Counterintuitive Parts of Startups and How to Get Ideas

Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator, talks about how to get ideas for startups and six counterintuitive components of startups.

The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.

The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.

To jump to a specific point of the video, you can add the time parameter to the end of the youtube url. For example, 4 minutes and 15 seconds becomes: &t=4m15s
So to jump to point #1:


1:27 – Startups are counterintuitive like skiing
3:10 – Why do founders ignore partners’ advice
3:44 – lots of ski instructors not a lot of running instructors
4:15 – #1 – Intuitions about people you can trust
5:11 – work with people you respect
5:33 – #2 – what you need to succeed in startup is not expertise in startup, it’s expertise in your user
8:17 – “playing house”
10:18 – fundraising tricks, growth hacks (bullsh*t)
11:26 – #3 – Startups is where gaming the system stops working
12:57 – can fool investors but not in your best interests
13:25 – someone who builds something users love will do better than someone who knows fundraising
14:30 – #4 – startups are all consuming
16:10 – it never gets any easier
16:28 – student specific / university / do not start a startup in college / serendipity
21:28 – start at any age?
22:00 – #5 – you can’t tell if you’re up to the challenge of starting a startup
24:00 – no way to tell confident or quiet, same as military, only way to find out is to try (not in college)
24:30 – what do you need 1) idea, 2) cofounders
24:42 – #6 the way to get startup ideas is not to think of startup ideas
25:50 – turn mind into mind that sees startups: 1) learn a lot about things that matter (airBNB), 2) work on problems that interest you, 3) with people you like and respect
27:00 – how do you know if you’re working on real stuff – real problems are interesting
28:30 – gratifying your interest genuinely is the best way to prepare for a startup (and best way to live)
28:45 – edge of expanding technology represents opportunities (probably not steam engines, maybe)
29:00 – “live in the future”
29:25 – Harvard grad student wrote own VoIP w/o startup
30:20 – learn powerful things in college, domain expertise
31:00 – starting a startup cure for curiosity – just learn
31:30 – q&a
31:30 – what does non-technical founder do – domain or sales
32:37 – entrepreneur in business school – no
34:00 – how manage first few employees
36:20 – are we in bubble?
38:18 – labs to spin off startups
39:10 – female cofounder advice when seeking funding
40:37 – what would you learn in college
41:35 – recurring systems that make you efficient (have kids, amount of done you do per time is high)
43:21 – when is good time to turn side project into startup?
44:03 – what to do when side project is sorta growing but not hugely – reading do things that don’t scale
44:40 – what kind of start ups not go through YC?
45:45 – how do you figure out what matters? – anything on edge of tech but don’t really know
47:07 – snapchat
47:20 – hiring people you like might lead to monoculture and blindspots

Additional Reading



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  1. Startup Teams and Execution | - 2014-10-23

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