What’s the best way to know if your idea is a good one?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Listening to smart vs. I’m with stupid

Challenging the status quo and going against all the the traditional rules of thumb is a great way to take a leap. But that sort of leap needs to be a portfolio play, part of a larger arc, not a matter of life and death, not the last spin of the wheel you’re going to get if you’re wrong. [Worth noting that plenty of smart people shunned Semmelweis, Lovelace and Alan Kay. But not all of the smart people.] By all means, take these intellectual ris… (read more)

What’s the best way to come up with your startup idea?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: How to talk about your project

What is it for? When someone hires your product or service, what are they hiring it to do? Who (or what) are you trying to change by doing this work? From what to what? How will you know if it’s working? What does it remind me of? Are there parallels, similar projects, things like this that have come before? What’s the difficult part? How much of your time and focus are you spending on the difficult part?

What’s the best way to pitch your company to investors?

Aaron Levie (CEO of Box)
Aaron Levie (@levie) | Twitter

Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent’s market is like sizing the car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Startup financing is not a popularity contest; everyone saying yes is irrelevant to you. It’s more important to have the right person say yes than it is to have everyone say yes.

Tim Jackson (‎General Partner at Lean Investments)
Investment Swarm with Tim Jackson at Hive53.com – YouTube

Team: how good? Traction: how fast? Market: how big? Barriers: how high? and then… Why did this deal come to me? How can I help?

Rob Go (Co-Founder and Partner at NextView Ventures)
Why The Series B is the “Sucker Round” – ROBGO.ORG

In the seed and Series A, you are selling promise and some execution. In growth rounds, you are selling something that already “works”. You are selling a marketing machine, and the ability to “put in 1 dollar and get out 2″. In between, you are selling a hybrid of both, and that isn’t easy.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
What happened to innovation? – Sam Altman

A two-by-two matrix of progress in innovation (and ease of attracting investment) with software/physical on one axis and short-term/long-term on the other axis looks like this. Green is good, yellow is ok, and red is bad. https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/948806/gd5P6SxQ7LcBL_LP4XtEtlK9Jx4/medium_matrix.png

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Just make an affirmative statement about what you do and why it’s important. SpaceX has a great elevator pitch: “Launch costs haven’t come down in decades. We slash them by 90%. The market is $XXbn.” (Contrast this with: “We’re NASA meets Toyota!”)

Anthony Lee ( Managing Director of Altos Ventures, Marketing @ Evolve Software (acquired), McKinsey)
Why Big, Why Now, Why You? – Altos Ventures

Specifically, there are “3 Whys” that I want to see in every pitch: WHY BIG? WHY NOW? WHY YOU? On Why Now? — this is one that entrepreneurs almost always miss and so it is one that I have come to feel is the most critical. So much of startup success is dictated by good timing

Kris Duggan (CEO and Founder at BetterWorks)
The Second-Timers: Kris Duggan of Betterworks: “This Time, I Generated Leads Before We Even Launched” | SaaStr

If you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money. I spend 10x more of my time on customers than investors. For example, we don’t have an investor deck here at BetterWorks. If a potential investor wants to talk, I show them our sales deck so they know how we talk with prospects. Thinking that way makes me remember to stop ‘pitching’ and keep listening.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

When pitching a VC, you need to have at your command the macro stats for the industry, because that is how they compare your problem with another idea that someone else is pitching. Intuitions are not enough to make the comparison, and for the partner to pitch his/her colleagues – there needs to be some market data about the size of the market etc.

Ben Yoskovitz (VP Product at VarageSale, VP Product at GoInstant (acquired by Salesforce), Author of Lean Analytics)
“No Marketing” Isn’t as Impressive as You Think

Marketing is learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not making progress. Don’t tell investors that your traction is “without any marketing” because that just means it’s not repeatable and scalable.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
My Golden Rule for Pitching Your Startup or Product

There’s a simple rule I use when pitching a product or even a company to someone. I call it No “and”s. You have to be able to describe your idea in a single sentence without using the word “and. ” The problem with using “and”s is that they often confuse ideas instead of clarifying them.

Alfred Lin (Partner at Sequoia Capital, Former CFO/COO Zappos)
How to Convince Investors

It’s doubly important for the explanation of a startup to be clear and concise, because it has to convince at one remove: it has to work not just on the partner you talk to, but when that partner re-tells it to colleagues.

David Beisel (Co-Founder & Partner at NextView Ventures)
Never Raising Capital Ever Again – GenuineVC

Capital fundraising is to facilitate growth ahead of cash flows generated by the business. If there is truly a huge venture-scale opportunity ahead of a startup, there should be an appropriate cost of capital for future financings to expand which make sense for the company. … perhaps in many cases the desire for the Seed round to be the final round of financing is a tacit signal that it doesn’t have the potential to be “venture scale” after all.

David Cancel (CEO, Co-Founder at Drift)
3 Startup Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

You can only raise money by pitching the “Dream” or by selling “Traction”. So either bootstrap your startup, or raise money in the early “dream” (no code, no plan, just a dream) phase or in the “traction” (the model is working) phase of your business.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Pitching to investors: What truly excites you? | A Founder’s Notebook

A pitch to investors doesn’t need to be an exhaustive overview of your business. You need to get investors excited, and you can then follow up with details. And what gets investors excited is probably what gets you excited.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
Five Mistakes New VCs Make (& How I Tried to Avoid Them) | Hunter Walk

New VCs are vulnerable to fashionable verticals. What are some motivations to chase the market? Groupthink certainly; high volume of new companies in these spaces; perceived appetite for these companies from downstream investors mean you can get some quick markups over next 12 months.

Oren Jacob (Founder & CEO at ToyTalk)
Take Your Fundraising Pitch from Mediocre to Memorable with These Storytelling Tips | First Round Review

You should be able to tell your whole story, in a compelling and detailed fashion, in just 20 minutes. This will almost always expand to fill the hour… At the same time, you want to have hours and hours of nerdy details squirreled away in your head.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Black Swan Farming

The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

The general rule is one business model drives the business. It’s tempting to list multiple revenue streams because you’re trying to prove that you will be big. Yet when consumer internet companies do this, investors generally see a red flag.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Pitch by analogy. Show, don’t tell. Again, your pitching goals are to increase investors’ confidence in your investment thesis and lead them to a shared view of your company’s problems. To accomplish this, you should show rather than tell whenever possible.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Understand where analogies apply and where they do not. Pitch by analogy but don’t necessarily reason by analogy. When I’m the investor listening to a pitch, one detail I consider is whether the entrepreneur is being too deluded by their analogies and not thinking hard enough about exception cases. It’s better to have no analogy than a bad one.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

When pitching by analogy, anchor your business to other valuable businesses to signal that your business will be valuable, too

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Avoid debating the validity of your analogies. If someone pushes back and tries to challenge elements of an analogy, don’t let yourself get drawn into a back and forth. Analogies are a conceptual framework, so they’re not going to be 100% accurate.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Express your competitive advantage. Why are you going to break out of the pack? What is your advantage? An understanding of product-market fit? Is it a technology advantage? What’s your differential business strategy? Your differential growth strategy? Your differential product?

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Show some maneuverability. Don’t just say that you have five different options. Instead, say that you’re doing one, but you also have some fall-back or maneuvering options.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Ultimately, you’re selling the partnership, so give the individual partner the talking points to be successful. What will that partner tell their partners? Put yourself in their shoes.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

When in doubt, lead with what will make the most sense to investors.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Underpromise and overdeliver. Internally, our team expected that paid members would potentially get access to the whole network, but we had to make sure that the network would be comfortable with this. So we showed four degrees [of seperation] to our investors, to be sure.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Be wary of adjectives and especially adverbs. Anytime you use qualifiers like “very”, you’re overstating your point, which shows that you’re nervous about it. When I’m being pitched as an investor and I see such qualifiers, I make sure to ask questions about those areas because I know the entrepreneur is most nervous about them. It’s okay to be hyperbolic, to be aggressive, to be visionary [but] avoid adverbs and adjectives when possible.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

Explain to them why you are unique (if you are in a larger market). In essence, why did everyone else pass on you?

