Sam Altman’s CS183B – Lecture 4 – Adora Cheung

Lecture 4 was on Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing by Adora Cheung. Adora is the CEO of HomeJoy, a online platform which connects customers with house cleaners. Adora Cheung did the first few cleaning jobs herself(Talk about dogfooding), and until late 2013 continued to work at least one cleaning job per month. HomeJoy, After Series B, led by Google Ventures, in early December 2013,  has raised about $38 million totally so far.

Salient points from the talk.

  1. Build a startup when you have a big block of available free time!
  2. Build a startup that solves a problem you have. Adora and her brother Aaron started a company called PathJoy(online platform to connect users to life coaches), but didn’t continue after a years effort, since they realized it wasnt the problem they wanted to solve.
  3. Start by learning A LOT about the target segment, become experts,story board ideal user experience. Build an MVP and put it out, smallest feature set to solve the problem, with simple product positioning.
  4. Have lots of avenues for customer feedback. Go out, talk to users. But setup support@company , surveys, qualitative,quantitative feedback, beware of the honesty curve, graph everything. Stealth is stupid.
  5. There are three types of growth. Sticky, viral, and paid growth.

Sticky growth is trying to get your existing users to come back and pay you more or use you more. Viral growth is when people talk about you. So you use a product, you really like it and you tell ten other friends, and they like it. That’s viral growth. And the third is paid growth. If you happen to have money in the bank you’re going to be able to use part of that money to buy growth.

Key to growth = Sustainability


Sam Altman’s CS183B – Lecture 3 – PG

Lecture 3 had  Paul Graham speaking on the Counterintuitive Parts of Startups, and How to Have Ideas. PG is an advisory icon and the founder and former president of YCombinator, and the primary driving force for this list of amazingly good startup’s. He is also known for his essays on startups.

PG spoke about how startup’s are counter intuitive.

1.)  Startups are counterintuitive! They are like skiing. The first counterintuitive point is that , You cant trust  your intuition about startups,but you can trust your intuition about people.

2.) The second counterintuitive point is that what you need to succeed in a startup is not expertise in startups, what you need is expertise in your own users. Most startups founders now go through the motion of building a startup, because it feels cool, hire people, rent an office in SoMa etc., But forget to do the one important thing, build something users want.

3.) The third counterintuitive thing to remember about startups: starting a startup is where gaming the system stops working. IN a large company, you can get away by sucking up to people, sending emails late nights and on weekends to create an illusion of hard work, but you cant do that in startups, because there is no boss/management to fool, and you are fooling yourself. To some extent with the right phrases you can fool some investors but its not in your interest to do so!

4.) The fourth counterintuitive point is that startups are all consuming but this doesn’t end once you grow as a company. They take over your life. As the companies get bigger, the problems don’t go away, they just change scale. Larry page, a billionaire, still has a lot of problems to tackle daily.  IT NEVER GETS EASIER. It maybe a different set of problems but still the total volume of worry never decreases. Mark Z cant bum around a foreign country

5.) The fifth counterintuitive point is that the age/point in your life at which you should start a startup will eventually come to you. Starting startups is hard, but the answer to the question when should I do it, you can tell!

Reading how to get ideas is here: An exercise left to the reader.

PG’s essay on the topic.