Startup School is an annual event co-sponsored by Y Combinator and BASES, Stanford University's Business Association for Entrepreneurial Students. Today's Startup School, now in its sixth year, was a day full of speakers, imparting their knowledge to a packed auditorium of entrepreneurs.
The topics at Startup School ranged from the history of Silicon Valley innovation and the history (and future) of startup funding, to testing your hypothesis, pivoting, and optimizing for happiness. The speaker - 11 all told - gave presentations, followed by a short Q&A with audience members.
Although you can watch the video archives on Justin.tv (and Paul Graham says he'll be posting the essay version of his remarks online soon), here are some of the highlights from my lecture notes:
Andy Bechtolsheim: Founder, Arista Networks, Sun Microsystems
Lecture topic: Innovation
"Take ownership of your innovation."
Paul Graham: Co-founder, Y Combinator
Lecture topic: Startup Funding - Super Angels versus VCs
As an investor, "if you are looking for the next Google, you don't care if you invest at a $20 million valuation because the company is going to be worth billions. But if you are looking at a company that's going to be acquired for $30 million... you might as well buy Apple stock."
"The next couple of years are going to be a great time for raising money. And as a result there will be a lot more startups. It's going to be like the Internet bubble, just hopefully without the bursting."
Andrew Mason: Founder, Groupon
Lecture topic: Lessons Learned from the Failure of the point (or "Polishing Your Turds and Getting Super Rich")
- You're building a tool, not a piece of art. Don't be blinded by vision
- Recognize and embrace your constraints
- Have a growth plan
- The best tools aren't always that cool
- You'll probably fail
- Quit now
Tom Preston-Werner: Founder, GitHub
Lecture topic: Luck, Bootstrapping, and Optimizing Your Happiness
"Bootstrapping is a way to do something about the problems you have without letting someone else give you permission to do them."
At GitHub, "we took everything that is detrimental for optimizing our happiness and we threw them away."
"Do things that allow you to win and that allow someone else to win. It is not a zero-sum game."
Greg McAdoo: Partner, Sequoia Capital
Lecture topic: What VCs Look for in Startups
"Great companies don't throw money at problems, they throw ideas at problems."
Reid Hoffman: Partner, Greylock, LinkedIn
Lecture topic: Hypotheses on the Path to Adoption
"If the competition is even mediocre, it can slow you down. It gets harder to get above the noise. But if you have to have competition, make sure your competition sucks."
"Be persistent, and hang on to your vision. And at the same time, be flexible."
Ron Conway: SV Angel
Lecture topic: Anecdotes from Napster, Google, and Facebook's Early Days
"You don't need a business plan. You don't need to have an MBA. All you need is a great idea. Anything is possible and you can accomplish it."
Adam D'Angelo: Founder, Quora
Lecture topic: How to Leverage Your Advantages
"if you're not ready to start a company, think about the advantages you have or are accumulating. And if what you're doing isn't helping you build these advantages, think about how you might be able to get in a better position."
Dalton Caldwell: Founder, Picplz, Imeem
Lecture topic: Why a Music Startup is a Terrible Idea
Riffing on Chris Dixon's statement that "every time an engineer joins Google, a startup dies," Caldwall contends that "every time a founder does a music startup, a likely-more-successful-startup dies."
Mark Zuckerberg: Founder, Facebook
Interviewed by Jessica Livingston
"If you just work on stuff that you like and you're passionate about, you don't have to have a master plan with how things will play out."
"We have not bought a company for the company. We buy companies for the people."
Brian Chesky: Founder, Airbnb
Lecture topic: The First 1000 Days of Airbnb (or Be Tenacious)
"It started with an airbed in our living room to solve our own problem."
"Go to your users."
Photo credits: Robert Scoble