Build Almost Nothing
I graduated from YCombinator a few months ago (S12 Easel). One of the most interesting parts of experience was being very close to my fellow batchmates. I was able to see in real-time and almost first-hand all the little struggles and successes. I got to see a huge variety of different skill-type distributions – some companies with all tech founders, some with mostly non-tech founders – attack their problem spaces in many different ways.
As a technical guy, watching the companies who were solving non-technical problems was particularly eye opening. I developed an extreme appreciation and respect for these hustling skills. To give an overview, their approach was generally this: build almost nothing at first (MVP!), pound the pavement and get customers to pay right away for a service they do manually, then build things to make the manual pains go away as they get more customers. It even worked for one technical team – an enterprise API. When called, the API would just email the founders, they would do the work manually, then asynchronously return the result.
This approach has wormed its way into my brain and I now think about startups in one of two categories: tech-first and service-first.
— Ben Ogle