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

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


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)

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)