Inspired by Startup School and the Three Themes of the Day

The energy at Startup School was insane. The venue was massive and everyone in attendance was eager to soak up everything they heard from the amazing minds of today’s speakers. As a young founder and entrepreneur, it was indescribably inspiring to receive those stories and bits of wisdom. I’m on a mental high right now.

I noticed three common themes expressed by the speakers that I would like to share and those were: focus on the product, care about what you do, and the importance of dedication.

Focus on Product

Phil Libin started of this theme by talking about his quest to, “build something epic.” His mission at Evernote was to build something that he loved to use, something that worked great.

During an insightful interview between Jessica Livingston and Ron Conway, Ron mentions his affinity for founders that are more focused on their product then the other parts of running a startup. He cites an example of a founder that was turing down interviews with Fortune magazine to continue developing new features and gain more users. That is really impressive to folks at SV Angel.

And my last example, Nate Blecharczyk of AirBnb mentioning his company’s early struggles for traction that finally hit an upward swing after they added high-quality images and curated all of the site’s listings, creating an optimal product for their end-users.

Care About What You Do

This point may seem like the most obvious of the three but there is no denying that is was a common theme with today’s speakers.

Going back to Phil Libin at Evernote, it was very clear that Phil wanted his company to be his life’s work. He started Evernote because he was truly interested in improving the way people remember things and his passion for that makes him accept that his day to day work isn’t even fun anymore. He doesn’t love the work on a daily basis but he does love Evernote’s mission and that has helped him build out the company it is today.

Mark Zuckerburg’s passion for connecting the world could not be more apparent, and in my opinion, sincere. Zuckerburg truly wants the world connected through Facebook and that vision was there before he started thinking about turing it into a business. He really cares about what he is working on and that has worked very well for Facebook.

The most impassioned speaker of the day was by far Chase Adam, the founder of Watsi. Chase’s spirit and love for Watsi’s mission is undeniable, making him a truly remarkable and inspiring young entrepreneur. I could’t help but feel confident in future successes for Watsi because you could tell Chase Adam cares more about Watsi than himself.

The Importance of Dedication

Hearing stories about the slow first years of AirBnb, Evernote dodging a shutdown at the 11th hour, or VMware’s many attempts to strike product-market fit in developing an enterprise solution, really show how important dedication is to being successful.

When Paul Graham asked Zuckerburg about the one trait he considered critical to Facebook’s early successes, the CEO said it was his personal dedication to the goal of connecting people. Not only did he care deeply about that challenge but he was dedicated to do what he could to make it happen.

I left Startup School with so many amazing insights from some awesome entrepreneurs. The themes they reinforced will continue to shape how I think about being a founder and influence my actions as a team leader. I feel truly inspired to try to change my world.


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