Gems from “18 mistakes” by @paulg

One of the classic Paul Graham essays, shorter:

In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want.

We advise startups to set both low, initially: spend practically nothing, and make your initial goal simply to build a solid prototype.

Startup funding is measured in time.

If you’re trying to solve problems you don’t understand, you’re hosed.

The early adopters you need to impress are fairly tolerant. They don’t expect a newly launched product to do everything; it just has to do something.

Launching too slowly has probably killed a hundred times more startups than launching too fast, but it is possible to launch too fast

The scary thing about platforms is that there are always some that seem to outsiders to be fine, responsible choices and yet, like Windows in the 90s, will destroy you if you choose them

So how do you pick good programmers if you’re not a programmer? I don’t think there’s an answer.

Fortunately there’s someone you can ask for advice: your users. If you’re thinking about turning in some new direction and your users seem excited about it, it’s probably a good bet.

So don’t get too attached to your original plan, because it’s probably wrong.

In some fields the way to succeed is to have a vision of what you want to achieve, and to hold true to it no matter what setbacks you encounter. Starting startups is not one of them.

The stick-to-your-vision approach works for something like winning an Olympic gold medal, where the problem is well-defined. Startups are more like science, where you need to follow the trail wherever it leads.

Starting a startup is too hard for one person. Even if you could do all the work yourself, you need colleagues to brainstorm with, to talk you out of stupid decisions, and to cheer you up when things go wrong

When you raise a lot of money, your company moves to the suburbs and has kids.

Apparently even Google got a lot of grief from their investors early on.

There’s nothing like users for convincing acquirers.

If you’re going to attract users, you’ll probably have to get up from your computer and go find some.

Most disputes are not due to the situation but the people. Which means they’re inevitable.

If startup failure were a disease, the CDC would be issuing bulletins warning people to avoid day jobs.

Most startups fail because they don’t make something people want, and the reason most don’t is that they don’t try hard enough.

Amol Sarva, Ph.D. // 530-727-8277 // [email protected] // // @amol