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My series of notes on Y Combinator’s Startup Library:

Original: http://paulgraham.com/bronze.html

My notes

Takeaway: Figure out what people want

The Still Life Effect

The biggest cause of bad ideas is the still life effect: you come up with a random idea, plunge into it, and then at each point (a day, a week, a month) feel you’ve put so much time into it that this must be *the *idea.

How do we fix that? I don’t think we should discard plunging. Plunging into an idea is a good thing. The solution is at the other end: to realize that having invested time in something doesn’t make it good.


Unpleasant work pays. Work people like doesn’t pay well, for reasons of supply and demand. If you’re starting a company that will do something cool, the aim had better be to make money and maybe be cool, not to be cool and maybe make money.

It’s hard enough to make money that you can’t do it by accident. Unless it’s your first priority, it’s unlikely to happen at all.


Another mistake: timidity.

VC-back startups are not that fearsome. They’re too busy trying to spend all the money to get software written.

So why were we afraid? We felt we were good at programming, but we lacked confidence in our ability to do a mysterious, undifferentiated thing we called “business.” In fact there is no such thing as “business.” There’s selling, promotion, figuring out what people want, deciding how much to charge, customer support, paying your bills, getting customers to pay you, getting incorporated, raising money, and so on.

A Familiar Problem

To sum up the three sources of error: We did the first thing we thought of. We were ambivalent about being in business at all. We deliberately chose an impoverished market to avoid competition.

[Hackers] are good at solving problems, but bad at choosing them.

Copper and Tin

A hacker who has learned what to make, and not just how to make, is extraordinarily powerful.