Paul Graham 送给创业者的11句话

Mon, 31 Aug 2015 03:57:10 GMT

对于所有的创业者,我都希望他们能够明白 Paul Buchheit 曾教会我的一个道理:与其让大多数人享受一半的快乐,还不如让少部分人享受真正的快乐。最近我和一个记者聊天,聊天时我就在想,如果让我送10句话给创业者的话,上面这句话肯定是其中之一。然后我就开始琢磨,剩下的九句话会是什么呢?我就列了一个清单,结果我列出了不只9句话,而是11句话。

1 选择合适的联合创始人

联合创始人对于创业公司的重要性犹如地理位置之于房地产的重要性。你可以随意改变房子的内部装修,但却改变不了它的位置。对创业公司而言,你可以轻易改变公司的经营策略,但更换联合创始人却很难。公司创始人直接关乎创业公司能否取得成功。

2 迅速推出产品

只有在推出产品后,公司才开始真正意义上的运转。只有迅速推出产品,你才能知道公司是在开发符合市场需求的产品还是在那浪费时间。推出产品的主要目的就是要看看产品能否吸引用户。

3 想法不能一层不变,学会与时俱进

这其实是迅速推出产品的第二个层面,如果推出的产品难以吸引用户,那么就必须尽快调整和改变最初的产品创想,如果还是老是揪着最初的想法不放,公司就很难开发出真正的好产品。

4 了解用户的需求

你开发的产品能在多大程度上改善用户的生活决定了产品的用户数量。因此,创业公司理解用户的需求至关重要,在很多时候,用户并不会主动告诉你他们究竟需要什么产品或服务,他们甚至不知道自己需要什么,这就需要创业者具有敏锐的洞察力和理解用户的能力。

乔布斯曾说过:“不要等用户告诉你他们需要什么,你要主动告诉用户他们需要什么。”

5 与其拥有很多摇摆不定的用户,还不如拥有少部分的忠实用户

一般的创业者都希望大部分人都能够热爱自己的产品,但这其实是很难做到的。是满足部分潜在用户的所有需求呢,还是满足所有潜在用户的部分需求?这是处于创业初期的创业公司必须要做出的选择。我的建议是选择前者,因为,在你拥有了一部分忠实用户基础的前提下,你扩大忠实用户群体就容易地多;相反,如果公司产品的用户很多,但都是一些摇摆不定的用户的话,那么它想将这些用户变成忠实用户的难度就非常大。

6 为用户提供出乎意料的优质服务

如今,用户能够享受到的真正优质服务是越来越少了,对此,用户似乎也渐渐习惯了。作为创业者,如果你要想吸引用户,你就要尽全力使你提供的服务不只是一般的好,还要是令人难以置信的好,让用户受从若惊。对于那些处于创业初期的公司而言,提供优质服务不仅能吸引用户,它也是公司了解用户的一个好方法。

7 在对比衡量中取得进步

如果你想让产品的用户数上升,那么就在墙上贴一张纸,将每天的用户数都记录下来,连点成线,如果哪一天用户数上升了,你会很高兴,如果哪一天用户数下降了,你就会很失望。用这种方法,你很快就会发现是什么使得用户数增加了,这样一来,你就会在这方面花更多精力。

8 节约开支

大多数创业公司在开发出用户需要的产品之前,就因为缺乏资金而宣告失败。创业公司一定要学会节约开支,让最少的钱发挥最大的功效,这不仅能激发创业者的潜能,也能保持公司的战斗力。

9 避免分心

分心是创业公司的一大杀手。一些创业者可能会因为想获得一些额外的收入而去做一些创业之外的事,这样一来,他们投入到公司本身的精力就会少很多,难以专注于产品开发,这是很可怕的。其实,融资也是很容易引起分心的,因此,创业者不要总想着怎么融资,在需要时再考虑融资的事也不迟。

10 保持高昂的士气

如果说缺乏资金是创业公司的显形杀手,那么士气低落就是创业公司的隐形杀手。创业者不仅自己要时刻保持高昂的斗志,还要想办法鼓舞团队的士气,不能因遇到的挫折而灰心丧气。要想时刻保持高昂的士气其实并不容易,但这确是创业者的必修课。

11 永不放弃

有时你难免会感到灰心,但千万不能放弃。很多时候,当你放弃的时候,其实成功已经离你很近了。对于创业公司来说,如果方向正确的话,需要的就只剩下持续的努力了。

在列出了所有上面这些我想对创业者说的话后,我开始反问自己,如果我只能对他们说一句话,我会说哪句呢?了解用户需求。这是关键中的关键。只有了解了用户,你才能开发出满足用户需求的产品,产品用户数和公司创造的财富自然就会尾随而来。

原文:

One of the things I always tell startups is a principle I learned from Paul Buchheit: it’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi-happy. I was saying recently to a reporter that if I could only tell startups 10 things, this would be one of them. Then I thought: what would the other 9 be?

When I made the list there turned out to be 13:

  1. Pick good cofounders.

Cofounders are for a startup what location is for real estate. You can change anything about a house except where it is. In a startup you can change your idea easily, but changing your cofounders is hard. [1] And the success of a startup is almost always a function of its founders.

