Starting a start-up

A reflection on reading two of Paul Graham's essays

I didn’t have time to write yesterday. Our lease ends at the end of July and we have decided not to renew it. Yesterday was about moving out, flying two hours up north, and settling in a new apartment.

I read two of Paul Graham’s essay on the flight: A Student’s Guide to Startups and Before the Startup. I picked the two essays to read because I am interested in starting a start-up someday and I wanted to learn Paul Graham’s thoughts on starting startups early in one’s career.

I also have tremendous respect for Paul Graham, for his work on Y Combinator, and for his impact on our society.

But why am I interested in starting a startup someday? To many of us, founding and running a successful startup seems prestigious, especially with all those buzzwords: innovation, disruption, building the future of X…

I have no interest in prestige. I am a builder. I enjoy building side projects even if they don’t create any value. I once wrote a text editor just for fun. I get joy simply from building them.

I think what makes a startup different from a side project is motivation. Startups are about building something that people want—building something that creates value in some people’s lives so they would pay for it. On the other hand, side projects are purely passion-driven; either you are excited about a particular problem space or you want to experiment with some new technology.

I am interested in starting a startup someday. I am a builder and I enjoy building things. I figure it could be even more enjoyable if what I build could be used by real people. I don’t know much about startups and I don’t know what I will be getting into, so this statement might sound naive to you. But it is what I believe at the moment.

You might ask, why not start a startup now?

I am not ready. I do believe that I am a competent programmer and I have strong soft skills. However, I don’t know much about the world yet. My purpose is to contribute to human progress, but I don’t even know what exactly is human progress, especially in this unprecedented Information Age.

I need to read more history. Human patterns are surprisingly consistent. I learned this from the recent riots against police brutality. Similar events have happened in the past, but we were still shocked in ignorance because we don’t even bother to learn about history.

To the same degree, I believe that the history of the invention of the printing press could shine some light on why the invention of the Internet and the emergence of social platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) are causing so much turbulence in our society.

I am not ready to start a startup. As for now, I will keep indulging in my passion for building side projects, and continue learning about the world through reading history.