More Graham-y Goodness

More Graham-y Goodness
Paul Graham returns, this time with a write-up of his Summer Founders Program for hackers.

I’ve admired the SFP before, but based on Paul’s write-up, it appears to have been even more successful than could possibly be hoped.

Out of eight groups, Paul thinks that three or four will make it–a remarkable success rate for venture-funded companies, let along companies that took in less than $20K.

There are also some important lessons:

“A researcher who studied the SFP startups said the one thing they had in common was that they all worked ridiculously hard. People this age are commonly seen as lazy. I think in some cases it’s not so much that they lack the appetite for work, but that the work they’re offered is unappetizing.The experience of the SFP suggests that if you let motivated people do real work, they work hard, whatever their age.”

I completely agree. I work with a number of entrepreneurs, ranging in age from 17 to 26, and none of them could possibly considered lazy. More importantly, all of them are doing what they love. I wish I had the exposure, experience, and cojones to start my own company when I was 18–alas, I had to wait until I was a relatively ancient 24.

“Here’s a handy rule for startups: competitors are rarely as dangerous as they seem. Most will self-destruct before you can destroy them. And it certainly doesn’t matter how many of them there are, any more than it matters to the winner of a marathon how many runners are behind him.”

Another important truth, and one which even the very experienced forget. Yes, there are competitors everywhere, but the most important thing is whether or not your users love your product. Time and again, companies have triumphed against oceans of competitors. Just look at Google, which I scoffed at as “another search engine” when it came out. My bad.

“Power is shifting from the people who deal with money to the people who create technology, and if our experience this summer is any guide, this will be a good thing.”

It is definitely getting cheaper to start a company, which is always a good thing. When people ask me why I like startups, I always say this: Microsoft is a 100,000 person company. What do you think would generate more innovation? Microsoft, or 10,000 10-person startups?

In this case, at least, a Doberman’s weight in chihuahuas beats a Doberman.

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