Instead of determination, you have passion. Instead of flexibility, you are a perfectionist. Instead of imagination, you can communicate well. Instead of being naughty, you are efficient. Instead of a partner, you are well connected.
The things that pg talks about takes years to develop, especially naughtiness and partnership. So instead of spending two years building a friendship to apply to yc, just go build the business. Inevitably, someone will want to join you when it is finished built.
So yes, if you are undetermined, inflexible, unimaginative, goodie to shoe, friendless, go build your dream.
Let a thousand flowers bloom.
There's no one "perfect person" that will succeed, although the article by PG would imply otherwise (since YC only wants entrepreneurs and start-ups that will be successful...hence the application/interview questions).
The key is to use your core strengths to your advantage.
I just connected with an old friend who saw something I just built and wants to join in. If you build something that's cool, people will indeed want to join in.
The last 3 of the 5 we'd compromise on if the person was good in other respects. Only the first 2 are essential. It's hard to imagine a startup succeeding without at least one person who was determined and flexible. It's just the nature of the domain.
As for having other founders, it'll sure help when the ship is in rocky waters.
Aside from the complimentary skillset, it's nice to have another founder so they can pick you up when things aren't going your way.
OTOH, pursuing most of these things is probably a good thing for general reasons. Hacking some non software thing, if you do not tend to do that sort of thing will probably benefit your thinking. Making friends is obviously good for you too.
I hated high school with a passion that still surprises me when I look back on it. My high school allowed kids who got accepted to college to go and have school pay for it while getting credit for college and high school. This sounded great to me but getting accepted was going to be a challenge because I wasn't a great student and I was only 15 at the time.
I met with the admissions officer at the college I wanted to attend and she wasn't sure at all about me. I had reviewed the course catalog before the meeting and made her a suggestion. I said "If I take a 400 level course and get an "A" would that prove to you that I'm up to doing college level work?" She said yes and I suggested that I take a course on the history of World War 2. World War 2 was a mild obsession of mine from 13-14 and I still to this day remember reading pages and pages of statistics about shipping losses during various times during the war. I knew every imaginable detail about virtually anything that had to do with World War 2. She didn't know this of course and warned me many times about what I was getting myself into in signing up for this course.
I was accepted with the provision that we would review my grades after the semester was over. I received the highest grade in the class and the entire course catalog was open to me until I graduated from high school. This ended up working in my favor in many ways but the most obvious benefit was that I graduated high school with virtually all of my liberal arts electives done without having to pay anything for it.
Not sure if this is the spirit of the question or not but it seems like it to me.
I think it boils down to this: Do you tolerate bullshit or do you proactively stack the deck for personal advantage?
In this case you leveraged the hell out of a unique personal quirk and created an opportunity for yourself that wouldn't otherwise exist. To use a poker analogy (Thanks, Tony Hsieh), you picked the table where you knew you could win. You knew you'd do better at the college level and you exploited information asymmetry with both the college administrator and your college-level peers.
This is the very essence of how successful people and businesses work. You also showed some moxy and cunning with someone much older and more powerful than you, which is unusual at that age.
You thought many moves ahead and won, reaping huge upside. That's 98th percentile at least, man.
On the one hand, it seems somewhat insincere to approach someone with solutions and not immediately make your wants clear, but on the other it's a win-win all round.
We built a decent product in roughly 6 months, and began engaging with enterprise customers. 6 frustrating months of trade shows / cold calls / presentations later, we had a couple of potential customers but things seemed way too stagnant; their intent to purchase just wasn't apparent.
We were running low on cash and the first visible cracks in our patience were emerging, but we stayed put. And that's probably because we've known each other for over 5 years and each of us didn't want to let the others in the team down.
And then suddenly a month later we received our first purchase order. Okay, it wasn't exactly sudden - we'd followed up a million times with the client and iterated on the product each and every time. But nothing else had changed, we hadn't done anything significantly different in that one month. And that had us convinced that patience can be a real virtue.
We've not exactly dug ourselves out of a hole yet, but we're getting there (with several promising leads in the pipeline) and more importantly, a repeat order as well as a testimonial from our first customer.
EDIT: Just in case you thought the story above was manufactured, here's the a link to the testimonial [PDF]
Some of PG's essays stress me out just by reading them. They usually involve the d-word (http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Apaulgraham.com+determi...). I did my thing (http://readwarp.com) for 8 months. But PG and others told me early on it didn't have commercial possibility. So was it determination or inflexibility that I kept at it? I eventually figured it out for myself, in some approximately systematic way, that it wasn't going anywhere. I've taken a job so I can save enough in a year to last me two years while I take stock. Is that lack of determination or flexibility? Would I be more determined if I was contracting instead? I still work on readwarp in the weekends; I find I can't stop even if I know it's not going anywhere. Is that inflexible? Taking a job has allowed me to change readwarp drastically, make it even more minimalist, something I just couldn't prioritize when it was something 'serious'. I still use it everyday. Am I being inflexible?
When the running back retreats is it flexibility or lack of determination? Can you really tell without knowing if he ended up downfield?
If you watched me work on any given day you'd think I have no determination or persistence at all. I give up at the first sign of trouble, go off to do something else, one of a dozen projects. But in the large I do seem to get things done. I circle back in a few hours or days on that problem I was stuck on, and I find a way to make progress. Is this flexibility? It seems a dynamic fundamentally at odds with being an entrepreneur. Funny thing is, I think PG works like this.
I'm not making excuses, just seeking my blind spot. Somehow the things I'm interested in don't seem to be of more general usefulness. I haven't accomplished anything that would stand out in a YC app. I don't know how to hack any realworld systems, except maybe job interviews and negotiations, but that's probably just another sign I'll give up and go back to a job. So I keep seeking my blind spot. What's missing? What works for others? Why am I on the outside looking in?
Perhaps you think I just shouldn't care what he has to say. But shouldn't I keep looking for feedback? Different phrasings suggest different answers.
I sense your frustration, that you feel like you're spinning your tires - and I've been there.
(1) do you have a non-negligible number of users? (have you done qualitative + quantitative research, customer development, etc)
(2) do you have a business model hypothesis, that you've sought to validate/invalidate?
(3) does getting into YC have to be a pre-requisite for your startup to succeed? (Can you try to succeed without it?)
Another quote came to mind as I read your comment; as they say in startup world, there's fine line between a visionary and a lunatic. I genuinely want to believe that you are a visionary. All startup founders want to be visionaries. But we know the dismal rate of startups.
We're techies, and we naturally like data. We know that while we founders are emotionally swayed, data is not. What does the data say? Is it looking good?
I feel you when you talk about finding your blind spot. Blind spots are by definition, well .. hard to find, which is why it's so frustrating (been there). There's a quote that I can't seem to recall now, but it's something to do with trying too hard. Counterintuitive, I know. But if you've been staring at something for too long, you might be too close to the problem to objectively assess it.
I don't have answers to your questions. The way I sometimes deal with ambiguity is to define processes, fail-safe checks, high/low-level watermarks, etc. More structure. If I were you, I would come up with a sign post. How do I know I've gone off the deep end? E.g. wait for someone to tell me, or specify mile-markers, or ..
"does getting into YC have to be a pre-requisite for your startup to succeed?"
The goal isn't getting into YC. Or even a successful startup. It's finding something I can do that is of use to others. Somebody boiled it down to four words somewhere..
Does that meet your criteria? May I ask what is it that you are looking for?
There's a problem with this whole category of apps. Reading solutions are like content - they're getting commoditized.
There's also lots of problems with this app itself. There's no overt personalization. It's good that the UI is simple, but bad that the layout is simplistic. There's none of the richness of a newspaper layout to stimulate the visual cortex.
If I could build something that truly engaged a few users I'd be happy for a while.
Let's chat more offline if you want.
Perhaps you need something to engage new users - to show them what it is and why they want it? I don't know if I like it because, after browsing for a few moments (like every other potential user of anything, I have a very short attention span when checking out random websites without any prior goals), I still don't know what it does.
Thought you'd like to know. Good luck.
