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A Conversation with Paul Graham [video] (youtube.com)
396 points by doppp 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

Loved that video. I miss having PG be a very vocal and frequent voice of YC.

There was a question about the financial risk of launching early - PG's answer was really good, but it seemed pretty clear to me: Launching early costs less time and money. So you should launch something that works, as soon as possible with the minimum number of people required to build something useful (probably 2-4 people). Beyond that, you make your "vision" meet reality, where you can do magical things like learn from users/customers, which is basically priceless.

“The mistake you will most likely make as a startup founder is coming up with your own vision of what your product should be instead of getting feedback from actual users.”

You have to be a user of your own product to really make it good.

Look at Apple. Most of how they got where they are is by Jobs, Ive et al. making what they wanted to see, and nitpicking at everything until they were satisfied.

Also: "people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Of course you have to address customers' frustrations, but relying on just "data" and marketing feedback all the time often results in an sterile, rigid product that will always be at risk of disruption by someone with more soul (unless you buy them out with the money you made by playing it safer :)

This sentiment really bothers me. It's frequently used to disadvantage candidates from positions because they're not users of the service or product. It's just not generally true, but it's often repeated as though it were.

It's demonstrably not true that you must be a user of a product to build a good product. To pick a random example: I doubt all pacemaker firmware developers have heart conditions that require pacemakers. I can conjure plenty of similar examples--some from my own work history.

That's not to say you shouldn't empathize with your users. You should. And, that's not to say it's not sometimes an advantage to also be a user of a product or service. I suspect it can be an advantage in many circumstances. But, I don't think it's a necessary condition to make something really good.

The pacemaker example doesn't resonate with me. Its a very well-posed problem - don't let the patient die. You don't have to be user to understand how to make things better. For things like personal computing its a bit different. Problems are very ill-posed and often the question is what to make. In the second category its better to start with a map of the future and refine it with user feedback. However often users don't know what they want and then you need folks like Jobs.

Perhaps I should have quoted the specific point I was responding to:

> You have to be a user of your own product to really make it good.

That doesn't say anything about product or market. It's a very general statement that I happen to find rather dangerous in terms of hiring/employment practices. I tossed out pacemakers as a very obvious counter-example. I could come up with plenty of others--some from my own work experience.

I did try to couch the comment a bit. I do think there's value in being a user of your own product. I do not think it's a necessary precondition though. And treating it as such unnecessarily constrains the candidate pool. That's the point I was trying to make.

It's like being a chef but not wanting to eat the food you cook.

For example, a lot of people want their salmon cooked extremely well done, when you as the chef, think this is wrong, but this is what the customer wants, so you do it anyway, but you no longer care about it.

I didn’t mean that you should only hire candidates who are existing users of your product.

Haven’t you ever had moments, while using something, where you encountered some stupid behavior that made you go, “Do the people who make this thing ever use it themselves??”

This is related to the concept of qualia [0], and sentiments like “Be the change you want to see in the world.” or “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Yes: someone without a heart condition will not be able to fully appreciate all the nuances of a pacemaker.

Of course that’s not to say they can’t contribute to the development and production of pacemakers. That’d be absurd.

But unless the thing you make is actually used by you, you will only [need to] perform within the specifications of your job, get paid and get out.

You won’t be able to identify any deficiencies that aren’t immediately obvious, and unless user feedback impacts your profits, you may see no reason to improve something. It’ll be /r/NotMyJob.

But if you’re an active user of your own product, you’ll have a much higher chance of noticing annoyances and shortcommings and fix them before waiting for user feedback to bubble up through the corporate chain to influence a change in the product.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia

I work for a company that makes a very popular social app and I don’t use the app whatsoever, and refuse even to download early adopter versions to test.

Sometimes people at work give me crap for this. But they know my engineering contributions are among the best in the company, so what can they say?

It’s foolish to disqualify people for this. Imagine saying men cannot ever work for a team that delivers feminine hygiene products, or a woman can never work for a product team that makes male health products.

Hm the advice to be a user would apply for startup founders right? I definitely wouldn't expect engineers to be active users especially in a more mature company with PMs.

Why founders? It seems like that will be true for some businesses and not others. Case by case basis.

It's true in any business where the primary risk is understanding what to build and not how to build it.

That's not all businesses - for things like medical devices, avionics, high-performance computing infrastructure, self-driving cars, etc. it's very clear what the product needs to do, and not all that clear how to do it. But those businesses usually require deep industry knowledge and advanced technical education (in a field other than software), and you're slotting into an existing market structure rather than creating a new one. That means the potential market sizes are smaller, the risks are better judged by people with advanced technical degrees, and the effectiveness of capital is less. All those make them a poor fit for YC.

> It's true in any business where the primary risk is understanding what to build and not how to build it.

I really want to believe that your statement is true, but it appears to be eliding 4 dimensions into 2.

