Book Cover
Startup School 2018


:star: :star: :star: :star:

Graduation

Helpful but mostly canned advice on how to start a company. It was good to codify a lot of this knowledge in flashcards, and the speakers certainly expressed the ideas more eloquently than I could have.

Notes

  • what is the most important thing to a startup? (Sam Altman) build something people spontaneously tell their friends about
  • why is it easier to start a hard startup than an easy startup? interesting problems attract talent
  • what are the four traits Paul Buchheit came up with as the most important traits in founders? frugality, focus, obsession, love
  • What are the three things that Michael Seibel attributes his startup success to? Technical team. Don’t spend much money. Ego was highly tied to startup.
  • what is the best definition of your customer? (Seibel) the person or party whose problem you are solving
  • why is it better to start with a paid product instead of a free product? (Seibel) you know that your users are using you because you are solving their problem instead of just because you are free
  • what is the difference between an artist and entrepreneur? (Seibel) an entrepreneur solves an actual problem with a product that is appreciated
  • what is the first type of customer you should target? (Seibel) the desperate ones
  • what is the correct way to provide a discount on your product? “add in an exploding ““discount”” – e.g. give the customer a 15% higher price, say AWS has given you a discount so you can pass that down to the customer, and only make that available for 30 days. this will come up in all of their internal discussions”
  • what are the steps in the initial product market fit search? (Rusenko) idea -> prototype -> launch -> traction
  • what are the steps in the continued product market fit refinement? (Rusenko) monetization -> growth
  • what is an MRP in the context of product market fit? (Rusenko) Minimum Remarkable Product
  • what is customer renewal rate? % of eligible subscriptions who renew
  • why is customer renewal rate preferable to churn rate? since churn rate is churned customers / total customers, it can be deceiving if your growth is accelerating (it will look lower than it actually is)
  • what are the three key metrics to track product market fit? returning usage, net promoter score, customer renewal rates
  • what is net promoter score? How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? (0-10)

    Subtract the percentage of customers who are Detractors (0-6) from the percentage of customers who are Promoters (9-10).
  • what is the difference between pivoting and iterating? (Seibel) pivoting is changing the customer and/or the problem (rare). itearting is changing the solution (common)
  • what does BEM stand for in CSS? Block-Element-Modifier
  • what is design? (Tan) creating things for users that work well and delight them
  • what are the three elements of design that are important for startups? (Tan) product design then interaction design then visual design
  • what is the central question for product design? (Tan) what’s the problem and who’s the solution for?
  • what’s the central question for interaction design? (Tan) how does it work?
  • what’s the central question for visual design? (Tan) how does it look?
  • what should you write down for each feature as part of PM 101? (Tan) what it is, who it’s for, which problem it solves and how important it is
  • Why is command language important? (Tan) Writing has to be direct. Call to action has to be obvious. People do what you tell them to do. You just have to tell them.
  • when is the appropriate time to start PR and content? (Mañalac) after you’ve made something people want and are certain they’re not churning. PR/content is not an appropriate form of user acquisition
  • What is a good way to do a trust check? Ask: how easy is it to share intimate things? What would make it easier?
  • How do you perform humble advice seeking? I’m working on XYZ, can you help me with it? OR
    I messed up doing XYZ, can you keep an eye out for that?
  • What is the top thing to understand from a 1:1? (Lew) how the other person is feeling
  • what are the two types of feelings to uncover in a 1:1? (Lew) tension and energy
  • what are 2-3 examples of tension in a 1:1 setting? (Lew) frustration, disappointment, annoyance, boredom, stress 
  • what are 2-3 examples of energy in a 1:1 context? excitement, pride, motivation, flow, learning
  • why are specific questions better than generic questions? specific questions produce specific answers, generic questions produce generic answers
  • which questions can be asked to gauge someone’s comfort level with receiving feedback? do you prefer to receive feedback in public or in private?
    which medium do you prefer to receive feedback through? slack, email, face-to-face
  • What is a valid trait to associate with success? (patio11) hustle plus at least one other skill
  • “what are the only two things that are considered ““work”” for an early stage startup? (patio11)” talking to customers and creating things that customers pay for
  • what is the correct lens through which to view a startup, i.e. software vs. business? (patio11) a startup is a business which happens to have software rather than software which is wrapped by a business
  • “what is a ““friendcatcher””? (patio11)” a skill or trait that attracts people to want to be your friend
  • what is an example of a friendcatcher? (patio11) the ability to cook; if you can cook, people will come eat and anyone who comes over to eat with you is a friend
  • why are time horizons a competitive advantage? (patrickc) most people get easily distracted/bored/discouraged, so just being willing to do the same thing for a long time is a kind of differentiation.
  • what are the two ends of the curve to nail when pitching a startup? (patrickc) super long-term vision (big exciting opportunity) and specific steps over the next year to make progress
  • what is the reality vs. the perception of early startup sales? (bosmeny) it’s the founder, talking to users. founder passion trumps sales experience.
  • what are the four steps of the almighty funnel? (bosmeny) prospecting -> conversations -> closing -> revenue
  • when is the sales process over for a given prospect? (bosmeny) you close the deal or the other party explicitly says no
  • “how do you deal with the ““1 more feature”” closing trap?” sign a conditional agreement or wait for demand from more customers
  • “how do you deal with the ““free trial”” closing trap? (bosmeny)” offer a 30 day cancellation period on an annual contract (bosmeny)
  • what are the three steps of the hiring funnel? (taggar) sourcing -> screening -> closing
  • what are the five sources of engineers, in descending order of efficacy? (taggar) personal network, hiring marketplaces, LinkedIn/Github, job boards, meetups
  • what is the range for % of applicants who pass interviews at a company? 2% - 8%
  • what are 3-4 of Ammon Bartram’s recommendations for effective and consistent sourcing? decide what skills matter; design a structured interview; use good interview questions; hide credentials; consider false negatives; look at max skill; think about the candidate experience
  • why is it important to be explicit about which skills matter? if you aren’t, your engineers will decide for you. everyone biases towards thinking their own skills are important, so this will introduce a lot of noise
  • what is the bullshit asymmetry principle? The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.
  • what’s the dispute resolution system between Patrick and John Collison? (pcollison) whoever cares more wins
  • what are the two stories of a startup? (pcollison) getting to product market fit, and post product market fit
  • what should you focus on instead of metric pre product-market fit? (pcollison) high-touch, high-throughput, qualitative feedback. Not many users, so you can look at everything
  • what is the market size mental model to have as you approach product market fit? (pcollison) there is a more or less fixed market size. you serve some %, and don’t serve some %. you must create the go-to-market tools to get to the % that you don’t serve. this is the best model for a growth curve; concentric circles, not hockey stick
  • what did aaron levy tell the collisons about why B2B software is better than B2C? (pcollison) consumer space is super amorphous, inscrutable, many times customers don’t even know what they want. businesses are mostly rational and allow you to work backwards from a comprehensible point
  • what is the OODA loop, created by Boyd for fighter pilots? (pcollison) Observe<div>Orient</div><div>Decide</div><div>Act</div><div>
    </div><div>Make this as fast as possible.</div>
  • what are the key qualities of an early startup employee? (pcollison) intellectually honest, cares a great deal, loves getting things done
  • what is the calculation to run when deciding to hire a startup employee? (pcollison) will this hire make us more responsive to users/the market? will it tighten our OODA loop?
  • “what is the ““probably a bad idea”” document at Stripe? (pcollison)” an annual document circulated around the company where employees are encouraged to add ideas that are probably bad but if they work out could be really good
  • what is the most important thing to optimize for technology-wise at an early-stage startup? (chou) quick iteration times
