I enjoy examining experiences months after the fact. I find it provides further insights, as I can see the outcome(s) of my actions. What I have to say, is my experience participating in Y Combinators Startup School 2017 was definitely a note worthy and eye opening experience. It was worth my time and yours, if you plan to starting a business.
What I Learned at Startup School
Let’s cut to the chase, what will you learn if you participate? To be honest, I can’t tell you. Some people learned about user acquisition, others learned about scaling a business.
What I learned I have a lot to learn, and that’s okay. No one knows what they are doing, but networking is key. It keeps the doors open.
Startup School is structured in such a way it reminds me of a therapy group – I’ve referred to it to others as “Startups Anonymous“. You have a mentor (in my case Brad Flora) who leads a group; I was apart of Group-19. Weekly, you watch a lecture then meet and discuss your thoughts on the video – as well as any progress you made as a business. The lectures are timed in such a way, that they cover topics your startup may be going through. This could be building a product, user acquisition, etc.
Personally, the lectures weren’t the interesting part. I’ve done similar programs before such as cozad. What I found valuable was the group meetings. If you’re an academic or in an established industry you network by going to conferences or trade shows; but where do you go to network with other startup founders…?
That is where Startup School found it’s niche.
Networking and Sharing
Just to name a few of the companies in my group, we had:
- HR Partner (From Australia)
- Read by Humans (around the World – now Defunct)
- UpSonder (Around L.A.)
And there were plenty more. Even outside our group, we had people who made things like CryptoKitties.
All of the teams you had the opportunity to network with. You get to see their struggles, learn from their mistakes, and discuss why they thought X failed, and Y worked.
Further, at least I had the opportunity to network between startups. Introducing people from my group to other startup founders I knew (helping grow their business). Hell, even a few weeks ago I reached out to one of my old cohort to share a new opportunity. That helped secure them business.
The Sharing of Knowledge was Invaluable
Everyone was at different stages, and at least half our group failed to launch or dropped out. The half that did stay though… man. They were a tough group of people who were going to grow their businesses & adjust as needed – and that’s what I’ve never seen anywhere else.
Your group members drive will inspire you and their advice help avoid mistakes & identify opportunities. Even now, what I saw is helping me six months later. The fact all the startups were at different stages, really helps make it a meaningful experience, as I can draw on what they learned.
There was one big drawback for me. I was building a rather complex and large platform called ProjectPiglet (yes that’s a code name, it will be called InsiderOpinion). It was designed to be a platform which I can launch other project from. It’s simply an ingestion engine, which parses subject matter and identifies sentiment around related subject matter. However, with that I could launch at least four or five businesses I had in mind – the first one being something like a Bloomberg Terminal for the average joe.
Unfortunately, I launched the very last day of Startup School, with what could be classified as pre-MVP. Seriously, it was bad. I should have definitely chunked out a smaller piece and reviewed if people actually wanted the product. This would have made better use of Startup School’s resources, and I could have advanced the project quicker – albeit differently. Now, six months later – it looks pretty good:
It took me six months, and now although it’s growing slowly – it is growing. Of course, I’m just about to start really pushing advertising. Since Startup School, we’ve worked with around 60 Beta Testers, now we are looking to grow to ~1000.
Would I do Startup School Again?
Would I do Startup School again? I would. It was super useful, and worth everyones time who’s looking to start a business. I’ve spoken about it before on Hacker News, and always recommend it.
If you’re interested in my Startup School Video / Final Presentation here it is.