Did you start viaweb to sell it to someone else later, or did you start it to build an actual sustainable business?
Incidentally, building a business to sell doesn't mean it can't be sustainable. Viaweb made Yahoo lots of money.
IF YCs stance is to pick the former as much as possible (or all the time). What can a valley outsider do to get the later started?
Sorry, this is the type of question I would have loved to ask at startup school, it just took a couple of days to formulate.
EDIT: First crack at a description: You want an idea that solves a problem, not starts a startup, and sometimes a startup is a decent vehicle for the solution.
'How to find your "life's work"' might make a great essay. I think the majority of founders find themselves a few years in working on ideas they aren't crazy about.
In a sense founders get married to ideas too young, realize it's not a perfect fit, and then an "acquisition" is basically a divorce between them and the idea.
Today, wealth and technical innovations have separated quite a lot. A great programming language will make less money than the programs built upon it. I don't think this is entirely valid in the world of today, where open-source software is often some of the most innovative.
I'm not weighing in on the definition of "entrepreneur" here, just pointing out why NeXT isn't a counter example.
If he had been unable to direct Apple in the direction he wanted after the reverse takeover, I doubt he would have accepted it.
It seems really silly to me to criticize someone for wanting a high payoff to labor ratio or not wanting to dedicate their life to everything they do, but I don't know - what's the reasoning?
In the end, some things we do for money and others for love. I think Steve Jobs saw himself as someone who almost always did things for love. He saw making money as simply being a way to fund the next project (which is how artists in general feel).
It's interesting that your response to this quotation is:
"Steve's problem with selling seemed to be that you're shirking work by doing it."
I think that's part of it, but the other part is that you're not doing what you're doing with the right frame of mind.
"A lot of people who sell startups go on to do other things, and often bigger things."
Why is "bigger" in this sentence rather than some other word? "Better" for example.
One of my favorite quotations in the book comes from Larry Ellison. He says he was complaining to Steve Jobs that his plan for turning Apple around (the reverse takeover of NeXT) wasn't going to make either of them nearly as much money as his plan (buying Apple and giving Steve 25%) would and Jobs replied (from memory, so it's probably inaccurate): "That's why you need to have me as a friend, Larry. You don't need any more money."
I'm sure I'm just oblivious to some legal, financial, etc. benefit of building separate company "entities" for each project but personally I prefer the idea of starting the next General Electric than a string of noun-deprived orphan companies.
Keeping your name associated with the trail you leave behind keeps you honest; perhaps this is what Steve was getting at?
(My hunch is that you're not going to sell YC anytime soon -- even though you probably could sell it -- simply because you're not done yet.)
I never considered what I'd do if someone wanted to buy YC, because companies like YC aren't buyable. But even if someone wanted to buy it I could not imagine selling it, because I don't need the money and it wouldn't be worth the risk that the acquirer would ruin it.
last night i watched the movie "meet joe black" and that sentence reminded me of a quote that "william parish" said when he realized he was going to die.
"I don't want anybody buying up my life's work! Turning it into something it wasn't meant to be. A man wants to leave something behind. And he wants it left behind the way he made it. He wants it to be run the way he run it, with a sense of honor, of dedication, of truth. Okay? "
i'm not saying it's the same thing, but, it did remind me of the movie.
Maybe someday that won't be true, and maybe I'm wrong today, but my hunch says that once it's sold, it will begin to decline, and everyone who might consider buying it knows that.
I do find it surprising though that you tell people to do what they love but then in these comments you admit you didn't like doing viaweb. In your essay you wrote, "The test of whether people love what they do is whether they'd do it even if they weren't paid for it." And it seems that you only did that startup because you were going to get money, which I suspect is true for the vast majority of y-combinator start-ups.
My advice to entrepreneurs would be to get the right people involved your first venture, even if it means giving up way over 50% of your company. Because it's better to exit a successful venture, with money, connections and a track record, than own close to 100% of your first venture and spending years growing it. Chances are, this isn't your last idea and you will want to start other companies in the future. When you do, you'll have more money, resources, connections, and people willing to fund you (if you want) as a serial entrepreneur.
That said, I was never able to do it myself. My first project out of the gate is super ambitious and aims to change the face of the social internet, help people accomplish things in the real world, and improve privacy for everyone.
It's coming along and we have over 30k daily users. http://qbix.com
But it took a long time to get here. And now I am thinking that we might just be able to make it on our own steam.
So in a way, I am kind of pursuing my dream, and never had the time to start and exit a successful, but ultimately temporary, venture.
"Founders and angel investors usually don’t particularly care if the companies they created live or die after they sell out, because they’ve gotten their money and moved on. There’s no stigma to having a company you founded fail after you leave it. In fact, again, it's a badge of honor: “Bob Smith founded Flopper.com, sold it for $46MM, then got out before it tanked! Genius!”"
Indeed selling might just be the necessary antecedent to the next big thing.
"Don't pick an idea for the sole reason that it will allow you to do a start up. Find a problem that you're truly passionate about solving, and things will take care of themselves"
I do find myself wondering if it's worth doing any idea to build up capital for something else if you feel an idea has potential but you aren't sure you can sell it to investors without putting in a lot of time and money into it first to show the true potential.
“The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.
So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.”
In fact, Apple has benefited tremendously by buying off companies to enhance its products (e.g. touch screen). Had everyone out there decided to build long sustaining companies, there would had been large economic inefficiencies.
Also, in my case, I know that there are some things I'd like to do that are almost impossible to do when you're small or it would be a complete waste to reinvent the wheel.