  • how do you achieve quick technology iteration times? (chou) build things modularly using technology you’re familiar with
  • what are the three large phases of development at a startup? (french-owen) hackathon, then working with a team, then scalability/security/end-to-end testing
  • what are a few ways to speed up early startup development process? (startup school panel) * get in front of users<div>* don’t spend time on infrastructure</div><div>* build cross-platform</div>
  • when should you raise money? (ralston) when you don’t need it. you have all the leverage
  • what are the important elements of your startup’s stor? (ralston) large opportunity, compelling product/traction, an impressive storyteller and team
  • why are post-money SAFEs the preferred form of investment? (ralston) investors and founders both understand the situtation. a $1M investment at a $4M valuation is a transaction for 25% equity.
  • what are some important pieces of storytelling to keep in mind when talking to investors? (ralston) prepare and research. simplify your pitch. don’t be boring. demos are gold.
  • how should you end every investor meeting? (ralston) never leave without next steps or a close
  • should you make long-term financial projections when raising a seed round? (ralston) no, no, no, there’s no way to make it anywhere close to accurate.
  • why is it better to have a vague vision than a detailed vision? (buchheit) if you have too much detail, you’re almost guaranteed to have wasted your time
  • figure out what you can <span class=cloze>[…]</span> today (buchheit) figure out what you can <span class=cloze>launch</span> today (buchheit)
    launch
  • what question should you go to unhappy users with individually? (buchheit) what would it take to make you a happy user?
  • in enterprise software: please the buyer, not the <span class=cloze>[…]</span>. (buchheit) in enterprise software: please the buyer, not the <span class=cloze>end user</span>. (buchheit)
  • in enterprise software: please the <span class=cloze>[…]</span>, not the end user. (buchheit) in enterprise software: please the <span class=cloze>buyer</span>, not the end user. (buchheit)
  • “what is a good use of the ““10 years in the future”” exercise as it pertains to a startup? (buchheit)” factor out your startup and look at the landscape of exponential change. For example, if Facebook didn’t exist, someone would have built a gigantic social network. There’s an inevitability.
  • how does the CEO’s role change from 2 people in the company -> 10 people? (collin) going from creating processes to hiring people who are better than you at scaling those processes
  • what question do you ask yourself when considering an early-stage startup hire w.r.t. their fit? (collin/collison) do i want 10x of this person? Because this person will hire 10 other people, etc.
  • what is a bottom-up vs. top-down sales process? (collin) bottom-up: pitch and demo to end users, they recommend it up the chain<div>top-down: pitch and demo to execs (CIOs, etc.) and they integrate it with their reports</div>
  • what is a reasonable weekly demos target for an early-stage startup enterprise salesperson? (collin) 15 demos
  • how many times should you contact each lead in an enterprise sales process? (collin) 5 times
  • what is the founder’s illusion to watch out for? (collin) you need to be disciplined enough to be honest when you are not growing, and fix it
  • what is a good trick for raising pricing? (collin) notify users of price change, tell them that a 1-year commitment will lock in the current price for another year
  • what is a recurring mistake for startup founders regarding work ethic? why is it wrong? (gross) working hard instead of working smart. input != output. nobody wants to work for a tired idiot.
  • what are some reasons why startup founders work hard but not smart? (gross) want to win the approval of the pack<div>no mental model of leadership</div><div>never reported to a leader they respect</div>
  • what is the maslow’s hierarchy of startup success? (gross) sleep<div>food</div><div>exercise</div><div>mind</div><div>leadership</div>
  • what are the 5 stages of Robert Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development? (gross) Impulsive mind<div>Imperial mind</div><div>Socialized mind</div><div>Self-authoring mind</div><div>Self-transforming mind</div>
  • what is the Impulsive mind phase of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development? (gross) basically children
  • what describes the Imperial mind phase of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development? (gross) still mostly children. very selfish, transactional, unable to see the other side, leadership failure: can’t get people to cooperate over the long term
  • what is a good analogy for the socialized mind (Stage 3) of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development? it’s like an NPC
  • describe the socialized mind (stage 3) of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development. “sees the other side, way too much. social experience (““they think I’ll look stupid””) becomes the internal experience (““I’m a moron””). Sense of self derived from others”
  • what is the leadership failure of stage 3 (socialized mind) of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development? hard to have a truly independent view at this phase
  • dsecribe the self-authoring mind (stage 4) of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development. “Not driven by social affirmation. Has a consistent, independent frame of mind. Take responsibility for their own inner states and emotions (““I am feeling angry because you violated a value that I hold dearly””)”
  • what is the leadership success of people with a self-authoring mind? (gross) good for early stage startups
  • what is the leadership failure of people with a self-authoring mind? (gross) hard to learn from people; bad for scale
  • describe the self-transforming mind (stage 5) of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development. no longer held prisoner by their own identity nor tied to particular identities or roles. Think in systems, can hold multiple ideologies at once
  • what are people at stage 5 (self-transforming mind) of Kegan’s Theory of Adult Development best suited for? managing a strong executive team or product at scale
  • it’s not hard work that burns people out, but rather <span class=cloze>[…]</span> it’s not hard work that burns people out, but rather <span class=cloze>the feeling that their work doesn’t matter</span>
  • what is the recommended decisionmaking process to minimize iteration time? (Hoffman) make an initial provisional decision. Note what information would disprove this decision and go get that
  • what are 2-3 suggestions to optimize a new hire’s experience at a startup? every first day is a friday<div>gift certificate to a restaurant from boss on the first day</div><div>in the afternoon of the first day, bring snack and drink cart around to everyone</div>