 100% of your energy. With that in consideration, there will be a time where you will need to make a choice, start your startup, or pursue anything else you want in life. You can’t have it both ways… so yea, choose wisely.
In the end, you need to be resilient because the startup life isn’t for the weak at heart. You can, however, increase your odds at success by doing a few things.
1. Come up with a good startup idea.
2. Do things that interest you.
3. Turn off your intuition and turn your brain on to a startup way of thinking.
4. Solve real problems.
So after this lecture on How to Start a Startup, many bubbles may have busted… but more importantly, Paul Graham, one of the most influential startup leaders in the history of life is trying to save you the pain of going through the motions and we fully agree. You see, we could help you create a great pitch deck, but more importantly, are you pitching a product that users want? The only way to know that is to go out and talk to them.
Learn more about Paul Graham and his rules for fighting through intuition to build a great startup here.