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

Tell a story – and try to do it first without relying on your deck. People like stories. Our brains are wired to respond them. We recall facts better when they are embedded in narrative. Why did you start your company? What do you want to achieve? Then drape the facts around that skeleton.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
This For That – AVC

We’ve made a few of these investments and some of them have worked out pretty well.Edmodo is Facebook for classrooms. SoundCloud is YouTube for audio.
If you are going to do a “this for that” investment, the first thing you need to make sure is the iconic company (this) is not going to go after this other market (that) themselves. Then you need to make sure the other market (that) is very large. And finally, you need to make sure that the founde… (read more)

Roy Bahat (Head at Bloomberg Beta)
Early startup pitches are like movie pitches, not business pitches — Medium

An early startup pitch might be more like a movie pitch than a business pitch. Early startup investors might be more like Hollywood movie producers or A&R people in music — listening to the tape! — than they are like Actual Businesspeople. The best ones just know what a few bars of good jazz sound like when they hear it.

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

One of the most important things to understand is that, like all people, VCs are different people at different times of day. It helps to pitch as early as possible in the day. This is not a throwaway point. Disregard it at your peril

Bruce Gibney (Former Partner @ Founders Fund)
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 8 Notes Essay

The standard format is stringing together a few well-known products and services that you sort of resemble: “We are Instagram meets TaskRabbit meets Craigslist.” You should reject the standard format.

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Don’t pitch from the defensive & don’t start by apologizing

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Framing matters a LOT (seed round vs seed extension)

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
What I Wish I Knew Before Pitching LinkedIn to VCs | Greylock Partners

Your investment thesis is either concept-driven or data-driven. Which kind you are pitching? In a data pitch, you lead with the data because you are emphasizing how good the data already is. If it’s a concept pitch, on the other hand, there may be data, but the data supports a yet undeveloped concept.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Talk to your network to evaluate your ideas and evaluate your pitch. The questions you should always ask are: What’s wrong? What’s broken? Why won’t it work? What do you think the risks are? People by default will want to give you good feedback rather than bad, so you have to ask negative questions.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Take competition against your potential revenue streams seriously. Being detailed about your competition, especially listing the specific companies, helps increase investor confidence.

Reid Hoffman (Partner & Co-Founder at Greylock Partners)
LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch to Greylock: Pitch Advice for Entrepreneurs

Be decisive and ship. Including specific dates, for example, shows decisiveness. Being decisive doesn’t mean that you have to stick with your decisions. Good investors expect you to iterate often as you figure out what product will grow your market.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Download • Snapchat

VC’s don’t fund mobile app companies anymore. The reason is it’s impossible to get distribution through the iPhone app store or Google Play.

Richard Price (Founder, CEO at Academia.edu)
Guerrilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Christina Farr

VCs are looking for the ten-year level of discourse, rather than the six month level of discourse. Being in an investor meeting is actually the one environment where you can let you imagination rip

What’s the best way to know if your idea is a good one?

Jessica Livingston (Co-Founder & Partner @
Y Combinator)

Twitter

Denial is the secret killer of startups.

Hunter Walk (Founder & Partner at Homebrew)
The Most Difficult Question I Ask Founders | Hunter Walk

The most difficult question for some founders is “why do you want to spend 10 years of your life working on solving this problem. ”

Larry Page (CEO & Founder at Alphabet)
Mergers must meet the toothbrush test

Is it something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better?

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Why Your Startup is More Likely to Succeed if You’re Authentic and Passionate | Bothsides of the Table

Running a startup is a grind. It wears you down. It’s full of mostly stresses and set backs. It requires absolute dedication, commitment and drive – even when things seem hopeless. When I’ve seen extreme success up close I can tell you it comes with absolute dedication to being number one 24/7 to the point of crowding out nearly everything else in your life. It’s why being an entrepreneur isn’t for everybody. But if you’re going to try and compet… (read more)

Saras Sarasvathy (Member of the Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Ethics area at the Darden School of Business)
The Affordable Loss Principle

Entreprenuer[s] set an upper bound on what he or she is willing to lose in order to start the venture. “In the worst-case scenario, I will lose the money and will be back in the job market in two years.”

