Startup Lessons

Paul Graham writes another great article – The hardest lessons for startups to learn.

  • Release Early
    Honestly, this is the ongoing mantra of everyone in the startup community. The entire Agile Development community is built around releasing early, instead of waiting until everything’s perfect. Guy Kawasaki tells us to release early. Everyone in startupdom says Release Early. If you haven’t gotten the message by now, you’re not paying attention.
  • Keep pumping out features
    • This is harder than Releasing Early – because you have to keep coming up with new ideas. Fortunately, your users will be the ones coming up with a lot of the new ideas for you. You just have to pick the good ones. I get this all the time with Bellygraph.
  • Make users happy
    • Like it or not, they’re your customers. But if you use their ideas to fulfill #2 above, you should be ok.
  • Fear the right things
    • I’m troubled by this one, primarily because unprofitable startups and profitable startups should fear different things. As I work with unprofitable startups, I generally fear only one thing – that we will not have enough money to make payroll. Everything else is details.
  • Commitment is a self-fulfilling prophecy
    • This reminds me of my own essay: So you want to join a startup. But the trick is all in the wording. “Commitment” is hard. Doing something that you love and working to make it better every day is not nearly as hard.
  • There is always room
    • There’s always room for more ideas and more businesses. In Atlanta, there are all sorts of streets named ‘Ferry’ – Johnson Ferry, Nesbit Ferry, etc. These were all businesses at one time. Read up on the Kraft website about how Kraft was built from startup companies created over the course of 200 years. If that doesn’t give you a sense of perspective about the permanence of startups, I don’t know what will.
  • Don’t get your hopes up
  • Speed, not Money
    • In Paul’s world, if you work really, really hard at a startup (cram 40 years of work into 4 years), you’ll be able to retire after the 4 years. IMO, it just doesn’t work that way for most people, even in startupdom. But it is certainly more challenging and interesting work. It is certainly easier to feel like you’re making a difference, and it is certainly easier to feel that you are not just a ‘sheep standing in a meadow with the other sheep waiting for the shepherd to tell you where to go.’
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