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Articles by Paul Graham


How to Make Pittsburgh a Startup Hub


"What would it take to make Pittsburgh into a startup hub, like Silicon Valley? I feel like I understand Pittsburgh pretty well, because I grew up here, in Monroeville. And I understand Silicon Valley pretty well because that's where I live now. Could you get that kind of startup ecosystem going here?"(image)

Life is Short


"Relentlessly prune bullshit, don't wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That's what you do when life is short."(image)

An Optimistic Reply to Ezra Klein


"I don't think it's pessimistic to think growth in technology will increase economic inequality."(image)

Economic Inequality: The Short Version


"As often happens when you say something controversial, there have been some very adventurous interpretations of the essay I just wrote about economic inequality."(image)

Economic Inequality


"I've become an expert on how to increase economic inequality, and I've spent the past decade working hard to do it."(image)

Jessica Livingstone


"Before we had kids, YC was more or less our life. There was no real distinction between working hours and not. We talked about YC all the time. And while there might be some businesses that it would be tedious to let infect your private life, we liked it."(image)

A Way to Detect Bias


"By limiting their sample to their own portfolio, they were producing a study not of startup trends but of their own biases when selecting companies."(image)

Write Like You Talk


"Before I publish a new essay, I read it out loud and fix everything that doesn't sound like conversation"(image)

Default Alive or Default Dead


"If the company is default alive, we can talk about ambitious new things they could do. If it's default dead, we probably need to talk about how to save it. We know the current trajectory ends badly. How can they get off that trajectory?"(image)

Why It's Safe for Founders to Be Nice


"One case where it would help to be rapacious is when growth depends on that. What makes startups different is that usually it doesn't. Startups usually win by making something so great that people recommend it to their friends. And being rapacious not only doesn't help you do that, but probably hurts."(image)

What Microsoft is this the Altair of?


"Most people's first impulse when they hear about a lame-sounding new startup idea is to make fun of it. Even a lot of people who should know better."(image)

What Doesn't Seem Like Work?


"If something that seems like work to other people doesn't seem like work to you, that's something you're well suited for. For example, a lot of programmers I know, including me, actually like debugging."(image)

Don't Talk to Corp Dev


"The tactics you encounter in M&A conversations can be like nothing you've experienced in the otherwise comparatively upstanding world of Silicon Valley."(image)

How to be an Expert in a Changing World


"When experts are wrong, it's often because they're experts on an earlier version of the world."(image)

How You Know


"Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why."(image)

The Fatal Pinch


"There may be nothing founders are so prone to delude themselves about, as how interested investors will be in giving them additional funding."(image)

Mean People Fail


"Mean founders lose [because] they can't get the best people to work for them. They can hire people who will put up with them because they need a job. But the best people have other options."(image)

Before the Startup


"This is one case where it pays to be self-indulgent. Work with people you genuinely like, and you've known long enough to be sure."(image)

Female Founders


"In the current YC batch, 16 out of 68 companies, or 24%, have female founders. That's almost twice the rate at which VCs fund such companies."(image)

Investor Herd DYnamics


Second in a pair of essays on fundraising.(image)

How to Convince Investors


"This is one of a pair of essays on fundraising. The next one, on fundraising tactics, is coming soon."(image)

Do Things that Don't Scale


"It's harmless if reporters and know-it-alls dismiss your startup. They always get things wrong. It's even ok if investors dismiss your startup; they'll change their minds when they see growth. The big danger is that you'll dismiss your startup yourself."(image)

Startup Investing Trends


"I think the biggest danger for VCs, and also the biggest opportunity, is at the series A stage. Or rather, what used to be the series A stage before series As turned into de facto series B rounds."(image)

How to Get Startup Ideas


"The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself."(image)

The Hardware Renaissance


"Maybe the advantage of software will turn out to have been temporary. Hackers love to build hardware, and customers love to buy it. So if the ease of shipping hardware even approached the ease of shipping software, we'd see a lot more hardware startups."(image)

Startup = Growth


"Startups are so hard that you can't be pointed off to the side and hope to succeed. You have to know that growth is what you're after. The good news is, if you get growth, everything else tends to fall into place. Which means you can use growth like a compass to make almost every decision you face."(image)

Black Swan Farming


"The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas."(image)

Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas


"The biggest startup ideas are terrifying. And not just because they'd be a lot of work. The biggest ideas seem to threaten your identity: you wonder if you'd have enough ambition to carry them through."(image)

A Word to the Resourceful


"Understanding all the implications--even the inconvenient implications--of what someone tells you is a subset of resourcefulness. It's conversational resourcefulness."(image)

Schlep Blindness


"Instead of asking 'what problem should I solve?' ask 'what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?'"(image)

Why Startup Hubs Work


"The problem is not that most towns kill startups. It's that death is the default for startups, and most towns don't save them."(image)

Founder Control


"If it becomes the norm for founders to retain board control after a series A, that will change the way things feel in the whole startup world."(image)



"If the iPad had come first, we wouldn't think of the iPhone as a phone; we'd think of it as a tablet small enough to hold up to your ear."(image)

What We Look for in Founders


"Determination, Flexibility, Imagination, Naughtiness, Friendship"(image)

The New Funding Landscape


"After barely changing at all for decades, the startup funding business is now in what could, at least by comparison, be called turmoil."(image)

Where to See Silicon Valley


"It's a smart move to put a startup in a place with restaurants and people walking around instead of in an office park, because then the people who work there want to stay there, instead of fleeing as soon as conventional working hours end. They go out for dinner together, talk about ideas, and then come back and implement them."(image)

The Acceleration of Addictiveness


"You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don't think you're weird, you're living badly."(image)

The Top Idea in Your Mind


"You can't directly control where your thoughts drift. If you're controlling them, they're not drifting. But you can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into. That has been the lesson for me: be careful what you let become critical to you. Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want think about."(image)

How to Lose Time and Money


"The way most fortunes are lost is not through excessive expenditure, but through bad investments. In most people's minds, spending money on luxuries sets off alarms that making investments doesn't."(image)