To answer your question: it's a place to come for an infinite stream of stuff to read after you've exhausted your usual haunts and are still bored. When you vote up a story it's more likely to show you stuff from that site. When you vote down it's less likely. Basically a feedreader for people who don't understand feedreaders. There's smarts to show the full text, that works most of the time (try clicking the green arrow at the bottom of some stories). When you get to the bottom of the page it'll autoload more stories.
There isn't that much more to see if you register. We repeat users don't like the scrolling so it shows just one story at a time. There's keyboard shortcuts. That's about it. I pruned everything that didn't work. Thanks for checking it out.
I sometimes have the wrong kind of determination. I created a program for managing classified ads, a desktop database-backed app that integrated with Aldus (yes, that long ago) PageMaker. I did some stuff I'm proud of, including finagling my way into the booth with Aldus at MacWorld and posing for a picture with Guy Kawasaki (a hero of mine those days)...
And yes, I sold my software in Canada, the US, and even South America. But my pricing model was all wrong, I didn't grasp that the reason my competition charged 3-5x the amount that I charged (US$795) was that it cost so much to sell software at that time, the cost of ramen was irrelevant. It took me a while to figure this out. I think the turning point was when I looked out of my apartment window and realized that the bank had towed my car away.
Anyways, I had the persistence of a bull, but as the OP notes, a little flexibility would have gone a long way.
--edit by ventures, i mean senior roles in other people's ventures
Summary: People who hold entity theory about their traits (ie they believe their traits - like intelligence, sociability etc - cannot change) are not able to change. People who hold the opposite incremental theory (they believe their traits can change) can and do change and they specifically seek out situations that help them grow (they don't fear failure and they like a challenge).
Everyone can pretty easily switch between entity and incremental theory by as much as reading a news article. Of course the long-term belief is rooted in deeper values but fot that you'll have to read the book. It's definitely worth it. IMO one of the best books a startupper can read.
If you want to procrastinate less and right away you begin to finish things that you've been putting off, well then you've already won. But if you keep putting off the day when you'll stop procrastinating, well you can see where that's going.
I think most people underestimate their ability to hack their own personalities.
It's easier for an unimaginative person to convince themselves that they're imaginative than for an imaginative person to actually become imaginative. The illusion that you're King of England can't be maintained for long. The illusion that you're good-looking can be maintained for a little longer. The illusion that you're determined, imaginative and... naughty... can be maintained pretty easily.
This didn't used to describe me. I was quite happy being Mr. Fortune 500. The 5 years or so back, I went after one startup, then another, then I just applied to YC. I must have some kind of flexibility, determination, etc. to have gotten this far. Time will tell how much of the qualities described I have.
1. How do you judge whether co-founders are good friends? I'm guessing a simple "how long have they been working together" test is a good indication, but anything else?
2. What level of feedback do you usually give teams that didn't make it? Especially teams that got to the interview stage but didn't make it through? I'm wondering if you've ever told a team your suspicions that they're not good enough friends (I'm assuming if you did, you phrased it better than that.)
Yes, we've told groups that we weren't funding them because their friendship didn't seem strong enough to withstand a startup. You'd be surprised some of the meltdowns we've seen in interviews.
That example of Viaweb helps clarify the distinction I'm thinking of. You guys were friends and so worked together despite differing convictions. But what of people who share a common purpose and in so doing become friends? Is there room in your model for that instance of the concept?
I believe the answer to that is "absolutely". They certainly weren't in it for the money at first. Woz had to be very explicitly convinced to leave his nice job at H-P even after they had built the first Apple PC.
If you insist that their friendship was somehow bogus because real friendships do not involve "shared purpose", I'm not sure I have any friends, by your weird definition. My high school friends had the shared purpose of playing games and entering math contests. My college friends had the shared purpose of graduating.
I'm working with some great folks now and we simply started by trying to build something. We're still in that mindset. We didn't start out as friends but after eight months, we are. There's the pressure to get stuff done because we don't want to let each other down. We laugh more than we disagree. It feels like the friendships and the startup are growing together. I have a hard time thinking that the team could be flawed because we didn't start out knowing each other well.