All businesses, regardless of size or type or industry, will run the risk of going out of business. Let's call this market risk [0]. Market risk is to businesses as dying is to humans, with the small difference being that businesses can postpone dying by pivoting to a different market. (Humans have not yet figured out how to postpone death and it is unlikely we ever will.)

What makes startups particularly exciting to discuss on HN is that they come with an additional challenge: technical risk.

Both risk types suffer from the what/how dilemma you pointed out: what to sell & how sell it (market risk); and what to build & how to build it (technical risk).

To mitigate technical risk is why YC strongly advises batches to camp out of SV for the first few months of the life of the company due to the agglomeration benefits -- the unusally high concentration of technical talent, relative to anywhere else in the world. This increases the odds they'd meet the kinds of technical people necessary to solve the "how to build it" part once the "what to build" part has been identified. If "how to build it" is impossible due to the laws of physics, or not yet possible due to the underlying economics, a startup can fail fast and focus on what is technically possible within the ambits of their meagre resources. With technical risks out of the way, a startup is no different from any other business.

Running a physical bookstore has nearly zero technical risk but suffers from lots of market risk due to competitive pressures from a better stocked bookstore opening next door, or from half a dozen new bookstores hoping to mop up the economic surplus rumored to be present in book selling in a highly affluent neighborhood. Or from an out-of-state competitor like an online retailer.

"What to sell" & "how to sell it" are existential questions that will always hang over the head of any business as long as there is competition.

I'd say that the primary risk of any business is understanding what to sell and how to sell it. Just ask any mom&pop bookstore that closed due to Amazon. Or Jawbone, even though they surmounted their technical risks with a ~$1bn war chest.

[0] https://brendansterne.com/2015/10/07/technical-risk-vs-marke...

Even when the primary risk is that you’ll build the wrong thing, there would be cases where paying a market research firm to compile advice on that topic that balances current customer requests against other things, like forecasts of industry or demographic or supplier or political trends, is a vastly better use of time than having the founders sit and use a product and develop their own idiosyncratic (and likely ignorant) idea of what to improve, or to oscillate between different focus points based on possibly incoherent or inconsistent customer feedback.

I have yet to meet a startup for whom hiring a market research firm and depending upon the results in the report gave them useful information that turned into a big opportunity. There's a simple reason for this: if such a report exists, then a big company who actually has money has already hired that market research firm and executed on those results, and that market opportunity is closed.

I can scarcely believe this response!

The same would be true of any activity the start-up could do to gather intelligence on a market opportunity, whether it is incubating a prototype and obsessing over user feedback, consuming market research, getting feedback from potential investors, etc. etc.

If doing X could reliably lead to growing the product revenue underpinning the startup, then there is an arbitrage opportunity for any better capitalized actor to swoop in and do X first/better.

I also think your claim is implicitly very narrow in imagining a certain type of startup.

For example, my sister opened a popup restaurant that participates in a weekly farmer’s market in a large public park near where she lives. She absolutely spent money on marketing reports and restaurant consulting to understand if her ideas for menus and how to operationalize cooking the food quickly, on-site had any likelihood of being profitable.

The idea of just piloting the menu and kitchen strategy, then hoping to pivot based on feedback, makes no sense for a startup business like that, where you need hard research data on the market before even prototyping a product.

The difference is that if you do all the research yourself, nobody else on earth knows it, and hence nobody is going to sell it to the highest bidder. If you've discovered a huge untapped market that can be served in a scalable way, you're certainly not going to sell that information; you capitalize on it yourself.

A popup restaurant is not a startup in the sense that is normally discussed on this site - namely a scalable business that focuses on owning an asset that you can sell access to lots of different customers, over and over again. When you own a popup restaurant (or any other small service business), your customer base is limited to the number of people you can physically serve. If, however, you own a software app that is the go-to place that people go for meals on demand, you can sell access to those customers to many small popup restaurants, and charge them a good fraction of the additional profits generated by customers you bring in the door.

That has a big effect on the market dynamics. There's room for many popup restaurants, because each is limited to a small number of customers. There's only room for one or two Yelps, or DoorDashes, and they all tend to get in each other's business, because there's no limit to the number of customers they can serve. If there's going to be thousands of companies in your space anyway because each of you is limited by your work ethic, there's no harm in buying information from a commodity information provider (who, BTW, is going to be making a lot of money). If there's only going to be one winner in your space, you better be it, and the existence of a market research firm who's aware of your market is a good indication that you're already too late.

True, best not to make generalizations.

I feel like it could apply to pacemakers as well. I feel like certain qualities, features, annoyances, subtle benefits, etc could only be experienced if you actually went through having one installed, dealt with it every day, etc.

Being "a user of your own product" is a cheap proxy for caring about quality.

There are a lot of CEO’s that use the Steve Jobs argument to justify their approach of thinking they know what customers want.

Chances are you are not really building a product that is reinventing a market and creating new solutions for previously non existing problems, like the iPhone. Then you fall into the hole of thinking you can imagine how people want to solve a well known problem and end up finding out later that, well, you were wrong.

