6 Lessons From Y Combinator’s Startup School



Startup School? WTF is that? That was the typical responses I got from my friends when I asked them if they would be there. I forget how small the startup world is but their loss is definitely our gain.

On June 18th we attended the Y Combinator Startup School. We were ready to #bossup and learn from some of our start up peers killing the game.

Most of the speakers were from Y Combinator and gave us dope advice along with insights to their journeys which we are huge fans of.

You can watch the videos here, but nothing beats being there live!

Here are a few things I took home with me:

You never Know Who You Are Sitting Next To, Say What’s Up

Let’s keep it real there’s not too many people from our culture at events like this so it’s very easy to fall back and keep to yourself. Y Combinator had some of the best people in the startup world in one place for one day, you better believe we were going to take advantage of it.

It was one elevator pitch after another but in an informal way. People weren’t really selling you their businesses they just were used to describing it a certain way. I started running into other founders or employees of startups I really admired. People I learned from a far were now right in front of me telling me how dope The Phat Startup was and how we could work together.

The connections made… just raised the value of my Rolodex and are starting to pay off. It’s as simple as saying what’s good to the person sitting next to you. Don’t be too cool to speak to a stranger, they might just be your next business partner.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Pass Go

Every single founder on the stage took the most important step necessary to start a business…. they started!

They didn’t plan for years to take over the world, they didn’t wait for permission as the host for the night Alexis Ohanian would say. They played the game. They didn’t know all the rules, they didn’t have all the skills, all they had was how much effort they were willing to put into their hustle.

Zach Sims stated, “accelerate your learning by doing.” That can be by building the website you always wanted to build by learning how to code at Codeacademy. Or it can be by you getting a front seat on a rocket ship. There’s nothing wrong in joining another team or crew that’s building something game changing and learning from them. Just move!

Done is better than perfect, so get started and #bossup.

Honor Your Words, Not Just Your Contracts

Kathryn Minshew of TheMuse.com talked about a few of the things she learned and the quote above really stuck out. While growing your business you will agree to things informally at times and it can be a headache after a while. We all know things change so contracts sometimes have to change, but be sure to keep your word. You want to be seen as the person that will keep their word even if a contract was never made. Be prepared to honor what you say or have others look at you funny.

On Fund Raising:

Chase Adam of  Watsi spoke about the difficulties involved around raising money for his non- profit. He said, “No one wants to be the 1st taking a chance.” I hear this often from some of the most successful people out there. Don’t get emotional from that no, if you had the money you need would you give it to someone that doesn’t know you or your business? You have to keep building until that value speaks for itself before anyone else sees value in it.

Perseverance and Fund-raising

Ever pitched your idea and got shut down? After that 1st time did you quit or keep at it? Imagine pitching 150 people, getting 148 no’s and 2 maybes, comeback later. That’s what Kathryn Minshew went through before getting into Y Combinator. Now that’s gangster. Many of us claim to want it but do you want it as bad as her? If you don’t you might want to rethink your expectations. If you are about that life get ready to get hit with no’s but always remember you just need one yes.

Don’t Believe The Hype

Last but not least, many of the speakers talked about getting over the hype we see on techcrunch and such. It still happens to me, I’ll read something about someone raising 10 million from an investor or selling to google for 100 million. Sometimes i will ask why and how they got that love because it doesn’t make sense. What a waste of time.

Kathryn was on a roll and said, “you are comparing your day to day to everyone else’s high light reel!” That statement is GOLD! What they do has nothing to do with what you do so you have to stay focused on your product and your costumers. All other things really don’t matter especially if they are not even in the same lane as you.

Believe in your product and your customers not the hype around you.

Startup School was dope as hell and I hope they do more of these in NYC soon. If you have the chance to attend one, don’t sleep. Who knows maybe you will see a Y Combinator x The Phat Startup mash up in the future.



Reprinted with permission

Photo credit: CC by @KatManalac

About the author: The Phat Startup

The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that produces premium content for all levels of entrepreneurs.  We are inspired by and fuse together Lean Startup methodology and Hip Hop culture.

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