They may not have been friends when they started collaborating on their first research project, but at the moment they were "co-founders", they had already become friends.
Shared trials make and break friendships.
Maybe you should focus on getting more people who are turned on by an idea, rather than because their friends might get burned.
In the two startups I've been involved in previously, I hung in there because I didn't want to let the other person down. One ended up dissolving, but we remain on good terms. The other is ongoing, where I freelance, but give it my all because I don't want to let the other person down.
The third is new, and I just was approached by an old friend who wants to get involved. I thought about it for a second, then realized he's the kind of person I don't want to let down and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual.
My co-founder and I have been working for almost 1.5 years on our startup. We have gone through so many iterations, we can see into each others minds. When an issue comes up, I know exactly what he is thinking and vis-versa. This ability is invaluable during negotiations, meetings, etc.
I don't think of us being on a friendship level, but its something greater. Its been said, its almost like your married to your co-founder - an analogy which is pretty much true. Your futures are tied together.
It would be really awesome if YC put on some type of match-making event for single founders to find co-founders in person. Like a speed dating event for startups.
I wish PG would write something definitive about this.
The people he talks about have often known one another for years. So if you find someone now that you do not know, and have never worked with, it will take you several years, at best to develop a more "long term" relationship. That's great if you're planning on applying to YC in a few years, but comes across in some ways as "trying to find a warm body" if you're applying now.
Granted, there are some people who get married after a few weeks of dating, and of those, it does work out for some of them, but it's a relatively small percentage.
I feel like that would be somewhat counter-productive for YC.
They're looking for people who are going to be Flexible and Determined to make the startup happen, regardless of what obstacles get thrown in the way. Finding a co-founder is one of the first real obstacles, and will definitely not be the hardest one over the life of the startup. By exemplifying the qualities listed in this essay, a single founder should be able to find at least one solid co-founder.
Second, once there, there are tons of events like you describe! E.g., http://founderdating.com/
If you can't move to the SF Bay area then the next best thing to do is star throwing startup events and invite all the startup people you know (and tell them to do the same).
If there's no network you have to build it. Cisco had to exist before Facebook could, so to speak.
I'm not aware of any examples of successful cofounders who hadn't previously worked together.
What about your current colleagues? Long lost friends from university? Neighbors?
Sure, maybe if you're building youtube or justin.tv, and you need to talk to investors or talk face-to-face to potential clients or make deals with giant media corporations gasp then you probably can't do it as a single-founder.
But, there is a large space of problems that can be solved by a single founder.
But I suppose if you're determined enough you won't be bothered too much by people telling you must have a co-founder.
So instead of looking for a co-founder, look for problems that are small enough to be solve-able by you, but hard enough that a big company can't solve it properly.
AFAIK, PG's argument is that it's a lot of stress doing a startup on your own.
Sure, but it is much more effective when someone is in the venture with you, and their success is tied to yours. Your friends and family are much more likely to just say "yeah, that's a good idea". No risk on their part.
I know how you feel, but if that empirically produces a lower probability of success then what can you do?
I should add that I think Paul presents a very clear vision of why he thinks this is not a problem: his mantra about finding a problem a real person needs solved and solving it (substitute actual quotation here). My objection is that where this leads you is to unexploited niches in the market ecosystem -- returning to Tim's language, to focus on capturing value rather than creating it. I suspect Paul tart rejoinder would be that a happy customer is much better evidence of value created than fuzzy dreams of do-gooderism are. I believe he is partly wrong. I hope he will speak for himself on this topic.
Take it as you will. My personal take is that, if partnership (among several founders) is really strong (friendship from this essay) - then it's certainly better than doing it alone - backed by high profile success stories. On the other hand, I've seen too much companies fall apart because of the partnership - not their business (I have two personal experiences with it).
Question is how do you judge a friendship among founders? Can you spot the weakest link?
PG has a different perspective. He's less concerned with questions which assume a company has succeeded; he's more concerned with questions about whether or not a company will succeed. So PG's perspective is more "A company is more likely to succeed with multiple founders."
My point: the two perspectives seem mutually exclusive, but they may not be.
