Key Takeaways from YC Startup School 2014 in NYC

I had the pleasure of spending a day at Y Combinator’s (YC) Startup School, a 4+ hour series of talks, in NY on June 18, 2014, .

To put the event in context, here is my elevator pitch of what YC does:
“YC teaches, connects to VCs and invests in promising upcoming startups, in a Silicon-Valley-based 3 month intensive traning program.”
StartupSchool2014_NYC
The YC connected VCs, and the YC trained startup co-founders, gave 25 minute talks full of good advice for startup success.

Here are my key takeaways from the talks:

Shana Fisher, a VC at High Line Venture Partners and Board Partner, Andreessen Horowitz said:
– Focus on functionality over design in the early phases
– Spend your money carefully
– Spend significant time learning to manage your team effectively

Fred Wilson, a VC at Union Square Ventures said:
– VCs have opinions and pre-conceived notions of what themes are current good opportunities
– Describe your great idea crisply and succinctly
– There is a lot of demand to put money into startups in NY, Silicon Valley and in a growing number of places around the world

Zach Sims, a co-founder of Codecademy, which is teaching the world to program, said:
– To maximize your chance of success, solve one of your own problems
– Keep looking for opportunities to maximize your own learning
– Many people are not going to think your idea is amazing, so you need to go out and prove it

Kathryn Minshew, a co-founder of The Muse, which is helping professional women find better jobs, said:
– Get you product out there, even thought it’s far from perfect
– Grow you user base by starting with your contacts and then expanding to strangers
– Building a team and a company is the very hard second step that startups need to navigate

Apoorva Mehta, a co-founder of Instacart, which provides 1 hour supermarket delivery via personal shoppers, said:
– Solving a problem that you really care about is a key to success
– Raising the seed round is very difficult
– In the beginning, you need to do things that don’t scale to build your product and user base

Sam Altman, YC Combinator President said:
– Build something that your first 1000 users will really love
– Create a great user experience by making things as simple as possible
– Build a method to grow your user base into the product itself

David Lee, a VC at SV Angel said:
– With so many advances in technology and financing, there has never been a more exciting time to start a company
– You must be able to articulate your vision clearly and with passion
– Be self-critical and listen carefully and discerningly to the feedback you receive

I did not hear Chase Adam, a co-founder at Watsi give his talk.

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