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Programming Your Culture – Ben’s Blog

The second thing that any technology startup must do is to take the market. If it’s possible to do something 10X better, it’s also possible that you won’t be the only company to figure that out. Therefore, you must take the market before somebody else does. Very few products are 10X better than the competition, so unseating the new incumbent is much more difficult than unseating the old one.”

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Starting with the right idea matters. Empirically, you can only pivot so far.

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Work on a problem that has an immediately useful solution, but has enormous potential for growth. If it doesn’t augment the human condition for a huge number of people in a meaningful way, it’s not worth doing. For example, Google touches billions of lives by filling a very concrete space in people’s daily routine. It changes the way people behave and perceive their immediate physical surroundings. Shoot for building a product of this magnitude

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Beware of chicken and egg products. Make sure your product provides immediate utility.

Tacklebox (Smart and Simple Shipping)
Customer Interviews: So you’ve decided to take your startup seriously. — Medium

Are you building a pain killer or a vitamin? Do people need a solution to this problem, or is it a “nice to have”? How do customers solve this problem now? What’s the exact process? How do they feel during this process? What are the biggest pain points? Specific products, workarounds, “hacks,” etc. How much money/time does this problem cost people now? If you can, get a sense of how much they’d pay to have it solved properly. Who has this problem… (read more)

Ben Erez (Product at Breeze)
22 Mistakes I Made as a First Time Founder — Viabilify

Only once you pass the threshold of knowing “enough” about an industry, can you really get the insights to have intelligent conversations with the people you need to know. In other words, knowing Fred Wilson is one thing but knowing Fred Wilson and being able to impress him with your knowledge of a space he’s interested in? Those are two very different outcomes for you. As a founder, you absofuckinglutely need to know your shit! There are no sh… (read more)

Entreprenuer Media (http://www.entrepreneur.com/)
The Best Ways to Do Market Research for Your Business Plan

1. Who are your customers? Describe them in terms of age, occupation, income, lifestyle, educational attainment, etc. 2. What do they buy now? Describe their buying habits relating to your product or service, including how much they buy, their favored suppliers, the most popular features and the predominant price points. 3. Why do they buy? This is the tricky one, attempting as it does to delve into consumers’ heads. 4. What will make them buy fr… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Be an Expert in a Changing World

Most really good startup ideas look like bad ideas at first, and many of those look bad specifically because some change in the world just switched them from bad to good.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas

The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they’d be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you’d have enough ambition to carry them through.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Startups in 13 Sentences

Understand your users. You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle, where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you improve their lives. The second dimension is the one you have most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be driven by how well you do in the second.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How Not to Die

Another feeling that seems alarming but is in fact normal in a startup is the feeling that what you’re doing isn’t working. The reason you can expect to feel this is that what you do probably won’t work. Startups almost never get it right the first time. Much more commonly you launch something, and no one cares. Don’t assume when this happens that you’ve failed. That’s normal for startups. But don’t sit around doing nothing. Iterate.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Why to Not Not Start a Startup

In a sense, it’s not a problem if you don’t have a good idea, because most startups change their idea anyway. In the average Y Combinator startup, I’d guess 70% of the idea is new at the end of the first three months. Sometimes it’s 100%.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
FarmLogs – Sam Altman

Technology is about doing more with less. This is important in a lot of areas, but few as important as natural resources.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Electrons and Atoms – Sam Altman

The key thing is enabling users to do things they do in real life much more easily yes, you could have called a cab company, but it took a long time, the cab didn’t always come, you didn’t know when it was near, you had to have cash or get a nasty look from the cabbie, etc.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Stupid Apps and Changing the World – Sam Altman

People often accuse people in Silicon Valley of working on things that don’t matter. Often they’re right. But many very important things start out looking as if they don’t matter, and so its a very bad mistake to dismiss everything that looks trivial.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Thinking about business models

A business model is the architecture of a business or project. It has four elements:
What compelling reason exists for people to give you money? (or votes or donations) How do you acquire what you’re selling for less than it costs to sell it?
Shat structural insulation do you have from relentless commoditization and a price war? How will strangers find out about the business and decide to become customers?

