Paul Graham’s talk at Startup School 2007. Some notes I jotted down..

The Anatomy of Reluctance (why people hesitate to start a startup)

1) You are too young. Two techniques adults use to judge whether the other person is an adult.
a) Check whether the other person has a “kid’s flake” reflex. When things get hard “I cant do it..can you do it for me”.
b) How does the person respond to challenges by the adult. Kid recognizes adults dominant position or do they rebel and argue when something is imposed upon them

2) Too inexperienced. Gain experience by committing mistakes while “starting a startup”.

3) Not very determined..determination is the single biggest factor to a startups success.

4) Not smart enough..not a problem. Opportunities for everybody.

5) Dont understand business..understanding business is not the hard part. Building a good product is the hard part. What matters is how good you are at building things.

6) No cofounder. Real Problem. No investor who would not prefer to invest in a company with a co founder. Preferably one you know and trust

7) You have no idea. Most investors say “Its not the idea its the team”. Brief recipe for ideas..whats missing in your life. No matter how specific it is to you..its a better source of ideas than some hypothetical need. Steve Wozniak build computer for himself..didnt know whether it would be useful to others.

8 ) No room for more startups : Fallacy. Google buys companies because they are valuable. As long as you are creating valuable are good.

9) Have a family to support. Would not advice you to start a startup.

10) Already have enough money..

11) You have a need for structure. Dont start a startup..probably dont work for one either. In a good one tells another what to do. Everyone end up doing the right thing at the correct time.

12) Fear of uncertainty. Reasonable way to tackle this..expect the worse (startup going to fail) hope for the best. Atleast will be interesting.

13) You dont realize what you are avoiding. Corporate jobs can be boring. Startups offer you something interesting and of your liking to work on. Motivated to work harder.

14) Parents want you to be a doctor. Parents are conservative on behalf of their kids. Risk is always proportionate to awards. So protecting them from risks keeping them away from awards. Traditional opinion of doctors being rich and prestigious.

15) A job is a default. Need money = get a job. Wasnt true 100 years was farming. Opinions change with times.


Paul Graham’s talk at Startup School 2005. Some notes I jotted down..

General Perception -> Idea for startup very hard..Million dollar idea.
Not lying around for anyone to discover. Most startups end up nothing
like the initial idea. In the process of building up you come up with
the real idea.

Present question instead of idea. Instead of “how about a
collaborative web based spreadsheet” vs. “is it possible to make a
collaborative web based spreadsheet”. Incrementally implementing your
way towards the final idea.

Be familiar with promising new technologies. Conversation with
friends…right kind of people. Ideas get developed while explaining
them to the right kind of people.

Let your mind wander. Harder fields are a better area of work for
generating ideas…eg. math. Related fields..Comp Sc and Electrical
Engg…importing ideas from related fields. You have to be working on cant let your mind wander at random. you have to be
working on something and then let your mind wander a “little bit into

Problem –>Denial of problems. People believed that spam cannot be
avoided..except for rule based methods. Even when presented with
solutions ppl believe they wouldnt work. To accept the problem as
intolerable and feeling that it must be possible to solve them.

Make something people want. Think in terms of would it
benefit you..your friends..your cousins etc. Build stuff for yourself.
Look at stuff people use now which are broken. Take a luxury and make
it into a commodity. If ppl are willing to pay a lot for must
be useful to them. Henry Ford. This might involve redefining the
problem. Model T didnot have all the features of luxury cars…but it
solved the problem ppl cared about…getting from place to place. Make
things easier to use. Simplicity takes effort.

Do one thing and do it well.

Some kind of exit strategy. Either get bought or go public. Only then
will you be able to attract talent (with stock options). Look at big
companies and think what they ought to be doing. Make something
multiple acquirers would want. Dont make Microsoft Windows fix. Make
something where there is competition.