Actually, here in Croatia every form of company is obliged by law to have a licensed accountant (working for them or contract). You can't do your own paperwork - and TBH I wouldn't want to, it is too much liability if something goes wrong when filing papers.
See http://www.paulgraham.com/america.html for some of the other ones.
Interesting. In the countries I know of, the company directors are responsible (and liable) for the accounts being correct, not the accountants.
I know most people here are young and doing startups with their friends, and free advice is worth as much as it costs - but it really doesn't cost you anything if you straighten the terms of partnership/friendship up front, no matter how long you know each other guys. Just do it. It may be awkward, but you won't regret it.
Also, partners in a partnership are not shielded from liability (i.e., for lawsuits, business debts, etc.) like investors in LLCs or corporations are.
Friendship can help, but at the end of the data, a business is about money. Do you know enough about your friend's financial wherewithal to be comfortable launching a business with him/her?
On the other hand, LLC partnership setup here is easy to setup. 100% of company -> distribution to owners (1+). Liability is on CEO and accountant for paperwork. Worst case scenario is owners are liable for the amount of founding capital (minimum is low 3k Euros now, but soon will rise to 40k euros).
Having a solid co-founder seems to be the hardest part, and honestly, it helps with all the others. It helps you be more flexible since two people can see things more ways. Gives you more imagination by the same route. It helps you be more determined since one can pull the other up if he/she gets too demoralized.
Finding a co-founder is hard, though.
I'm also surprised that none of these points mention marketing - an ability to sell something seems vital in getting a startup going.
While there are numerous companies doing variants of most ideas out there, more often than not it is the one with the most market visibility who ultimately gains traction, even if that product is less impressive than the competition.
I agree. One of the best assets for a good founder with tech-skills is a business/marketing founder. She can keep the ball rolling on the business things that would halt or slow software development, and during development she can be out discussing the product with potential customers. Once a MVP has been developed, she obviously becomes the sales and marketing manager.
> Finding a co-founder is hard, though.
Are you single? Notice that I said "she" above? Consider joining a dating site and trying to meet some cool women who have business or marketing backgrounds (obviously women that you would like to date as well). I've only been on OKCupid for a month, and I've already met a couple really cool, driven women who would be an amazing asset to a startup.
I'm not saying to jump straight into a relationship just so that you can start your startup. My intent was simply to point out one way of meeting a potential cofounder, a way you probably never considered. There are countless other "hacks" that can be employed for meeting cofounders; you just have to put yourself into situations where you're likely to meet the kind of people you'd like to meet. It's really that easy.
That startup sort of burned out, for reasons not worth going into. If we could find a new idea on a topic we're both passionate about (like travel), we'd pursue it.
Also, she's more technical (front-end) while I'm also technical (back-end), and neither of us have much business/marketing background.
Since then, of all the stupid things, I haven't had any good ideas. I know, people always need - technical cofounders, or this, or that... ideas are cheap, right? But I haven't got one. Oh, we had a few. A simple iPhone app, a somewhat derivative board game... nothing really sticks as really a good idea that we both think would be awesome
There has to be something out there, but no luck yet.
While it's clearly not a good idea to cofound a startup with a new significant other, I completely disagree with characterizing a new relationship as a "green sprig." If the relationship is so tenuous that it can't handle a little stress and strain, then is it really worth trying to "tend" into a long-term relationship? From experience, that just delays the inevitable breakup.
Characterizing a new relationship like that also carries the implicit assumption that it's the last relationship you're capable of having. While I do my best to avoid hurting anyone, if a relationship is not working out there are other relationships to be had.
Dtr 16 Flx 15 Img 18 Nty 16 Frd 14
...though the value placed on 'naughtiness' is more like a preference for a 'chaotic good' alignment.
I think the startup failed for multiple reasons and I definitely shoulder a large part of the failure, but next time I do a startup I will make absolutely sure that anybody I start it with is absolutely dependable and determined to finish.
As in the OP, it's really a recipe of traits that make a startup successful.