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
FIFA Xbox – AVC

Like many big deals, [EA making a FIFA game] was ridiculed at the start. That’s a sure sign you are on to something.

David Cummings (Managing Partner at Shotput Ventures)
Minimum Viable Product or Minimum Acceptable Product | David Cummings on Startups

One rule of thumb I like is that the minimum viable product should be built and launched in 90 days with the minimum acceptable product no more than 45 days after that.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Big idea? Expect a dark period, and don’t pivot out of it | A Founder’s Notebook

Big idea? Expect a dark period, and don’t pivot out of it

Dave Goldberg (Chief Executive Officer of SurveyMonkey)
Fail fast | A Founder’s Notebook

Most new ideas won’t work but you need to keep trying. Then, be ruthless about killing the ones that aren’t working and try to do it as quickly as possibl

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why startups should focus on a Job To Be Done rather than “market need” | A Founder’s Notebook

Early stage startups often describe their product as meeting a “market need”. But markets don’t have needs; real people have needs.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Passionate founders and product-market fit | A Founder’s Notebook

Is passion about obsessing over the details more than anyone else? I’m not sure. Perhaps passion enables you to understand broad needs and opportunities in a way that someone without passion cannot

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Listening to smart vs. I’m with stupid

Challenging the status quo and going against all the the traditional rules of thumb is a great way to take a leap. But that sort of leap needs to be a portfolio play, part of a larger arc, not a matter of life and death, not the last spin of the wheel you’re going to get if you’re wrong.
[Worth noting that plenty of smart people shunned Semmelweis, Lovelace and Alan Kay. But not all of the smart people.] By all means, take these intellectual ris… (read more)

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Why Startups Like Uber, Airbnb, and SpaceX Succeed, While Others Fail – Singularity HUB

Bill investigated how 5 key factors affected the success of the 125 companies in his portfolio at Idealab and 125 companies outside of his portfolio. The 5 factors were: (i) idea, (ii) team and execution, (iii) business model, (iv) funding and (v) timing. The no. 1 thing that mattered was timing. Timing accounted for 42 percent of the successes relative to failures.

Boris Wertz (Founder of version one ventures)
The only 2 ways to build a $100 million business – Version One

There are only two ways to scale a business to hit that $100 million threshold: 1. Your business has a high Life Time Value (LTV) per user. 2. Your business has a high viral co-efficient (or perhaps even a network effect) that lets you amass users cheaply.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Absolute Must Watch: Office Hours With Paul Graham At TC Disrupt | TechCrunch

What is your idea? Who would use it? How would they use it? Again with more detail. So they show up and specifically what do they do? Of all the people in the world who needs this the most? What problem does it solve? How do they do that now? What do you do better than that? Who specifically has this problem now (company name or customer name)? Has anybody said yes? Who says they want to use this now? (People who aren’t your friends.) How did the… (read more)

Aaron Patzer (Founder & CEO of Fountain, Mint)
How Mint Found Startup Success By Solving Real Problems

Solve a real problem. You don’t start a company because you want to be an entrepreneur or the fame and glory that comes along with it. You become an entrepreneur and you create a company to solve a real problem.

Aaron Patzer (Founder & CEO of Fountain, Mint)
How Mint Found Startup Success By Solving Real Problems

Is this a problem that’s going to exist ten years from now?

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

You probably know whether or not what you’re doing is a good idea but you just aren’t admitting it to yourself.

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

Real businesses have customers

Amir Elaguizy (CEO Cratejoy, YC Alumni)
58 things I learned at YC – Giftshop Scientist

If there is no competition you’re probably screwed.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Why you’re not at a disadvantage if you’re a first time entrepreneur | A Founder’s Notebook

Many successful companies are founded by entrepreneurs with passion to solve a real problem of personal interest to them, or where they have domain expertise. That doesn’t lend itself to serial entrepreneurialism.

