In the Startup School episode "Should You Start A Startup?" YC Group Partner Harj Taggar offers guidance on the types of people best suited to be startup founders and how to prepare to start a company in the future.
Types of People Best Suited to Be Startup Founders
When it comes to being a startup founder, resilience is the most critical characteristic a founder should assess. Many of us might think high energy and confidence are early signs of resilience. However, after years of working with almost a thousand startups, Harj Taggar highlights that there are other signs that a founder would be resilient and, thus, successful.
You will face many challenges and rejections, which you can take personally while starting your startup. You need to overcome contradictions and stay resilient. He saw lots of founders beginning their startup journey with high motivation and energy, then turned out to fail in the end. On the other hand, the ones who seemed quiet and unconfident initially would be the most successful.
Initial Motivation Isn't Important
There are many perfectly legitimate motivations to start a company. For example, it is a famous saying that you should not find a startup to make money. You can start your startup with financial incentives because the initial reason is not essential. That's fine. Startups are one of the few ways that help you make life-changing amounts of money in a relatively short period.
Harj says initial motivation is not essential because bases can change over time. He knows a startup founder starting his company to sell it in a year, changed his mind and kept working on the company and still working on the same startup a decade later, and now it's a public company.
This means that your initial motivations to start a startup are less important than what those motivations might change over time. To keep working on a startup and going through those dark periods that every startup experiences, you need enduring inspiration. The best one is generally to be interested in the problem you're working on and to love the people you're working with.
Ask Yourself, "What do I have to lose?"
If you're curious about what it looks like to start a company, ask yourself, "What do I have to lose?". This question is not a rhetorical one but a practical one.
Figure out what the worst-case scenario would look like if you started a startup and decide if you could live with that. It will likely take a year to get enough data to determine whether the startup you're working on is promising enough to continue working on. In the worst-case scenario, you will close the company without receiving much or any pay for that year.
If you're about to graduate college, taking a year after graduation to work on a startup isn't a big deal because those job offers will still be waiting for you in a year. Still, if you've been a FANG employee for the past nine years and you're in line for a big promotion this year, you might stand to lose a lot by spending the next year working on a startup.
Instead, the best method to determine whether you should start a business is to ask yourself if you can handle the worst-case scenario. Your persistent concern will protect your startup efforts if you can take the worst-case scenario. When considering the worst-case scenario of working on a startup, you should consider something else.
Startup Experience Can Improve Your Career Opportunities
Even if the startup fails, your experiences can aid you in progressing in your career. He works with hundreds of employers to find the best talent. He discovered that many of them explicitly wanted to hire people with prior startup experience because they demonstrated proof of being a self-starter and able to take the initiative and manage initiatives.
Some of the most successful YC firms have formed their hiring practices around this understanding. Rippling, a $10 billion firm started by Parker Conrad and a YC startup, employs previous Founders and places them in charge. "Usually, we love hiring former Founders to run specific product lines, build them, and run them as general managers. We've been, you know, successful at recruiting I think we have probably around 50 former founders that work at Rippling."
Getting Ready to Start a Startup in the Future
Let's say you do decide you can live with the worst case of doing a startup, but you're not ready to do one right now; how can you best prepare yourself to start one in the future to start the company? You'll want two things an idea and a co-founder now.
Let's talk about what to do if it takes some time to get to that point; I'd start by encouraging you not to think of finding ideas and co-founders as separate tasks. It takes time to think up good thoughts yourself. Debate and discussion are essential; your co-founder is the best person to do that with. He finds his best ideas come to him during conversations with intelligent people, so I'll start by thinking about who you know and whom you enjoy talking about ideas.
At work, these are the colleagues who you find make you the most productive and help you do your best work. This primes your mind to more easily notice and think of potential startup ideas, enabling you better to know your friends or colleagues as potential co-founders. If you need help thinking of people you enjoy discussing ideas with, you probably need to change your environment and meet some new people.
The Best Environment is Working at a Startup
If you want to start your own business one day, it's better to work in an environment where you'll be surrounded by many people who could one day be your co-founder. Working for a startup is the best atmosphere for this. You learn how a startup operates from the inside, and your colleagues will be less risk-averse than the average Fang employee. So, if you're still in college, it's better to look for a startup to work for after graduation.
If you work for a Fang company, consider leaving to join a startup as a first step toward launching your someday. Once you're surrounded by intellectual people with whom you enjoy discussing ideas, I urge you to begin experimenting with converting these ideas into side projects. You'll eventually say something like, huh, it'd be amazing if someone created X at some point throughout these chats. This is the time to pause and consider how you might be the one to start X.
Is there a simple initial version you could develop in a weekend, or can you identify other potential consumers and pitch the idea to them to see how they react? Keep pulling on this thread until you've come up with a plan to transform this idea into something tangible. You are not attempting to launch the next unicorn at this time, no matter how modest. You're still getting used to the feeling of bringing ideas into reality and the rush of launching something new.
1-Do not worry about starting motivations-curiosity is enough
2-Do the Worst Case Scenario Analysis first
3-Find intelligent people to talk ideas with
4-Turn ideas into side projects and launch them
5-If you enjoy the process, make the jump