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Do Things that Don't Scale

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Do Things that Don't Scale
July 2013[[[[[[[[[[[[ One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator is to do things that don't scale. A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don't. You build something, make it available, and if you've made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised.

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Taking off

Startups take off because the founders make them take off.

Generally, startups take a push to get them going. Once they are on the track, they will usually keep going, but there is a s...

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Recruiting users

Nearly all startups have to recruit their users manually. You can't wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them.

  • At least one founder will have to spend a lot of time ...

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Initial vulnerability

Almost all startups are vulnerable initially, like a newborn baby. It's harmless if know-it-alls dismiss your startup. Thinking "there's no way this tiny creature could even accomplish anything

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Solving problems

Build something to solve your own problems, and then you only have to find your peers. Otherwise, you have to make a bigger effort to find the most promising vein ...

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Happy users

You should take exceptional measures to make your users happy. Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. Then think of new ways to delight th...

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User experience

Your attention to your users should be insanely great, to the point of being obsessive. It is not only the product that should be that great but especially the experience of being your user.

...

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Targeting narrow markets

Focus on an intentionally narrow market. It's like keeping a fire contained at first to get it really hot before adding more logs.

  • Find out if there is a subset of the market in which yo...

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Assemble yourself

Assemble yourself

Hardware startups face a problem where they need a minimum order for a factory production run, but don't have the funds. Without a product, they can't generate the growth to raise the money to manu...

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Users as consultants

The initial user can act as if they are consultants. Keep tweaking till you fit their needs perfectly, and you'll generally find you've made something other users want too.

A consulting-like ...

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Going manual

An extreme variant is where you are your software, where you do by hand things that you plan to automate later. It helps to build muscle memory from doing it yourself. It also lets you launch faste...

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Big launches

  • The Big Launch seldom works. Most successful startups had small launches that are not memorable. Your success depends more on how happy you made your users than how many there were of them. Ge...

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The two directions

Think of startup ideas as:
  1. What you're going to build
  2. The unscalable thing(s) you're going to do initially to get the company going.

Try to be imaginative about them and...

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

What Is A Startup

A startup is a small company that takes on a hard technical problem.

Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instea...

The Difference Between Wealth And Money

  • Wealth is the collection of resources we can use. You can have wealth without having money. Money is a way of moving wealth, and in practice they are usually interchangeable.
  • Money intermediates transactions.  In a specialized society, most of the things you need, you can't make for yourself and you might not have what the other person wants to trade directly for. Thus the use of money to intermediate transactions.

On The Creation Of Wealth

There is a limited amount of money in the world but wealth is unlimited. Wealth can be created through work and new ideas.

Companies aim to create wealth and so do you when you join one. In a company your work is averaged with that of others so it obscures your actual contribution.

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Questions for the Important Traits

Grit- ask on how determined a person in pursuing his dreams.

Rigor- ask if there was a time he considered a data to make a decision.

Impact- ask for what he have co...

When asking questions on the candidate's unique contribution..

Probe: give me an example…

Dig: who, what, where, when, why and how on every accomplishment or project

Differentiate: we vs. I, good vs. great, exposure vs. expertise, participant vs. owner/leader, 20 yard line vs. 80 yard line

Applying STAR questions

SituationWhat's the background of what you were working on?

TaskWhat tasks were you given?

ActionWhat actions did you take?

Results- What results did you measure?

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Survivorship Bias

Survivorship bias is a logical error that twists our understanding of the world and leads to a wrong understanding of cause and effect.

We fall into survivorship bias when we assume that suc...

Against the Odds

When we only pay attention to the exception above the normal, we end up misunderstanding reality. While there is much to learn from the anomalies, it would be a mistake to expect the same results from doing the same things. 

Cause and Effect

Survivorship bias leads us to think that coincidence is a correlation. We want the encouragement from survivorship bias so we can believe in our own capabilities, but it results in an inflated idea of how people become successful.

The fact is that success is never guaranteed. It does not mean that we shouldn't try, just that we should have a realistic understanding.

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