(photo by Leah Fasten)
My impetus to start my own company was so somebody else couldn’t control my destiny.
My first company was Cameesa, an apparel company with a Kickstarter model. There were many failures: We didn’t know what we were doing; 2007 to 2008 was really not a good time to do an early-stage consumer tech company; and we didn’t have a good way to distribute our product. Today Teespring is doing the same thing Cameesa did. It’s worth hundreds of millions.
The idea for TalkBin came from listening to our customers. We were selling a mobile wallet. We said, “At the end of this mobile experience we can put a comment box at the bottom, and you can get feedback instantly.” And they were like, “Oh, that’s what we want. We don’t even care about the mobile wallet.”
Once you set your assumptions it is very hard to come up with different conclusions. But the right approach in an early-stage company is much more along the lines of “I just don’t know if any of my assumptions are correct.”
Use very simple words when describing your company. As an investor, I find myself asking founders all the time, “Are you a website, or are you an app?” “Is it an Android app or an iPhone app?” “Is it for consumers, or is it for business?” Founders don’t want to pigeonhole their products, but they need to be understood.
Y Combinator is a company that helps build other companies. We do that through both capital and advice, but primarily advice.
From both a founder’s perspective and a partner’s perspective, Y Combinator is about one word: focus. We strip a company down to its core. What service or product are you providing? How are you getting those customers? And are there enough of those customers?
When I was in Chicago and making a transition from my first startup to my second, I figured out how many days I had left in my working life. I filled a jar with pennies, and every day I took one out. The days just slipped by. I think if everyone realized how little time they have they would make moves much more aggressively.
Class of MBA 2008, Section E