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Y Combinator Startup Library 2.0 (ycombinator.com)
635 points by tosh on Aug 6, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

Hi HN -- Kat here. Catheryn Li and I worked on launching this version of the library. This is Phase 1 -- we'll be adding more content from YC's archives, and new content as more is made. Seeing this thread and what you're searching for will give us a better sense of what we're missing. If you have feedback or ideas - let us know: catheryn@ycombinator.com and kat@ycombinator.com.

(also sent you an email with same suggestion)

Hi Kat and Catheryn. Useful library, thanks for working on it.

I have two quick suggestions for you:

1) Show creation date AND last modification date on each document; and allow users to see creation date when they search. Why? Because certain topics age better than others.

2) Make a zip archive of all resources that people can download and consult offline. Why? Because not everyone lives in California or in developed countries, and more or less >50% of internet users in the world have spotty access, particularly in developing countries. You want to give these people a way to download the entire thing when they're using WiFi in an internet cafe, and then watch things back home where they have no internet.


Re #2: Do you have thoughts on how folks will update their archive after the initial sync? KA-Lite had a similar offering in the education space, but redownloading a .zip to get five new files when 95% of the content is the same seems not ideal.

(There's stuff like zsync, but then you have to use a compatible compressor, and those tend to be pretty obscure...)

I know not everyone is technical but given YCombinators audience, having it all in a git repository might work.

Plain old update files maybe.

You name each zip release with a number and a date. For example #1 will be dated today.

Each time you update you increase the # by 1 and mark the date. You provide seperate small update files named #2 update, #3 update. If I had downloaded the full archive #1, I can just download #2 and #3 update and have the latest version.

If I never downloaded the library I can just download the most recent version and then keep it updated using update files.

I spent a lot of time compiling and digging through YC resources in March and had a few things to share from my experience: (I am behind ycadvice.com)

- Types of content so I can isolate videos quickly.

- Sidebar is sorted alphabetically. This way some of the important categories get buried at the bottom - in our experience, links at the bottom see much less interaction than at the top. Would it also make sense to have a view categories are sorted based on their "subjective" importance ? Alphabetical is awesome for searching a particular thing, but sometimes not so good for discovering important categories.

- We never really did this, but having some kind of popular vs less popular resources is also nice as a future idea.

- Happy to share our resources/list with you in any way if it helps.

Really cool resource, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

This is great - thank you.

This is excellent compilation of startup resources. I just wanted to explore how YC funded startups think about Design and quickly used filters 'Design'+'UX+Design' and stumbled upon this awesome 'Scaling Product & Design at Airbnb' conversation video by Joe Gebbia and Reid Hoffman! I will be bookmarking this and exploring frequently. Many thanks!

Thanks for all the resources! Just one suggestion: there is a lack of material on branding. Some of the largest companies in the world have been built essentially on the uniqueness and reliability of their brand. Coke, Starbucks, fashion houses, Amazon, Facebook, the list goes on. Definitely something that startups should consider IMO.

First of all, thank you! This is such a great collection. One thing I would like to see more of is resources on customer retention. I know you have about 4/5 articles / videos on it, but they didn't directly address measuring retention and best practices on how to make sure you're not building a leaky bucket. Since customer stickiness is so important, I think it should merit a lot more resources.

Wow, this is a fantastic resource!

Three ideas for improvement


I've founded or been early at 6 different startups now, and in each I've felt so overwhelmed by all the things I need to know or think about, leading to a stack of 'articles to read / videos to watch' that never gets drawn down. I'd love to see crowdsourced or curated summaries for each article or link, and a rating system to be able to see which are a) staff picks, and b) community picks, so I can start with the highest quality resource. Maybe even bootstrap this with a summarizer bot of some kind.


Framing these according to what problem I'm facing would also be great. E.g. Getting initial customers, making architectural investment or not, etc. I'd love to be able to pick this resource up, put in the problem I'm facing, and get wisdom out.

Related is sequencing, because at different stages of company different problems come up. Would love to see a dashboard for my startup (or my role in the startup) that focuses on resources that matter to the problems I'm facing now. If this dashboard were built by YC, it could capture three perspectives side by side - internal company comments, internal YC community comments, and broader HN comments. That'd be fantastic.


Finally, I think drawing upon the wisdom of founders / early stage operators with a comments system would be great. I love reading war stories from founders because they often do the job of tying a general principle to something that resonates with me. I'd be careful to frame the community in a way to get these types of quality contributions and not just typical forum fodder. A common use pattern on HN is starting in the comments section THEN moving to the resource if the comments seem interesting, and I see the same opportunity here.