I’d urge people to stop thinking they can pull off a Steve Jobs.

“Pulling off a Steve Jobs” is not really about knowing what customers what – most of the time it will be faster horses – but putting your passion into what YOU recognize a sore lack of.

“”Market research”” won’t tell you what’s missing, only existing trends. “Vision” on the other hand is identifying a need for something that doesn’t exist yet.

You don’t need to be Steve Jobs to do that, but if you aren’t charismatic (or rich) enough to convince a bunch of other people to work on your vision with/for you, you may only be make what you can make on your own.

Which is why I stick to my personal hobby projects. :)

"creating new solutions for previously non existing problems, like the iPhone."

I have a problem when I hear things like that. The problems are always there, the needs are always there. They're just satisfied better by the new technology. But the latent needs were there to begin with.

Apps marketplace for cellphones?

No. "Most of how 5uwy got where they are"...come on.

Also explained very well by Jessica Livingston in "Why Startups Need to Focus on Sales, Not Marketing"

> "So why wouldn’t all founders start by engaging with users individually? Because it’s hard and demoralizing. Sales gives you a kind of harsh feedback that “marketing” doesn’t. You try to convince someone to use what you’ve built, and they won’t. These conversations are painful, but necessary. I suspect from my experience that founders who want to remain in denial about the inadequacy of their product and/or the difficulty of starting a startup subconsciously prefer the broad and shallow “marketing” approach precisely because they can’t face the work and unpleasant truths they’ll find if they talk to users."


And posted here w/out the paywall: https://genius.com/Jessica-livingston-why-startups-need-to-f...

I don't see this essay on https://www.startupschool.org/library and it probably should be at the top.

Sales is grim work for introverts, you can do it but if it's most of what you are doing then you need to question what the point of it is.

This seems to be the issue with me. I am more like 'laptop' guy who is rather good in researching. I am also keen on observing things.

But sales stuffs, cold calling give me chills. How do I overcome it?

Don't start a business where you have to cold call people, play to your strengths.

B2C products cold calling is not necessary.

B2B products cold calling is generally a must.

Consider that in mind. I can do sales ok, mostly by faking it, but I will never be as good as extroverts who love that interaction. Its just a brain drain to me many times.

Delegate when possible, SOPs, etc.

Going to conventions and doing face to face talks is easier than straight cold calling. People are less likely to outright reject you in front of your face

I deal with telespammers all the time. The amount of bullshit I hear everyday is amazing. We use a fake alias at work to filter out potential B2B spam as a honeypot, and dump that honeypot data in data broker centers. If it was important I would go looking for their services.

The amount of people I hear saying "oh I just spoke with fake_alias yesterday" is a lot. Sometimes people would physically show up saying they had a meeting arranged with "fake_alias". 95% on calls for "fake_alias"has been a waste of time, but 5% there are some nice useful calls and some clients that used data aggregation to find us. I always just ask what their company does, who they are, etc. If they dont answer 100% waste of time.

Then google business phonecall spam, asking for verification. I updated googlebusiness listings myself, and I still get these calls.

You need to understand how big and small businesses operate, and what your target market is. The approach to B2B sales is very different here.

The cold calls that really worked out did their homework and "pretended to be a customer". E.g. hey im a client looking for xyz goods and services do you have this? Oh you dont? My company sells them.

Underhanded though but I like the creativity.

Most cold calls are done in several stages though. Do hot/cold reads (kind of like a gypsy/psychic) through the receptionist. Youll get alot of information about who makes decisions , what things company is struggling with etc. Receptionists see everything. Press 0 on most telephone systems to reach them. Ask if they are okay with you asking a few questions abot their comlany and how they feel etc. This is for B2B situations where there's only X number of clients out there.

Knowledge is power when it comes to doing B2B cold calls. Know the companies weaknesses and play on that

Cooperate or delegate. It needs to be done, and done well, but not necessarily by you. However, this means that you'll need to take in their opinions about the product above your own, since their opinion will be informed by interaction with real customers and yours won't.

Basically - you can learn to do it. You can learn to like it and get really good at it.

“Resistance is Useless - the art of business persuasion” by Geoff Burch from England is a great and approachable introduction on how to start doing sales

This seems to have only one review (a one-star review) on Amazon [1]. Is it a well-known book? What did you like about it?


It’s from England - strangely, the reviews don’t seem to cross over: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Resistance-Useless-Art-Business-Per...

Or maybe English and American standards are different? :)

Makes me wonder: is there any research showing how much % of cold calls results in customer satisfaction, short and long term?

Meet customers in-person at trade shows or festivals things where you aren’t inturrupting them

But what is the point of operating your own company if not to accomplish your goals of what the company should be?

I mean, I get it, you have to make customers happy in order to have a business. But this seems like something different. It seems like saying your goal should be to make money a priori and that defining vision based on feedback is a good way to do that.

But what if that’s not your goal? What if your goal is to create a company that embodies a specific mission, like say related to environmentalism or furthering cryonics or actually paying all the taxes you should pay as a civic virtue instead of offshoring to skirt your duty to help others that form the foundation of society that enables your business to exist in the first place.