The highway navigational signs in LA are notoriously confusing, especially this one sign in particular which didn't make sufficiently obvious an exit onto I-5. So some local took note of the sign and started to work. He found out exactly what paint colors to use, cut some sheet metal the right way, and made a North I-5 shield. Then he made himself a counterfeit Caltrans (California highway department) uniform, went to the sign, and altered it with the counterfeit shield to point out the exit. (He even made the shield dirty, to make it seem like it had been there for some time rather than being newly installed.)
It was nine months before the highway department even noticed--and when they did, they didn't even change it back. It stayed up for years until the sign was completely replaced--complete with this guy's alteration.
I don't know if that qualifies as hacking a system to one's advantage, or even as a hack, but I think it gets at the underlying personality trait.
I also did a second thing. When I loaned what little programming power we had to help in the early days of computing, I said, "We are not getting the recognition for our programmers that they deserve. When you publish a paper you will thank that programmer or you aren't getting any more help from me. That programmer is going to be thanked by name; she's worked hard." I waited a couple of years. I then went through a year of BSTJ articles and counted what fraction thanked some programmer. I took it into the boss and said, "That's the central role computing is playing in Bell Labs; if the BSTJ is important, that's how important computing is." He had to give in. You can educate your bosses. It's a hard job. In this talk I'm only viewing from the bottom up; I'm not viewing from the top down. But I am telling you how you can get what you want in spite of top management. You have to sell your ideas there also.
I used to work as a salaried employee for a consulting firm. I'd record my hours on a timesheet so that they could bill the right clients, but anything over 40 hours a week was ignored on my paycheck. The understanding was that if ever your hours dropped below 40, you could bill an overhead number to make up for the difference, thus the fairness of not getting paid for overtime.
So a year in, I only managed to find 35 hours of work one week, so I called up HR and got that overhead number to put down for those extra 5 hours. Next day, I found myself in a meeting with my boss and his boss, being put on some form of probationary "hourly" status, working part time until I could get my workload back up to speed. I could work as few as 24 hours per week, and I'd only get paid for the hours I worked.
So naturally things picked up and soon I found myself working 50 and 60 hour weeks again, and amazingly, my new "hourly" status meant I was getting paid for all of them. HR sent up the necessary paperwork to get me back onto "Salaried" mode and I told them I'd get it right back to them.
1 month later, they sent that paperwork again, and I apologized for letting it go on so long.
Next month, my boss delivered it by hand and I promised to "get right on it."
Finally, after 180 days of billing 60 hour weeks and getting paid for all of it, I found myself back in that same room with my boss, his boss, and now his boss, all of whom wanting to know why I hadn't filled in that paperwork.
I laid out the math for them. Silence... Then uncontrolled laughter from all hands. Congratulations, son. But how about we fill out that paperwork right now?
example: When I applied to college in 1999 I was accepted right away however my parents made entirely too much money for me to get adequate loans and grant money. So I used my graduation money from HS and had my parents to pack up all must stuff and drive me down to the financial aid office(425 miles away). After a bit of sincere "asking" and explaining the situation I was in. VIOLA!!! Money started raining on my college dream. Saying all that to say I was a good looking kid, with a personality you had to see (because writing does not convey everything), and had I not been determined to have them tell me no to my face I would have never attended that school. Did I hack anything? By no means...did I use what I had to have the circumstances in my favor? Absolutely!
I would put it diifferently. Don't give up on your dreams, but ask
yourself which is more important to you: to have a successful
high-growth startup, or to do something in particular? If there is a
specific thing you want to do or build, then be prepared for the
(likely) possibility that it won't make a good startup. It might make
a great hobby or even a successful lifestyle business. That doesn't
mean you shouldn't do it -- it just means YC will not be able to help
But maybe your dream is to have a fast-growing, high-impact startup,
and it doesn't matter so much exactly what it is, as long as it's
somewhere in the general area you're interested in. Then perhaps
YC may want to get involved. You're still pursuing your dream, I
would argue, it's just a different kind of dream from a particular
project that someone else might want to do.
if you are looking for a less than kosher time a founder hacked the system. maybe you should ask for that.
i know personally would have put a more vulnerable answer up there.