This is an awesome effort. This looks fantastic and I perused it for barely 60 seconds so far. Great work to you all! Bravo!

Can you please allow full screen for the YouTube embeds? Currently, the button is disabled. It's just a quick settings change.

May I ask what frameworks or libraries were used to create this?

Observation due to current venture: not much of the strategy content applies to hardware companies (particularly hardware companies not manufacturing consumer or IOT widgets). Similarly, not much of the funding and regulatory advice applies to cross-border startups.

Regarding deep tech hardware, on the one hand you have PG stating his support for from-scratch thinking[0], on the other hand you have this de-facto "ship and iterate" model from the SaaS world which just doesn't apply to nontrivial hardware projects.

I have to say this problem isn't specific to YC: the vast majority of advice liberally distributed to founders by VC and early stage investment world actors can range from irrelevant to dangerously misleading for founders in some of these spaces.

The lesson here is: take what you will and treat nothing as gospel.

[0] https://twitter.com/paulg/status/1172430190401572864

Two observations:

1) Shipping-and-iterating is uncomfortably hard. Putting your product out there in front of users is painful. It's a lot easier to just constantly brainstorm ideas or hide in the coding cave.

2) As a founder, it's tempting to think that your startup is unique: what you're building is uniquely challenging, important and highly non-trivial.

Anecdotally, I've seen far too many founders (including my own past self) use 2 as an excuse not to do 1: most of the time, those never even launch. And not just in the hardware space, but also in: health-tech, bio, fin-tech, gov-tech, legal-tech, insur-tech, prop-tech, food-tech, logistics, and even B2B SaaS ("what we're building is hard and needs enterprise-grade robustness / security").

There may be ways to build massively successful companies that don't involve rapid shipping-and-iterating cycles, and in general there may be ways to build successful companies while ignoring or even doing the exact opposite of what YC advises.

But YC would know a few things about hard-tech from having funded possibly hundreds of such companies, including several massively successful companies. In fact, the top 3 YC companies of all-time as of 2020 are all in highly-regulated spaces: Stripe, Airbnb and Cruise [1]. Cruise in particular is a hardware company (self-driving cars) whose billion-dollar success was largely due to their ability to ship-and-iterate much, much faster than pretty much every other self-driving car company out there.

[1] https://www.ycombinator.com/topcompanies

I think being in a highly regulated market is orthogonal to the original point. Regulatory compliance is a checkbox and not a differentiating capability, even if it is an arduous checkbox. Hard/Deep tech is a completely different animal. None of the three YC companies you list fall under this rubric as they are essentially novel presentation layers on existing tech (yes, this includes Cruise, whose tech I am familiar with). The point isn’t about startups where the hardest thing you need to do is business execution and compliance.

Some kinds of hardcore tech, even deep software tech that has no compliance issues, has extremely steep engineering hurdles that must be cleared before you have the most minimal of MVPs that will have any currency with customers. How do you iterate fast when the most minimal demonstration of capability requires writing hundreds of thousands of lines of highly sophisticated code from scratch? Or requires physical engineering that necessarily takes years to complete? Many of these kinds of opportunities exist but almost all of the “ship-and-iterate” guidance is for companies that are using core tech, not creating core tech. That’s playing the startup game on easy mode.

If we end up in a place where a “tech startup” is defined as companies that are technically trivially to execute and amenable to rapid ship-and-iterate, which admittedly is most of them, then we might as well elide “tech” from the nomenclature. At that point, they are merely tech-enabled ordinary businesses, and what ordinary business isn’t tech-enabled these days? If deep tech problems could be solved by slapping together some open source and layering on clever marketing, they wouldn’t be problems.

It feels like we’ve redefined “tech startup” to exclude doing hard technical things, but aren’t honest about that change in definition.

Yes that is great advice for many startups most of the time, but my whole point in the grandparent was that when as a founder you find the hand-me-down wisdom doesn't fit, don't be afraid to leave it alone and think for yourself.

PS. If your criticism were right my coding cave is a 1000m2 factory, which has to be some kind of record. /s

In your parent comment you mention:

> not much of the strategy content applies to hardware companies

While it's probably a good idea to not blindly follow every single piece of advice (by YC or anyone), saying that not much of the content applies is probably a bit of a stretch. Considering how many successful companies YC has funded in the hard-tech space, I'd be receptive to at least some of their advice / insights.

You also mention:

> you have this de-facto "ship and iterate" model from the SaaS world which just doesn't apply to nontrivial hardware projects.

