Startups: simple, but not easy!

Last week was the Demo Day for the latest Y Combinator batch, S15, which included my startup

Having been through the program I wanted to reflect on what is so special about Y Combinator that allows it to be so successful.

The outcome of is a story that remains to be told, but regardless of the eventual score, Y Combinator has had an hugely positive impact on the company and me personally.

What is emphasised, throughout Y Combinator is a relentless focus on growth. The logic goes like this:

Are you growing?

Yes —-> Keep that growth going/do more of whatever is causing you to grow.

No —-> Do whatever you have to do to start growing. If you don’t know what to do, remember the YC motto “Make something people want”.

Do this, and your startup will be successful. Now this might seem overly simplified, as there are many, many steps you will have to do for your startup to be successful, but this is the key. As Sam Altman recently outlined in an article called The Post-YC Slump, it is this loss of focus on growth that will lead to mediocrity or death.

The problem with startups, as in life, is that there are always a million other things you could be doing. If you are like me, your todo list only gets longer, and your inbox only gets fuller. If you are not careful you can waste days and weeks in tackling work that seems important, but actually has no bearing on growth. Activities that feel important, but have no bearing on growth and therefore success, include: fundraising, hiring, cleaning up ‘technical debt’, going to conferences and talking to lawyers.

So remember, do what you need to do to grow, everything else is noise.

Oh and in case its not clear, its not like this is a new or original idea, rather this blog post is my way of trying to reinforce the ideas that the YC partners have told us again and again over the last couple of months, so that when I am working on a startup in a year or ten, and I am mindlessly ‘working’, I can look back and remind myself what I should really be doing.