  1. Launch fast.

The reason to launch fast is not so much that it’s critical to get your product to market early, but that you haven’t really started working on it till you’ve launched. Launching teaches you what you should have been building. Till you know that you’re wasting your time. So the main value of whatever you launch with is as a pretext for engaging users.

  1. Let your idea evolve.

This is the second half of launching fast. Launch fast and iterate. It’s a big mistake to treat a startup as if it were merely a matter of implementing some brilliant initial idea. As in an essay, most of the ideas appear in the implementing.

  1. Understand your users.

You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle, where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you improve their lives. [2] The second dimension is the one you have most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be driven by how well you do in the second. As in science, the hard part is not answering questions but asking them: the hard part is seeing something new that users lack. The better you understand them the better the odds of doing that. That’s why so many successful startups make something the founders needed.

  1. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.

Ideally you want to make large numbers of users love you, but you can’t expect to hit that right away. Initially you have to choose between satisfying all the needs of a subset of potential users, or satisfying a subset of the needs of all potential users. Take the first. It’s easier to expand userwise than satisfactionwise. And perhaps more importantly, it’s harder to lie to yourself. If you think you’re 85% of the way to a great product, how do you know it’s not 70%? Or 10%? Whereas it’s easy to know how many users you have.

  1. Offer surprisingly good customer service.

Customers are used to being maltreated. Most of the companies they deal with are quasi-monopolies that get away with atrocious customer service. Your own ideas about what’s possible have been unconsciously lowered by such experiences. Try making your customer service not merely good, but surprisingly good. Go out of your way to make people happy. They’ll be overwhelmed; you’ll see. In the earliest stages of a startup, it pays to offer customer service on a level that wouldn’t scale, because it’s a way of learning about your users.

  1. You make what you measure.

I learned this one from Joe Kraus. [3] Merely measuring something has an uncanny tendency to improve it. If you want to make your user numbers go up, put a big piece of paper on your wall and every day plot the number of users. You’ll be delighted when it goes up and disappointed when it goes down. Pretty soon you’ll start noticing what makes the number go up, and you’ll start to do more of that. Corollary: be careful what you measure.

  1. Spend little.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a startup to be cheap. Most startups fail before they make something people want, and the most common form of failure is running out of money. So being cheap is (almost) interchangeable with iterating rapidly. [4] But it’s more than that. A culture of cheapness keeps companies young in something like the way exercise keeps people young.

  1. Get ramen profitable.

“Ramen profitable” means a startup makes just enough to pay the founders’ living expenses. It’s not rapid prototyping for business models (though it can be), but more a way of hacking the investment process. Once you cross over into ramen profitable, it completely changes your relationship with investors. It’s also great for morale.

  1. Avoid distractions.

Nothing kills startups like distractions. The worst type are those that pay money: day jobs, consulting, profitable side-projects. The startup may have more long-term potential, but you’ll always interrupt working on it to answer calls from people paying you now. Paradoxically, fundraising is this type of distraction, so try to minimize that too.

  1. Don’t get demoralized.

Though the immediate cause of death in a startup tends to be running out of money, the underlying cause is usually lack of focus. Either the company is run by stupid people (which can’t be fixed with advice) or the people are smart but got demoralized. Starting a startup is a huge moral weight. Understand this and make a conscious effort not to be ground down by it, just as you’d be careful to bend at the knees when picking up a heavy box.

  1. Don’t give up.

Even if you get demoralized, don’t give up. You can get surprisingly far by just not giving up. This isn’t true in all fields. There are a lot of people who couldn’t become good mathematicians no matter how long they persisted. But startups aren’t like that. Sheer effort is usually enough, so long as you keep morphing your idea.

  1. Deals fall through.

One of the most useful skills we learned from Viaweb was not getting our hopes up. We probably had 20 deals of various types fall through. After the first 10 or so we learned to treat deals as background processes that we should ignore till they terminated. It’s very dangerous to morale to start to depend on deals closing, not just because they so often don’t, but because it makes them less likely to.

Having gotten it down to 13 sentences, I asked myself which I’d choose if I could only keep one.

Understand your users. That’s the key. The essential task in a startup is to create wealth; the dimension of wealth you have most control over is how much you improve users’ lives; and the hardest part of that is knowing what to make for them. Once you know what to make, it’s mere effort to make it, and most decent hackers are capable of that.

Understanding your users is part of half the principles in this list. That’s the reason to launch early, to understand your users. Evolving your idea is the embodiment of understanding your users. Understanding your users well will tend to push you toward making something that makes a few people deeply happy. The most important reason for having surprisingly good customer service is that it helps you understand your users. And understanding your users will even ensure your morale, because when everything else is collapsing around you, having just ten users who love you will keep you going.

Notes

[1] Strictly speaking it’s impossible without a time machine.

[2] In practice it’s more like a ragged comb.

[3] Joe thinks one of the founders of Hewlett Packard said it first, but he doesn’t remember which.

[4] They’d be interchangeable if markets stood still. Since they don’t, working twice as fast is better than having twice as much time.