A Conversation with Paul Graham - Moderated by Geoff Ralston - Deepstash
The Startup Masterclass

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Seeing ideas in retrospect

Seeing ideas in retrospect

Startup ideas are rarely lightbulb moments. It's more like having an idea of something you could do that nobody else has done before, and it's probably a bad idea.

Or, the idea seems way implausible, but you want to see what happens, for example, the beginning of Facebook.


352 reads

The indeterminacy of ideas

Good ideas are often not quite intuitive. The outcomes of startups are hard to predict. There's a tremendous amount of luck involved. An idea might have something to it, but it's not obvious. 


332 reads

How to pick co-founders

How to pick co-founders

Find someone you trust, and then find someone they trust. In other words, take recommendations from people. When you hire via the web, don't hire too fast.

Paul Graham picked Robert Morris as a cofounder because he was his co-conspirator. Robert was an exceptional programmer. He could program as fast as he could type. When they needed more programmers, they recruited the smartest person Robert knew.


264 reads

Startups are very counterintuitive

Startups are very counterintuitive

Advise for startups are often counintuitive and not obvious. For example:

  • Don't do things that scale at first. Don't try to do too much in the beginning. You should do things that don't scale, meaning in a sort of handmade artisanal way so you can learn a lot from it.
  • Do things very manually for your early customers. If you think you know the solution and build lots of stuff for it, you might be wrong because you don't know yet. Once you know what you should be building, then focus on scaling.
  • As long as you have a constant growth rate, it means exponential growth.


247 reads

Why being a sole founder is difficult

The hardest part of being a sole founder is morale. 

When you start out, there are a million reasons why what you're doing isn't going to work. When you're a sole founder, there's no one to keep you going when things are going badly and no one to cheer you up.


248 reads

What makes startup companies succeed or fail

  • Most of the time, startup companies fail because of poor execution by the founders. 
  • Startups seldom fail because of competition
  • Startups are more likely to succeed if they start with a good founding team that knows one another well, can work together and can stand stress together.
  • Founders are not just smart people. More importantly, they have to be determined to succeed.
  • You don't have to be that creative if you care enough about users. You can just follow what makes users happy.


230 reads

When to launch

When to launch

The risk of launching early is not so great as the risk of launching late. 

  • Launch as soon as you have a quantum of utility, which means as soon as there are ten people who are glad that you launched because now they can do something that they couldn't do.
  • If you're not embarrassed with what you launched, you launched too late.


227 reads

Best tips for a great user interview

  • Figure out not just what users think is wrong but what's actually wrong. What's missing in their life?
  • Ask them "What would you like to do that you can't?" They'll tend to give you an answer that's like a subset. 
  • Try to find out what they really mean. Ask them, "What if you could do such-and-such?"



207 reads

The importance of paying attention to users

The importance of paying attention to users

If you don't pay attention to users, you will make up some idea in your head that you will call your vision, and then you will spend time thinking about your vision by yourself and build some elaborate thing without talking to users.

You are better off finding someone with a problem that they will pay you to fix and then see if you can find more people like that.


194 reads



Running away from your problems is a race you`ll never win.

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