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Lecture 1--How to Start a Startup

原文地址:Lecture 1–How to Start a Startup

Lecture 1 of How to Start a Startup is in two sections:

Welcome to CS183B. I am Sam Altman, I’m the President of Y Combinator. Nine years ago, I was a Stanford student, and then I dropped out to start a company and then I’ve been an investor for the last few. So YC, we’ve been teaching people how to start startups for nine years. Most of it’s pretty specific to the startups but thirty percent of it is pretty generally applicable. And so we think we can teach that thirty percent in this class. And even though that’s only thirty percent of the way there, hopefully it will still be really helpful.

We’ve taught a lot of this class at YC and it’s all been off the record. And this is the first time a lot of what we teach is going to be on the record. We’ve invited some of our guest speakers to come and give the same talks they give at YC. We’ve now funded 725 companies and so we’re pretty sure a lot of this advice we give is pretty good. We can’t fund every startup yet, but we can hopefully make this advice very generally available.

I’m only teaching three. Counting YC itself, every guest speaker has been involved in the creation of a billion plus dollar company. So the advice shouldn’t be that theoretical, it’s all been people who have done it.


All of the advice in this class is geared towards people starting a business where the goal is hyper growth and eventually building a very large company. Much of it doesn’t apply in other cases and I want to warn people up front, that if you try to do these things in a lot of big companies or non-startups, it won’t work. It should still be interesting, I really think that startups are the way of the future and it’s worth trying to understand them, but startups are very different than normal companies. So over the course of today and Thursday, I’m going to try to give an overview of the four areas you need to excel at in order to maximize your success as a startup. And then throughout the course, the guest speakers are going to drill into all of these in more detail.

在big companies、non-startups,本课程的经验可能无效。startups are very different than normal companies. (为什么?)

Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I

So the four areas: You need a great idea, a great product, a great team, and great execution. These overlap somewhat, but I’m going to have to talk about them somewhat individually to make it make sense.


You may still fail. The outcome is something like idea x product x execution x team x luck, where luck is a random number between zero and ten thousand. Literally that much. But if you do really well in the four areas you can control, you have a good chance at at least some amount of success.

基本式子:outcome = idea x product x team x execution x luck

One of the exciting things about startups is that they are a surprisingly even playing field. Young and inexperienced, you can do this. Old and experienced, you can do this, too. And one of the things that I particularly like about startups is that some of the things that are bad in other work situations, like being poor and unknown, are actually huge assets when it comes to starting a startup.


Why you should start a startup

Before we jump in on the how, I want to talk about why you should start a startup. I’m somewhat hesitant to be doing this class at all because you should never start a startup just for the sake of doing so. There are much easier ways to become rich and everyone who starts a startup always says, always, that they couldn’t have imagined how hard and painful it was going to be. 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.


The specific passion should come first, and the startup second. In fact, all of the classes we have at YC follow this. So for the second half of today’s lecture, Dustin Moskovitz is going to take over and talk about why to start a startup. We were so surprised at the amount of attention this class got, that we wanted to make sure we spent a lot of time on the why.




The first of the four areas: a great idea. It’s become popular in recent years to say that the idea doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s uncool to spend a lot of time thinking about the idea for a startup. You’re just supposed to start, throw stuff at the wall, see what sticks, and not even spend any time thinking about if it will be valuable if it works.


And pivots are supposed to be great, the more pivots the better. So this isn’t totally wrong, things do evolve in ways you can’t totally predict. And there’s a limit to how much you can figure out without actually getting a product in the hands of the users. And great execution is at least ten times as important and a hundred times harder than a great idea.

应该有一个好的盈利点(支点),盈利点越多越好,更多的灵活性,方便适时调整。(是这样理解吗?) 上面这种,没有明确的、坚持的 Idea 的方式,也不是完全错误,但有一点:

But the pendulum has swung way out of whack. A bad idea is still bad and the pivot-happy world we’re in today feels suboptimal. Great execution towards a terrible idea will get you nowhere. There are exceptions, of course, but most great companies start with a great idea, not a pivot.

很好的 execution 用在糟糕的 idea 上,通常一事无成;大部分 great companies 都拥有 great idea。(great company在成长过程中,渐进的调整他们的idea)

If you look at successful pivots, they almost always are a pivot into something the founders themselves wanted, not a random made up idea. Airbnb happened because Brian Chesky couldn’t pay his rent, but he had some extra space. In general though if you look at the track record of pivots, they don’t become big companies. I myself used to believe ideas didn’t matter that much, but I’m very sure that’s wrong now.

比较成功的 pivots,通常是解决了 founders 的强需求。如何确定一个 idea 呢?建议:come up with a idea:

常思考,product的真正 user、customer对product的感受,他们在使用吗?他们愿意付费吗?

Definition of the idea

The definition of the idea, as we talk about it, is very broad. It includes the size and the growth of the market, the growth strategy for the company, the defensibility strategy, and so on. When you’re evaluating an idea, you need to think through all these things, not just the product. If it works out, you’re going to be working on this for ten years so it’s worth some real up front time to think through the up front value and the defensibility of the business. Even though plans themselves are worthless, the exercise of planning is really valuable and totally missing in most startups today.



Long-term thinking is so rare anywhere, but especially in startups. There is a huge advantage if you do it. Remember that the idea will expand and become more ambitious as you go. You certainly don’t need to have everything figured out in your path to world domination, but you really want a nice kernel to start with. You want something that can develop in interesting ways.


As you’re thinking through ideas, another thing we see that founders get wrong all the time is that someday you need to build a business that is difficult to replicate. This is an important part of a good idea.

