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Startup Playbook (2015) (samaltman.com)
640 points by navinsylvester 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

I just re-read this for the first time in years--it needs a re-write. I will try!

But first this has inspired me to get to work on the forgotten Part II.

I've been working on my doodles if you need a hand again :)

And I have a responsive layout template to convert those doodles into a book if needed… :)

Please do. I have read your work and it is great. Anytime I am struggling with my projects/ideas...I always go back to your work and start from the fundamentals...carefully reviewing my work to see where it could be improved and how to better satisfy the needs of my customers.

Look forward to the re-write and part II.

Can you please provide a glimpse of what you want to address in the re-write.

The audio from voxsnap is a nice addition! Hope the re-write includes it too.

That would be deeply appreciated, thanks, Sam!

There's generally less great content on the idea/0 to 1 compared to the 1 to n stage imho. I've found work from Michael Seibel, Des Traynor, Mathilde Collin, Brian Balfour and others to have been very helpful for the super early product design thinking stage in addition to the playbook.

would you kindly mind posting some links to these aforementioned works?

which parts aged least well? what major trends are effecting the content?

Thank you Sam.

Hi Sam! Can you please interact a little more with the HN community? I realize you are an extremely busy man, but drop in here once in a while and just...comment. Not to stir up a hornet's nest, but weighing in on YC related news once in a while is not a bad idea. Eg- No doubt you and YC are well intentioned people and the YC china move, while controversial, is probably a reasonable move. A private company can only do so much when dealing with powerful nations, and as long as you are not directly aiding governments do all the controversial things you hear about in the news, that's about as good as you can do. What was disappointing for me was this: YC is starting to feel just like any other big company, staying silent on controversial topics and not responding to criticism. I'm starting to feel like there's a disconnect between the community and the company. This makes me sad since YC was pretty much the opposite of what big companies stand for. My advice : be open, respond to criticism, don't stay silent on touchy topics, encourage YC staff to share their opinions on controversial topics. It's ok if your own staff don't agree with you, it's ok to agree to disagree. In short : don't become just another big company. Please note that this comment was made in good faith and please remain respectful in the comments.

Maybe we should all be getting off HN and doing our jobs like Sam hopefully is?

> My advice : be open, respond to criticism, don't stay silent on touchy topics, encourage YC staff to share their opinions on controversial topics.

We already tried this in the larger tech community. At best the controversial or contrarian views were silenced, at worst, people’s lives were ruined.

Can you give me a tl;dr of what you are referring to. Links to articles would be great too!

James Damore's Google memo probably qualifies -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google%27s_Ideological_Echo_Ch...

Anyone seeking a deeper dive into the legal foundations of startup formation, Clerky's Handbook forms a good companion to this:


I tried to incorporate using clerky, but not sure if I can set the owner of entity a california LLC instead of a person

can you or someone answer this? -Thanks

Sweet, thanks

It seems so incredibly generous of this that I caught myself being so cynical as to doubt any ulterior motives at attracting just more companies to YC overall. But it seems to me that these resources and advice are made in earnest, thank you Sam Altman (and Gregory Koberger!) for the contribution of these materials.

It pays to be good seems to be one of the core philosophies.

>So I'm not suggesting you be good in the usual sanctimonious way. I'm suggesting it because it works. It will work not just as a statement of "values," but as a guide to strategy, and even a design spec for software. Don't just not be evil. Be good.


Not sure YC has any problems attracting companies seeking VC :)

While I agree, and I give a lot of this advice to our portfolio companies the biggest problem with do things that don’t scale and monopolizing small markets is that other VCs often don’t buy into this vision and founders are forced to follow their path: loose focus, chase the biggest market, and do things that scale, just to raise capital. What’s great about YC is that it recalibrated the VCs in their orbit which is good for their portfolio companies.

This has actually been around for a couple years now. It is so good, in fact, that we actually require new hires at Kodable to read this as part of their onboarding, since it describes how we operate and make decisions as a company so well.

Is this available as a podcast? I can't find it, but I'd like to listen to these as I drive to my non-startup job.

I'm the co-founder & CTO of VoxSnap. Here's a link to the podcast: https://data.voxsnap.com/podcast/ycombinator.rss

It should be in Google Play & iTunes shortly

Thank You!

