Monday, January 07, 2013

Paul Graham's Black Swans

Black Swan Farming
the best ideas look initially like bad ideas ..... The total value of the companies we've funded is around 10 billion, give or take a few. But just two companies, Dropbox and Airbnb, account for about three quarters of it. ..... we are just not prepared for the 1000x variation in outcomes that one finds in startup investing. .... in purely financial terms, there is probably at most one company in each YC batch that will have a significant effect on our returns, and the rest are just a cost of doing business. ...... You need to do what you know intellectually to be right, even though it feels wrong. .... the best startup ideas seem at first like bad ideas. I've written about this before: if a good idea were obviously good, someone else would already have done it. So the most successful founders tend to work on ideas that few beside them realize are good ..... the vast majority of ideas that seem bad are bad. ..... The fact that the best ideas seem like bad ideas makes it even harder to recognize the big winners. ..... how lame Facebook sounded to me when I first heard about it. A site for college students to waste time? It seemed the perfect bad idea: a site (1) for a niche market (2) with no money (3) to do something that didn't matter. ..... When you pick a big winner, you won't know it for two years. .... fundraising is not merely a useless metric, but positively misleading. ..... We can afford to take at least 10x as much risk as Demo Day investors. ..... The best we can hope for is that when we interview a group and find ourselves thinking "they seem like good founders, but what are investors going to think of this crazy idea?" we'll continue to be able to say "who cares what investors think?" That's what we thought about Airbnb ..... if you're flying through clouds you can't tell what the attitude of the aircraft is. You could feel like you're flying straight and level while in fact you're descending in a spiral. The solution is to ignore what your body is telling you and listen only to your instruments. But it turns out to be very hard to ignore what your body is telling you. Every pilot knows about this problem and yet it is still a leading cause of accidents...... The reason Google seemed a bad idea was that there were already lots of search engines and there didn't seem to be room for another. ..... I was genuinely worried that Airbnb, for example, would not be able to raise money after Demo Day. I couldn't convince Fred Wilson to fund them
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