I had the good fortune of attending Y Combinator‘s Startup School last week. Startup School is an afternoon event where notable founders, investors and entrepreneurs  share practical advice from their own experience. Learn how they got started, what went wrong, what surprised them, and what happened as their companies grew”. Really a tremendous event all around. Thought this would be a good place to share my notes from the event. 

[Note: you will see that my note taking declined towards the end of the talks. This is certainly not indicative of a less compelling talk, more so just tired fingers”


Shana FisherHighline Venture Partners

  • “I don’t like when people are raising money for raising. I like when they are raising to get it done by any means”
  • “it’s really important to not duplicate skills and some people are better to be single founders and you should structure the company around your own skills”
  • “4 years ago I would have said launch quickly. Today I would say take as much time as you can to build a perfect product and then launch”
  •  “when you are talking to investors remember it’s very personal. It may be that your idea is so new that nobody can evaluate it and that’s where really amazing stuff happens”
  • “Patterns can trap you into wanting to see the and thing you’ve seen before.
  • “Most people who start startups don’t know how to manage people.”
  • checkout the Scarf method, which is a neurological approach to managing people
  • “Equinox is the time between when it’s acceptable to not make money and when you do. If you control the money you control your destiny”


Fred Wilson  – Union Square Ventures

  • “When you are starting a company you are focused on one thing and generally know it better than the investor”
  • “X for Y can be a great way to describe what you are doing but it can also trivialize what you are doing” 
  • “Seed investors are really good at connecting to the potential of the team and the potential of the idea”
  • Building a business is like climbing a set of stairs. First step is building product. Series A is for expanding the product and team.
  • “Too little money will kill you. Too much money will kill you. The right amount of money will focus you and optimize the things you need to do”
  • “Maybe seed and series A have been underpriced for 20 years”
  • The entrepreneur is somewhat paying for the companies in the rest of the portfolio that will fail . So if startup failures are going down thanks to things like  y combinator it makes it better for everyone 


Zach SimsCodecademy

  • “Nobody on the internet knows you are 13 and in your parents house”
  • “It’s much easier to build for yourself”
  • “Optimize everything you do for learning”
  • “Nobody knows what they’re doing but you don’t know until you try”
  • “It pays to be a cockroach to not quit. To stay alive and not die”


Kathryn Minshew – The Daily Muse

  • “There is this problem of looking at people 2-3 years ahead of where you are”
  • “Startups are an evolution from suck to suck-less”
  • “Ask for word of mouth and make it insanely easy”
  • seek out like-minded groups 
  • content = your new BFF
  • become your own PR machine 
  • Final thoughts 
    • honor your word , not just your contracts 
    • Done is better than perfect 
    • Be insanely persistent and insanely polite too 
    • Find people who share your values , ignoring this rule can ruin your life 
    • Build an amazing tram and go to bat for them whenever possible 
    • Do not believe the hype 


Apoorva MehtaInstacart

  • Raised over 55M and doing 100s of thousands of dollars per day 
  • The reason to start a company should never be to start a company. It should be to solve a problem you really care about 
  • “YC encourages founders to do things at the start of the company that don’t scale”
  • Instacart had to buy one of every single product at Trader Joes to add a store to their platform 


David LeeSV Angel 

  • What Ron and SV angel look for in a company 
  • “The single most important trait a founder can have is the ability to express his or her vision”
  • Good listeners – strong willed but flexible 
  • “Value add is the most important thing to focus on when evaluating investors”
  • “If you focus on what the investor’s value add is then the equity and control conversation just flows from there”
  • “Never forget your reputation is your biggest asset” 
  • Over communicate with all food chain. Team and investors and customers 


Chase Adam – Watsi

  • Building a startup feels like you are standing on a house of cards.