Friday, October 26, 2012

Y-Combinator's Startup School 2012

Well, the hits just kept on rollin' this past weekend.

After an awesome start to the weekend, hanging out with a bunch of the people involved in the One Laptop Per Child organization and discussing how I might help contribute to their open source efforts, I spent all of Saturday with my high school bro Alex down at Stanford for Y-Combinator's Startup School 2012 lecture series.

The hit-list of quality speakers was through the roof:

Yes, THE Mark Zuckerberg. Yeah, so that was amazing.

All of the talks were phenomenal, but my favourite speakers were Zuck as well as Tom Preston-Werner from Github and Ben Silbermann from Pinterest.

Mark Zuckerberg and Paul Graham
Zuck was insanely kick ass, cause, well, he's Zuck - an incredibly inspiring figure and has been both absurdly successful as well as obsessively committed to the success of his company. Really awesome. His discussion with Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham was really fantastic, and they covered a lot of ground about his early days starting Facebook and how he "decided to start a business.". It felt like he really wanted to solve a problem, and he designed something to solve it - we was not passionate about starting a business, he was passionate about solving a real-world problem. Great advice.

"Explore what you want to do before committing, and keep yourself flexible." -- Mark Zuckerberg.

This is excellent advice, and very encouraging given my previous post about my interest in contributing to the open source One Laptop Per Child project. Very cool.

The crowd was excited and fun, and we got free Pizza and snacks (score).

Brains, unite!
Tom from Github was just a fascinating and interesting guy, very dedicated and just seemed like he had his priorities in life straight. A great speaker and a guy really committed to a quality product. There were literally a bazillion awesome quotes from him: "Everything you add (to your product) takes something away" - focus on quality and design, not features. "If you have a strong culture, it helps you to attract the kind of people that naturally fit your philosophy".

During the second break, Ron Conway (from SV Angels), the famous Silicon Valley "Angel Investor" was there and we got to shake his hand and tell him we enjoyed his talk. "We're originally from Canada, but we love it here" I said to him. "Oh yeah", he replied, "You're in the epicenter" :)

Ron Conway at Startup School 2012

Ben Horowitz was hilarious and a great speaker. His most memorable joke was, "As a startup CEO I slept like a baby: I woke up every two hours and cried." haha well played :)

I really enjoyed Ben Silbermann from Pinterest, too. His appreciation for his employees was very obvious, talking about how each employee has a stake in the company's future financial success and that it's very important for everyone to be emotionally invested in the success of the company. He seemed like a really nice and kind team leader, rather than the "alpha male" personality I was hoping wasn't going to be too rampant around here (there were a few, though, and it was tiring). He reminded me a bit of Biz Stone, who I saw talk at the JCCSF a couple weeks back. Unlike that hilarious-but-probably-too-often-true Simpsons quote from Mr. Burns... "Family, Religion, Friendship. These are the 3 demons you must slay to succeed in business"... it seems the Ben (like Biz) looks towards a bigger picture of relationship building and friendship online and is not just chasing a payday like some entrepreneurs certainly are. That was refreshing and awesome to see.

Startup School 2012
After a long day of excellent talks, Alex and I headed back to San Francisco with a ton of things to talk about and a head full of inspiration. It was just really, really cool to hear these incredibly successful people talk about their experiences. It's very impressive that they can weather the insane roller-coaster ride of the startup world... it seems pretty epically stressful. It sure is cool to see people this passionate and this dedicated to their chosen craft. As Ron Conway said, we are in the epicenter. I love this city!

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