Some very good discussion happening on Hacker News about "My Y Combinator interview."
GICodeWarrior wrote a good question:
I interviewed as a single founder as well. They spent the entire interview trying to directly match my idea to existing markets. I probably appeared stubborn as I tried to explain how my idea was different.
How could I appear other than stubborn?
I wrote a reply. I like how it turned out:
Okay, another lesson I learned the hard way. People tend to like their own opinion more than your opinion. If they say you might be wrong, they usually want you to say, "Wow, that's a really, really fascinating point you bring up. I'm going to strongly think about that." Maybe not YCombinator, but like 99.99% of the rest of the world.
As a word of advice to future single founders, they are going to aggressively push you the entire time. Be prepared to concede to them at some point even if they don't "get it." Otherwise, you will appear stubborn.
People need that. And y'know, you might be wrong. Or not. If you have a great reply, then maybe say, "You know, that's a fantastic point, I spend a lot of time thinking about that myself. Can I show you the numbers I ran on that?" Then show them, and say, "I still think about it. Do you think these numbers look good to go, or would it be worth considering more? What would you do about that concern, in my shoes?"
I'm going to keep the details vague here, but I remember one time I was selling something. The client wanted something else, that was stupider than my idea. But I was swallowed my pride and did it their way. Y'know why? Because I wanted their money more than they want my expertise. Oh, it was still a good deal for everyone. But they demanded it a certain way, and okay, you've got the money, you win, let's do it your way.
You wanted someone's money. Okay, they win, let's do it your way. Well, not that wishy-washy. But "I'll strongly consider that" (and then do! maybe even follow up on that point later with a few page brief/plan/strategy or something) is good. If you've already got the answers, stress how you think the other side is brilliant to bring that up, and you think about it and worry about constantly. Nobody wants to give money to someone that makes them feel stupid.
I don't know. Maybe this doesn't apply to YCombinator, they seem like the top 1% of intelligent and savvy people. But the other 99% of the world, definitely.
Edit: Once you've got a proven track record for doing massively amazing things, you can maybe just tell people how it's going to be and insist you're right. But that comes much later. If you seem like a commodity at all, you pretty much have to do it the way the people who have the money want it. When they bring up a concern, they really don't want it dismissed by some kid as not a big deal. Even if you're right (which you might not be).
Hey Sebastian, nice post and nice blog! I'm a new reader this week... As it happens, I am a single founder as well but already have some investors / experienced startup guys on board. And every time we have a difference of opinion, the scenario you describe plays out anew! I have learned that my opinion has a multiplier attached (like -.5 perhaps), and the multiplier is significantly smaller then theirs. :) Over the last couple of years I've really struggled with the line between listening to their advice and taking it even when I think there's a better way. One big example stands out where they thought I should do A, I thought we should do B, and I had tons of research to support my ideas. We did B, and when the dust settled I was completely wrong. In the end we learned from it and failing is where you practice succeeding, so I don't hold it against myself. You have to take risks and put yourself on the line. But the lesson reduced my stubbornness by a lot and these days I try harder to understand the voice of experience, and really question my ideas before I get attached to them.
I was seething. I was furious. And I was even more furious that I was furious. Agh, this is so bloody irrational of me, I can't believe I'm getting bent out of shape over this.
I'm transitioning into meta-furious. This is both bad and ridiculous.
I had been waiting for a shuttle bus and met two Chinese girls from Guangzho. Pretty girls, very so-so English, seemed like nice people. And as we were striking up a nice conversation, a very awkward guy jumped in to CHAT!!! Let's CHATTT!!!! HEY WHERE YOU FROM WHERE YOU GOING HOW LONG ARE YOU HERE?!?
Now, I can deal with someone jumping in to a conversation. Okay, maybe it's not always great. But you can roll with it. Usually. But not this time.
This time it was the proverbial Bull in the China Shop.
A couple days ago I read a book recommended by Tyler, whose blog is the only blog I read religiously.
Anyway, the book is about mastery, and it really rang true for me. In it the author talks about the different types of people who are NOT masters, and I am pretty clearly one of them. I'm "the hacker".
What that means is that I get some level of proficiency below mastery, get satisfied with it, and don't progress. I'm acutely aware of this - I get to the level where other people respect my skill, but never push myself as far as I could go / would like.