Five Things I Learned at Startup School

10/26/11

Y Combinator has a brilliant franchise. It is called Startup School.

This year it is at Stanford University on October 29 and co-hosted with BASES, the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students.

Some of Silicon Valley’s elite used to poo-poo Startup School as being too basic. I have always been in the camp supporting it. By “supporting,” I mean crashing. Remember, I only crash the best stuff. And I have been to every Startup School at Stanford University.

I don’t like when blog posts come out after an event, so I want to crystal-ball this event by examining and revealing what happened in the past. I hope this prepares you for Saturday at Dinkelspiel.

Here are the best morsels learned from Startup Schools of Yesteryear.

1. Just Ask

Garry Tan posted about asking for stuff after you are turned down for venture money. There are numerous case studies that document entrepreneurs failing forward after getting turned down for VC money.

Garry’s blog articles relating to Y Combinator are here. Almost any speaker at Startup School is a good candidate for an ask. Asking is the tough part of executing all the knowledge that volcanoes out from Startup School. So just ask, and ask some more.

2. Pre- Networking Involves Reaching Out Via E-mail

How do you email a person when you don’t know them or their email address? Well according to Evan Reas, CEO/founder of LikeALittle, the first step is just to guess at their address. You hack the email algorithm. “There are only so many combinations of email addresses. First name only. First initial, last name. Initials only.”

Reas is a master at guessing an email and hammering it until there is interaction. For example, he e-mailed an industry titan 30+ times before he got interaction. Evan is a GSB alum and a computer scientist who codes and codes.

3. Be a Cockroach

You only die if you choose to die.

Paul Graham values people who stick with it. “We know that startups only die when the founders give up,” he says. He said of the AirBnb guys, “You guys are like cockroaches. You will never die.”

4. Learn from OPE (Other People’s Experience)

Y Combinator has legendary office hours for its startups, and make them public during TechCrunch Disrupt in New York and San Francisco. There are blog articles and video available that contain over 60 minutes of entrepreneurship content, mentorship, and tips. I paid over $4k cash, but you can have them free if you use some Google smarts. Or just e-mail me.

5. Be Young. Or Inexperienced. Just Start.

Max Swisher is 12. He is getting mentored by Spencer Schoeben and they were at Cory Levy’s Stanford Next Generation conference. At last year’s YC Startup School, Max started to execute entrepreneurship and asked Ron Conway to fund him.

Welcome to Startup School and the wild ride that is entrepreneurship.

Larry Chiang is CEO of Duck9 and teaches Engineering 145 as a Stanford Entrepreneur in Residence. He has a fund called "Larry Chiang Stanford G51 Fund of Stanford Founders." Follow @

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  • http://bases.stanford.edu Charles Naut

    Thanks for the BASES shoutout Larry!