Not as a podcast but downloadable. Use Chrome Dev Tools, Network tab you can see each mp3 as it is opened and downloaded. Here's the intro: https://storytime.voxsnap.com/30/audio/2018/09/14/ycombinato...

Either iterate through each section guessing the URL or give dev tools a go.

EDIT: See my comment here for all of the mp3s: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18917784

EDIT: Duplicate


I didn't realize you posted that list already.

Feel free to use a podcast app. The feed URL is: https://data.voxsnap.com/podcast/ycombinator.rss

"You should talk to your users and watch them use your product, figure out what parts are sub-par, and then make your product better. Then do it again. This cycle should be the number one focus of the company, and it should drive everything else."

"Literally watch them use your product. Sit in their office if you can. Value both what they tell you and what they actually do. "

^^ If anyone is having a hard time with any of the above, let me know. Happy to offer a free user video on us. We work on an on-demand/automated remote user testing service to help you learn from your users much more easily and quickly:


I must admit to seeing the headline and thinking, "oh no, another set of advice that only works for some companies and not others" but actually, it is just enough information to be useful to many small companies but not too much detail to get into "this doesn't work for my company" territory.

The bottom line of a CEO is to make the company successful and to make decisions with conflicting advice but this provides the bit that the best CEOs cannot always know and that is only from experience so I love the ballpark numbers, the common mistakes and the counter-intuitive advice.

This is awesome! I'm Helena Ronis, co-founder and CEO of VoxSnap, the startup that did the audio & player embedded in the post. Feel free to share your feedback with us about the player or audio.

Hi Helana! Really beautiful player, the embedded player looks like it belongs on the page. As a founder, would love to hear your feedback on what you think of Sam Altman's Playbook!

Thanks! I appreciate it. Super happy that you like the player.

As a founder I think the Playbook is mostly on point, I'm curious to see what Sam adds or removes in the re-write. Startups are hard and it takes a lot of persistence and hustle to move the needle in a meaningful way. I love the part in the Intro section "A word of warning about choosing to start a startup: It sucks! One of the most consistent pieces of feedback we get from YC founders is it’s harder than they could have ever imagined, because they didn’t have a framework for the sort of work and intensity a startup entails." Then the follow up line is great "On the other hand, starting a startup is not in fact very risky to your career—if you’re really good at technology, there will be job opportunities if you fail. I personally think the riskier option is having an idea or project you’re really passionate about and working at a safe, easy, unfulfilling job instead." - I totally agree with that, if you have an entrepreneurial character you'll forever regret not taking the chance.

1. I’ve made an outline of this Playbook on paper, works well to review it monthly/quarterly to refresh knowledge.

2. Many times I shared the Playbook, people failed to consume it.

3. Based on (1+2) idea: to make a short overview of the Playbook. Like those 3-minute hand-drawing YouTube videos. @sama could narrate one and make it as widespread as “Here’s to the crazy ones...” mp3 we all might have, narrated by Steve Jobs.

if u reduced it to a nice shareable pdf can u please share a link?

And for those of us who are not founders, this is some new material: https://sarahbrownmarketing.com/power-to-the-startup-people-...

It's not just for ideas or those considering startups. Definitely a good reminder of what the "roots" are even for later stage companies. A lot of things hit home for me in terms of CEO roles, growth, hiring, culture and product.

I would love to hear the audio version narrated by sama.

is the narration downloadable?

It's available as a podcast here: https://data.voxsnap.com/podcast/ycombinator.rss

Yep. Use Chrome Dev Tools, Network tab you can see each mp3 as it is opened and downloaded. Here's the intro: https://storytime.voxsnap.com/30/audio/2018/09/14/ycombinato...

Either iterate through each section guessing the URL or give dev tools a go.

EDIT: See my comment here for all of the mp3s: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18917784

Thanks Sam!

Is the narrator a machine? He said "eee gee" for eg.

Woah wait, do people say "example given" or "egg" instead? I always say eee gee and eye eee.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia rather than example given, and it means "for example" in modern parlance.

I've always heard "eee gee" for "e.g."

I've always said 'for example'

For example (e.g.) or that is (i.e.)

eg doesn't stand for "example given", it stands for "exempli gratia".

I say eee gee and eye eee for e.g. and i.e. when reading those out loud. Doesn't everyone?

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