Paul Graham on hard lessons for startups to learn

Paul Graham’s recent essay, “The Hardest Lessons for Startups to Learn,” which recounts his talk from Startup School, is the best advice for entrepreneurs I’ve read. If you’re interested in startups, you should definitely read it.

There’s an interesting meta-lesson in the essay. Paul advocates getting a very basic product out quickly and then learning from, and reacting to, its encounters with actual users as quickly as possible. Likewise, the essay itself is made up of the advice he’s had to give the most often with the startups that he and his partners fund through Y Combinator. In other words, this is the advice he’s learned is important from his encounters with his “users.” The meta-lesson is that one way to give great advice is to find people working on something you know about, and catalog the lessons you believe to be true and they, at first, believe to be false. If you’re changing their minds for the better, you’re hitting the sweet spot. (Actually, Paul says exactly that in an earlier essay, talking about his book Hackers and Painters: “I didn’t want to waste people’s time telling them things they already knew. It’s more efficient just to give them the diffs.”)