Doing things like this often requires telling customers “no” or declining business all together, in order to impose the vision because you believe the vision is more valuable than short term pivots to satisfy short term client feedback.

Another thread of this that I don’t like is that client feedback is often wildly inconsistent and incoherent, not based on realistic understanding of what’s possible.

It sounds glib to say listen to feedback, but what does that mean? Which feedback is good? When is it actually going to payoff according to your true goal?

what is the point of operating your own company if not to accomplish your goals of what the company should be?

Yes that's exactly why I've become jaded about business in general. It was excessively clear that, except in extremely rare cases and almost only with Apple, being successful means that you're letting other people ("customers") dictate your product to you. From what I can tell it absolutely is the correct path to financial/commercial success.

If "do whatever people want" is what it takes to be successful then that's the exact opposite of what I got into this for.

What if your goal is to create a company that embodies a specific mission

From what I can tell, then you're a non-profit or a B-Corp or something else. A for profit company C-Corp that looks like a "startup" has generating profit for the business as it's core mission. Not just revenue, profit. And ideally super high-margin profit. Maybe that looks like an acquisition, or maybe it looks like a dividend or liquid stock eventually. In one form or another, your core mission is to turn money and work into more money. Anything else is a side project or goal.

I think this is something that’s ridiculously hard in the beginning when your sample size is low, but as you get more users giving feedback, you will probably start to see some clear patterns emerge in what they like, what frustrates them, what features they ask for, etc. While individual pieces of feedback are often all over the place, with more data points, the solution that they all hover around starts to emerge. It can even start to feel ‘obvious’ what your product needs, even though it’s mostly stuff you never could have thought of in isolation.

As far as making money vs. mission, I think the issue is just that truly solving an important problem for lots of people is so absurdly hard that very very few entrepreneurs can manage to achieve it without devoting close to 100% of their focus to this challenge.

People might love that your company is financially transparent and socially responsible, but that won’t get them to use your product. So thinking much about these things before you start seeing product-market fit feels like putting the cart before the horse.

> “I think the issue is just that truly solving an important problem for lots of people is so absurdly hard that very very few entrepreneurs can manage to achieve it“

But many businesses don’t try to make products for lots of people, just for very small, focused sets of customers.

> “People might love that your company is financially transparent and socially responsible, but that won’t get them to use your product. So thinking much about these things before you start seeing product-market fit feels like putting the cart before the horse.”

But what if your goal is not to find product-market fit unless it also satisfies other constraints like sustainability or financially ethical behavior? What if, in the absence of those, your preference is to go out of business and shut down?

> "But many businesses don’t try to make products for lots of people, just for very small, focused sets of customers."

I don't think this is proportionally less difficult. The advice that YC partners and other experienced founders will give you if you tell them you want to conquer the world is to start with a small, focused set of customers. It's a lot harder to get from 0 to this point than it is to go from a small enthusiastic user-base to a much larger user-base.

So even if you're content with a smaller market or a smaller share of a market than the typical VC-backed startup, it's still crazy hard to get any significant traction at all, and it still requires just about all your creativity and focus to get there.

> "But what if your goal is not to find product-market fit unless it also satisfies other constraints like sustainability or financially ethical behavior? What if, in the absence of those, your preference is to go out of business and shut down?"

The vast majority of founders do impose their own versions of those constraints on themselves. Everyone's ethics are different (as is everyone's definition of sustainability), but just about everyone has lines they won't cross and deals they won't make.

I think the point isn't that you should pursue profit above all else and forget higher values, just that regardless of the type of company you want to build, your first and most important challenge is building something a significant number of people want enough that they'll pay you money for it. Since this is so hard, all the early-stage advice is relentlessly focused on how to do it. And what's the best proxy for how well you're doing it? Revenue. Thus the outsize focus on getting it and growing it quickly early on.

This is a chronic problem in product meetings. Well said.

For the people on the go like me, here's a podcast feed link with the video: Overcast: https://overcast.fm/+OcWu1RUwE Feed: https://podsync.net/pH3E-Qhxn

Thank you :)



And we got him an earring. There are photographs on the Internet of Robert Morris with an earring.


I could not find such photographs ...


One thing I got out of this video is the concept of "quantum of utility". It was to answer the question "When to launch?" -- launch when you have something that someone can use that wasn't there before, a new feature.

Much better than vague concept of “MVP”

The point regarding different levels of commitment is really interesting. I've seen a few start-ups die out, because a subset of founders wasn't happy with the level of commitment of the other(s). But having the determination to get there, that's a great point.

The odd thing is that form-based web applications must surely have right away seemed fairly obvious and familiar to people at IBM mainframe shops who were used to block-oriented terminals https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block-oriented_terminal . The continuations-based design that Viaweb ended up using would be another story though.

Paul Graham says that long time employees from certain companies make really poor entrepreneurs. Does anyone know to which companies he is referring?

