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Ten Lessons from Peter Thiel's Class On Startups

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8. Foundations matter.

Thiel’s Law: A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed.  

Beginnings are special. They are qualitatively different than what comes after. You can change things at the founding that you’re forever stuck with afterward.

Getting your foundations right isn’t sufficient for success, but it is certainly necessary. Founding mistakes will amplify and destroy companies from within. Companies usually fail when some internalconflict blows up. From the outside, it may appear that external competitive forces were the cause. But very often, mismanagement or a founding mistake is the true culprit. Founders must think carefully about keeping people’s motivations and incentives aligned. Otherwise, a startup is essentially doomed from the start.

10.  Find a frontier and go for it.

From notes on Thiel’s final lecture:

There is something importantly singular about each new thing. There is a mini singularity whenever you start a company or make a key life decision. In a very real sense, the life of every person is a singularity.

The obvious question is what you should do with yoursingularity. The obvious answer, unfortunately, has been to follow the well-trodden path. You are constantly encouraged to play it safe and be conventional. The future, we are told, is just probabilities and statistics. You are a statistic.

But the obvious answer is wrong. That is selling yourself short. There are still many large white spaces on the map of human knowledge. You can go discover them. So do it. Get out there and fill in the blank spaces. Every single moment is a possibility to go to these new places and explore them.

There is perhaps no specific time that is necessarily right to start your company or start your life. But some times and some moments seem more auspicious than others. Now is such a moment. If we don’t take charge and usher in the future—if you don’t take charge of your life—there is the sense that no one else will.

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