思考 idea 时,很重要的一点:build a business that is difficult to replicate. (注释中有进一步的参考资料)

I want to make this point again because it is so important: the idea should come first and the startup should come second. Wait to start a startup until you come up with an idea you feel compelled to explore. This is also the way to choose between ideas. If you have several ideas, work on the one that you think about most often when you’re not trying to think about work. What we hear again and again from founders is that they wish they had waited until they came up with an idea they really loved.

再强调一遍:idea comes first, startup comes second. 当你为解决一个问题,必须start a startup时,采取start a startup。这也是筛选 idea 的标准之一。

Another way of looking at this is that the best companies are almost always mission oriented. It’s difficult to get the amount of focus that large companies need unless the company feels like it has an important mission. And it’s usually really hard to get that without a great founding idea. A related advantage of mission oriented ideas is that you yourself will be dedicated to them. It takes years and years, usually a decade, to build a great startup. If you don’t love and believe in what you’re building, you’re likely to give up at some point along the way. There’s no way I know of to get through the pain of a startup without the belief that the mission really matters. A lot of founders, especially students, believe that their startups will only take two to three years and then after that they’ll work on what they’re really passionate about. That almost never works. Good startups usually take ten years.

best companies 通常是 large companies,只有 mission oriented 才能凝聚起这么多人;另一方面,使命感,促使founder日复一日的坚持和付出,否则,极其容易半途而废。大多数founders通常认为,坚持付出2~3年就会有结果,特别是学生有类似想法的很多,而实际上一家好公司,创业时间要持续将近 10 年。

A third advantage of mission oriented companies is that people outside the company are more willing to help you. You’ll get more support on a hard, important project, than a derivative one. When it comes to starting a startup, it’s easier to found a hard startup than an easy startup. This is one of those counter-intuitive things that takes people a long time to understand. It’s difficult to overstate how important being mission driven is, so I want to state it one last time: derivative companies, companies that copy an existing idea with very few new insights, don’t excite people and they don’t compel the teams to work hard enough to be successful.

mission oriented 公司,还有一个好处,别人愿意帮助其成长或渡过难关。

不厌其烦的再强调一次 idea 的作用(看起来很有道理,真的是这样吗?)

derivative companies, companies that copy an existing idea with very few new insights, don’t excite people and they don’t compel the teams to work hard enough to be successful.

Paul Graham is going to talk about how to get startup ideas next week. It’s something that a lot of founders struggle with, but it’s something I believe you can get better at with practice and it’s definitely worth trying to get better at.

通过锻炼,可以改进、明晰 idea,也不用太着急。

The hardest part about coming up with great ideas, is that the best ideas often look terrible at the beginning. The thirteenth search engine, and without all the features of a web portal? Most people thought that was pointless. Search was done, and anyways, it didn’t matter that much. Portals were where the value was at. The tenth social network, and limited only to college students with no money? Also terrible. MySpace has won and who wants college students as customers? Or a way to stay on strangers’ couches. That just sounds terrible all around.

实际上,不能说best ideas often look terrible,只是,不熟悉、不准确表述的情况下,idea会看起来terrible。

These all sounded really bad but they turned out to be good. If they sounded really good, there would be too many people working on them. As Peter Thiel is going to discuss in the fifth class, you want an idea that turns into a monopoly. But you can’t get a monopoly right away. You have to find a small market in which you can get a monopoly and then quickly expand. This is why some great startup ideas look really bad at the beginning. It’s good if you can say something like, “Today, only this small subset of users are going to use my product, but I’m going to get all of them, and in the future, almost everyone is going to use my product.”


Here is the theme that is going to come up a lot: you need conviction in your own beliefs and a willingness to ignore others’ naysaying. The hard part is that this is a very fine line. There’s right on one side of it, and crazy on the other. But keep in mind that if you do come up with a great idea, most people are going to think it’s bad. You should be happy about that, it means they won’t compete with you.


That’s why it’s also not dangerous to tell people your idea. The truly good ideas don’t sound like they’re worth stealing. You want an idea where you can say, “I know it sounds like a bad idea, but here’s specifically why it’s actually a great one.” You want to sound crazy, but you want to actually be right. And you want an idea that not many other people are working on. And it’s okay if it doesn’t sound big at first.


A common mistake among founders, especially first time founders, is that they think the first version of their product - the first version of their idea - needs to sound really big. But it doesn’t. It needs to take over a small specific market and expand from there. That’s how most great companies get started. Unpopular but right is what you’re going for. You want something that sounds like a bad idea, but is a good idea.

还有一个问题,首次创业者,通常希望,他们的第一版产品就sound big。这是错误的,正确的做法,找到一个细分领域,迅速占领,然后,谋求扩张。

You also really want to take the time to think about how the market is going to evolve. You need a market that’s going to be big in 10 years. Most investors are obsessed with the market size today, and they don’t think at all about how the market is going to evolve.


In fact, I think this is one of the biggest systemic mistakes that investors make. They think about the growth of the start-up itself, they don’t think about the growth of the market. I care much more about the growth rate of the market than its current size, and I also care if there’s any reason it’s going to top out. You should think about this. I prefer to invest in a company that’s going after a small, but rapidly growing market, than a big, but slow-growing market.