Did he say certain companies? The part I remember was just that people who have been employees for 20 years probably wouldnt be good founders. I assumed the implication is that a founder is someone with too much angst, ambition, or arrogance to be comfortable working for other people for 20 years.

The knowledge and insights pg has deserves more conversations like this

Man he was really hating windows. To a point where he "wrote software for it without writing software for it directly"

Everyone how had experience from alternatives hated Windows.

You have now idea how bad, inelegant and even technologically behind the Window's was back then. They exploited their monopoly power to the max.

Microsoft hated and did not care about the internet protocols. They pushed NetBEUI instead. Early Windows socket API was crap and unreliable compared to BSD sockets. and Netscape and web apps provided major service for abstracted that shit away. I think Intel engineers had basically rewrite the TCP/IP stack for MS at some point.

Today people see X Window System as outdated, but at the time it was simpler, better and more robust than Windows. We actually bought number of gigantic but old dummy graycolor X window terminals and connected it to old 386 Linux server we used as a development machine and it was a great experience compared to anything Windows.

I was working in a small company that did mostly stuff for Unix (and linux) but unlike PG and Viaweb we decided to develop complex IDE to Windows and it had to work everywhere in the world. It was just horrible programming experience.

Windows is still a disaster for everything but the MS-specific stack exposed through Visual Studio, including (especially?) sysadmin.

How do you install software across a fleet of dozens of Windows machines? There are solutions, but they are embarrassingly poor in comparison to what's available on other systems. Salt, Ansible, et al have added half-hearted Windows support over the years, but it's pretty shallow. SCCM is a massive can of worms and very easy to FUBAR.

MS's mental model of "update systems by performing clicks 1, 2, 3, and 4" is just fundamentally limited, as compared to the text-based *nix model. Even MS has been forced to come to terms with it, which is why they're finally adding real pty support, etc.

Writing software on windows is like using chopsticks with mittens. You can do it, it’s not pretty, and it’s not the use case the mitten sewer had in mind during development.

Read the Unix Programming Environment to see the exact opposite mindset for OS design.

What a load of nonsense. C#'s a great language and their dev tool, Visual Studio, is second to none.

In context, the Windows Paul was talking about used C, a horrific low level SDK, and a technology called COM.


.NET did not appear until much later.

.NET integrates well with COM. You are using it all the time under the hood. COM was difficult because it was an OO framework that had to deal with:

- C++ ABIs that changed on every compiler update but still had to work.

-Support for C and Assembly which had no OO support at all.

-Liteweight enough to run on a computer with 8MB of RAM total.

Given these constraints it's unlikely you would do any better.

Why do you think I didn't respect the technology?

I'm just providing a counterweight to the "horrific" description. It was and still is pretty bad if you can't use the modern wrappers. But it served an important purpose and wasn't really possible any other way.

Developing ruby on rails apps is config hell though with windows

There's a difference between developing on Windows and developing for Windows.

I had a different experience with Visual Studio. The IDE is slow with visible lag when typing, the menus are completely unintuitive for a person coming from Linux.

Creating a "solution" (who came up with that word?) is absolutely horrible compared to just opening a file in vi/emacs.

There does not appear to be a command line debugger -- while the debugger is good, graphical debuggers are a pain to use.

It’s just great to see pg talking and his little bites of wisdom always had been worth the time. Two specific things that popped out:

- He mentions that people who have worked in some companies for 20 years could not be good founders because good founders wouldn’t be able to stand these companies for 20 years.

- pg has often said founders must be nice people but then the host says he doesn’t think young Steve Jobs would get funded today at YC because YC specifically filters out such founders.

I'm willing to bet that were he not funded his doggedness would prevail.

See the joke about determination and trump (somewhere in the video)

kapad 6 months ago [flagged]

Was Geoff adequately prepared to host? I watched a few minutes and his introduction was pathetic. As was his setting of the agenda(which he didn't do any of). Were his discussion points later on good? If they were, I'll go back and watch the rest of this. Otherwise half of the video time (when Geoff is speaking) seems a waste to me. ;)

It was even worse later on. He couldn't even formulate the questions and was constantly interrupting.

Thanks.. I'm skipping everything post 2:02 then :)

ikr? even at 1.5x speed his dithering was rather lengthy. I have newfound respect for interviewers where their flow with the interviewee seems natural.

i thought this as well.. i only saw the introduction, but it didn't seem there was, well, flow, if that's what you call it, between PG and Geoff

He was terrible IMHO.

They really needed a script to follow to make it more focused, and the questions were... not great. Some good advice though still, especially about truly listening to users and launching asap, probably the single biggest thing that startups have trouble with.

Maybe they could do another talk with a list of new points. I've missed having PGs thoughts and feel there's more good stuff there.

I believe the issue it that many questions are too directive: I want you to say "blah blah blah", please say "blah blah blah".

So yes, if the moderator just had a list of open questions, it would probably have worked better.

Could someone please write a synopsis of this?

