Paul Graham's parting shot: Get a co-founder, focus on one specific set of users and vow them

26 Feb, 2014

Startup advice from Y Combinator founder Paul Graham is always welcome even if the man is stepping down as the startup incubator's president and handing over the reins to partner Sam Altman.

After all the incubator—which he co-founded with wife Jessica Livingston and a few others—has seen 632 startups graduating from it since 2005, including big success stories like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Stripe.

According to a Fortune article, at a recent event Paul Graham, who announced his retirement last week, gave advice to entrepreneurs, one of them being telling them to get a co-founder, which always helps in achieving success.

"Businesses are more likely to succeed with more than one founder, because each co-founder may bring different strengths," the report adds.

Graham apparently used Apple's example where Steve Jobs brought in sales expertise (probably also his fetish for perfection to bring out products that vowed consumers), while more tech-oriented Steve Wozniak didn't care much about sales.

So Graham has always told his founders to get a co-founder including to Dropbox CEO Drew Houston who hired his MIT classmate Arash Ferdowsi in two weeks after that (and now we know Dropbox is being valued at $10 billion while he was ready to sell the company at some point for less than $10 million).

Another key advice from Graham was this: focus on a specific sub-set of users and meet their needs rather than a catch-all approach.

Graham said the "secret to growth is starting a 'small, intense fire'".

He said: "You've got to know who those first users are, sit with them, have a party, and focus on them."

More in Fortune article.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)