当前规模较小,成长速度很快的市场,是一个好市场,其特点:consumer 对当前的产品(解决方案)感到绝望,但不得不买一些不完美的产品,同时这些产品的产量在飞速的增长。

One of the big advantages of these sorts of markets - these smaller, rapidly growing markets - is that customers are usually pretty desperate for a solution, and they’ll put up with an imperfect, but rapidly improving product. A big advantage of being a student - one of the two biggest advantages - is that you probably have better intuition about which markets are likely to start growing rapidly than older people do. Another thing that students usually don’t understand, or it takes awhile, [is that] you can not create a market that does not exist. You can basically change everything in a start-up but the market, so you should actually do some thinking to be sure - or be as sure as you can be - that the market you’re going after is going to grow and be there.

student相对于年长者,有一个很大的优势,他们对 rapidly improving market,感知力很强。还有一个,student欠缺的地方:

There are a lot of different ways to talk about the right kind of market. For example, surfing some one else’s wave, stepping into an up elevator, or being part of a movement, but all of this is just a way of saying that you want a market that’s going to grow really quickly. It may seem small today, it may be small today, but you know - and other people don’t - that it’s going to grow really fast.

So think about where this is happening in the world. You need this sort of tailwind to make a startup successful.

找准 market 才是顺势而为。

The exciting thing is the there are probably more of these tailwinds now then ever before. As Marc Andreessen says, software is eating the world. Its just everywhere, there are so many great ideas out there. You just have to pick one, and find one that you really care about.


Another version of this, that gets down to the same idea, is Sequoia’s famous question: Why now? Why is this the perfect time for this particular idea, and to start this particular company. Why couldn’t it be done two years ago, and why will two years in the future be two late? For the most successful startups we’ve been involved with, they’ve all had a great idea and a great answer to this question. And if you don’t you should be at least somewhat suspicious about it.


In general, its best if you’re building something that you yourself need. You’ll understand it much better than if you have to understand it by talking to a customer to build the very first version. If you don’t need it yourself, and you’re building something someone else needs, realize that you’re at a big disadvantage, and get very very close to your customers. Try to work in their office, if you can, and if not, talk to them multiple times a day.


Another somewhat counterintuitive thing about good startup ideas is that they’re almost always very easy to explain and very easy to understand. If it takes more then a sentence to explain what you’re doing, that’s almost always a sign that its too complicated. It should be a clearly articulated vision with a small number of words. And the best ideas are usually very different from existing companies, [either] in one important way, like Google being a search engine that worked just really well, and none of the other stuff of the portals, or totally new, like SpaceX. Any company that’s a clone of something else, that already exists, with some small or made up differentiator—like X, beautiful design, or Y for people that like red wine instead—that usually fails.

对idea的阐述,尽力简洁明了,通常 best ideas 比较革新的。

So as I mentioned, one of the great things about being a student is that you’ve got a very good perspective on new technology. And learning to have good ideas takes a while, so start working on that right now. That’s one thing we hear from people all the time, that they wish they had done more of as a student.

作为student有一个很好的优势:对新技术很敏感,对时代年轻人的需求把握较准确。在此,基础上,花时间学习如何找出一个好的 idea,然后立即行动;大部分人都希望 student 在其优势的基础上,承担更多的工作。

The other is meeting potential cofounders. You have no idea how good of an environment you’re in right now, for meeting people you can start a company with down the road. And the one thing that we always tell college students is that more important then any particular startup is getting to know potential cofounders.

留意潜在的 cofounder,这个对 college student 很重要。(cofounder 是可以寻找的吗?偶遇?)

So I want to finish this section of my talk with a quote from 50 Cent. This is from when he was asked about Vitamin Water. I won’t read it, it’s up there, but it’s about the importance of thinking about what customers want, and thinking about the demands of the market. Most people don’t do this—most students especially don’t do this. If you can just do this one thing, if you can just learn to think about the market first, you’ll have a big leg up on most people starting startups. And this is probably the thing we see wrong with Y Combinator apps most frequently, is that people have not thought about the market first, and what people want first.

先思考market,再思考customer demands,几点:


So for the next section, I’m going to talk about building a great product. And here, again, I’m going to use a very broad definition of product. It includes customer support, the copy you write explaining the product, anything involved in your customer’s interaction in what you built for them.

definition of product:

To build a really great company, you first have to turn a great idea into a great product. This is really hard, but its crucially important, and fortunately its pretty fun. Although great products are always new to the world, and its hard to give you advice about what to build, there are enough commonalities that we can give you a lot of advice about how to build it.

将 idea 转变为 product,这个过程很重要,也很有趣。

One of the most important tasks for a founder is to make sure that the company builds a great product. Until you build a great product, nothing else matters. When really successful startup founders tell the story of their early days its almost always sitting in front of the computer working on their product, or talking to their customers. That’s pretty much all the time. They do very little else, and you should be very skeptical if your time allocation is much different. Most other problems that founders are trying to solve, raising money, getting more press, hiring, business development, et cetera, these are significantly easier when you have a great product. Its really important to take care of that first. Step one is to build something that users love. At YC, we tell founders to work on their product, talk to users, exercise, eat and sleep, and very little else. All the other stuff I just mentioned—PR, conferences, recruiting advisers, doing partnerships—you should ignore all of that, and just build a product and get it as good as possible by talking to your users.

founder第一步要做的是 build a great product,这很重要,一个好的 product 会使得后面的问题变得简单:

当你有一个 great product 时,这些问题都会容易的多。在 YC,我们建议 founder 做几件事:

而不少其他地方,founder 却在进行下面几项工作:

我们的建议是,这些都不要管,专注自己的产品,不断与 user 沟通,把他做得足够好。

Your job is to build something that users love. Very few companies that go on to be super successful get there without first doing this. A lot of good-on-paper startups fail because they merely make something that people like. Making something that people want, but only a medium amount, is a great way to fail, and not understand why you’re failing. So these are the two jobs

首先要做的就是把 product 变得足够好,很多人在这一步犯错,因此,两部一定要做完:

在 BML,他们的建议是:run fast, cheap tests on users, get honest feedback and observe user behavior, analyze and then iterate.(小成本反复测试、快速升级)

Something that we say at YC a lot is that its better to build something that a small number of users love, then a large number of users like. Of course, it would be best to build something that a small number of users love, but opportunities to do that for v1 are rare, and they’re usually not available to startups. So in practice you end up choosing the gray of the orange. You make something that a lot of users like a little bit, or something that a small number of users love a lot. This is a very important piece of advice. Build something that a small number of users love. It is much easier to expand from something that small number of people love, to something that a lot of people love, then from something that a lot of people like to a lot of people love. If you get right, you can get a lot of other things wrong. If you don’t get this right, you can get everything else right, and you’ll probably still fail. So when you start on the startup, this is the only thing you need to care about until its working.

在 YC 我们给出的建议是:做一个小众喜爱的产品,做精细,然后再做较大众的产品。不过大多数情况下,小众的产品,很难大众化,此时就不适合startup。在尝试的过程中,两种选择:

这一步很重要,这一步做对,才有后面的机会;这一步错了,其他地方再正确,也极可能 fail。

So you have a choice in a startup. The best thing of all worlds is to build a product that a lot of people really love. In practice, you can’t usually do that, because if there’s an opportunity like that, Google or Facebook will do it. So there’s like a limit to the area under the curve, of what you can build. So you can build something that a large number of users like a little bit, or a small number of users love a lot. So like the total amount of love is the same, its just a question of how its distributed. [audience laughter] And there’s like this law of conservation of how much happiness you can put in the world, with the first product of a startup.(最后一句,什么意思?)


And so startups always struggle, with which of those two they should go. And they seem equal, right? Because the area under the curve is the same. But we’ve seen this time and again, that they’re not. And that it’s so much easier to expand, once you’ve got something that some people love, you can expand that into something that a lot of other people love. But if you start with ambivalence, or weak enthusiasm, and try to expand that, you’ll never get up to a lot of people loving it. So the advice is: find a small group of users, and make them love what you’re doing


One way that you know when this is working, is that you’ll get growth by word of mouth. If you get something people love, people will tell their friends about it. This works for consumer product and enterprise products as well. When people really love something, they’ll tell their friends about it, and you’ll see organic growth.


If you find yourself talking about how it’s okay that you’re not growing—because there’s a big partnership that’s going to come save you or something like that—its almost always a sign of real trouble. Sales and marketing are really important, and we’re going to have two classes on them later. A great product is the secret to long term growth hacking. You should get that right before anything else. It doesn’t get easier to put off making a great product. If you try to build a growth machine before you have a product that some people really love, you’re almost certainly going to waste your time. Breakout companies almost always have a product that’s so good, it grows by word of mouth. Over the long run, great product win. Don’t worry about your competitors raising a lot of money, or what they might do in the future. They probably aren’t very good anyway. Very few startups die from competition. Most die because they themselves fail to make something users love, they spend their time on other things. So worry about this about all else.

如果用户没有增长,不过,依托一个大的合作伙伴,能够保证产品的持续运营;此时,如果你侃侃而谈产品不错,那真正的麻烦就不远了。销售和市场,确实很重要,未来会专门介绍。但一个 great product 的 secret 是 long term growth hacking。在做后续工作之前,一定要保证这一点。说明几点:

Another piece of advice to make something that users love: start with something simple. Its much much easier to make a great product if you have something simple. Even if your eventual plans are super complex, and hopefully they are, you can almost always start with a smaller subset of the problem then you think is the smallest, and its hard to build a great product, so you want to start with as little surface area as possible. Think about the really successful companies, and what they started with, think about products you really love. They’re generally incredibly simple to use, and especially to get started using. The first version of Facebook was almost comically simple. The first version of Google was just a webpage with a textbox and two buttons; but it returned the best results, and that’s why users loved it. The iPhone is far simpler to use then any smartphone that ever came before it, and it was the first one users really loved.

做用户喜爱的product,一个建议:从简单开始。(产品简单?操作简单?定位简单?) 简单才能孕育出 great product。即使最初的定位是很庞大、完美的,但也可以从较小的地方着手,尽可能的简单。

Another reason that simple’s good is because it forces you to do one thing extremely well and you have to do that to make something that people love.


The word fanatical comes up again and again when you listen to successful founders talk about how they think about their product. Founders talk about being fanatical in how they care about the quality of the small details. Fanatical in getting the copy that they use to explain the product just right. and fanatical in the way that they think about customer support. In fact, one thing that correlates with success among the YC companies is the founders that hook up Pagerduty to their ticketing system, so that even if the user emails in the middle of the night when the founder’s asleep, they still get a response within an hour. Companies actually do this in the early days. Their founders feel physical pain when the product sucks and they want to wake up and fix it. They don’t ship crap, and if they do, they fix it very very quickly. And it definitely takes some level of fanaticism to build great products.


You need some users to help with the feedback cycle, but the way you should get those users is manually—you should go recruit them by hand. Don’t do things like buy Google ads in the early days, to get initial users. You don’t need very many, you just need ones that will give you feedback everyday, and eventually love your product. So instead of trying to get them on Google Adwords, just the few people, in the world, that would be good users. Recruit them by hand.

feedback cycle 中,需要 user 的参与,主动去获取这些 users,甚至招募获取。(这样的理解对吗?)早期,不要去 google ads上购买初始用户。注意:此时,不需要太多的user,而应关注那些会给出反馈意见的user,通常他们是喜爱这一product的用户。


Ben Silbermann, when everyone thought Pinterest was a joke, recruited the initial Pinterest users by chatting up strangers in coffee shops. He really did, he just walked around Palo Alto and said “Will you please use my product?” He also used to run around the Apple store in Palo Alto, and he would like set all the browsers to the Pinterest homepage real quick, before they caught him and kicked him out, (laughter) and so that when people walked in they were like “Oh, what’s this?”. This is an important example of doing things that don’t scale. If you haven’t read Paul Graham’s essay on that topic, you definitely should.

