What Startups Are Really Like

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Paul Graham asked a number of founders what surprised them about starting a startup and came away with this advice to potential founders:

  1. Be Careful with Cofounders
  2. Startups Take Over Your Life
  3. It’s an Emotional Roller-coaster
  4. It Can Be Fun
  5. Persistence Is the Key
  6. Think Long-Term
  7. Lots of Little Things
  8. Start with Something Minimal
  9. Engage Users
  10. Change Your Idea
  11. Don’t Worry about Competitors
  12. It’s Hard to Get Users
  13. Expect the Worst with Deals
  14. Investors Are Clueless
  15. You May Have to Play Games
  16. Luck Is a Big Factor
  17. The Value of Community
  18. You Get No Respect
  19. Things Change as You Grow

The key insight is the super-pattern, the pattern of patterns:

These are supposed to be the surprises, the things I didn’t tell people. What do they all have in common? They’re all things I tell people. If I wrote a new essay with the same outline as this that wasn’t summarizing the founders’ responses, everyone would say I’d run out of ideas and was just repeating myself.

What is going on here?

When I look at the responses, the common theme is that starting a startup was like I said, but way more so. People just don’t seem to get how different it is till they do it.

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