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Former YC CEO Michael Seibel explains the goals of a pre-launch startup

Your first goal should be to launch quickly:

“This is something that’s been part of the YC ethos from the very beginning. It’s been great advice for 10 years, and it continues to be great advice. If you walk away with one thing from this presentation, it’s launch something bad quickly.”

The second goal is to get some initial customers:

“Get anyone interacting with your product and seeing if they can get value out of it… You’d be surprised at how many founder’s journeys end before a single user has actually interacted with a product they’ve created. It’s very, very common. So please get past this step. It’s extremely important.”

The third goal is to talk to your users:

“This one is also an extremely common mistake because most founders have in their heads an idea of what they want to build. So they have this weird feeling that if they haven’t built the full thing, getting feedback on the initial thing is kind of useless.”

The reality is that the idea you have in your end might turn out to be something customers don’t want at all. Michael has a saying:

“Hold the problem you’re solving tightly. Hold the customer tightly. Hold the solution you’re building loosely.”

The last step is to iterate and make sure you don’t fall in love with your solution. He gives an example of founders trying to build a screwdriver for a mechanic. If the screwdriver isn’t good, don’t ask yourself what other problems it can solve (e.g. “maybe I can use it to cook or to clean?”):

“If your screwdriver doesn’t help the mechanic solve the problem, keep the mechanic, keep the problem. Fix the screwdriver! That’s the thing that’s broken… Continue improving on your solution until it actually solves the problem.”