Why Should I Start a Startup? by Michael Seibel | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Why Should I Start a Startup? by Michael Seibel".
Starting A Startup: Why And Who?
Why Should I Start a Startup? (00:00)
All right, Michael Seibel. So today we're gonna do something different and talk about a few of the essays you've worked on in the past, I think these are maybe the past two years. - Yes. - So the first one is why should I start a startup? You start this essay by saying, a lot of people ask themselves this question. They often mull over one or more of the following facts. One, the vast majority of startups are not successful. Two, for talented technical people, it's relatively easy to get a job and make a large salary. And three, large companies offer opportunities to work on very difficult problems that only often occur at scale. My answer to why you should start a startup is simple. There's a certain type of person who only works at their peak capacity when there is no predictable path to follow. The odds of success are low and they have to take personal responsibility for failure. The opposite of most jobs at a large company. - Yes. - Okay. Why did you write this essay? - So I think that there are two reasons. One, I talk to a lot of smart technical people. - Yeah. - Who I think sometimes feel like they should start a startup but they're conflicted because they either don't know if they have a good idea, don't have an idea, don't have a team. And I think they're really trying to figure out like what should I do with my life? Like what should my real career path be? And when I first started giving people advice, I think that I really assumed that because you could start a startup, you should start a startup. If you have the money to afford, if you have the time, if you have the ability, you should be doing it. I quickly realized working at YC, that's a bad idea. And I think what I quickly realized is that there's probably like three sets of people. - Okay. - Probably the set of people who, the only thing they can really do is work in a radically entrepreneurial job.
Identifying One'S Entrepreneurial Inclination And Handling Advice
Three types of people: people highly motivated when working for themselves, people that could succeed starting a startup or within a big company, and people that could succeed within a big company. (02:00)
Like literally like they will not enjoy their life inside of a big company, inside a big bureaucracy. And I think like back in the day, like those are the kinds of people that start small businesses. And so there's that type of people and like they're relatively few and far between. Like I wouldn't be surprised if that's only like one percent of the population. - Yeah. - The second people are the people who are on the fence. They want to be really challenged by work, but they can easily apply themselves in either a entrepreneurial world or in a big company world. And I think those people are the ones where like they have some choices to make, you know? - Yeah, yeah. - I think a lot of people confuse themselves for this group. When in reality, I think this group is also probably pretty small. And then there's a last group. - Pretty small, how small? - Like I bet 1%. Like I bet there's only really one, like 2% total so far. - Yeah, like I think it's a really small group who can actually be equally capable in either role as a founder or as a really effective person inside of a big company. - Uh-huh. - And I think you do see this. Like I think you do see like founders who get acquired, who are actually a really functional inside of big companies and vice versa, right? Exactly well in certain companies and they do well. But few and far between. I think the last group and by far the biggest group are the people who are gonna operate best within a large company. And like the mindset of this type of person is type of person, at least from a live scene is like they want a system to optimize. Like they want an existing system, an existing path, an existing set of rules that they can operate and play by. And like what's interesting is that like, almost everything up to this point in your life kinda has that, right? Like kindergarten through 12 has this, even college has this and they kinda wanna continue that. Someone else defines what's an A and what's an F and then I optimize, right? And I don't think that there's any like moral judgment to be passed. Like I think that like if most people didn't feel that way the world wouldn't work. So it's like a good thing. But there's a smug of people who feel like, I wanna make the rules. - Yeah. - I don't wanna follow them. - Yeah. - And so I think that like when someone's thinking about whether they show their startup, they should really be intellectually honest with themselves about which of these groups they're in. And anyone who's trying to kind of guilt trip them into one group or another, right? Like it goes both ways. Like I in the past would guilt sheep people to do a founder. A lot of people, parents will guilt trip them into being a big company or being a doctor or yadda yadda yadda. I just think like this is one of these things where you have to actually have some personal, you have to go deep and really understand. - Yeah. Did you ever read the book "The Emith"? - No, I haven't. - Have you heard of this book? - No, no, no. So I read it in college so it's been a while. But basically the concept was a lot of people who are, you could say craftsmen. So in our context like a developer, often think that they want to become entrepreneurs so they could do just their craft and just the way they want to, but they don't realize that as soon as they enter the entrepreneurial realm, most of their jobs no longer. And so I think this is a common thing. And it's why these indie hackers are so, like people love them so much. - It's an interesting point. 'Cause like artists in craftsman doesn't equal founder, isn't it? And even more so, what's so sad is that as a founder almost by definition, the thing that you're good at is the thing that you stop doing. - Oh yeah. - And like you have to keep on doing things that you suck at. - Yeah. - And be totally okay with it. - Yeah, no, it's rare that the founder who's really good at something can like delegate so well that the thing they love is still the thing they do. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Really, really, really hard. - So, okay, you get to this at the end. What are the questions, you know, that we've had some time since you wrote this one? - Yep. - So what are the questions that you ask yourself when you have to decide if you're in that, you know, 2% of people? - I can answer this for myself better.