How much are you all willing to bid? I'll do it for $10. That's cheaper than any AI on the market.

Startup idea: "Summarize it for me" - Upload any document/video/url and pay $x for the cliffsnotes.

You're 5 years late - fiverr and MTurk ate your lunch.

Doesn't even require a website anymore. A Discord channel and a Google Spreadsheet and a variety of payment methods can get this all done

I dont get it

How do you accept payment without a website / app / etc ?

You send me money personally because you trust me

For popular, public content, you could split the price amongst many buyers, like Kickstarter.

I wish I could do this with subtitles! I hate waiting years for subtitles to TV series and obscure movies to become available. Ones in European languages mostly e.g. Cordon season 2 has been out for years, no English subs available. Latest season of Rita, out for a year, no English subs. The Colombian Ugly Betty, impossible to find many years later. I waited a couple of years for the latest season of Engrenages etc.

Maybe there could be a fixed priced online, which you could contribute towards. I won't pay for movies/tv now, but I'd sure pay for subtitles! Divided between many people, it wouldn't cost much. Not sure how to ensure high quality subs.

(I contributed to doing subs on viki years ago, which seemed like a good thing, but it disappeared, taking all the subtitles with it.)

That already exists in a more private form, on sites specialized in smaller movies there’s usually a “subtitle pot” where people can donate their points / upload credit and the person who does the subtitles then receives that bounty once work is done. Usually they leak out to the rest of the internet pretty quickly after that.

Oh, I had't heard of that. I haven't consulted my friend Google yet, but could you name some of those sites? Thanks.

Thanks! Hmm does sound a bit inaccessible though, and for obscure classics, not really what I had in mind: "Karagarga is a members-only torrent tracker. That is to say it is a file-sharing archive closed to the public and accessible by exclusive invitation alone. These coveted invitations are given out to only the highest ranked users(VIP and Uploaders)."

Subtitles are derivatives of copyrighted content, so publishing them without a license might get you sued, especially if you're charging for it.

Here's an automated transcript to start off with.


I had a look but the YouTube transcript is more accurate. Compare:

"Why combinator has the people who wrote a mail and email?"

from that and

"Y Combinator has the people who wrote Yahoo Mail and Gmail"

from the YouTube transcript for example.

Yeah, our language model needs some work. We're constantly improving our engine though. Since we are manual transcription service, we can feed back the hand-made changes by humans back into our model and re-train it. Thanks for checking it out!

No worries. You do punctuation better than youtube. I was wondering if you could do a hack which kind of combined the two results. Youtube must be doing something kind of sophisticated to get things like "Paul Buchheit" correct like doing a pre search of people connected with Paul Graham.

Yeah. We can actually do that. We do have a prototype of that in the works.

Maybe it could be like YouTube where the creators get part of the ad revenue?

There are many jobs like that on freelance sites e.g. Upwork

That's copyright infringement, you'd be creating derived works.

Sure I'll pay $10. So like Paypal or what?

Sorry I fell asleep :) In the future, if I was serious about accepting an anonymous person's money for this service, I would have made an email address solely used for this purpose that is linked to paypal or venmo or whatever :)

Thanks for the offer. I have free time today so if you are dying for this synopsis I will do it for free just because I find it so funny that someone wants this

I am not dying for a synopsis.

But I would still like one.

Mostly because I've been trying to stick all of my knowledge into draw.io diagrams. And the first step of doing that is getting a textual version of the information.

Don't just throw that random fact like it's nothing. It deserves it's own Show HN

Hehe, too much work.

Cryptocurrency, obvs.

I actually once offered some guy in India $100 to summarize a list of articles of for me. Sending the money internationally was by far the biggest pain point. So yeah, cryptocurrency could be the key ingredient that makes this idea work.

Sending money internationally is very easy. Sending money to countries with capital controls is a hustle.

It’s easy, but leaky in terms of fees and delays as compared to US-to-US transfers. When I send money to EU hobbyists, it’s often 3 days and ~10% eaten up by fees.

There are gateways like PayPal (which is why it skyrocketed in the first place). So you send $100 PayPal and he gets $100. He then goes and spend his full money to buy something online without any other fees.

The problem is most people have a bank account in their local currency, so PayPal is in their local currency and takes several bites at the apple before passing the core to the recipient.

People doing an hour of work online for a few bucks are likely interested in buying something locally rather than spending $100US on something online.

Transferwise is pretty good. Costs are like 1%, goes direct to their bank account, including India, Indonesia etc. It's more like a bank wire with no charegebacks than Paypal, for better or worse.

PayPal now takes $3-5 minimum on international transfers. Switched to payoneer

I'll chip in $1 for this.

I'll give you a freebie: They originally built a clunky Netscape-based website builder because they wanted to see if they could bypass Windows entirely and use Netscape to allow users to send commands over HTTP to a server.

RTM is a hunk, and read the essays.

Great startup idea! Could be a fun weekend project.

*Could someone's AI please write a synopsis of this?

