Lessons about Entrepreneurship from Y Combinator’s Startup School Week 1 lecture

I recently came across the question ‘Entrepreneurship or Employment?‘ on twitter and as someone trying to start up a business, obviously, my reply was Entrepreneurship. Full Stop.

Just then I remembered a video I watched not too long ago about How and Why to Start a Startup delivered by Dustin Moskovitz (Co-founder of Facebook and Asana) in collaboration with Sam Altman (President of Y Combinator) and for a second there I found myself questioning my choice.

Here’s what he said:

First, he started out with why some people become entrepreneurs which he said is to become extremely wealthy. He, however, noted that the odds of being as successful as Facebook and Google are ”actually, incredibly small”.

He made a comparison between two different ways of achieving a great financial outcome; as a founder or as an employee of an established company. Citing several reasons, he noted that it was less risky and more likely to achieve a great financial outcome as an early stage employee of an established company than as a startup founder.

He also spoke about one of the reasons why a lot of people want to start a startup company which is to maximise their impact. In comparison, he spoke about advantages that can be derived from joining an established company such as access to existing user base, access to work on top of the infrastructure that has already been built out and scaled, and collaborating with an established team.

He gave examples of massive impacts that people achieved as employees, citing Bret Taylor, Founder and CEO of Quip who was at Google when it just had over a thousand employees and helped spear-head the creation of Google maps.

In the table shown in the image below, he compared the perceived notion to the practice of being an entrepreneur.

He expressed that in practice, tech is a little less like the movie The Social Network than the TV series Silicon Valley.

The Social Network
Silicon Valley

Getting this out of the way, he spoke about the Best Reasons to Start a Startup which he said are Passion and Aptitude. By Aptitude, he means that ‘’you’re the right person to make this happen by starting a company. So if you fail to do it you’re actually going to be depriving the world of something great.’’

For those like me that believe they possess the passion and aptitude to start a startup, Sam Altman spoke about How to Start a Startup with these key points:

  1. Ideas first; Startup second
  2. It’s easier to start a hard company than an easy company
  3. You need a good co-founder
  4. Build a great product that a small number of users will love
  5. Talk to users to find out what they love about your products. Get to know your users really well.
  6. Relentless execution. Keep going

You can find the video here.

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Fortune Chuku

Fortune Chuku is an IT Consultant and Researcher. He is passionate about education and entrepreneurship.