Founders at Work – Jessica Livingston

The Best Highlights From Founders at Work


By Jessica Livingston


Starting a startup is a process of trial and error. What guided the founders through this process was their empathy for the users. They never lost sight of making things that people would want.


Maybe somebody has a need and, in our case, we had a need. That’s what triggered the idea. Sometimes ideas are born out of necessity: you solve a problem for yourself, and you hopefully solve it for a number of other people too.


Try to have a good cofounder. I think it’s all about people, and, if you are doing it completely alone, it’s really hard. It’s not impossible, in particular if you are a loner and introverted type, but it’s still really hard.


If you have a good team, you are halfway there. Even more importantly, perhaps, you have to have a really strong cofounder. Someone you can rely on in a very fundamental way.


All the best things that I did at Apple came from (a) not having money, and (b) not having done it before, ever. Every single thing that we came out with that was really great, I’d never once done that thing in my life.


It’s better to be young because you can spend a lot more nights, very, very late. Because you have to get things done, and there’s almost no other way to get around that. When the times come, they are critical.


My whole life was basically trying to optimize things. You don’t just save parts, but every time you save parts you save on complexity and reliability, the amount of time it takes to understand something. And how good you can build it without errors and bugs and flaws.


Over the years, I’ve learned that the first idea you have is irrelevant. It’s just a catalyst for you to get started. Then you figure out what’s wrong with it and you go through phases of denial, panic, regret. And then you finally have a better idea and the second idea is always the important one.


Some famous person said, “Success is 50 percent luck and 50 percent preparedness for that luck.” I think that’s a lot of it. It’s being ready to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.


I think the hallmark of a really good entrepreneur is that you’re not really going to build one specific company. The goal—at least the way I think about entrepreneurship—is you realize one day that you can’t really work for anyone else. You have to start your own thing. It almost doesn’t matter what that thing is. We had six different business plan changes, and then the last one was PayPal.


Don’t just read – absorb and apply! The key to learning is doing. But first, you need to remember the lesson.

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