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How to Start a Startup Week 1: The Top 3 Takeaways

Over the next several weeks, Y Combinator President, Sam Altman, is teaching a Stanford course lecture series designed to be a one-class business course for people who want to start startups. It is “everything [they] know about how to start a startup, for free, from some of the world experts.”

The caliber of founders and startup gurus lined up to talk is impressive. Several of our Maestronauts decided they wanted to follow along and learn from the successes and challenges that are shared. So over the next several weeks we are meeting before work to watch and discuss the lectures. Here are our top three takeaways from Week 1 of How to Start a Startup:

1. Surround yourself with the right people.

Whether you are talking about potential co-founders or members of the team, people are one of the most complex moving pieces.

Cofounder relationships are critical to the success of your startup. In fact, “the number one cause of early death for startups is cofounder blowups.” Don’t just pick your best friend and don’t just pick someone random who also wants to start a startup; choose someone that you have worked with before and who is “relentlessly resourceful”.

The process to finding the right team members should be no different; Mark Zuckerberg once said that he tries to hire people that “A. He’d be comfortable hanging with socially and B. He’d be comfortable reporting to if the roles were reversed.”

2. Focus on your users.

A small group of people that LOVE your product is better than a large group of people who like your product. Make the tightest feedback loop possible so that you know exactly what your users like and dislike. “Over the long run, great products win” because when people really love something you’ll see organic growth. Most startups “die because they themselves fail to make something users love.”

3. Pick a passion first, start a startup second.

You can do everything else right, but if you don’t have a good idea, none of it will matter. Altman says that “you should only start a startup if you feel compelled by a particular problem and that you think starting a company is the best way to solve it. Specific passion should come first, and the startup second.”

Want to watch the lectures yourself? Follow along on Sam Altman’s page or subscribe to the YouTube channel!

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