Everything Y Combinator know about how to start a startup, for free

How does this sound to you?

CS183B is a class we’re teaching at Stanford. It’s designed to be a sort of one-class business course for people who want to start startups.

Videos of the lectures, associated reading materials, and assignments will all be available here. There will be 20 videos, some with a speaker or two and some with a small panel. It’ll be 1,000 minutes of content if you watch it all.

We’ll cover how to come up with ideas and evaluate them, how to get users and grow, how to do sales and marketing, how to hire, how to raise money, company culture, operations and management, business strategy, and more.

You can’t teach everything necessary to succeed in starting a company, but I suspect we can teach a surprising amount. We’ve tried to take some of the best speakers from the past 9 years of Y Combinator dinners and arrange them in a way that will hopefully make sense.

We’re doing this because we believe helping a lot of people be better at starting companies will be good for everyone. It will hopefully be valuable even for people who don’t want to start startups.

Talks like these have really helped Y Combinator founders create their companies. We hope you find it helpful too!

-Sam, President, Y Combinator

If that sounds good check out the first lecture from Sam below, who says in introduction “We’ve taught a lot of this class at YC and it’s all been off-the-record. And this is the first time a lot of what we teach is going to be on-the-record”.

Read the full video transcript here.

Marketing is all about finding and supplying demand

Here’s an easy assertion to kick off this blog post, marketing is all about demand. Why? Because one thing that startup marketing teaches you is that you’ve got very little in tangible terms if you don’t have much in the way of demand for your product or service. But I’m not writing this to focus on startups, on using this to help focus regular SME marketing on demand. Why? Because it works. If you have something which your existing customers or potential customers want, then the regular business activity to turn that demand into hard cash follows accordingly.

Of course, with an established business it may not be clear where new demand lies. You already do a great job servicing existing clients with our existing offering, but how do you go beyond that, focusing on demand as your guide? Well, this is a bit of a growth hacking type challenge in my opinion. In the sense that often the answers to growth hacking within an existing business are often connected to existing activity, you’re not trying to make a ‘great leap forward’ more a matter of connecting the dots with what you offer and what customers want. Rather than go into more detail on this theme let me give you an example, which I suspect is what you want to read about (we’re back to demand, see!).

In a marketing role working for an expanding recruitment business MHR London, looking to find new business for their temporary staff offering, I recently undertook some online market research into how the Christmas shopping scene was likely to change over the next few years, drawing on my previous online experience from like of eBay. What I found reading leading industry magazine ‘Shopping Centre’ quoting Patrick O’Brien, principal analyst at Verdict last Christmas, is that:

“Shoppers have greater confidence in online retailing now and are prepared to leave holiday purchases right up until just before Christmas. This is supported by the rise of click & collect services. Retailers have rushed to develop and market their click & collect services, leaving shoppers the convenience of collecting purchases in store instead of having to ensure they are at home at the right time,” he concluded.

Building on this initial analysis I looked for insight which supported the case for the demand-led fact that the pre-Christmas rush is only going to get bigger. Overall UK shoppers’ click and collect grows in popularity (from 35% in 2014 to 76% by 2017) according to retail analysts Planet Retail. This is because from a consumer pov the number one barrier to shopping online is the cost of delivery. Similarly, the Planet Retail research showed that 1 in 4 online shoppers are deterred by inconvenient delivery times.

To conclude this blog post, what I’ve done is put two and two together. Firstly that click and collect services is rapidly growing. Secondly, following confidence in online shopping to deliver the goods, customers are likely to leave collection more and more to the last minute. Which means I’ve putting together the online Christmas shopping behavourial analysis from Verdict, and the click and collect analysis from Planet Retail, I’ve now found a potential niche market for a specific service of the recruitment company worth focusing on. Namely the supply of high quality Christmas temporary staff, backed up by MHR’s expert hiring and support, to shopping centres to ensure the quality and quantity staff to meet the pressures created by the expanding Christmas rush. Merry Xmas!

How far has crowdsourcing finance come in five years?


After watching this BBC report on crowdfunding I started wondering how the piece I wrote for ICAEW’s community in December 2008 on the power of crowdsourcing ‘Is web 2.0 enabling a new kind of financing?’ looks now in July 2014?

Certainly crowdfunding startups through investment (equity) has come along way, first with Crowdcube and more recently Seedrs, which was inspired by Zopa.


Screenshot 2014-07-11 17.10.23

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From one startup to another, via Chicago and Leicester

A short anecdotal story linking one innovative global startup which launched in Chicago to my own mini startup which launched in Leicester last year?

Back in 2006 I joined MedicExchange to launch a click-to-use software product designed to disrupt the medical imaging market that tied manufacturer’s machinery to their software. When I left the company in 2007 after two trips to RSNA in Chicago (staying at the famous Ambassador East Hotel) I’d also got interested in the property market, thanks to our CEO, who’d also invested in bricks and mortar.

Cotton_Mill

I did an unusual thing though and instead of buying in London where I worked, I bought a converted factory apartment in the centre of Leicester. Crazy huh? I know, luckily my entrepreneurial drive didn’t completely fail me, and eventually after finishing a contract with Sony in 2012 I got the startup bug again.  Continue reading

One way I’ve used to growth hack a business to create social ROI

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There’s nothing complicated about this method. It simply involves the following elements:

  1. A copy of your latest business plan, or a similar document.
  2. A day or half day according to your availability.
  3. The desire to align your marketing and overall business aims and objectives.

In the successful example working with curry snack food retailer Mindi’s I created a half day workshop using the business model canvas approach, and focused on a social model canvas version, which aligned with their business objectives. To note they hadn’t got a detailed business plan to work with, even though their business was already up and running.

Anyhow the results speak for themselves. Since the June 2013 workshop PR coverage rocketed, and the business has gone from strength to strength. I don’t claim credit for their hard work or product innovation, simply for the approach in aligning their marketing and business model canvas, to create a simple shared understanding between the co-founders of what needed to be done.

And as I observed following discussions at the excellent Socialbakers’ Engage 2014 event yesterday where they launched a new social ad analytics tool, there is a powerful added value to this approach to setting up your social media marketing. Going forward by aligning activity to business objectives going forward it will be much simpler to measure your social ROI, as demonstrated by Oliver Blanchard: