They don't actually teach things at Y-Combinator. There is no cookie cutter approach to entrepreneurship. Most of what you learn comes in the form of "advice."
There is one advice that PG tells to every batch at the first dinner. It summarizes all the values YC is trying impose to the founders and it really stuck with me:
Just be like James Bond.
Obviously, not the James Bond of international espionage, but the James Bond of start-ups.
By definition, innovation means coming up with solutions that are outside the norm. There will be obstacles on the way--like bureaucracy--lots of them. Not letting them stop you is the first step. Although the solution to these problems may not always be straightforward, there is always a work around. You need to be resourceful and willing to take the unconventional paths.
Iteration is at the core of everything. Product development using a classifier to make a set of decisions. Iterating faster will give you more data-points. A better training set means you can make better and quicker decisions faster. This brings up the next important point.
Talk to your users.
Quality of your data points is even more important. Iterating based on what you have in mind or what your friend circle thinks about the product can not bring you too far.
Although it may not be applicable in all cases, YC strongly advise you to launch fast and iterate. As the website puts, "till you launch you're designing for hypothetical or at best tame users, instead of actual ones."
Q: Well, I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.
Even after the launch, it is easy to ignore the feedback that will not sound nice to you. You just have to take it openly. And make sure that you are making at least a small group of people really happy.
Another thing you will hear a lot from the partners is that start-ups are hard. Not everything will go as expected and you will get hits on the way. Don't give up. This gets emphasized again and again during YC dinners.
There are so many examples of this, Airbnb being one of the most famous stories. This is why the co-founders of Airbnb speaks at one of the dinners for every batch and it is PG's favorite dinner.
All these points sound a lot like common sense. But it's easy to lose sight. While building things, running a company, doing market research, developing a product all at the same time, you hardly find time to stop, analyze things, or take other people's opinions.
The license to build is not easy to use. Lots of companies have burned in the past because they invested too much in building the wrong thing. YC partners are mostly there to help you by asking the right questions at the right time, among other things like sharing their own experiences and providing connections.
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