Some biggies already have the technology I'd need to get closer to my dream, so I think the ideal path is to keep developing and getting a high profile in a niche that is under the radar and not easily replicable, and scope out potential buyers, not just by money offered but by product/vision fit.
In short, it's a mental thing, not what happens on contract paper, that counts.
If so, maybe you want to update the link.
This quote reminded me of that thread, but I'll be darned if I can find it now.
Walter Isaacson page 569 of the hard cover.
The thing is, NOT every project, not every product, not every service can be grown into a full blown company. It just doesn't work that way. Go to any store and look at all the bottles of shampoo you can choose from, all those brands belong mainly to 1 or 2 companies, Unilever and Johnson. Same with food products. If every little shirt, and every brand of crackers where its own company with it's own marking, and distribution, and it's own packaging plant, it's own lawyers, it's own administration offices, it's own headquarters... We'd be paying triple for everything. (although we would have a lot more jobs... correction, the Chinese would have a lot more jobs...)
Some products just can't be monetized to support themselves so they MUST be acquired by a company that can integrate them into its own profitable services (or product line) and compete better with other competitors doing the same.
If nobody flipped it would screw over entrepreneurs by forcing them to commit themselves to one industry, one company, one product line their whole lives instead of being able to create companies, sell them, repeat. Thereby going in and out of numerous industries and markets instead of just one.
Can you really see every product becoming its own corporation? On the other hand, companies like Google and facebook (who's only difference from competitors were features) grew into their own massive companies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Starting a company, growing it, and optimizing it are three different things. Very rarely are there people who are good at all three. Jobs is one of them, Zuckerberg another, but they're lottery stories. Their advice may not work for the majority of people.
- My 2 cents.
If you're not making money, you're not a company. You're a collection of people that might be a company, someday.
Uh? You're a company when you sign the paperwork to make a company. I get the sentiment behind what you're saying, but the statement doesn't make sense.
If you're not making money, you're not a profitable company. But that ought to be reasonably obvious.
edit: did some googling and it's from the biography. This is what I hate about tumblr. It's all completely random stuff with no context, no sourcing and no discussion, just those pointless reblog "notes"
edit2: of course, biography not autobiography, dunno what I was thinking
BTW, how would you do things differently than reblog "notes"?
So my opinion on this is likely not so valid - but I think that those that enter into it for the 'quick buck' are few and far between, and also those that succeed at it are even fewer. It's not the 'ideal' way to go about starting a business, and I don't think it's the norm either.
It's a sweeping generalization - which is easiest to make and from reading his Bio, Steve's normal communication style as well.
I live in SF. I'm running a startup, and many of my friends are as well. Where are these lazy, get rich quick people I keep reading about? Am I just lucky to only be surrounded by hard-working entrepreneurs who are trying to build long-term viable businesses, or is this problem being overblown a little?
This is me genuinely asking, not making a statement in question form.
Pixar was created because Disney was missing he market. When Disney bought them, the Pixar guys started running the show at Disney.
Steve Jobs bought a small division of Lucas Arts that was going to be shut down otherwise, and, along with those guys and others turned it into Pixar for the purpose of realizing this market.
When he sold it, it was a real company, and it enabled the cofounders of Pixar to pursue their dreams. It was a win-win.
All are valid and I consider all of them startups.
This (out of context) quote benefits me in absolutely no way. It might, if there was elaboration or example.
Anyway, in my opinion this is a low quality submission and I'm irked by it.
I don't know what qualifies as 'cashing in', but there's more to life than just running a company. Just because you've decided not to stick around for 20-30 years doesn't mean everything you did up until then wasn't hard work.
"I wanted my kids to know me," he said. "I wasn't always
there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to
understand what I did." 
edit: quotes like this make me feel like I better understand how Jobs really might have thought (as opposed to how some of his fanboys think, which is what I kind of assume he would think like). Another quote I like is this one:
> We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all.
Much respect for entrepreneurs that see it through the whole road, but it doesn't make all the other brilliant entrepreneurs just 'unemployed'
Of course, this is exactly what is desired from the investor POV, so why the people they fund should act differently is a stretch.
Steve, on the other hand, created the mother of all lifestyle businesses. (for his value of lifestyle, of course)
A lifestyle business is a business you start in order to live a certain lifestyle. The dictionary definition talks about generating an income that is sufficient to sustain a lifestyle, but no more. Steve certainly didn't start Apple because he wanted to maintain a specific lifestyle.
In a way, Apple is, then, a really good example of a "lifestyle business" as that term is used here. They didn't take a lot of venture capital, they weren't built to flip, and they weren't trying to be the next anything. They focused on long term business success.
Choices made based on long term business success (Such as, retaining enough control to make sure the business doesn't get flipped against the founders will) often, on this site, results in the accusation that you're "just building a lifestyle business".
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But there is no reason to kid one's self.
Do you mean the minute you publish your work it is already patented?
Kids do a lot of stupid things. I've done my share of stupid things as well in my early 20s. To vilify him for something he did 30+ years previous and for something he apologized for is ridiculous.
It was over 4 days because Bushnell needed the game fast. The design was completely in Woz's hands and the incentive was to do it with as few chips as possible, also from Bushnell.
Your claim that Jobs took all the money is a lie. The allegation is he split the original fee with Woz exactly as promised, and simply never told Woz about the bonus. The whole amount was less than $5,000.
It amazes me that people are such Apple haters that they will resort to making up such lies in order to bash the guy who created the personal computer industry (along with woz) and helped create everything from the switching power supply to the smartphone.
That's too bad.