How to Start a Startup with Y Combinator

Back in September I stumbled upon the How to Start a Startup course at Stanford. Every year Y Combinator teaches a class at Stanford for Computer Science majors, assisting and teaching hard skills on how to create and grow a new business. The fall 2014 class was the first time the class was made publicly accessible and available to anyone online.

I’ve never studied business or entrepreneurial endeavors, honestly I thought that was something you just do and don’t need to read about or study. But what I learned from the How to Start a Startup course was infinitely valuable, at least to expand my understanding of how many of the products and services I personally use work.

I suggest the class to anyone interested in a business endeavor, even if it is not a startup per se. You will still learn great lessons and new ways to approach problems.

What is Y Combinator?

Y Combinator is a startup accelerator, a place for entrepreneurs to find funding, advice, and connections over several months. Hopeful entrepreneurs apply to Y Combinator twice a year for the chance to be selected for the next batch of businesses to go through the Y Combinator program. Notable companies that went through the Y Combinator program include Scribd, Reddit, Airbnb, Dropbox, Disqus, and Stripe.

In exchange for a small percentage of equity, Y Combinator assists in building startups through advice, coaching, office hours, and more.

The Course

The class consisted of lectures every Tuesday and Thursday by some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the industry – from Peter Thiel, Ben Silbermann, Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, and many more – and was facilitated by Y Combinator president Sam Altman. Altman was a part of the first batch of Y Combinator entrepreneurs back in 2005.

In addition to video lectures a list of Recommended Reading for each week included articles focusing on that weeks topic. Articles linked to the writings of many of the lecturers and Y Combinator staff members. Reading assignments were extensive and daunting, but extremely helpful and informative.

Basically for the months I followed along with the class I dropped all books I was reading because I had to focus on the reading assignments. I do think the reading is a necessity if you really want to learn from the class. It reinforces and expands on the ideas mentioned in the lectures.

Several social communities also existed for students following along with the class. A Facebook group exists with over 40K participants, and a Reddit group exists where students share project ideas and offer thoughts.

Start Learning

If you are interested in going through the full How to Start a Startup course or want to cherry pick a few lectures there are several ways to find the class content.

The home base for the course is on Sam Altman’s site: How to Start a Startup. You can find the videos on Youtube, and if you like that be sure to check out all videos by Y Combinator.

Check out Lecture 1 for a sample of the class:

Lecture 1 – How to Start a Startup
feat. Sam Altman & Dustin Moskovitz

It’s Time to Graduate, Part II

Welcome to the second installment of the It’s Time to Graduate word of advice column from a dude who, not so long ago, was in your place. In It’s Time to Graduate, Part I we covered the basics of what graduating designers and developers need to consider when leaving school and preparing for their first professional job. This time around I’m not going to focus on points to help designers and developers but talk about things I’ve learned and thought about in my years since entering the ‘real world’ that should help everyone.

Continue reading It’s Time to Graduate, Part II

It’s Time to Graduate, Part I

Three years ago I graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Communication Design. Little did I know the five years spent in the university system did not prepare me for the working world. But that’s okay, what I have learned in the past three years is that education is continual, my time at college was the beginning, a stepping stone toward my future career.

I want to give a word of advice to any soon-to-be graduates in preparation for entering the working field of design and/or development. These are all things I have learned over the past three years, and wish someone had provided me while in school (really when I was a freshman).

Continue reading It’s Time to Graduate, Part I

Hello World or How My Career Started with a TI83 Calculator

The Hello World text is synonymous, for developers, with the start of a new project, and often a new technology. The simple phrase has a long history as a starting block for software development and testing.

A Personal Journey

My first experience with coding and development was in the fourth grade. Every month my school would hand out a short packet from Scholastic with books and other items for sale (a brilliant way for Scholastic and the school to make some money off kids, right!). In one catalogue I discovered a computer “game” which would teach kids the programming language BASIC while building video games.

Continue reading Hello World or How My Career Started with a TI83 Calculator