以Pinterest为例,初始用户是在coffee shop中通过聊天获得的,甚至,还去 Apple 体验店,将体验笔记本的主页都设置为 Pinterest。 (Paul Graham essay on this topic,值得一读)

So get users manually and remember that the goal is to get a small group of them to love you. Understand that group extremely well, get extremely close to them. Listen to them and you’ll almost always find out that they’re very willing to give you feedback. Even if you’re building the product for yourself, listen to outside users, and they’ll tell you how to make a product they’ll pay for. Do whatever you need to make them love you, and make them know what you’re doing. Because they’ll also be the advocates that help you get your next users.

获取初始用户时,要用点心,基本目标:get a small group of them to love you. 要充分的理解这个 group,并且与这一 group 保持紧密的联系,不要太远。乐于倾听 group 内的声音,你会发现,他们很乐意给你反馈。即使做一个自己用的产品,也要倾听外面的声音,去倾听他们愿意为什么样的产品付费。认真对待他们的反馈,并且让他们知道你在用心的做。(让初始用户知道他们的反馈得到认真对待,很重要)要知道,通过初始用户的口碑传播,你也能获得不少用户。

You want to build an engine in the company that transforms feedback from users into product decisions. Then get it back in from of the users and repeat. Ask them what the like and don’t like, and watch them use it. Ask them what they’d pay for. Ask them if they’d be really bummed if your company went away. Ask them what would make them recommend the product to their friends, and ask them if they’d recommended it to any yet.

保证用户反馈途径畅通,同时,保证反馈意见能够及时得到响应。主动询问,他们对product有什么喜欢的地方、不喜欢的地方,他们愿意付费的地方。(思考:向开源软件讨论区 JIRA 那样,列出用户的反馈意见,同时提供讨论和投票?小米、魅族怎么做的?不同阶段应该是不同的)

You should make this feedback loop as tight as possible. If your product gets 10 percent better every week, that compounds really quickly. One of the advantages of software startups is just how short you can make the feedback loop. It can be measured in hours, and the best companies usually have the tightest feedback loop. You should try to keep this going for all of your company’s life, but its really important in the early days.

如何管理feedback loop?几点:

The good news is that all this is doable. Its hard, it takes a lot of effort, but there’s no magic. The plan is at least is straightforward, and you will eventually get to a great product.


Great founders don’t put anyone between themselves and their users. The founders of these companies do things like sales and customer support themselves in the early days. Its critical to get this loop embedded in the culture. In fact, a specific problem we always see with Stanford startups, for some reason, is that the students try to hire sales and customer support people right away, and you’ve got to do this yourself, its the only way.


You really need to use metrics to keep yourself honest on this. It really is true that the company will build whatever the CEO decides to measure. If you’re building an Internet service, ignore things like total registrations—don’t talk about them, don’t let anyone in the company talk about them—and look at growth and active users, activity levels, cohort retention, revenue, net promoter scores, these things that matter. And then be brutally honest if they’re not going in the right direction. Startups live on growth, its the indicator of a great product.

使用一些测量指标,来客观评价 startup,一个客观规律:company will build whatever the CETO decides to measure (考核什么样的指标,就得到什么样的公司). 在互联网公司,不要考虑注册用户数 (甚至不准任何人讨论) ,而要关注,活跃用户数活跃程度浏览时长等等。要正视这些数据。

So this about wraps up the overview on building a great product. I want to emphasize again, that if you don’t get this right, nothing else we talk about in the class will matter. You can basically ignore everything else in the class until this is working well. On the positive side, this is one of the most fun parts of building a startup.

So I’m going to pause here, we’ll pick back up with the rest of this on Thursday, and now Dustin is going to talk about why you should start a startup. Thank you for coming, Dustin.

Why To Start A Startup

But yeah, Sam asked me to talk about why you should start a startup. There’s a bunch of common reasons that people have, that I hear all the time for why you might start a startup. Its important to know what reason is yours, because some of them only make sense in certain contexts, some of them will actually, like, lead you astray. You may have been mislead by the way that Hollywood or the press likes to romanticize entrepreneurship, so I want to try to illuminate some of those potential fallacies, so you guys can make the decision in a clear way. And then I’ll talk about the reason I like best for actually starting a startup, its very related to a lot of what Sam just talked about. But surprisingly, I don’t think its the most common reason. Usually people have one of these other reasons, or, you know, they just want to start a company for the sake of starting a company.

start a startup 的原因很重要,几点:

So the 4 common reasons, just to enumerate them, are it’s glamorous, you’ll get to be the boss, you’ll have flexibility, especially over your schedule, and you’ll have the chance to have bigger impact and make more money then you might by joining a later stage company.


So you guys are probably pretty familiar this concept, when I wrote the Medium post, which a lot of you guys read a year ago, I felt like the story in the press was a little more unbalanced, entrepreneurship got romanticized quite a bit. The movie The Social Network came out, it had a lot of like bad aspects of what it like to be an entrepreneur, but mainly it painted this picture of like, there’s a lot of partying and you just kind of move from like one brilliant insight to another brilliant insight, and really made it seem like this really cool thing to do.

