58 things I learned at YC

General YC Advice

- Ask for help (rather than try to have all the answers)

- Everyone is basically scared of everyone else at first

- Make a conscious effort to meet everyone in your batch and know his or her name.

- Everyone in the room is smart as hell, even if you can't tell why at first

- The best companies didn't have political alliances because their product was awesome and they mostly knew it

- The second best companies had fantastic political alliances and an okay product / traction

- Have touch stones to relieve pressure (for me it was running)

- Almost everyone’s company looks great on the outside

- Make friends with other entrepreneurs they will be your biggest allies in the future

- Never discredit teams in YC if they are still showing up to the events together and seem to be working

- Not dying is harder than you think

- Bring a notebook; don’t take notes on your phone. People think you are tweeting or something.

- You will get conflicting advice from partners occasionally. It’s then on you to be smart.

- Use the advice e-mail address

- YC makes lots of mistakes; they are people too. You don’t win prizes for taking bad advice from good people.

- Frequently YC’s advice is applicable at the aggregate but not individual level. Like in the grand scheme the biggest number of successful startups would be produced if all of them followed this advice, but you personally would not have your YC Expected Value maximized by following it.

Founding Team & Psychology Advice

- Being able to clearly communicate your ideas is very important

- Intelligence is not enough

- The team will fall apart if it can

- Small problems between team members will become big problems given time

- If you are blaming each other you are already done

- The more stability the rest of your life has, the easier it’ll be to deal with the massive instability of a startup

- People without life responsibility (kids, wife, etc) are at a serious advantage in the beginning stages

- You probably know whether or not what you’re doing is a good idea but you just aren’t admitting it to yourself. Maybe that’s just me.

Company Advice

- There is no shortcut around learning, you just have to learn it

- Everything is harder than it looks

- Every guy has thought about starting a dating site

- Real businesses have customers

- There is no one thing that makes a company work.

- The most elusive skill seemed to be knowing what to invent and what to steal

- Just shut up and get a .com

- The best companies strive to empower the individual

- The worst companies strive to maintain control

- Living in or near san Francisco is a competitive advantage

- Being committed in the face of contrary evidence can sometimes be a game-maker. Generally though it’s just stupid.

- If there is no competition you’re probably screwed.

- It gets harder, not easier

Famous / Respected Speakers

- Winging it doesn't work for most speakers (unless you've prepared a talk JUST like this one a million times)

- Even very successful people frequently misunderstand their own success

- Everyone is a regular person if you catch them in the right light


- Stop dancing around the thing and say the thing

- Don't pitch from the defensive & don't start by apologizing

- Know your sexiest angle (hint: traction, revenue)

- Framing matters a LOT (seed round vs seed extension)


- Everyone’s problem is money until it’s hiring

- If it seems hard but important and you try to outsource it, you'll probably get screwed. Potentially for a long time.

- All the technology heavy startups wanted to try to somehow outsource their marketing or customer acquisition


- You have to be a salesman to raise money

- Investors are normal people too

- Angels are a LOT easier to get checks from than VCs

- Just close the first check

- Investors will not agree with the companies you think are awesome (mostly)

- If it seems funny/cute when hanging out with your cofounders, it’ll likely fall flat in front of an audience

- Treat raising money with the same seriousness you take the rest of your business.

- Have a spreadsheet.

- Take yes for an answer 

- Don’t optimize for valuation

- Frequently a bad company is great at raising money, that doesn’t make it a good company.

69 responses
Some of these I did actually laugh out loud because I ran into another guy just yesterday with a dating website.
Thanks! This was awesome!
This list was rad, particularly found "- All the technology heavy startups wanted to try to somehow outsource their marketing or customer acquisition" resonated with me. I think the same can be said for a lot of companies.
Amir, this is great, sent it to our batch at JFDI (in Singapore). For me (I manage the program) there are a lot of gems. What's your take on dealing with burning out? Especially at the half-way point of a program.
@Ray Tuesday night dinners always helped me. They had an inspiring success story being told first person by someone like Mark Zuckerberg. All the entrepreneurs would get together and tell battle stories, or commiserate. It was really great for reminding you why you're there, what the upside is, and showing you that other people were going through the same challenges.
Hi. Thanks a lot for these. For the point 3, we've builded https://card.biz :-D
Awesome post, man! Great stuff. Thank you for sharing.
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