At Startup School, there was a line of several hundred people waiting for lunch, which consisted of a dozen or so different kinds of pizza stacked in piles of 7-10 boxes each. We had a group of 3-4 people, looked at the line, and someone said, "This line is ridiculous. How can we hack this system?" Someone suggested going somewhere else on campus to eat, but we wanted to stay and mingle. Someone else in the group knew people farther up in the line, and suggested skipping ahead in the line. Ultimately, I simply squeezed through near the front of the line, grabbed a whole box of pizza, and took it back for our group to share.
This kept our group from further clogging the line and seemed much more efficient than 3-4 of us waiting to select our 1-2 pieces each. Hopefully no hungry Startup School attendees were upset by our line hackery, as we thought it was a pretty win-win hack.
My definition of a hack is to add value to the an existing system by modifying a property, not changing a zero-sum situation in your favor. for example, in your case, the number of pizzas are fixed, so it's a zero-sum situation. A better hack I usually propose in situations like this is to use both sides of the table, simple but generally people tend to pick pizza from one side only.
That seems like a nice definition of hack, but I don't think it's completely accurate. For example, if a college only accepts a certain number of people and you come up with clever way to get accepted, that's changing a zero-sum situation in your favor, and I would still call it a hack.
I agree, however, that the hack seems a little wrong. More clever would have been for the friends to grab another table, set it up opposite the original one with room for two lines, and then switch half the pizza boxes to the other table. (This works better than being on both sides of a single table because the way pizza boxes open typically blocks access from one side.) Another possibility would be to just grab a box each and carry it down the line offering pizza to everyone starting from the front.
Also, people who grabbed boxes often walked up the line and offered pizza. Hack + good deed.
It's not zero sum, though; if you're a genuinely better student than the student who didn't get accepted because you got his spot, it's you++, him--, university++, so still positive-sum.
To your point of the "better hack", we advocated the "use both sides of the table" for breakfast, but with pizza it is unwieldly because the lids of pizza boxes only open one way. Yes, reconfiguring the tables would have also probably improved things.. but is much more difficult with 25-50 people trying to access the pizza boxes, and no readily available unused tables on hand.
My Dad owns a wholesale fence company and when the fire and police dept wanted to rewrite the fire code for gated neighborhoods they wanted to do something different EDIT: By code, obviously I mean as in LAW, not as in programming, my Dad being a fenceman is obviously not a programmer lol. So they came to my Dad and asked him to help a write a forward thinking code for the city, what they eventually settled on was an RFID card system where every police and fire dept vehicle has a card which constantly emits a signal that opens the gate of any neighborhood which has this reciever (it is mandatory for the two parishes nearest to us). So being young (13) and new to programming at the time (this was almost 10 years ago) I decided to try to reverse engineer one of the cards. I took it apart piece by piece looked at the programming software they were using and eventually (after much tinkering) made my own card.
Obviously this is highly illegal and so I was slightly worried about putting it on there, but I also thought it showed characteristics of curiosity and a will to find a better way... In case you are wondering, yes, i still get into any gated house or subdivision in a two parish radius without hassle :P lol
If there was nowhere to describe your idea in the application then it would be obvious how important the team is.
Being intelligent in Silicon Valley matters about as much as the price of tea in China. It's not that being intelligent isn't important, it's that there is such an oversupply of intelligent people that being intelligent really doesn't add that much value or differentiate you. Especially since everyone you meet is more than happy to tell you what to do, along with the market itself.
Although it is a difficult question to put emphasis on IMO because it also makes you in a way "reveal" your bad morals... which I am sure many people don't feel comfortable doing.
Why would you ever want to openly admit you beat ie. cheated a system be it government, academic, or private? Not to imply that I ever have... err... gotta run!
Sometimes your audience is sympathetic because they perceive that the system you're beating is broken.
I read Victor Kiam's "autohagiography," and in it he recounts a story about how parking at a baseball game was impossible to get, but there was a special lot just for limos. So he grabs a peaked cap, puts on a dark suit, and drives his buddies to the game, right into the limo lot.
That (possibly apocryphal) anecdote is a perfect little story of ingenuity and hacking the system without confessing to moral corruption, more of a right the imbalance and tweak the nose of a big, unlikeable organization kind of thing.
