14 Lessons from a Y Combinator Company
On Monday, The Portal hosted our quarterly Face to Face with Investors event — one of the largest investor and entrepreneur gatherings in Orange County. This time we wanted to give our entrepreneurs an opportunity to join in the conversation and showcase their work, so we opened the floor for startups to share their insight on something that contributed to their success.
We welcomed Bjoern Zinssmeister and Matthias Kadenbach, co-founders of Templarbit to the stage to share what they learned from their experience as a summer 2017 Y Combinator company. Along with important reminders to sleep, exercise, and take care of yourself while going through the rigorous process of creating a startup, Bjoern and Matthias had important tips to successfully launching and growing their company.
Identify potential teammates. Relationships are an important part of beginning and launching a startup. You have to find someone that you can trust and can help you build your MVP.
Figure out a personal financial plan. Launching a startup doesn’t come with a steady paycheck. Check how long you can survive on your savings without any additional money, and shoot for 6 – 12 months.
Work on something you’re passionate about. Startups don’t succeed overnight, and aiming for large-scale success can often require over a decade of commitment. If you’re going to dedicate this much time to something, make sure that you really care about it. It’ll give you the drive you need, and if you really believe that what you’re doing will change the world, it’ll help you communicate your idea with others.
Don’t wait — start today. Nothing, and no one is holding you back. You shouldn’t waste your time with superficial details; focus on solving the underlying issues instead. Don’t go out there hiring software agencies in foreign countries. If you have the skills and the requirements, start fixing and coding things on your own.
Make something that people want. This is the Y-Combinator slogan and it holds true.
Hold your early customers’ hands. Don’t worry about scale in the beginning. It might feel stupid, but your early customers will give you the most insight about your market and what your users want. Don’t sacrifice these relationships and opportunities to focus on scaling too early.
Write code and talk to users. This is all that matters until you find your product market fit. Interact with your early customers, find out what they want, and build accordingly.
All startups are broken. But that’s normal. Every startup will run into problems big and small, but take them in stride. Prioritize the larger, inevitable roadblocks and don’t get caught up in the minutiae.
GROWTH. As your startup matures, make sure to focus on growth metrics. For example, you should be looking at your monthly active users, not just your signups. New users are great, but make sure the ones that you do have continue to use your product.
Don’t hire until you have product market fit. You’ve heard it before: hire slow, fire fast. If you’ve made the wrong hiring decision, fire as fast as you can. Everyone in your team will appreciate it. Operate as lean as possible and keep your burn rate down. Sometimes a startup wins just by surviving longer than a competitor.
Ignore your competitors in the early phases. It might be good to know who’s playing in your field, but put your blinders on and focus on your company. It’s too easy to get caught up in your competition and end up dissuading yourself from continuing.
Raising money is not necessarily success. Raising money doesn’t buy you success, just a runway that can help you take off. Bootstrapping for as long as possible might sometimes be the best option. When you raise money, you’re giving away a portion of control your company, meaning you’re more likely to have a boss again and having no leverage also means your terms will be less favorable. That being said, don’t over-optimize your term sheet.
Invest in your co-founder relationship health. Being co-founders of a company is often like a marriage. All of you are in this together, so work on maintaining your relationships so you can continue to build your vision.
Celebrate all wins, big and small. It can sometimes feel like startups go through more downs than ups, so make sure to celebrate all the little victories.
This article was originally published on our blog, October 20, 2017.