Collection of Contradictory Advice for Founders

Jul 21 2020
If you survey enough people, all of the advice will cancel to zero. - Naval Ravikant 


 The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth. – Niels Bohr

Founders get bombarded with inputs on how to do things properly. Often, the advice you get from one person directly conflicts with what you hear from another.

Blindly following advice can be dangerous. A cargo cult approach to entrepreneurship likely won't get you too far. In this complex world, nuances and context matter.

This post is a growing list of advice from various startup influencers, and "conventional wisdom". The purpose is to help you see the other perspectives. And pick ideas that best match your situation. At the very least, being exposed a plurality of ideas forces you to think for yourself. Or better yet, get out of your head and learn by doing.

I will keep updating this list. If you have any additions/suggestions, tweet at me @jhlyeung .

Coming up with ideas

Solve a problem you have

Sources: Paul Graham , conventional wisdom

Live in the future, then build what's missing

Sources: Paul Graham , Mike Maples Jr 

Design the category you're in

Sources: Mike Maples Jr , Play Bigger 

Top-down: starting with a vision

Have a vision of the future, then work backwards. "Backcasting".

Bottom-up: solving a specific problem

The opposite of the above.


Don't worry about competition

Sources: Paul Graham , Justin Kan 

Competition is for losers

Sources: Peter Thiel 

Don't outcompete. Be different

Sources: Ann Miura-Ko 

PIck existing categories. They are already validated

Sources: Indie Hackers 

Forming a team

You need co-founders

Sources: Paul Graham , conventional wisdom

It's fine being a solo founder

Sources: Sahil Lavingia , Ethan Mollick 

Sharing equity among co-founders

50/50 or bust

Sources: Y Combinator 

Other ways of splitting

Examples: Microsoft , Oracle 


If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late

Sources: Reid Hoffman

Build a "minimum remarkable product"

Sources: David Rusenko 

Raising money

Get lots of money to grow as fast as you can

Sources: conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley

You don't need venture capital

Sources: Indie Hackers, DHH 

How to spend your time

The most important tasks are to write code, and talk to users.

Sources: Y Combinator 

Spend 50% on the product, 50% on traction.

Sources: Gabriel Weinberg 

Do things that don't scale

Sources: Paul Graham 

Build a personal audience before even starting

Sources: Indie Hackers 

You can do it part-time

Sources: Side Hustle School , Indie Hackers

 The whole point of doing anything is because it makes you happy! That’s it!

Sources: Derek Sivers 

It is not that the startup gurus are wrong, but rather the world is incredibly complex. It is unlikely that simplistic rules and generic advice will hold across different situations. There's also the difference in what you want as a founder.

I will continue to update this list, so do check back from time to time.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Let's stay in touch.