About the talk
YC President Geoff Ralston concludes Startup School this year with some parting advice, as founders continue on their journey to make something people want.
Hi start at school Founders. I am Jeff Ralston ycs president and I'm here to say so long and to give a few words of parting advice top 10 extraordinary weeks of start of school. We here at Weiser about to focus on our winter 2020 batch and you all will be off working on your startup's hopefully will see many of you. Add interviews for winter 2020. And no matter what? You all continue working on your startup's regardless of what happens with Y C cure a few things to think about as you enter this next phase of your company. It's so easy to be distracted
by what's happening with other startups. It's a great thing to be part of a community of startup. So this is the one thing you have to be careful about that remember is that every startup every single one has a different path every founder has a different path. When I first came to Silicon Valley. To work for the venerable company Hewlett-Packard as a coder. I dreamed of starting a startup. We used to go drinking Friday nights. They talk about while drinking was the important part in talking about start of us with the second most important part. But that's what we did. We always talk about
what our path would be. What are found her path would be We have no idea. How to go about it PG hadn't started y combinator yet. We couldn't go online to ask basic questions about how to start a startup. Actually, there wasn't even an online back then venture capitalist for these mysterious suit to only would talk to NBA's. We don't know where to go. It actually took me 12 years to find my path to start my startup and that was my past and it worked out
but everything's different now. Thanks largely to Paul. There's so much help. I hope that YC startup school has been transformational. For you guys for your companies and for your future. I hope you've learned enough focused enough launched enough. to make a difference make a difference that will put your startup on a path to success. That path will be different for everyone. When I finally gave up my job. Gave up working for the man. I began to search for my future startup. I came to build web-based email later. That was purchased by Yahoo. And that's where I met
PG. And his co-founder Trevor at their company via web before starting YC Paul spent tons of time doing other things. He wrote he painted before he found his next PATH Trevor moved out to California. When did his own Hardware startup to build robots? Whatever your path find it make it yours. And you do this by focusing on the important things focus on what matters focus on what you've learned at startup School. They connected with the community use the updates use the Forum talk to people most importantly as you've heard again and again make something
that people want and as you do that as you make something people want measure it keep track of your progress. Make sure you know where your value is added higher incredible people surround yourself with the best of the best and that will give you the best chance to build an epic company and don't give up focus on making a company that is healthy and happy and moving forward always. We say this all the time at y combinator startups are hard the books written about startups talk about how hard they are. So there's no easy decisions.
It's hard and it's all consuming and it's the most wonderful thing in the world. PGA wrote an essay where he quoted a Founder saying it's surprising how much you become consumed by your startup you think about it day and night but it never does feel like work. However, one of the constants of startups is that things will go wrong things will go wrong with your startup. They always do it's almost the beauty of startup and you guys are the problem solvers in Chief the times I remember the most when I was at
startups or where things went wrong and we found Solutions even when I was by myself when I quit HP to start a startup I was lost. I didn't know what to do until I realized I needed to make something and I started coding and I started talking to customers in that start up at Yahoo! Bought 411 some of the problems. We ran into were or shattering and it looked like it was the end of the company some we just thought were like that. We thought of our site ever went down. That would be the end of the company. We had to be the most reliable service. On the internet,
so we had all of our own servers in our office. Everything was right there. And that was great until the power went out. Now. We had thought of that eventuality and we had Universal power supplies. She would batteries really big ones the last 4 hours. But this power outage in particular that I'm thinking of went on and on it lasted and lasted lasted after 6 hours. We were shutting things down to preserve electricity. We kept the core Service app. but then the UPS is starting to beat saying we had a very short time left
almost simultaneously the lights went on but not in our office across the parking lot the wine where they had brought power back was directly next door, but our power actually wouldn't go on for another 6 hours. So we solve the problem. We got a really long extension cord. I happen to have a little plug you could screw into a light bulb with plug the cord in and stayed up and never went down. I don't know if that was an existential problem, but we solved it. Another thing I remember is when I was running a
company called Lala which was a music company this company built a great product people loved it. And it was so good that Facebook actually chose us to be Facebook music. This was a huge deal. This was company making or is it turned out nearly company breaking because we worked on that deal for 6 months 6 months the most complex deal I've ever been involved with We negotiated with Facebook. We negotiated with every single music label with every single music publisher. We crafted this deal. We are almost at the Finish Line, maybe a week or two or three away. And Zack cancel the whole deal.