Any system that loves its rules is ripe for this sort of thing. My wife's mother was born in Canada but came over as a child and had to renounce her citizenship at one point. They changed their rules so we were able to get her citizenship re-instated and my wife can be a Canadian citizen too. She's never even been to Canada.
I always get a little thrill out of beating rules people with their rules. These things aren't harmful (generally) to members of the system, though these kinds of loopholes only tend to exist as long as they aren't too greatly used.
Now being a welfare cheat or talking about how much you like shoplifting is probably not a good idea, but doesn't everyone commit a little harmless loophole exploitation from time to time?
EDIT: The general weakness of institutions are rules. Anyone wanted to disrupt such things needs to know how to exploit those weaknesses.
It just requires a certain amount of "ballsiness" in putting yourself out there to try to change something that already exists, and a certain amount of opportunism in recognizing when things can be done differently without violating rules/personal ethics/the law.
Anyway, it worked well for me. I didn't get any drama, and I ended up graduating and landing a job with a top 25 software company.
It's not by definition an immoral thing to do.
e.g. a real-estate broker wants to sell a house as quickly as possible, so they tend to sell houses slightly below market-value and then convince you it's the best you'll get.
you can rig this incentive in your favor by telling the broker you've contacted two brokers and will accept the highest bid.
I actually applied this one recently as my sister was looking for a renter and had contacted only 1 broker. I convinced her to get a second opinion and she got a way better offer.
or more accurately, "not the rules we think matter".
(Do grown sons who are insanely loyal make a good substitute? I'm hoping they do. :-D)
Um, not that I am applying to YC. Just hoping to escape BigCo and go do my own thing.
I wonder what the whole deal is about:
- is it because they feel its too much work for one person?
- they assume that one person cannot be motivated/determined enough to make a startup successful?
- or is it just based on the fact that most of the successful startup were stared by 2-3 person teams..
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this guys..
There were tons of threads on that.
I've seen so many creative endeavors move from freedom to constraint too early or sometimes even flat out fold, not because it was the right time, but because the founders/artists/creators couldn't handle living in the question long enough to make the leap to stunning.
Curious whether that's something you look for and, if so, how?
I've been involved in the early stages of a number of non-profits, time-and-time again it's clearly been determination above all else that drives success.
I recently read "How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas" (It's sort of like Founders at Work but about non-profits), and again reading all the founders stories, it's clear the single factor that unites them is their determination about their cause.
I guess sometimes you got to take what they give you, but for YC they aim only for the HR, so it's not that relevant.
" maybe you should ask for a time when you saw something through, something that was tough, and at your core hard to do. basically what was your last marathon?"
" when were your basic assumptions challenged, and how did you adapt or over come them? "
I didn't know about airbnb until now, thanks for introducing me to the site.
How about Sarah Palin tea?
There are so many ways to interpret that question from the way the worded it.
I wonder if one could check a box on their application to add it to the co-founder pool?
Not sure what your personality mismatch was, but I would tend to believe it's something you could alter/improve/change if you consciously wanted to.
Of course, if you REALLY can't get over the "sting" of a simple rejection, then you might find that the never-ending stream of "no"'s and doubts you run across in trying to get something off the ground would be more than you were able to deal with.
Maybe you should ask, if you don't have a co-founder, why? And what would you look for in a good 1st hire/ partner?
Perhaps it is your opinion that friends do better, but to so strongly state it as a requirement aren't you perhaps implicitly disproving any sole founder start up and if so you are, why would you?
Those are surprisingly uncommon combinations
What if your circle of friends are not entrepreneurial? What if your friends that /are\ entrepreneurial already have startups?
--then, of course; you'd have to find a co-founder (thats not a friend) or motivate a friend to be entrepreneurial - but, that in itself almost defeats the spirit of #5.
I do believe friends are very important, families as well.
1) They'll keep you motivated.
2) They'll give you advice/input.
3) They'll give you support; (tech expertise, business feedback and connections, etc..)
The quarter back, and the running back need not be friends to win the championships.
Your choice, YC. ;)