Richard Reis
Jul 23 · 3 min read
By Richard Reis

Recently, I started building an app, Gurgeh. Every week I learn something new (this is a common feeling among founders). So I decided to share my weekly lessons in the hopes that (1) I don’t forget them and (2) they help you on your own journey.

YC’s Startup School 2019 began yesterday. So today’s the right day for this post.

I love YC’s advice.

In fact, I read and summarized every essay written by YC’s founder, Paul Graham (here, here, and here).

Unfortunately, YC only happens twice a year. The Winter batch (January through March) and the Summer batch (June through August).

This is sad for someone who has to wait 5+ months for the next batch 😕

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and “build my own YC!”

Sidenote: This post isn’t about an alternative to YC. I’m still applying for the next batch. This post is about increasing productivity.

What does this mean?

Obviously, you can’t replicate every benefit of getting into YC (e.g. the network, the branding, the $150k, etc…).

But you can replicate some!

Most importantly, you can replicate the structure.

Why? Because YC’s structure is like steroids for your productivity muscles.

“I was amazed how simply adding some YC-like structure to those several months made everything we were doing feel better. Before that, we had been pretty lost. But once we pretended to be in YC, we were motivated because we had a schedule to hit.” — Jason Freedman

How to do it?

YC’s structure can be divided into three parts, (1) Tuesday dinners, (2) office hours, and (3) demo day.

Here’s a DIY version of each:

1. Tuesday dinners

These have two goals:

  • Have founders talk to other founders. The purpose of this is to keep you accountable (I’ve heard some founders dread going to these dinners if they haven’t accomplished much the last week). You can do this with anyone (your team, friends, or even founders you met at a meetup).
  • Watch a speaker (usually a successful founder). The purpose of this is to inspire and educate you. Thankfully, YC has posted their startup school videos since 2012! I already started and will definitely watch all of them.

2. Office hours

The goal here is to get advice from a YC partner.

“[At] YC, we’ve been teaching people how to start startups for nine years. Most of it’s pretty specific to the startups, but 30% of it is pretty generally applicable.” — Sam Altman

To get the 30%, I highly recommend reading Paul Graham’s essays. In fact, a lot of the partners derive their advice from these essays.

Sidenote: Story time! I have a friend who went through YC. A day before office hours, she asked me for advice. Having read all of Paul Graham’s essays, my advice was (obviously) “talk to your users.” The next day, she met with the YC partner at office hours and asked for advice. Can you guess what he told her? “Talk to your users.”

As a bonus, I also spent a lot of time looking for every book Paul Graham has recommended. You can find the most updated list here.

3. Demo day

This is the day YC companies get on stage in front of real investors.

I believe demo day is a great forcing function. So it’s helpful to use a real event with a real date that forces you to show the best version of your startup. Whatever that may be for you.

In my case for Gurgeh, this will be the YC application deadline (September 25th, 2019).

This is 10 weeks from now. Close enough to YC’s “12 weeks to demo day!”

“When you’re in YC, going from zero product to a launched product in 10 weeks is the name of the game. When you’re not in YC, building something that fast feels overwhelming.” — Jason Freedman

And that’s it for today!

See you next week.

Be well.


Thanks for reading! 😊 If you enjoyed it, test how many times can you hit 👏 in 5 seconds. It’s great cardio for your fingers AND will help other people see the story.

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Richard Reis

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The Mission

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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