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​How to Start a Startup Week 4: Top Three Takeaways

Last week we published our Top Three Takeaways from Week 3 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 below. Otherwise, scroll down to see our top three takeaways from week 4 of How to Start a Startup. 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. Date your new users. Marry your existing users.

Kevin Hale introduced us to two metaphors: 1. Acquire new users as if we are trying to date them. 2. Treat existing users as if they are a successful marriage.

Basically, if you approach your startup like you approach successful real world relationships, you will be successful. When you think about your new users (dating) think about first impressions and creating word-of-mouth-worthy interactions that they talk about. When you think about your existing users (marriage) remember that everybody fights, so you need to have stellar customer support along each and every step. Don’t put anything between your users and conversion.

2. Do things that don’t scale.

When DoorDash first started, the founders of the company were also the delivery drivers, and the customer support, and the dispatch. They used Google Docs to keep track of orders and Apple’s “Find My Friends” to keep track of where all of the drivers were. They hacked together resources to build their business.

That type of set up is not scalable, but it does allow you to do two things really well: First, you can get the business off the ground, fast. Second, doing things that don’t scale helps you learn the business. “Doing things that don’t scale” is a mantra often talked about at Y Combinator.

3. Delight Users.

In the early stages of a startup, you have the chance to have intimate interactions with your users. Each time you interact with a user it is a chance to delight and surprise them. So make sure you take full advantage of every interaction; the littlest of details can make a huge difference.

To test out your product ask “what is the emotion on the person’s face when they interact with this?” For example, check out what happens when you hold your cursor over the “Login!” dinosaur on or what happens when you type in “do a barrel roll” into Google… I bet you’re smiling now.

Check out Little Big Details for more examples of features that delight users.

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

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