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  • Writer's pictureLeo J Barnett

21 principles from Y-Combinator's Startup Playbook

From Sam Altman’s (Creator of Open.AI.) Startup Playbook:


  1. Build a Great Product - the foundation of all successful companies.

  2. Build a "Product Improvement Engine" - focus on constantly improving the product based on user feedback.

  3. CEO's Only Job Is to Win - the CEO's role is to ensure the company's success.

  4. Great Execution = Growth + Momentum - profitable growth solves all problems.

  5. Focus on Solving For Growth - address any limitations to growth.

  6. Think Short Term - don't worry too much about the future.

  7. Avoid Common Growth Mistakes - deals and big press launches rarely work.

  8. Grow the Right Way - build a loved product, manually recruit users, and test growth strategies.

  9. Bring Focus + Intensity - founders should focus and work intensely.

  10. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint - success takes time and requires self-care. (My personal favourite)

  11. Cheerfully Fix Problems - everything will feel broken, but fix with a smile. You'll fix just as much as you build sometimes. Especially with new tech. Enjoy the bug exterminating!

  12. Don’t Make Excuses - excuses lead to failure.

  13. Control Perceptions - distort reality for others but stay paranoid.

  14. Be Persistent - don't give up too soon, find root causes and address them.

  15. Be Optimistic - the CEO should believe in a better future and infect the company.

  16. Define Mission & Values Early - set early and stick with them.

  17. Build a Religion - connect daily work to a higher purpose.

  18. Don’t Reinvent the Wrong Wheels - don't innovate in well-trodden areas, focus on new solutions.

  19. Hire Slowly - The most successful companies at YC have waited a relatively long time to start hiring employees. Employees are expensive + Fixing bad code can be VERY expensive and time consuming. Take the tome to get it right.

  20. Hire for Aptitude Over Experience - Look for raw intelligence and a history of getting things DONE. Look for people like YOU.

  21. Avoid “Hero Mode” - Don’t try and do everything yourself. It usually ends in carnage. Listen to and read the full essay here: https://playbook.samaltman.com/

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