Again, it may be a good idea to question the advice of "ship and iterate", but saying _it just doesn't apply to nontrivial hardware project_ is again a bit of a stretch. As the above commenter mentions, the success of Cruise is a good counterexample.

I think you are ignoring the reasonable point and splitting hairs. One might equally say few/none of the US examples would have been possible outside of the US market (where "ask for forgiveness" is not an option), or that Cruise never shipped.

Most deep tech and hardware projects can also benefit from a ship-and-iterate model. There are always pieces you can show to some customer, even if they're simulations or a tiny component of the whole thing. It creates some work and stress to deliver them, but the feedback you get means you're more likely to end up with something the customer wants at the end of the project.

I too embrace your perspective but it is unfortunately naive. If you want a tiny plastic enclosure around a simple circuit board, by all means iterate quickly. When producing larger hardware it is common to have parts which require multi-month production and testing cycles and 5-7 figures USD just for the tooling to enable the process (not including design, actual fabrication equipment, outsourced equipment time or stock material). You usually have multiple parts of this commitment level within a larger product. You don't rush out the door when you are dealing with those sorts of realities.

I try not to appeal to authority, but the parent comment was from tlb, founder of anybots. They’ve been building and selling robots for... 12 years? Probably closer to 18.

It sounds like they might be suggesting that a smaller prototype can be shown to customers. 3D printing in particular can help with that; I think Valve demo’d a new controller that was partly 3D printed several years ago.

The GP was referring to "hardware companies not manufacturing consumer or IOT widgets". Anybots is obviously manufacturing consumer widgets.

There are spaces where even a small prototype will easily run into the six figures in pricing.

What are you building?

The consumer view is always available, meaningfully personalized food produced on demand from fresh ingredients as an autonomous urban utility, 10-20× faster than delivery services. Technically, we're building the robotics, R&D and manufacturing capacities to define and dominate that market with a network of just-in-time contactless kiosk-format microfactories. As a consequence of the challenging form factor we've set for ourselves, the regulatory requirements of food handling and so on, let's just say the complexity and BOM length is arguably greater than most vehicles.

As someone who's had some ancillary involvement in a hardware product I have a lot of sympathy with the disconnect between doing hardware and the "ship fast SAAS product" mindset.

However, in this case your comment:

> As a consequence of the challenging form factor we've set for ourselves

does seem to indicate that decisions you have made yourself are one of the factors causing you to slow down here. Something to consider...

Well, if you survey the space we are looking at you will find good commercial reasons for that form factor. Such as: size of available spaces under typical vending leases, fits through door, fits in lift, fits in corridor, fits in truck, etc.

I don't think anyone will ever argue that you know your market well!

I think what people are trying to say is that there maybe ways to get a partial solution to a smaller part of your customer base much quicker and for less money.

Yes. There may be. But there's no solution cheaper or faster than letting someone else prove the market on your behalf. In our case, we have seen enough proof in the last few years: last mile delivery commodification, 50% of every $1 spent in food retail is convenience-driven, etc. We do not need to prove humans want food or that frustrated demand exists. What we need to prove is that we can supply it, cost effectively, profitably, at scale, with technology we uniquely design, manufacture and operate with a defensible lead.

Does anyone from HN have any resources specifically for non-profits and non-profit startups?

I do love the quantity of information that's available here. Now, although YC is clearly for-profit, I'd love it if there were more resources about some of the non-profits that they have funded over the years.

Searching for 'non-profit' comes up with 4 relevant results[0]. I've read through these previously and have taken some of their advice for a non-profit startup that I've began working with[1]. That being said, I've done a lot of research elsewhere (e.g. looking through comments on Goodreads and Reddit about books for non-profits, tax advice, etc.) since I can't glean info from HN or YC as I usually can for other topics.

I'd love to read through any interesting resources about non-profit development if there are HNers that have some. Any takers?

Edit: I should clarify that I've signed up and invited some of the others from our non-profit for Startup School. We haven't participated yet because we are still hashing out features for our MVP and figuring out a fundraising strategy.

[0]: https://www.ycombinator.com/library?query=non-profit

[1]: https://www.policedap.org/

It's not from YC but this Tech Nonprofit Playbook is pretty useful: https://www.ffwd.org/playbook/

I'm taking a look at it now, thank you very much!

As YC fans, we also built https://ycadvice.com which also offers a more comprehensive view on all YC resources ever released for startup founders. (700+ and deeply categorized)

I'm a little surprised only 9 of the 302 articles appear to focus on marketing. For anyone looking for marketing specific guidance, we've got a lot of free materials on our blog: https://www.reifyworks.com/writing

We've helped 80+ developer-focused companies over the last few years as a consultancy, after our careers as founding marketing leaders.