电影、新闻媒体、社交网络,还是将 entrepreneurship 过度浪漫化了。

And I think the reality is just not quite so glamorous, there’s an ugly side to being an entrepreneur, and more importantly, what you’re actually spending your time on is just a lot of hard work. Sam mentioned this, but your basically just sitting at your desk, heads down, focused, answering customer support emails, doing sales, figuring out hard engineering problems. So its really important that you go in with eyes wide open. And then its also quite stressful. This has been a popular topic in the press lately: The Economist actually ran a story just last week called “Entreupeneurs anonymous”, and shows a founder like hiding under his desk, talking about founder depression. So this is a very real thing. Let’s be real, if you start a company its going to be extremely hard.

现实情况:entrepreneur 将大量时间用于辛勤工作,例如:

因此,一个视野开阔、见多识广的人,来做这些事情,相对好一些,当然这个过程总压力不小。(Economist 杂志上刊登了一篇文章,来说明这种压力,需要看一看;思考:一家小的、专注个人盈利的,也这么难?)

Why is it so stressful? So a couple reasons. One is you’ve got a lot of responsibility. People in any career have a fear of failure, its kind of just like a dominant part of the part of the psychology. But when you’re an entrepreneur, you have fear of failure on behalf of yourself and all of the people who decided to follow you. So that’s really stressful. In some cases people are depending on you for their livelihood, even when that’s not true, they’ve decided to devote the best years of their life to following you. So you’re responsible for the opportunity cost of their time. You’re always on call, if something comes up—maybe not always at 3 in the morning, but for some startups that’s true—but if something important comes up, you’re going to deal with it. That’s kinda the end of the story, doesn’t matter if you’re on vacation, doesn’t matter if its the weekend, you’ve got to always be on the ball and be in a place mentally where you’re prepared to deal with those things. A sort of special example of this kind of stress is fundraising.


So a scene from The Social Network. This is us partying and working at the same time—somebody’s spraying champagne everywhere—The Social Network spends a lot of time painting these scenes. Mark’s not in the scene, the other thing they spend all their time on is painting him out to be a huge jerk.

This is an actual scene from Palo Alto, he spent a lot of time at this desk, head down and focused. Mark was still kinda a jerk sometimes, but in this more like fun lovable way, and not in a sociopathic, scorned lover way. So this is just him signaling his intention to just be focused and keep working, not be social.

So then there’s the scene demonstrating the insight moment, it’s kind of like out of A Beautiful Mind, they literally stole that scene. So they like to paint that scene and jump to these moments from other moments, with partying in between. But really we were just at that table the whole time. So if you compare this photo, Mark is in the exact same position but he’s wearing different clothes, so this is definitely a different day. That’s what it’s actually like in person. I just covered this bullet; this is the Economist article I was talking about a second ago.


So another form of stress is unwanted media attention. So part of it being glamorous is you get some positive media attention sometimes, it’s nice to be on the cover of Time and to be the Person of the Year. It’s maybe a little less nice to be on the cover of People with one of your wedding photos. It depends on who you are, I really hate it, but when Valleywag analyzes your lecture and tears you apart, you don’t want that, you definitely don’t want that. Nobody wants that.


One thing I almost never hear people talk about is you’re much more committed. So if you’re at a startup and it’s very stressful and things are not going well, you’re unhappy, you can just leave. For a founder, you can leave, but it’s very uncool and pretty much a black eye for the rest of your career. And so you really are committed for ten years if it’s going well and probably more like five years if it’s not going well. So three years to figure out it’s not going well and then if you find a nice landing for your company, another two years at the acquiring company. If you leave before that, again it’s not only going to harm yourself financially but it’s going to harm all your employees. So if you’re lucky and you have a bad startup idea, you fail quickly, but most of the time it’s not like that.

还有一种压力来源:你必须坚持不懈。如果你只是个员工,如果压力很大、或进展不顺,你不高兴,可以离开;而,作为 founder 也可以离开,但将背负个人的信誉问题,今后再去组建队伍将很困难。通常,如果运气好,需要坚持去做近10年,才能步入正轨,或者,很有可能坚持5年之后就结束了。说几个情况:如果花费 3 年时间,确认事情进展可能没有结果,那么,在未来两年中,最好为 company 找一个好的兼并归属方案。在此之前,如果提起放弃,不仅对自己在经济方面有影响,最主要的会伤害员工的感情(看来要以,作为人何为正确为本心,自己脱离是最差的结果,要为所有人考虑)。如果你有一个idea,然后,快速失败掉,反倒是幸运的事,而通常,这样的机率很小。

I should say, I’ve had a lot of this stress in my own life, especially in the early years of Facebook, I got really unhealthy, I wasn’t exercising, I had a lot of anxiety actually throughout my back, like almost every six months, when I was twenty-one or twenty-two, which is pretty crazy. So if you do start a company, be aware that you’re going to deal with this. You’re going to have to actually manage this, it’s one of your core responsibilities. Ben Horowitz likes to say the number one role of a CEO is managing your own psychology, it’s absolutely true, make sure you do it.

上面是演讲者描述的自己参与创建Facebook时,自己的状态,简直难以想象。founder 的一个重要职责,管理自己的心态。(心态、人生、哲学思考)个人感觉,这种状态的概率很大,但不是必要的,通过准备、锻炼,可以极大改善。

Another reason, especially if you’re had another job at another company, you start to develop this narrative, like the people running this company are idiots, they’re making all these decisions and spending all their time in these stupid ways, I’m gonna start a company and I’m going to do it better. I’m going to set all the rules.


