Under the guise of providing a new and updated definition of "startup", Paul Graham provides a fascinating insight into the way YCombinator focuses their startup founders. The key is a focus on relentless, week-on-week growth
We usually advise startups to pick a growth rate they think they can hit, and then just try to hit it every week. The key word here is "just." If they decide to grow at 7% a week and they hit that number, they're successful for that week. There's nothing more they need to do. But if they don't hit it, they've failed in the only thing that mattered, and should be correspondingly alarmed.
It's an interesting way to drive activity, to be contrasted with the "Lean Startup" approach that focuses on validated learning. Certainly YCombinator is successful with it, no doubt about that. However, YCombinator startups benefit from the regular input and insight of a set of people who, individually, have broad, deep and long experience building, watching and helping startups in many contexts. Collectively, these people (Paul G, Jessica, Harj, Paul B, Garry, and many others - and let's not forget the network of YC Alumni) represent, by far, the greatest concentration of startup-relevant experience, wisdom and connections in the world.
And even so their success rate is very far from 100%.
Competing incubators, accelerators, and indeed startups, would do well to bear that in mind before they try to emulate this model without the same advantages, and instead of trying to copy the focus on growth, they perhaps should try to reproduce the impressive support system that enables such an approach to work.
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