The Heavybit Library is also really incredible, with lots of video content (transcribed, searchable) with a similar focus to what's here. https://www.heavybit.com/library/

Maybe just vocabulary?. I searched sales, conversion, and pricing and found a bit of info on each. To me, these are all tactical components of the marketing strategy. So the subject focus content is appreciated. Maybe others are different in this regard, but I just would never think to search marketing as it’s so open ended.

Great - I had been trying to find this talk to link to someone a couple of times over the last few months and was bummed that all the links were dead.

Looks like it’s working now.


thanks, I was also looking for Alan Kay's talk recently!

This is a great resource, and some thoroughly well researched pieces included, thanks for bringing it all together!

One category that seems notably missing is exits. I'm sure this is some of interest to 100% of the community, and doesn't seem as widely discussed as fundraising, but arguably more important.

A lot has changed in viewpoints since PG's 'Don't Talk to CorpDev'[1]. Consensus is moving towards developing relationships with partners being a benefit. ONe of the best pieces I've read on the subject is Patrick Lowndes' 4 part documentation on selling VendorHawk to ServiceNow[2].

It would be great if YC are willing to share their views on harnessing partnerships, inflection points (ie, it's not always best to raise the next round, and an inflection point should bring together all the options), creating a competitive bidding process, due diligence, how investors think of exits etc etc etc.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/corpdev.html [2] https://patricklowndes.com/2018/07/16/getting-acquired-1-of-...

It feels like a lot of unstructured content to be honest. Where to start? Where to finish? What's critical and what's just entertainment? I was a little disappointed to be honest. Expected a ton of NEW content instead of a "google for YC". I will keep to Google to search for amazing HN content (site:ycombinator.com)

It’s in the name: library

Run free :)

Holy moly. This is massive. I kept on infinite scrolling for at-least 5 minutes and it still kept on loading.

If we feed the transcriptions to GPT3, would it start giving great startup advice and building startups for us?

Rumor has it that everything after the first three lectures is just GPT3 running the first three lectures with deepfake videos.

Since this library doesn't cover any actual books, I'd love to hear from current/previous founders:

Which books had the biggest impact on your startup endeavours?

Heh, I'm personally interested in a slightly different question: have any books actually, really made an impact on your startup endeavors? I suppose I'm jaded at this point, but having read so many books whose takeaways can be easily summarized in 4-5 sentences, and with so much advice either very obvious, very difficult, very dependent on specific circumstances and situation, I no longer believe in the value of business/entrepreneurship texts.

(massive spoilers: talk to customers early, build your product quickly, get feedback often, make decisions quickly, raise more money than you think you need, when you become CEO your job duties will be very different than what you might expect, build something people love (genius-level advice), ...)

General business books, pop culture leadership books and the like, no. Not at all. But I've also been in this game for a couple decades. Books can be helpful if you are newer to the industry.

Books about my specific subject area? Absolutely. Once you get into the weeds of your own niche, they are a huge help to knowing the niche.

The E-Myth Revisited is a good one. More for small businesses than startups per se, but absolutely worth a read.

Great resources. Quick bug report:

Might want to add `overflow: hidden` on the container with `border-radius` (.SharedDirectory-module__section___1ljf9). Currently hovering over the first link shows a background over the rounded corners.

I would love more content on product design for mobile/ mobile web. Especially how the design should not just look good but also help users to keep using the product. Seems to be a common pain-point for founders.

Even though anyone can just signup and be a member, I feel profoundly proud I am in this club :).

Online version of YC is great resource and good way to do things now that we don't want to meet in person as much.

Since I am new on the forum here, would anyone be able to recommend some good materials for me to get hold of development or product ownership for electronics products/embedded systems products?

One of the things I love most about YC is hearing about previous YC companies and what they did to succeed (eg, Airbnb). It would be cool to have a filter or tag by company - but this is really cool!

Is there any way to see the old library other than wayback machine?

It does not matter whether you work in startup, or large company, or founding a startup. It does not matter whether you are a gen-x/y/z.

This is an invaluable resource!!!

I get this is YC where investors are involved (required part?), but are there any good resources on organic growth?

It's like PG's blog but distributed among more minds.

Love the transcripts! Thanks for this thoughtful addition.

This is great for coreboot right?

I think you confused the Intel leak thread with this one ;)

yes i did

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