特别说明:上面理解错了,是自己当员工时,可能认为管理人员是 idiots,认为他们的决定和做事的路线是错误的;并且决定自己要 start a company,然后能够运行的更好,并且,自己设立所有的制度。

Sounds good, makes a lot of sense. If you’ve read my media post, you’ll know what’s coming, I’ll give you guys a second to read this quote:


People have this vision of being the CEO of a company they started and being on top of the pyramid. Some people are motivated by that, but that’s not at all what it’s like.

What it’s really like: everyone else is your boss – all of your employees, customers, partners, users, media are your boss. I’ve never had more bosses and needed to account for more people today.

The life of most CEOs is reporting to everyone else, at least that’s what it feels like to me and most CEOs I know. If you want to exercise power and authority over people, join the military or go into politics. Don’t be an entrepreneur.

-Phil Libin


This really resonates with me. One thing to point out is that the reality of these decision is nuanced. The people you thought were idiots probably weren’t idiots, they just had a really difficult decision in front of them and people pulling them in multiple directions. So the most common thing I have to spend my time on and my energy on as a CEO is dealing with the problems that other people are bringing to me, the other priorities that people create, and it’s usually in the form of a conflict. People want to go in different directions or customers want different things. And I might have my own opinions on that, but the game I’m playing is who do I disappoint the least and just trying to navigate all these difficult situations.

上面的说法,我很有感触,切身的感受。你看起来很多管理人员做出的决定,像一个 idiots,而实际上,他们可能有自己的苦衷,需要进行多方的权衡和考虑(大部分时候,需要重新审视自己的观点),做出最佳的决定,不可避免的,不可能让所有的人满意。

And even on a day to day basis, I might come in on Monday and have all these grand plans for how I’m going to improve the company. But if an important employee is threatening to quit, that’s my number one priority. That’s what I’m spending my time on.


A subset of You’re the Boss is you have flexibility, you have control over your own schedule. This is a really attractive idea. So here’s the reality:

If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you will actually get some flex time to be honest. You’ll be able to work any 24 hours a day you want!

-Phil Libin

This truly resonates with me as well. Some of the reasons for this again, you’re always on call. So maybe you don’t intend to work all parts of the day, but you don’t control which ones.


You’re a role model of the company, and this is super important. So if you’re an employee at a company, you might have some good weeks and you might have some bad weeks, some weeks when you’re low energy and you might want to take a couple days off. That’s really bad if you’re an entrepreneur. Your team will really signal off of what you’re bringing to the table. So if you take your foot off the gas, so will they.

你是公司的 role model,你的做法会被人效仿、你的想法也会得到很多关注。(如果不认真执行,可能极大损失集体的执行效率;如果不认真思考,可能将集体带入歧途)

You’re always working anyways. If you’re really passionate about an idea, it’s going to pull you towards it. If you’re working with great investors, you’re working with great partners, they’re going to be working really hard, they’re going to want you to be working really hard.


Some companies like to tell the story about you can have your cake and eat it too, you can have like 4 days work weeks maybe, if you’re Tim Ferris maybe you can have a 12 hours work week. It’s a really attractive idea and it does work in a particular instance which is if you wanna actually have a small business to go after in each market then you are a small business entrepreneur, that makes little sense but as soon as you get past like 2 or 3 people you really need to step it up and be full-time committed.

如果只是一个人,只要条件允许,你既可以每周工作 4 天,也可以每周只工作 12 小时,但这只是在一些特定环境下,可以采取的做法。而,如果你希望获取较大的 business,或者,队伍成长为2~3人的规模,通常,你需要全身心的投入工作了。

you’ll make more money and have more impact

This is the big one, the one I hear the most especially like candidates applying to Asana, they tell me “You know I’d really like to work for much smaller companies or start my own because then I have a much bigger slice of the pie or have much more impact on how that company does and I’ll have more equity so I’ll make more money as well”. So let’s examine when this might be true.



I’ll explain these tables. They’re a little complex but let’s focus on the left first. These are just explaining Dropbox and Facebook, these are their current valuations and this is how much money you might make as employee number 100 coming into these companies especially if you’re like an experienced, relatively experienced engineer, you have like 5 years of industry experience, you’re pretty likely to have an offer that’s around 10 base points. If you joined Dropbox couple years ago the upside you’ve already locked in is about $10M and there’s plenty more growth from there. If you joined Facebook a couple years into its existence you’ve already made around $200M, this is a huge number and even if you joined Facebook as employee number 1000, so you joined like 2009, you still make $20M, that’s a giant number and that’s how you should be benchmarking when you’re thinking about what you might make as an entrepreneur.

(financial reward方面,标准数据)

Moving over to the table on the right, these are two theoretical companies you might start. “Uber for Pet Sitting”, pretty good idea if you’re really well suited to this you might have a really good shot at building a $100M company and your share of that company is likely to be around 10%; that certainly fluctuates a lot, some founders have more than this, some founders have a lot less, but after multiple rounds of dilution, multiple rounds of option pool creation you’re pretty likely to end up about here. If you have more than this I’d recommend Sam’s post on equity split between founders and employees, you should be probably giving out more.

疑问:上图中 Founder's upside10%,这个比例怎么算出来的?不能40%?难道中国才绝对多数?

So basically if you’re extremely confident in building a $100M, which is a big ask, it should go without saying that you should have a lot more confidence on Facebook in 2009 or Dropbox in 2014 that you might for a startup that doesn’t even exist yet, then this is worth doing. If you have a $100M idea and you’re pretty confident you can execute it I’d consider that.