How do you decide what type of person you are? (06:00)
The questions that I asked myself was, where am I at my best? And where do I feel like I'm organically applying effort? Like I'm 100% self-motivated. And like, I think anyone who is 22, 25 has enough life experience to know, and certainly anyone who's 30 or 30 plus definitely has enough life experience to know, you know, in what types of situations am I just naturally, extremely motivated? The other kind of question I ask, which is an extension of this is like, if I think about the moments where I outperformed. So not only was I really extremely motivated, but actually like delivered the best results. I did the best. Where does that happen? And like when I think about those moments for myself, like they never really happened in the truly structured things. Like in the K to 12 setting, I did final and stuff, of course, right? I did all the classes and got all the grades. But it wasn't when I was like, really like kicking in the high gear. So I think if you're like super honest, like when do you really kick it into high gear? That's when like you can start asking this question for yourself like, okay, who should I be? And what career attraction I take? I think that like one tricky bit here is you have to be really careful about taking advice from biased people.
Identify bias in advice givers (07:30)
So I eat everyone. Yeah, right? Like when I was giving founders this advice originally, I was so biased. I was like, well, I'm at YC. I want you to be a founder. Like you should be a founder, right? I was giving you advice. You know, previously giving advice, it was always self-serving. I think that like a lot of young people are looking for advice givers and are not doing a good job of identifying bias. And so I see a lot of people who are generally believing the information that they get from either their peers or from companies that they work at. And like they don't realize those people are biased. And a perfect example, my brother's at MIT right now. The most prestigious jobs are jobs at Facebook and Google. And that prestige has actually very little to do with any facts. Like it actually reminds me of like when I was in high school and like the crew that I was in, the like job everyone wanted to do was be a lawyer. And because we were all like government kids, they everyone would be a lawyer. But then if you ask people like, do you actually want to do the work of a lawyer? And you're like, no, of course not, right? And just make a bunch of money and more. Yeah, and like I want to like, you know, change the laws and I want to like debate the constitution. And write all these things like, yeah, but do you actually want to do the lawyer? Well, you're like describing model UN, right? Yeah, exactly. That was like model UNT, right? And so I think like similarly when I talk to my brother and I like go to MIT, I meet all these people who have this, created this imaginary world where when they get to go to Google, they're going to be on the machine learning team and they're going to have high impact from day one. And like needless to say, Google loves to pitch this story, right? And like people love to eat it. But the reality is when you're on the other side, that's often very rarely the case. Yeah. And so what I would, what I would encourage people to do, having been an offender myself, is to just really look for the bias in the person who's presenting you with options. And advice, like understand where their biases are. And understand that like Google is operating a machine and the machine has multiple purposes. One purpose is to get the smartest people to work on the hardest tasks. But the other purpose is to get people who are smart and talented so that they're not working for Google's competitors. And then the last purpose is to get people who are smart and talented so they're not creating companies that will compete with Google. Yeah. Everyone understands the first one and they don't think about two and three. No, not at all. And also when I find college kids, and I'm totally offended of this as well, they seek people for advice until the person gives them advice that corroborates with what they want to hear. Yep. And so you just look around and you're like, "Hmm." Sometimes it feels like you gotta do some living. Like you can only listen to advice for so long.
Peer advice becomes less valuable during college (10:30)
Well, and I think the peer advice thing is actually really tricky. It's really hard to go from, like an argue that like in school, especially like K to 12, a lot of peer advice is very helpful. Like I learned how to apply to a good school from my peers, like my parents hadn't done it in years, right? I learned which classes to take, which teachers work good. Like my peers were this like great intelligence source for so long. And then it turns out that like, with career advice, they almost are horrible. And I think it's so hard to go from like a situation where someone goes from a good source of information to a bad source of information so fast. But like that's what happens in college. Like your peers are no longer, 'cause like I think what the reality is, is that like in many ways there's a simple track and a simple set of rails all the way up through college. Of course. And then college it goes from like one track to a thousand tracks. And like your peers don't even know anything about any of the thousand tracks. So suddenly they're like not the experts anymore. Suddenly the kid who's like one year ahead of you really just doesn't actually know anything more than you do. No. But like your whole old system is still there. Your old system of like relying on that is still there. And it's what's funny is the big companies know this. Like that's the cool thing is like, they are actually relying on you having poor sources of information. Like everything that a big company does to attract a college kid is 100% orchestrated. Yeah. I mean there's an information gap there. Yes. Yeah. And that's how the business works. Which I mean it's fine. Again like you can go and have fun of these jobs. You can go and feel very forceful. Of course. One I'd argue like for most people that is the job they should take. Yeah. But like man if you're one of those different people don't believe the hype. I mean this is kind of harsh and yeah I don't know if it's 100% accurate but my impression is that the world just kind of tends toward wanting you to be average. Yep. You asked someone for advice. They're like these are the known outcomes based on all the inputs you just gave me. You should go work at this company. And I wouldn't say average I would say like wants to put you in a box. Sure. But it could be a very productive box. Right. It could be like ridiculously productive box. But like a well laid out well understood box. Like they're gonna plug you in somewhere and move on. Yeah. That doesn't work for some people. Yeah. Yeah. Or more importantly like for some people that's not how you get their best. For some people it's almost a guarantee you won't get their best in that environment. And so yeah so what's so weird is like we're not talking about like do you see a good business opportunity? Or do you see do you have like this like burning problem. Like those things are important. But man if you are not irrationally motivated to do startups and be entrepreneurial like it's going to be frustrating and you're not gonna understand the risk reward. Yeah. Because like from a pure money making perspective it's probably better to take the job at Google. It's definitely safer. Definitely safer. Yeah. But from a like will I enjoy my life perspective? Like that's the one where like for some people absolutely not. Right. But on the other hand I just say try it out. See how you feel. Like you can do plenty of projects in college. You can see how it works. Yeah.