It's bothering me that Geoff introduced Paul as "the founder" and Paul just kind of went with it. It was a small moment but these sorts of details matter because they can contribute to unintended historical revisionism.

A YouTube annotation overlay might be appreciated by the other founders.

FWIW pg is clear here that YC had 4 founders: http://www.paulgraham.com/jessica.html

still doesn't change what happened in the youtube video - just to be clear

PG has written very candidly of being uncomfortable speaking publicly [1].

As an uncomfortable public speaker myself, when I've been in that situation of being introduced at the beginning of a Q&A session, my mind is mostly occupied with mildly anxious thoughts about how I'm going to get through the talk without freezing up or saying something stupid. I'm not paying close attention to what the host is saying.

It's worth considering that one of the reasons PG stepped away from being president of YC seemed to be that he got sick of having the minutiae of his words and actions scrutinised and presumed to be motivated by malice. There's a reason his preferred method of public communication is long-form essays.

As the parent to your comment pointed out, he's been at pains to credit his co-founders in the past, and shows no signs of having an ego-driven need to be known as the sole founder of YC.

Maybe give the guy a break?

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/speak.html

I did a video series on programming a while back. I wasn't teaching. I was just sharing being a fanboy with some experts.

Boy, did that suck. Every little thing that happened, I couldn't help but think through all the mistakes and omissions being made. I can't imagine doing the same thing at the scale of YC.

I'll probably do it again. I love writing and expressing myself. But I can see where PG did the right thing to get out of the light a bit. I remember on HN the guy would say something like "It's raining outside" and 14 people would respond with misunderstandings, clarifications, arguments, nit-picking. At some audience level all in the same room, it becomes impossible to communicate back-and-forth. The long-form essay is probably best.

I didn't listen to the whole thing nor do I care about any one individual thing, but they did talk about the co-founders as well from what I saw.

That said, other than that I disagree with you. If someone wants to have their opinions taken seriously they have take other people's opinions seriously as well and can't get angry as soon as people disagree.

Personally I think many of his essays aren't very good, but there just isn't any practical way to discuss them. And frankly I don't think people are really that interested in doing that either.

I don't think there's been any "getting angry as soon as people disagree" - he's substantially edited essays in response to critiques. It's pedantry and the presumption of malice that were probably the hard things to deal with, and he just realised that his time and energy would be better spent being an attentive father and partner. Good for him.

I disagree. I think his way of having a debate is very dysfunctional. Many of his essays makes themselves hard to argue with rhetorically. He doesn't leave much room in the text itself nor in the medium for people to share their own opinion about it. And when people despite that still do write e.g. blog posts his response isn't to their argument, but that they have misunderstood what he meant. The way to make pedantry meaningless is to have a substantial debate. I also think there is as much presumption of malice on his part as anyone else. You can even find that in many of his essays where he talks about other people either being with or against him. I could find you some examples where I think he did an especially bad job, but what is the point? If you like his essays do that, but base that on substance and not some sort of universal truth on Hacker News.

Also, when you're being interviewed, how much should you interrupt the interviewee and nitpick on everything? I'd say Geoff made a mistake here and said "The founder" instead of "A co-founder" but was it worth interrupting the flow, etc?

I'm sorry, are you asking if Paul Graham is comfortable interrupting people and making clarifying statements?


Jump to 6:20 and tell me with a straight face that PG is concerned about interjection. He literally could have just chuckled and helpfully offered, "well... co-founder!"

Here's the thing: I'm a PG fan and I'm not trying to be pedantic. Jessica has frequently written about how her role is misunderstood and unfortunately minimized, even though it's clear to anyone with life experience that she is the heart and soul of the operation.


> “I'm not trying to be pedantic”

Nobody likes to think of themselves as being pedantic.

But people can choose to make an effort to avoid being pedantic.

Instead you’ve chosen to use emotive words like “historical revisionism”, “fascinating”, “sad” and “oblivion” to create drama over something that, as I said in another comment, for all we know, PG may not have even properly heard.

If you’re a PG fan, perhaps have a re-read of the “Life is Short” essay and take a moment to think about whether PG (and Jessica and the other YC founders) would think this discussion is the kind of thing life is or isn’t too short for.

Fair enough.

Thanks for the comment; I appreciate your perspective.

Good on you, thanks for the gracious response.


He doesn't sound sorry =p

But if he really did "choose" the other guys, then maybe calling him the founder isn't so wrong.

He seems to be talking about Viaweb in the point you link to here?

ahh you are right. my mistake.

I completely agree. It bothered me as well.

It's fascinating and a little sad that anyone who spoke up about this point was downvoted into oblivion... even though my point is entirely valid and easy to verify.

I don't think PG would disagree with my suggestion, and he certainly doesn't need people to defend him.

Perhaps it's because you/they are focusing on some minuscule act of wording instead of on anything significant in the video. We don't need to play the internet gotcha game on HN. In fact, it's off topic by the site guidelines, since it isn't done out of intellectual curiosity (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html).

