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.
When I write about "average people" or "average Americans", I often get flack about it. Some people call me elitist. Occasionally I get called something worse. Then there are the comments about how if everyone did something that I suggest, it wouldn't work anymore, or that the average person isn't exactly the same as me, so he may not be able to do everything I can do. All this boils down to a pretty good topic for a post.
Who exactly am I talking about when I talk about average people? The best way to define my usage of the term would be to say that I'm talking about people who live lives of defaults. They go with the flow and conform to society's expectations of them. That doesn't mean that they're all exactly the same-- there's enough chaos in the world to make everyone completely unique. But although the expressions of their principles are unique, the actual principles are pretty much the same. They do what's easiest. They may have big dreams, but they have low goals. They work as hard as they have to. They don't make independent decisions.
That's not to say that they ALWAYS fit exactly into this mold, only that they usually do. And there's a bell curve, of course, with some people being dead average, some people being mostly average, and then way out on the fringes there are weirdos like myself, and probably even weirder people than me.
Why do I rant about average people so much? It's not because I hate them or think poorly of them-- it's actually because I believe that they're capable of much more and would have better lives if they made the effort. Mostly I think it's a shame that so many people are plodding down this worn trail when there's lots of undiscovered wilderness to explore. I have some contempt for their actions, but not for them as people.