Class notes

Y Combinator president Sam Altman says 30% of what’s taught at YC is generic enough to be taught in their new course: How to Start a Startup.

This should be a great series for both entrepreneurs and investors. 

Lecture 1 is out. Here are my notes (part 1).   

Speaker: Sam Altman, YC President


  • Startup success = idea x product x team x execution x luck 
  • The best startups are mission oriented
  • Mission oriented founders recruit the best people and are most likely to endure the struggle 
  • Good startups take 10 years


  • The idea is important! 
  • … just not as important as execution
  • The best startup ideas sound like bad ideas at the begining 
  • … this is a good thing, but you should have insight into why others are wrong 
  • Good ideas are easy to explain
  • .. explain your idea in one sentence 


  • At the beginning founders should do little besides working on the product and talking to customers 
  • Start with something simple
  • The 1st version of your product should win over a small group of people 
  • Users should love your product, so they spread it 
  • … if that isn’t happening, your product probably isn’t good enough yet
  • There is only so much happiness you can deliver with the 1st version of your product 
  • … concentrate that happiness amongst a small group of people 
  • Get close to the people who love your product 
  • Have a tight feedback loop: show - feedback - product decision - measure - show 


  • Most founders don’t think enough about the market 
  • Think about the market first 
  • Think about how the market will evolve 
  • Great startup markets are small but growing fast … ride the tailwind 
  • Sequoia loves to ask: Why now? 
  • You should have a good answer to that

Something Peter Thiel believes that most do not

  • mitchrobs: What is one thing you believe to be true that most do not?
  • PeterThiel: Most people believe that capitalism and competition are synonyms, and I think they are opposites. A capitalist accumulates capital, and in a world of perfect competition all the capital gets competed away: The restaurant industry in SF is very competitive and very non-capitalistic (e.g., very hard way to make money), whereas Google is very capitalistic and has had no serious competition since 2002.

Every Content Marketer Needs an Editor

If you want quality content, you need quality editors. 

To deliver the kind of content that can truly advance a brand, marketing teams need to hire editors who have the time to really dig into each piece of content they produce, and the mandate to create content that serves the reader as well as the business. That means hiring people with the experience to edit contributions from anywhere in your organization (or outside of it) — even if that means going toe-to-toe with a CEO whose sentences don’t hang together. That means your editors need the authority to make significant changes or even kill selected contributions, but shouldn’t be swamped with managerial duties that crowd out the detailed and intensive revision process — editors need the bandwidth to actually work through each and every piece of branded content you produce so that it is as good as the best unbranded content.

Different areas of design

I’m reading a good book called, “The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman. Thought I’d share some notes here on my blog.

Different types of design are often confused and poorly defined. This book focuses on three major areas of design and defines them as follows: 

Industrial Design: The professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value, and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer. 

Interaction Design: The focus is upon how people interact with technology. The goal is to enhance people’s understanding of what can be done, what is happening, and what just occurred. Interaction design draws upon principals of psychology, design, art, and emotion to ensure a positive, enjoyable experience. 

Experience Design: The practice of designing products, services, processes, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality and enjoyment of the total experience. 

Where is the Micro-VC Market Going?

Jerry Colonna talks on leadership.  

Some of the best background music can be found as soundtracks to video games. Sounds designed to float in you mind while letting you concentrate on the task at hand. For your next work session try the beautiful sounds from Monument Valley by @staffodbawler 

Shenzhen trip report - visiting the world's manufacturing ecosystem

Joichi Ito (MIT Media Lab) provides some interesting insights into the state of manufacturing in Schenzhen. 

I believe that Shenzhen, like Silicon Valley, has become such a “complete” ecosystem that we’re more likely to be successful building networks to connect with Shenzhen than to compete with it head on.