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Startup School Winter 2020
January 20, 2020, Online, USA
Startup School Winter 2020
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Geoff Ralston - Parting Advice
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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.

Transcript and lecture slides here: https://www.ycombinator.com/library/6u-startup-school-parting-advice

This lecture is part of YC's Startup School, a free online program and global community of founders. Register and join the community at https://www.startupschool.org/

Chapters (Powered by videosummary.co) -

00:00:00 Introduction

00:00:46 There is no one path - Things to think about in the next phase of your company

00:03:28 - Find your path and make it yours

00:03:35 - - Focus on what matters

00:04:20 Startups are hard

00:04:52 - Things will go wrong

00:05:17 - Geoff experience

00:07:07 - - La La Media

00:08:14 Important quality of a startup founder - Overcoming adversity with determination

00:08:26 - Examples - YC companies

00:10:32 - When in difficult situation - Default to action (write code and talk to users)

00:11:31 - Keep control of your own destiny

00:11:40 Think about the kind of company you are building

00:11:51 - Paul Graham quote and essay on 'Be good' - https://www.paulgraham.com/good.html

00:12:23 - Being good

00:12:28 - - Good and kind to yourself

00:12:39 - - Be good to your co-founders

00:12:57 - - - Founder communication (https://www.slideshare.net/InnerspaceSF/innerspace-founder-communication-workshop-june-23-2017)

00:13:03 - - Be good to your employees

00:13:27 - - Be good to your customers

00:13:38 - - Be good to your investors

00:13:59 - - Be good for the world

00:14:06 Summary

00:15:03 End

00:00 Intro

00:46 Things to think about in the next phase of your company

01:51 Paul Graham quote and essay on 'Be good'

03:28 Find your path and make it yours

03:35 Focus on what matters

04:20 Startups are hard

04:52 Things will go wrong

05:17 Own experience

07:07 La La Media

08:14 Overcoming adversity with determination

08:26 Examples - YC companies

10:32 Default to action (write code and talk to users)

11:31 Keep control of your own destiny

11:40 Think about the kind of company you are building

12:23 Being good

14:06 Summary

15:03 The End

About speaker

Geoff Ralston
President at Y Combinator

Geoff Ralston is the President of Y Combinator and has been with YC since 2011. Prior to YC, he built one of the first web mail services, RocketMail, which became Yahoo Mail in 1997. While at Yahoo, Geoff worked in engineering and ran a business unit before becoming Chief Product Officer. After Yahoo, he was the CEO of Lala, which was acquired in 2009 by Apple

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I started 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. Attend extraordinary weeks of start of school. We here at YC are about to focus on our winter 2020 batch, and you all Will be off working on your startup's. Hopefully, we'll see many of you. At interviews for winter 2020. And no matter what? You all continue working on your startup's, regardless of what happens with y c. You're 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 startups that 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 talked about what our path would be what our founder path would be. We had 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 capitalists for these mysterious suit to only would talk to NBA's. We've

nowhere to go. It actually took me 12 years to find my path. To start my startup and that was my path and it worked out, but everything's different. Now. Thanks largely to Paul. There's so much help. I hope that y c startup school has been transformational. For you guys for your company's and for your future. I hope you've learned enough focused enough launched enough. To make a difference. Make a difference. It 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. And 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'm at PG. And his co-founder Trevor at their company via web before starting. Why see Paul spend tons of time doing other things. He wrote he painted before he found his next PATH. Trevor moved out to California on, 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. B 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 to 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 startup star hard the books written about startups talk about how hard they are. Well, there's no easy decisions. It's hard and it's all consuming and it's the most wonderful thing in the world. PG 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 it 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 in 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 for 11. Some of the problems. We ran into were or shattering and it look like it was the end of the company. So 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. Shoot 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 six hours. We were shutting things down to preserve electricity. We kept the core Service app. but then, The UPS has started 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 line where they had brought power back

was directly next door, but our power actually wouldn't come 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. We 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 way. And got canceled the whole deal. Our company has 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 of the music industry is pretty good. We have so many stories like this at YC, a Founders overcoming adversity with determination grit resourcefulness. The canonical story, @yc is, of course, the Airbnb Founders who actually made some 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, China shut the door. Close off the trade killed their business

and the founder had to personally lay off. Hundreds of people. He sat in, on every single laugh. 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. It's another company. I like to think about the great founder Chief. We really like both. The founder. He had a close friend, is a, as a team member, but right before they started, when I see 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 your not ready for. Why? See 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, Surprising 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 Lala. 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 gets bad. And sadness leads to an action. That leads to apathy. It leads to depression. Don't do that. Don't get sad. Go to Wright 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 alive. Because that way you can survive through everything cheap profitability within reach, whenever for whatever possible and keep going. All of these. Are simple way of saying. Whatever extent you can. Keep control of your own destiny. Lastly. I wanted 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, but Evelyn's will pay you back. This is neutral. This isn't just idealism. This will actually make your company better. More more likely succeed, more powerful. Zero-turn essay about this and you should read it where he talks about the help you get. When your benevolent, how you approve companies, morale, how you actually can create a power equation that makes your

company more successful. 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 Hard really hard. Pikachu co-founders. One of the main reasons that companies fail is because co-founder relationship breakdown and founding teams breakup. We funded 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 because 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 matter so much to us at y-combinator. That's why we're here. Intrinsically believe that by working with great 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 will Outlast those problems. The best course of action is action. So default to it, default to action in action, in a startup 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 highlight of your professional careers. Good luck. Thanks so much for taking part in. Why see summer 2019 start of school, and I hope to see you all again soon.

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