You might think it’s minutia for Jessica to be erased, but obviously many of us disagree.

I think it’s a powerful data point to see Paul quietly accept the the title of Founder. It is evidence he’s not in the habit of correcting people who don’t see him as a co-founder with a woman.

It speaks to his mindset. And perhaps this thread speaks to yours as well. It’s not about some kind of gotcha game. We are legitimately interested in how deeply both of you are engaged with this subject.

Personally, I don’t mind if you and Paul don’t think it’s a serious issue. I don’t think you do. You are under no obligation to care. But I think we should be free to discuss the possibility that you don’t. And to notice evidence that you don’t.

This is the kind of thinking that makes me realize YC isn’t a good fit for me. I think it benefits both me and YC for YC’s approach to these issues to be discussed. You don’t want people like me to apply, it would be bad for the health of the program.

It doesn't "speak to his mindset". You've simply cherry-picked that detail ("a powerful data point"!) against all evidence to the contrary. No one who really cared about pg's "mindset" would look at just a single use of the word 'the' which he didn't even say. If that isn't the internet gotcha game I don't know what is.

I chose to see things from Dan's perspective because I trust that he's not an agitator and that there exists a large spectrum between intentional oversight and missed opportunity. Dan's point about this being unworthy of this much attention is correct. Ultimately, it's just not that big a deal and if it's enough to keep you from applying to YC, YC is probably not a good fit for you. You have to be able to see things from multiple perspectives if you're going to have the best chance at dodging blind spots. Things don't always have to be comfortable and if everyone is agreeing with you, it's possible that you're not moving forward.

At any rate, I don't for a moment believe that PG would ever introduce himself as "the founder" and I hope that didn't come across.

I appreciate the reply. I'll accept your wisdom on the subject, given your role and perspective.


I tried.


If it is cringeworthy for you, you can just play it in the background while doing something else. I kind of liked it. It is a genuine unprepared for interview and you see very few of these nowadays.

Whenever you try something this spontaneaous there will always be a lot of hesitations, a lot of ums and ahs, and some arguments as to which direction the conversation should go in. But you still get something more interesting and original.

True, the content was great. Issue is with the dynamics between the interviewer and pg, fidgety/supplicating shit, you can feel it. It goes beyond an unprepared natural awkwardness into something more gross. But like you said, the info is great so you put the tab in the background

I completely missed it, would you care to elaborate?

I feel that PG needs to make a concerted effort to use "uhm" less. It negatively affects his ability to eloquently communicate an idea.

As I mentioned elsewhere, the use "umms" is only because he tries to talk off the cuff. This makes his talks much more interesting.

Most of the smooth talkers you see on tv and youtube have basically learned what they are going to say. They sound slicker, but eventually what they do say is less interesting because it has been pre-learned and thus pre-filtered.

This is a general problem with Television and popular culture nowadays. If you look at old tv talk shows you can see real spontaneity, but this is mostly absent from modern tv. Of course, the other side of the coin is that on modern TV interviewers and interviewees are much smoother and more self assured, as they already know what they are going to say.

I really hope that people do not get spoiled by this pre-learned smoothness of presentation as to fail to appreciate actual spontaneous interviews and conversations.

It's ridiculous to say that to speak off-the-cuff you need to use "umm" or another filler word incessantly. Go to any good, spontaneous, unrehearsed conversation anywhere on the internet and you will see how much time was wasted trying to construct this argument.

> As I mentioned elsewhere, the use "umms" is only because he tries to talk off the cuff.

Plenty of people can talk off the cuff without saying "umm" this often.

Presumably that isn't Separo's experience nor is it mine. There is more "unedited" material out there in live streams, podcasts, talks and hobby videos than ever. PG is one of the few people I remember having to turn off repeatedly despite wanting to listen to. Maybe it is individual in how you listen, but it is what it is.

I agree, but it's also his trademark. Kinda like Michael Jackson's "Hee-Hee". :)

Its a viral trademark too - you used to be able to spot YC founders and staff because they would uhm in just the same way. JL has an identical uhm to PG.

It seems kind of functional - it usually follows something cheeky / provocative - its basically a pause for laughter.

I love PG but listening to his advice on startups always felt like discovering the steps to create a nuclear bomb.

Step 1) collect seven pounds of weapons grade plutonium

Step 1 of a great startup is an amazing idea. Unless you have step one I think the advice is pretty non applicable. Sure, I get the whole camp “ideas are a dime a dozen”, but, a bad idea can fall apart with millions of VC ran by MIT grads and an amazing idea can come to life with a few hundred bucks with a high school kid.

It’s better than saying “you can build a nuclear bomb if you just wish it hard enough”.

> a bad idea can fall apart with millions of VC ran by MIT grads and an amazing idea can come to life with a few hundred bucks with a high school kid.

This is a actually really wonderful thing!

Unless you’re an MIT grad with no ideas about how to help customers hoping you could cash in by riding solely on your credentials I guess.

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