Startup School 2006 Notes

I had the unique opportunity to attend Paul Graham/Y Combinator‘s Startup School 2006. Held at Stanford’s Kresge Auditorium, the day featured an impressive lineup of local entrepreneurs and experts who shared their experience with a large group of aspiring entrepreneurs.

For the benefit of those who weren’t able to attend this phenomenal event, I’m putting my notes online (supplementing those available on the Startup School Wiki):

Founders’ Q&A

This is part of my set of notes from the Startup School 2006 sessions at Stanford.

In this session, founders from Pixoh, Kiko, WuFoo, Reddit, Flipt, Flagr, YouOS, and Inkling Markets answered questions posed by the audience. Unfortunately, I had to leave the session early, so my notes do not cover the entirety of the session.

  • Where do you find co-founders? It’s the same as where do you find a wife? Finding a co-founder is finding a friend you’re going to be with for the long-term. You want to find people that are smart and hard-working – something that’s pretty rare.
  • What would you do differently if you were going to do it all over again?
    • Would have started earlier – it was an idea I had a year before and the only thing that was stopping me from doing it was me.
    • Avoid incorporating as an LLC
    • Don’t try to start something else ahead of time
    • We were too pumped about doing a startup, so much so that we didn’t talk about all the other things that needed to be discussed.
    • Wouldn’t have started a company that is so dependent on other people (mobile operators in his case).
    • Making sure that you have the difficult conversations are up front; they only get more difficult the more you delay.
    • Keeping the idea a secret for a month
  • When did you implement a stock option plan? Do it on day one; get a lawyer to do this.
  • What books were most influential? Anything by Seth Godin. The Ten-Day MBA.
  • How do you find investors? Look to the people that you’ve worked with/for in the past. It’s the people that you’ve really impressed in the past that you can tap for investment, or other input.
  • What was the hardest thing about starting the company? Actually getting started – I had a good job already, and kept getting paid more and more money. You keep buying more crap and it ways you down. As soon as we started, it all stopped being important.
  • What will an investor ask you? During funding – Why someone else can’t do this? Board meetings – Are you making the user experience as good as you possibly can? They usually ask the important questions about strategy.
  • What happens when you start getting users? They expose the holes in the system – both exciting and intimidating.
  • What’s it like to work on such a big idea (directed to YouOS)? Incredibly exciting.
  • What keeps you motivated? The big dreams you want to fulfill. Traffic and feedback.