Thu Jan 15 2009

A piece of advice I once got from Paul Graham

Back in 2007 I was in the bay area visiting a company to check out a few upcoming products, and being that I was staying with Mike at the Techcrunch HQ, I took the opportunity to visit a couple of startups like the good old days. Luckily for me, YCombinator was hosting a dinner with their companies and they invited me and Nick Gonzales to come over for it - which we did. It turned out to be a great dinner [1].

I took the opportunity to ask Paul Graham for advice on something that was troubling me at the time. A little context: WBS had two main sources of income - products and consulting. Goplan was growing steadily (it became profitable a week after launching) and our consulting business was doing extremely well. I had growing questions of where to focus our efforts.

So I asked Paul what he thought we should do - focus on our products, or our consulting business. It was now two years ago so I can’t remember Paul’s exact words, but his answer went something like this:>“It is pretty obvious to me. You have a growing, successful product and a team that has proven it can deliver. Why spend time working on the ideas of others when you can do something great with what you have today, and worry about your consulting in the future? You have a great opportunity right now.”

I left YCombinator that day with those words in my mind and I remember them to this day. I often get into conversations on whether to work on one’s ideas or work for others (be that as a consultant or just joining the ranks of a major company) - and although I don’t quote PG on those conversations, my advice has always been the same. Work on the things you are passionate about [2] - particularly while you can afford to do it.

###Foot notes

[1]: Three highlights from that evening: meeting the Justin.TV guys, who were then just a couple of guys with a neat idea and weird headgear; Trevor Blackwell’s robotics lab (at the YCombinator HQ), still ingrained in my memory as the coolest place on earth (homegrown Segway!); Jessica Livingston, kind enough to give me a signed copy of her book Founders at Work (which you should read if you’re an entrepreneur) before it went out on the shelves.

[2]: This was actually one of my new years’s resolutions - to only work on things I’m passionate about. It’s been working just fine thus far, and I’m not alone in this.