Paul Graham’s Startup School – Part 2

I’ve already talked about the conference once, but I thought I should address another point. I’m not a business prodigy or anything like that, but I try to listen and read as much as I can.

Lots of people have complained that the advice at Startup School was conflicting. Other than the people who spoke mostly of theoretics (the esteemed Michael Mandel for example), almost everyone said “Do X” and then the next person said “Don’t do X, Do Y”. This seems to have confused lots of people as to what the right path is, but I think they’re missing the point.

There IS no single right path.

We’re not talking about how to open a file on the filesystem or how to open a bank account. We’re talking about starting a business, appealing to customers, and potentially making it rich.

People, if you haven’t figured out that the public – and therefore the market and your industry – is fickle you need to go review your notes. How quickly did people jump to Google once it was demonstrated to be better? Prior to Google, all the searches were keyword searches, not actual rankings. It was terrible. Of course, people could easily flip to something else once it’s demonstrated to be better.

This has led to the popularity of things like Flickr. A handful of people start using it and find out that it’s better/cheaper/faster/more flexible than the previous alternative and they tell all their friends. Is it possible to bump off Flickr with something better? Definitely. Is it possible to still make money with the old model? Definitely… for a little while longer.

Just because one person did it one way and it worked, doesn’t mean it will work again and it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t work again. There are too many variables at play that have to be considered. Figure out what your way is and make it happen. If you look to other people’s successes/failures, figure out why they succeeded/failed instead of simply trying to emulate them.