Startup School is a 10-week online course which aims to help your startup be (more) successful by sharing what YC has learned through the years.
You’re in my group! Here’s what you should know:
The official requirements to complete Startup School (and get a certificate and a chance at $10k in equity-free funding) are:
- Watch the lectures each week.
- Attend most weekly office hours.
- Submit most weekly progress updates.
That said, I hope no one is participating just to get a certificate. Your real responsibilities are to do what it takes to make a successful, enduring startup. If you feel like Startup School isn’t helping you achieve that, please let me know.
Additionally, I ask that you:
- Act ethically. (YC’s Ethics Policy)
- Build something which is a net benefit for the world (my personal request ☺).
- Participate, and be friendly and supportive.
- Join meetings on-time and prepared.
- Keep everything we discuss confidential.
YC asked me to commit to:
- Host three hours of group office hours each week.
- Provide two hours of support through email and/or chat.
- Not be a jerk.
That’s a very minimal commitment, so I’d like to give you my word that I’ll do whatever I can to help you (keeping in mind that I have my own business to run).
I can’t think for you.
When I was in YC, lots of smart people gave us advice, and initially we followed it because “How could [Paul Graham/Alexis Ohanian/Justin Kan/etc] be wrong?” It took us two weeks to notice we were following a circle of directly conflicting advice.
Startup School will give you advice that’s on average right based on a few hundred successful companies, but you need to think for yourself. You understand and care about what you’re building more than YC or me.
How Things Will Work
I will host two or three recurring office hour sessions scheduled so that everyone can attend one. You’re supposed to attend at least one each week, and it’s helpful if it’s the same one each time. (You can attend more if you think it would help you.)
Only one founder needs to attend office hours, but you can bring multiple if it’s helpful. Please don’t bring former founders, employees, or friends.
If you can’t attend a session one week, let me know in advance. You’re supposed to attend 9/10 sessions to officially complete the program (I have to take attendance), but I can probably host a 1-1 if it’s for a good reason and not a regular thing.
I encourage you to bring at least one problem or question to discuss. If we have extra time, we can discuss that week’s lecture. Please remember that nothing you hear in these meetings should ever be shared outside the group. The ability for founders to speak candidly is one of the many things that makes YC work.
I’ll ask you to send out an update to the group each week, and I’ll also take notes on our interactions throughout the program. I’ll use these notes to write recommendations for the $10k grants.
Personally, I don’t care whether you’re killing it. Good founders are honest about their progress so they can figure out ways to overcome roadblocks and improve. That’s what I’m looking for.
I can be helpful outside of group office hours, too! (I hope!) If you send me an email when I’m awake (~6:00-22:00 Pacific) I’ll respond as soon as I can.
I’ll try to be active in chat but I can’t give you an SLA.
I’m based in Seattle, but I travel to a lot of North American cities. If I’m in town, I’m happy to grab coffee!
In case you’re curious:
I founded the company TapIn.tv, which went through YC Summer 2012, and raised a little under $1M at an $6M pre-money valuation (at the time that was a good raise) from Initialized, Streamlined Ventures, Pejman Nozad, and some other smaller investors.
TapIn.tv was basically Twitter Periscope before it existed and, in fact, Twitter talked to us about acquiring us, didn’t make an offer, and then launched Periscope two years later. Due to lack of traction, we pivoted to offer cheap PaaS streaming infrastructure back when it was super hard and there was no hardware acceleration. We shut down due to co-founder disputes.
When I went through YC, it was small, so I can’t tell you much about what it’s like now. (As an example, Sam Altman ran the slide deck at Demo Day.) I’m probably a little more jaded about startup culture than recent YC graduates. In the distant past I did some machine learning stuff at Microsoft Research and worked for some small startups.
I currently run a non-profit which gets low-income and underrepresented kids interested in coding in almost 50 cities across North America. We operate like a startup, and are directly profitable. About 10,000 kids went to our events last year, and we’re hoping to get to 20,000 this year. We’re not YC backed.