Our company had focused exclusively on this for so long. We were lost. We didn't give up after that we might have but we refocused we built new Services. We did a deal with Google. We did another deal with Facebook and six months later. We were purchased by Apple for almost a hundred million dollars which in the music industry is pretty good. We have so many stories like this at YC. I found overcoming adversity with determination grit resourcefulness.
The canonical story. NYC is of course the Airbnb Founders who actually made cereal and sold it to survive. They have other stories where there was a disaster in one of their rentals and how they responded to that turn the company actually from a real negative into a positive the so many of the stories that I can think of there's a company that was a high flyer was doing incredible was selling so many so much of their goods mostly from China that they were one of our most popular one of our most valuable companies
and then all of a sudden trying to shut the door. Close of the trade killed their business and the founder had to personally lay off hundreds of people. He sat in on every single way off. He went through trauma that it's hard to describe but he survived and came through the other side and that company is once again driving this another company. I like to think about great founder team. We really like both. The founder hit he had a close friend is a as a team member but right before they started YC something
went wrong. Something went wrong between them the co-founder quit an old friend and actually sued the company. We have to push back and say look you're not ready for YC. Now he had to deal with really traumatic situation with a lawsuit from a friend didn't have a lot of cash had to pay out to make it go away. But surprisingly really showing the kind of grit that really makes for great Founders. He came back. He did a subsequent batch and that company now has millions of dollars
in the bank millions of dollars in revenue and is doing fantastic. These are the stories that you'll remember these are the tests that test whether you're you have the ability to create an epic company in the future. So what do you do when you're in this situation? Well, my simple answer is always default to action right code talk to users. That's what we did at lolla. We went back at our core product and made it better. You see this all the time things go disastrously wrong at a startup in the founders get sad. And sadness leads to an action that leads to apathy
it leads to depression. Don't do that. Don't get sad. Go to write Co talk to users make your product better always make forward progress Sam Altman the president before me always used to say be ambitious. This is the time to think big when things are at the worst make progress take chances. If you can say default Ally because that way you can survive through everything keep profitability within reach whenever whenever possible and keep going all of these.
are simple way of saying whatever extent you can. Keep control of your own destiny. Lastly. I want to encourage you to think about the kind of company your building and why you're building it. Aspire to create an epic organization that will Outlast you interpret this quote from PG. Don't just be evil be good broadly benevolence will pay you back. This is not neutral. This isn't just idealism. This will actually make your company better. More more likely succeed more powerful. P02 an essay about this and you should read it where he
talks about the help you get when your benevolent how you improve company's morale how you actually can create a power equation that makes your company more successful being good. As I said, you should think about Broly be good and kind to yourself eat. Well exercise stay in control of yourself and your sanity because Rolling back to what? I said earlier start at the harv really hard. Be good to your co-founders. One of the main reasons that companies fail is because co-founder relationships break down and founding teams
break up. We find it a company in the summer of 2015 called Innerspace. Which has a lot of material on how to communicate well with your co-founder, so this doesn't happen but likewise be good to your employees be good to the people you work with choose a culture and values that are positive make your company a happy exciting place to work. You can always feel that Vibe. If you go into a successful company going to a company with a hundred people where they are moving and they are going forward and they are creating something special and you can feel it.
Of course to get your customers they pay the bills. They're the reason you do what you do being customer-centric is always a recipe for Success be good to your investors. They took a chance on you and that will pay back in the future because you never know when you're going to raise money again, and lastly this matters so much to us at y combinator. That's why we're here we Intrinsically believe that by working with gray Founders like you all we make the world a better place cuz you guys make the world a world a better place to be good
for the world. Find your path find your own unique path to Startup success. You do this by focusing on what matters. And by building something people want remember things will go wrong. They do go wrong, but be determined resourceful in the face of adversity. And you allow bass those problems. The best course of action is action so default to it default to action in action in a start-up is the death of the startup. Don't be sad be determined. And lastly be good be kind and create the kind of company that you would like to work at. So I hope your startup experience is like mine the
Buy this talk
Access to all the recordings of the event
Buy this video
With ConferenceCast.tv, you get access to our library of the world's best conference talks.