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Why You Don’t Need a Startup Genie

Published: Jul 22, 2011 8:12 am

Let’s pretend you hit the startup lottery and Paul Graham wants to help you with your startup. Here’s the catch: Paul tells you that he will only do one thing to help startup succeed. For the purpose of this exercise think of Paul as a magical startup genie. What would you have him do?

Perhaps you need help with your sales funnel. Or maybe you’re struggling with a high level strategy. Perchance your UI is riddled with Comic Sans and you’d like his artistic eye to help redesign the front end. Find a problem that (if solved) would increase your business 10x.

Explicitly define the problem and boil it down to one action. “I need help with my sales funnel” would boil down to “My conversion rate sucks (when people hit my landing page). How can I improve this 10 fold?”. The most important thing here is to come away with a clear ask.

Here’s the kicker: You don’t need Paul Graham to solve this problem for you.

You might not have the answers you’re seeking, but people all around you do. Don’t believe me? Go to a startup conference with your “one clear ask” in mind and talk to everyone about it. Even if you can’t go to meetups in real life, the internet affords similar opportunities to entrepreneurs. The medium is a little different, but the interactions are very similar. If they can’t help you chances are good that they will at least know someone who would be willing to lend a hand. This method has worked for me countless times.

Know exactly what you need. The startup community is very generous in helping others out. Having a clear ask ensures you’re respecting others time and gives them an angle to work from.

What is it that your startup needs? Leave a comment and let’s see how we can help each other.

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Hi, I'm Paul Hontz.

I'm a YC alumn and I love startups. I created TSF to highlight companies I find interesting. You can learn more about me here.

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