I recently attended Y Combinator’s first Startup School in New York City. It was held at the Best Buy Theater near Times Square and was MC’ed by Alexis Ohanian (who told us there were in fact 28 YC co’s in NYC now!), featured talks by great founders and investors, live office hours with Sam Altman and Garry Tan, and a good turn out of several hundred tech-oriented people.
I remember sneaking into my first Startup School at Berkeley way back in 2009.
My friend (and later roommate-turned-cofounder) Kalvin couldn’t make it and I tried to claim I was him. I’m not sure the person at the door fully bought it, but she let me in anyway. It was an eye opening experience as I had just started working at my first startup gig at isocket. I don’t remember anything about the talks but I do remember feeling a general sense of inspiration and excitement about doing a startup.
Of course, I went on to do a Y Combinator startup and learned many of the lessons those founders shared first-hand. But I think if I was a newbie all over again, Startup School NYC would have delivered that same feeling.
I wrote about the most memorable parts of Startup School 2012 at Stanford and thought I’d again try to share the experience of this event.
I did a lot of live-tweeting so I’m going to try embedding them in the blog post. Let me know what y’all think. Continue reading
Startup School is a fantastic event put on by Y Combinator. They bring together some of the most important and interesting people in tech startups and have them give candid, non-pitchy talks about what they’ve learned as a founder or investor.
This year, Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium was packed pretty much wall to wall on both levels. I’ve really enjoyed the talks in the past but it’s unfortunate that lots of people are unable to attend. So this year I tried to jot down some of my favorite quotes by the 2012 speakers both to save for myself and to share with others.
Note: I did my best to capture their statements as they said them but also had to patch from memory so this shouldn’t be considered a perfect transcription of the talks! Also I had to leave at 5pm so I missed the last 3 speakers: Joel Spolsky (StackExchange), David Rusenko (Weebly) and Hiroshi Mikitani (Rakuten). Darn!
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (interviewed by Paul Graham)
Paul (pg) interviewed Mark (mz) in an entertaining and enlightening recollection of working on Facebook in the early days.
- mz: [Looks around at the Startup School audience]
- mz: “Getting bigger!”
- pg: “Yeah, well I heard you are too.”
- Audience laughs
You can’t 80/20 everything
- mz: “We had to do a bunch of manual work to sign up every school – looking up all the course catalogs. Dustin thought we could grow faster if we didn’t have to do that. We had this big debate on this issue and what quality meant for us. It definitely set this tone early on that we had clean data and it was a college specific thing.
- mz: “You hear a lot about the 80/20 but you can’t 80/20 everything. There are somethings that you have to go beyond that and be the best in the world at.”
Flexibility is important
mz – “I have this big fear of getting locked into doing things that are not the most impactful thing. This is the thing about entrepreneurs, is that they have this laser like focus on doing the most important thing. One of the amazing things about college is the flexibility to try a lot of projects and explore things. I think people undervalue the power of having options.”
Special kind of pivot
- mz: “I mean Facebook went through a lot of pivots. We went from just being for college to being “not college”, then from being just a website to being a platform.”
- pg: “There’s another word for the kinds of pivots you were doing. EXPANSIONS”
- pg: “In retrospect, do you think MySpace had a chance after you got all the college students? Were they destined to get dominated by you?”
- mz: “I don’t see it that way. there is more than one-“
- pg: “More than one social network? Not really.”
- Audience laughs
Everyone knew it but me
- mz: “We raised money from Peter Thiel and told him the plan”
- pg: [stunned] “You told him you might go back to school?”
- mz: “Yeah, but I don’t think he really believed us.”
- Audience laughs
- mz: “There is a long history of people predicting I’d drop out of school before I did.” [Mark’s mom was unsurprised when he told her he was dropping out of Harvard]
Travis Kalanick, Uber
In a brash, chatty pitch, Travis talked about how Uber got started, the progress they’ve made and their battle with regulatory bodies. Continue reading