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Startup Class Lecture 1 – The Five Components of a Great Startup

This post is a continuation of Lecture 1 of YCombinator’s class at Stanford called ‘Startup Class‘ which aims to teach “everything we know about how to start a startup, for free, from some of the world experts.” Whereas my first set of notes about the class talks about cautionary note on the difficulty of starting a startup (and why I’m writing these notes at all), this part of the lecture, given by Sam Altman, really starts delving into what makes a great startup.

The Five Components of a Great Startup

  • Great Idea
  • Great Product
  • Great Team
  • Great Execution
  • Luck

Startup Class – Intro Notes on the YCombinator Class at Stanford

What is this Startup Class?

This is a phenomenal free course organized by Sam Altman, the President of YCombinator, with an express goal to teach “Everything we know about how to start a startup, for free, from some of the world experts.” The full course is well organized and broken down into guest lectures by some of the biggest entrepreneurial names in the entire business including Peter Thiel, Paul GrahamDustin Moskovitz and many more. The course videos and full annotated lectures are available here. I’ve found the classes to be of immense value. Not only are the speakers on point, but the assigned readings lead to an intricate web of articles and authors that talk about big ideas ricocheting throughout the startup world. I’ve listened to each lecture at least a few times already. It’s that good – especially the earlier lectures. Personally, I think the class is relevant for a broader audience than ‘just’ aspiring entrepreneurs. Why? Because startups have a myopic focus on creating new value in the world. That means startups can only survive and thrive over time if they solve a real problem. This makes both the outcome of startups and the process of startups pretty interesting from different perspectives, even if you’re not interested in being an entrepreneur yourself. That said, Altman caveats the entire course by saying these are principles that apply specifically to startups looking to achieve rapid growth and scale. They may not apply or work well outside of that context.


Why a Start-up Job is Just Different

 “In a startup you have lots of worries, but you don’t have that feeling that your life is flying by like you do in a big company. Plus in a startup you could make much more money.”1  -Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator

I am no expert,2 but there is one thing I can tell you from experience. A start-up is not like an ordinary job. Why?


  2. Then again, half the reason to join a start-up may just be to avoid the credentialism that so often curtails exceptionalism.

Understanding American Decline: Theories of Imperial Decay

The argument that the U.S. has entered a period of decline is a pretty popular one.

And while our decline may or may not be overstated it seems pretty clear the rest of the world has caught up in a lot of ways. Which makes me curious why we don’t hear as many comparisons between the U.S. “imperial decline” and that of other ancient empires as we used to. Is that because this sort of meta-thesis is out of style? Do people think we are no longer declining as a country? Or this type of uncomfortable truth to close to home?


I Don’t Love Money

You know those movies where the bad-guy caresses a giant suitcase of money like it’s his favorite lover? How many times have you thought to yourself, man I’d love to have that cash!?