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Lecture 1: How to Start a Startup by Sam Altman

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Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, on How to Start a Startup.

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Lecture 1: How to Start a Startup by Sam Altman

  1. 1. How to Start a Startup
  2. 2. What makes Silicon Valley special? • Relentless belief in the future • There are people who take wild ideas seriously, instead of mocking you • No ‘Tall Poppy’ syndrome • High density of talented people working on startups • A culture of paying it forward
  3. 3. What makes founders special? • “I always figure it out” and “I never give up” • Focus, self-belief, personal connections • Clear vision, thought, and communication • Ability to attract people to work on the company • Ability to get a huge amount of work done themselves
  4. 4. Idea • Idea first; startup second • Original thought • Notice problems in your own life • Great Wave • Easier to start a hard company than an easy company
  5. 5. Co-founders • Co-founders are really good, but a bad cofounder is worse than no co-founder • Shared history • Select for determination • Values first, aptitude second, specific skills third • Humble, not entitled
  6. 6. Product • Small number of users that love you • Retention; frequency of use • Nothing but a great product will save you; you can get everything else right and it still won’t work
  7. 7. Getting your first 100 users • What does “talk to users” actually mean? • Expect to do this manually. Some ways: - You email people you already know and ask them to be customers. Call in your favors and actually charge for your product. - You research to find people you think might be customers and contact them via email, phone or in person. Conversion rates are low.
  8. 8. Getting your first 100 users • Some more ways: - Social media outreach, posting to HN, forums, PR, etc. Look for sustainability. - Buy ads and point them at your website. This is the “laziest” technique and usually a bad idea. - Get over your fear of asking people to buy your product—sales!
  9. 9. Company • Get to know your users really well • Short cycle time • Make a long-term commitment • Stay lean until everything is working really well • The team you build is the company you build
  10. 10. Company • Relentless execution • Startups are about not giving up; one of the companies from the last YC batch got in on their 7th time applying • Fiduciary duty to take care of yourself • Clear mission