Lessons from Start-Up School


As the incubator model spreads and both virtual and real communities of start-ups proliferate, entrepreneurs learning from entrepreneurs is becoming more of an every-day event. Several groups are institutionalizing these lessons, and even opening them up to casual observers. 

At the recent Y Combinator’s Startup School event, it was as if one of the classmates in the front row took some really helpful notes just in case you played hooky. Among the positives: endure like a cockroach; learn from others; too much conviction can be a bad thing; and yes, mistakes are unavoidable and okay.  Among the negatives: avoid music; sales matter; and scale is rarely a solution to real problems.

As for alternatives to start-up school, the most vocal online crowd clearly advocates for the anti-MBA — and perhaps with some impact since actual MBA applications are down slightly for the first time in years.  For example, see this appeal to a personal MBA as opposed to accepting potentially burdensome debt, forgone earnings, and the rare glimpses of undergraduate fun at most business school programs, while even more dramatic is this harsh critique of hedge fund manager and PayPal co-founder Peter Theil’s proposal to pay entrepreneurs $100k to drop out of college. Now, just think what Jeff Spicoli might have earned.