David Sacks (CEO at Zenefits)
New Sales Models – David Sacks, Founder and CEO of Yammer – YouTube

Are you in founder fantasy land wanting to “be a founder” or have you found a real market need? Once you have that do you have a product incarnation for that need? Do you have a simple interaction or user behavior that you can get users to use the product? What’s the initial simple behavior you can get a user to engage in? At PayPal it was getting users to email money. At Yammer it’s What are you working on? Do you have a scaleable distribution m… (read more)

What’s the best way to decide to pivot or not?

Glenn Kelman (President & CEO @ Redfin)
The Maximum, Beautiful Product | TechCrunch

Because the truth is at least one critic has spoken long before you release your product to the world: the beast at the back of your mind always yelling “FASTER, FASTER,” so loud that the little poet in there hardly has a moment to think. Even worse, sometimes the beast says “What’s the point? Of working on a little detail no one will notice? Of exploring an off-the-wall idea likely to end up in the wastepaper basket?” This isn’t a repudiation of… (read more)

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: One big idea

Most breakthrough organizations aren’t built on a bundle of wonderment, novelty and new ideas.

In fact, they usually involve just one big idea.

The rest is execution, patience, tactics and people. The ability to see what’s happening and to act on it. The rest is doing the stuff we already know how to do, the stuff we’ve seen before, but doing it beautifully.

You probably don’t need yet another new idea. Better to figure out what to do with the… (read more)

Danielle Morrill (Co-Founder & CEO at Mattermark)
Zombie Startups | Danielle Morrill

How do you know if your startup is a zombie? Here are some hints: You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. You don’t want to go out in public for fear you’ll have to explain what you do. You haven’t hit 10% week-over-week growth on any meaningful metric (revenue, active users, etc) at some point like launch or some other PR event. You’re working on the same idea after 12+ months and still haven’t launched. You’ve launched a consumer servi… (read more)

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to … – Eric Ries – Google Books

When an entrepreneur has an unclear hypothesis, it’s almost impossible to experience complete failure, and without failure there is usually no impetus to embark on the radical change a pivot requires. As I mentioned earlier, the failure of the “launch it and see what happens” approach should now be evident: you will always succeed—in seeing what happens.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Second Year – AVC

Not every startup works. There may come a time when you realize the third year is not coming. And then you have to move on. But with the right vision, the right team, and a ton of hard work, many get past the second year. And the good news is that the second year is history when that happens.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: When will you get to Ramsgate?

Nobody, ever once, pops to the top. You walk there. Step by step, each a failure until it’s not. If you’re not yet at Ramsgate, you’ve got some walking to do. And then, when you get to Ramsgate, more walking.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Gradually and then suddenly

Day by day we improve and build an asset, but none of it seems to be paying off. Until one day, quite suddenly, we become the ten-year overnight success. The media writes about suddenly, we notice suddenly, we talk about suddenly. That doesn’t mean that gradually isn’t important. In fact, it’s the only part you can actually do something about.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Very good results (and an alternative)

Hard work, diligence and focus often lead to very good results. These are the organizations and individuals that consistently show up and work toward their goals.

But exceptional results, hyper-growth and remarkable products and services rarely come from the path that leads to very good results. These are non-linear events, and they don’t come from linear effort or linear skill.

It’s tempting to adopt the grind-it-out mindset, because that’s so… (read more)

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Resilience

Resilience. Given how important it is, it’s surprising we don’t hire for it.

How easily do you bounce back from a disappointment? What is your reaction to change? As an investor, or a board member or an employee, are you seeking stability or impact?

Resilience is a skill, one that’s probably more valuable than most.

What’s the best way to come up with your startup idea?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Projects and Companies – Sam Altman

Companies sound serious. When you start thinking of yourself as a company, you start acting like one. Worst of all, you won’t work on slightly crazy ideas. When you have a company, the clock is ticking and people expect results. It’s far better to be thought of and to think of yourself as a project than a company for as long as possible.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Making other people successful | A Founder’s Notebook

Perhaps every company has a goal that ultimately reduces to (at least) one of these: provide basic necessities; make other people successful; give other people pleasure. Which is yours?