做事情需要视野,看清发展趋势的视野,就如同提前看到 Dropbox 和 Facebook 的趋势, 但看清就一定要参与吗?上述的表述,不太理解。

If you think you’re the right entrepreneur to build “Uber for Space Travel”, that’s a really huge idea, $2B idea, you’re actually gonna have a pretty good return for that, you should definitely do that, this is also the value only after 4 years and this idea probably has legs, definitely go after that, if you’re thinking of building that you probably shouldn’t even be in this class right now, just go build that company.

从行动到产出结果,估计需要 4 年时间,这一段时间,还要保证想法没有动摇。(上面最后一句,什么含义?)

So why is this financial reward and impact? I really think that financial reward is very strongly correlated with the impact we have on the world, if you don’t believe that let’s talk through some specific examples and not think about the equity at all.

financial reward 出现上述现象,个人认为原因是:financial reward 与 impact we have on the world 之间强相关(那 impact 如何衡量?如何获得 impact?)另,最后一句什么含义?

So why might joining a late stage company actually might have a lot of impact, you get this force multiplier: they have an existing mass of user base, if it’s Facebook it’s a billion users, if it’s Google it’s a billion users, they have existing infrastructures you get to build on, that’s also increasingly true for a new startup like AWS and all these awesome independent service providers, but you usually get some micro-proprietary technology and they maintain it for you, it’s a pretty great place to start. And you get to work with a team, it’ll help you leverage your ideas into something great.

a late stage company might have a lot of impact,几个原因:

疑问:a late stage company?难道不建议早期?什么才是 late stage?1000人?

So couple specific examples, Bret Taylor came into Google as around employee number 1500 and he invented Google Maps, that’s a product you guys probably use everyday, I used it to get here and it’s used by hundreds of millions of people around the world. He didn’t need to start a company to do that, he happened to get a big financial reward, but the point is yet again massive impact.


My cofounder Justin Rosenstein joined Google a little later after Brett, he was a PM there and just as a side project he ended up prototyping a chat which used to be a stand-alone app, integrated in Gmail like you see in the upper right there and before he did that like you couldn’t even think you could chat over Ajax or chat in the browser at all and he just kinda demonstrated it and showed it to his team and made it happen. This is probably a product most of you use almost everyday.


Perhaps even more impressively, shortly after that Justin left and became employee around 250 at Facebook and he led a hackaton project along with people like Andrew Bosworth and [?] to create the Like button, this is one of the most popular elements anywhere on the web, totally changed how people use it and then again didn’t need to start a company to do it and almost certainly would have failed if he had tried because he really needed the distribution of Facebook to make it work.

So important to keep in mind the context for what kind of company you’re trying to start and like where you will actually be able to make it happen.


So what’s the best reason?

Sam already talked about this a little bit, but basically you can’t not do it(你不可不做,势在必行). You’re super passionate about this idea, you’re the right person to do it, you’ve gotta make it happen. So how does this break down?


疑问:how does this break down? 怎么理解?为什么还会衰败?

This is a wordplay, you can’t not do it in two ways. One is you’re so passionate about it that you have to do it and you’re going to do it anyways. This is really important because you’ll need that passion to get through all of those hard parts of being an entrepreneur that we talked about earlier. You’ll also need it to effectively recruit, candidates can smell when you don’t have passion and there are enough entrepreneurs out there that do have passion so they may as well work for one of those! So this is table stakes for being an entrepreneur. Your subconscious can also tell when you don’t have passion and that can be a huge problem.

本质:除此之外,你别无选择。你对此充满激情,无论如何你都要做下去(以个人的经验来看,刚开始激情一段时间,然后会平静而坚毅)。你的激情和毅力,会帮助你进行有效的 recruit,candidate 会闻到这种味道。这是 entrepreneur 最基本的筹码。

The other way to interpret this is the world needs you to do it. This is validation that the idea is important, that it’s going to make the world better, so the world needs it. If it’s not something the world needs, go do something the world needs. Your time is really valuable, there are plenty of good ideas out there, maybe it’s not your own, maybe it’s at an existing company, but you may as well work on something that’s going to be good.

另一种说法:世界需要你来完成这件事。这可以用于验证这个idea是否重要,这件事是否会使世界更美好。如果这个 idea 不满足,那就去做点其他世界需要的事情。你的时间很珍贵,世界上有大量的 good idea,或许有一些你没有兴趣、不应该是你的,或许有一些已经有

The second way to interpret this is that the world needs you to do it. You’re actually well suited for this problem in some way. If this isn’t true, it may be a sign that your time is better spent somewhere else. But best case scenario if this isn’t true, you outcompete the team for which it is true and it’s a suboptimal outcome for the world and that doesn’t feel very good.

So drawing this back to my own experience at Asana, Justin and I were reluctant entrepreneurs before we founded Asana, we were working at Facebook and we were working on a great problem. We would basically work all day long on our normal projects and then at night we would keep working on this internal task manager that was used internally at the company and it was just because we were so passionate about the idea, it was so clearly valuable that we couldn’t do anything else.

And at some point we had to have the hard conversation of okay what does it mean if we don’t actually start this company. We could see the impact it was having at Facebook, we were convinced it was valuable to the world. We were also convinced no one else was going to build it, the problem had been around a long time and we just kept seeing incremental solutions to it and so we believed if we didn’t come out with the solution we thought was best, there would be a lot of value left on the table. We couldn’t stop working on it and literally the idea was beating itself out of our chests and forcing itself out into the world. And I think that’s really the feeling I’ll go ahead and stop there. I’ll put some recommended books up here.

Thank you.

you should be looking for when you start a company, that’s how you know you have the right idea.