An Essay on an Essay on Startups

I recently read Paul Graham’s essay entitled What Startups Are Really Like and found it to be so true that I decided to base my second essay off of his essay.  An essay about an essay! Below is an excerpt.  As always, I welcome as much feedback as you’re willing to give.  Happy Holidays everyone!


Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, a technology incubator for early stage businesses, surveyed over 100 of his founders to try to determine what surprised them about running a business. The result is a fascinating essay that I suggest every aspiring entrepreneur read. In fact, it’s so good that I decided to comment myself on each of the patterns that Graham noticed. I also included some of my favorite quotes from the essay – things that I just couldn’t say any better myself. The first of which comes from Graham:

When I look at the responses, the common theme is that starting a startup was like I said, but way more so. People just don’t seem to get how different it is till they do it. Why? The key to that mystery is to ask, how different from what? Once you phrase it that way, the answer is obvious: from a job. Everyone’s model of work is a job. It’s completely pervasive. Even if you’ve never had a job, your parents probably did, along with practically every other adult you’ve met. Unconsciously, everyone expects a startup to be like a job, and that explains most of the surprises.

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4 comments on An Essay on an Essay on Startups

  1. nethy (netsp) says:

    Graham himself wrote an essay The Essay.

    Happy Christmas.

  2. TIm says:

    Great Essay’s from both Graham and Adam – both are well thought out and based on my experiences seem like the unfiltered reality of a business. I think the one misconception a lot of people have is that there business is a start-up, it’s a grossly over used term, most people are just starting small businesses, which is great! Here’ a link that shows the typical cycle of a Start-up http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Startup_financing_cycle.svg there are clearly parallels but it is seems clear that most small business just are not structured for this level of growth, it’s just not in the cards. There is a new term that is being thrown around that I kind of like and it refers to those of us who are clearly not in a Start-up, but don’t view ourselves as small business people, by the traditional definition, and that term is Startupers – a cross between a Start-up and an entrepreneur.

    The one thing I really like that was mentioned and is all too often forgotten is luck. Looking back to how my current project was started I am taken back by the bizarre turn of events that lead to what I have currently. Some would call it bad luck, but looking into the future I don’t think I would change a thing if I could, with all of the pitfalls and bad luck I learned a lot about myself and it sent me down a path I could not be happier in, a path that will more then likely lead to greater success and happiness then I could obtain anywhere else. If it was not for bad luck I would not have experienced the greatest of luck. Or as Dumas more eloquently said “Sometimes one’s sufferings have been so great that one need never say, ‘I am too happy.’ “

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Well said as always Tim. I too sort of dislike the term “startup” because it can imply that rapid growth, over-funded approach. Startupers is cool, never heard that before 🙂

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