5 Key points from Sam Altmans’ Startup Playbook
- The best ideas sound bad but are in fact good. So you don’t need to be too secretive with your idea—if it’s actually a good idea, it likely won’t sound like it’s worth stealing. Even if it does sound like it’s worth stealing, there are at least a thousand times more people that have good ideas than people who are willing to do the kind of work it takes to turn a great idea into a great company. And if you tell people what you’re doing, they might help.
- Good founders have a number of seemingly contradictory traits. One important example is rigidity and flexibility. You want to have strong beliefs about the core of the company and its mission, but still be very flexible and willing to learn new things when it comes to almost everything else.
- Here is the secret to success: have a great product. A great product is the only way to grow long-term. Eventually your company will get so big that all growth hacks stop working and you have to grow by people wanting to use your product. You want to build a “product improvement engine” in your company. You should talk to your users and watch them use your product, figure out what parts are sub-par, and then make your product better. Then do it again. This cycle should be the number one focus of the company, and it should drive everything else. If you improve your product 5% every week, it will really compound.
- Growth and momentum are the keys to great execution. The most important way is to make it your top priority. The company does what the CEO measures. It’s valuable to have a single metric that the company optimizes, and it’s worth time to figure out the right growth metric. If you care about growth, and you set the execution bar, the rest of the company will focus on it.
- If I had to distill my advice about how to operate down to only two words, I’d pick focus and intensity. As a general rule, don’t let your company start doing the next thing until you’ve dominated the first thing. No great company I know of started doing multiple things at once—they start with a lot of conviction about one thing, and see it all the way through. You can do far fewer things than you think. A very, very common cause of startup death is doing too many of the wrong things. Prioritization is critical and hard. It’s very hard to be both obsessed with product quality and move very quickly. But it’s one of the most obvious tells of a great founder.
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