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How to Start a Startup Week 2: Top Three Takeaways

Last week we published our Top Three Takeaways from Week 1 of Stanford’s How to Start a Startup course. If you are sitting hear wondering, “what the heck is How to Start a Startup?” see the next two paragraphs below. Otherwise, scroll down to see our top three takeaways from week 2 of the course. Learn lots and enjoy!

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.

1. Describe the problem you are solving in one sentence.

If it takes you longer than a sentence to explain what you are doing, refine it. The most successful startups are able to describe exactly what they are doing and why it is valuable in just one sentence.

After you describe the problem in one sentence then you should think, “How does that problem relate to me? Am I really passionate about that problem?” Just as we mentioned last week, Adora Cheung, cofounder of Homejoy, reiterates the importance to pick a passion first, start a startup second.

2. Get your hands dirty.

When starting Homejoy, a simple affordable way to get your house cleaned, Adora realized that in order to become the best cleaning resource they could be, they first needed to know how to clean. The best way to do that isn’t by reading book after book, it’s getting your hands dirty and immersing yourself in the industry; there is no better way to understand your audiences.

As Adora explained, “the cool thing was [she] learned how to clean from training the few weeks that [she] was there at the cleaning company, but the better thing was that [she] learned a lot about how a local cleaning company works.” You might not be enlightened, but pay close attention and you’ll find nuggets of critical information from first hand experience that you can improve upon to help you get ahead of the competition.

3. Starting a startup is not a part-time gig.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that starting a startup is glamorous and carefree. Real life is not The Social Network, it is a lot of (hard) work. As Paul Graham describes it, “startups are all consuming. If you start a startup, it will take over your life to a degree that you cannot imagine and if it succeeds it will take over your life for a long time; for several years, at the very least, maybe a decade, maybe the rest of your working life.” This is (again) why you need to make sure you pick a passion first.

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

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