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Be an Expert in a Changing World

I spent a lot of time learning to recognize [good ideas look like bad ideas at first], and the techniques I used may be applicable to ideas in general. The first step is to have an explicit belief in change. Beyond the moderately useful generalization that human nature doesn’t change much, the unfortunate fact is that change is hard to predict. Instead of trying to point yourself in the right direction, admit you have no idea what the right direc… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Be an Expert in a Changing World

The way to come up with new ideas is not to try explicitly to, but to try to solve problems and simply not discount weird hunches you have in the process.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
How to Be an Expert in a Changing World

Good new ideas come from earnest, energetic, independent-minded people. [A] trick I’ve found… is to focus initially on people rather than ideas. Though the nature of future discoveries is hard to predict, I’ve found I can predict quite well what sort of people will make them.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Before the Startup

The way to come up with good startup ideas is to take a step back. Instead of making a conscious effort to think of startup ideas, turn your mind into the type that startup ideas form in without any conscious effort.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Schlep Blindness

The trick I recommend is to take yourself out of the picture. Instead of asking “what problem should I solve?” ask “what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?”

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Startups in 13 Sentences

Let your idea evolve. This is the second half of launching fast. Launch fast and iterate. It’s a big mistake to treat a startup as if it were merely a matter of implementing some brilliant initial idea. As in an essay, most of the ideas appear in the implementing.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup advice, briefly – Sam Altman

You should start with an idea, not a company. When it’s just an idea or project, the stakes are lower and you’re more willing to entertain outlandish-sounding but potentially huge ideas. The best way to start a company is to build interesting projects.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
A Question – Sam Altman

I think it’s remarkable how much of what people do and use today didn’t exist 10 years ago. I’m always in awe of the remarkable technological progress we make decade over decade. I think its important to try not to lose your sense of wonder about this.

Phil Libin (Co-Founder & CEO of Evernote)
“The Six Crucial Questions for Every Startup Entrepreneur”, by Phil Libin (CEO of Evernote) on Vimeo

Wait until the world changes so that an important problem goes from impossible to just really hard, then execute

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Evidence On Our Smartphones – AVC

The rise of computers that we all carry with us everywhere, and their ability to capture what is going on around them, time stamp it, and geotag it, creates a ton of interesting opportunities. Including law enforcement opportunities. And I think that is a good thing.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Payments Day – AVC

Payments are one of those things that are fundamental to the online experience. And there are large networks that are being built with payments at the core of them.

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

What products do customers really want? How will our business grow? Who is our customer? Which customers should we listen to and which should we ignore? These are the questions that need answering as quickly as possible to maximize a startup’s chances of success. That is what creates value for a startup. (p.181)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Second Screen, Third Screen, … – AVC

It all makes me wonder if the current crop of social TV apps are missing a big aggregation opportunity. I suspect lots of good stuff was going on elsewhere last night (Facebook, Pinterest, Canvas, etc), but I just didn’t have enough screens in my family room to be everywhere at the same time. Maybe we need an app for that.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Successful people – Sam Altman

The most successful founders do not set out to create companies. They are on a mission to create something closer to a religion, and at some point it turns out that forming a company is the easiest way to do so.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

If you’re underfunded at first but you’re gaining traction, especially in today’s age, it’s very, very easy to get intense funding.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

Timing accounted for 42 percent of the difference between success and failure. Team and execution came in second, and the idea, the differentiability of the idea, the uniqueness of the idea, that actually came in third.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

I think business model makes sense to be [less important, but still important] because you can start out without a business model and add one later if your customers are demanding what you’re creating.

Bill Gross (CEO Idealab)
Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com

What I would say, in summary, is execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more. And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Before Growth – Sam Altman

In the first few weeks of a startup’s life, the founders really need to figure out what they’re doing and why. Then they need to build a product some users really love. Only after that they should focus on growth above all else.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: How to talk about your project

What is it for? When someone hires your product or service, what are they hiring it to do? Who (or what) are you trying to change by doing this work? From what to what? How will you know if it’s working? What does it remind me of? Are there parallels, similar projects, things like this that have come before? What’s the difficult part? How much of your time and focus are you spending on the difficult part?