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Paul Graham – How to start a startup

Paul Graham, Y Combinator founder (and former boss) recently gave a guest lecture in Sam Altman’s startup class at Stanford. It’s intended for college students, but much of it is applicable to potential founders at other ages. The video of the lecture can be found here but PG also summarized it in an essay.

For those who don’t have the time to watch/read the whole thing, my favorite quotes are below:

Startups are very counterintuitive. It’s like skiing in that way. When you first try skiing and you want to slow down, your instinct is to lean back. But if you lean back on skis you fly down the hill out of control.

The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you’re solving for them.

If you start a startup, it will take over your life to a degree you cannot imagine. And if your startup succeeds, it will take over your life for a long time: for several years at the very least, maybe for a decade, maybe for the rest of your working life. So there is a real opportunity cost here.

Do not start a startup in college [...]. You can do things in your early 20s that you can’t do as well before or after, like plunge deeply into projects on a whim and travel super cheaply with no sense of a deadline.

At its best, starting a startup is merely an ulterior motive for curiosity. And you’ll do it best if you introduce the ulterior motive toward the end of the process.

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