Masters of Scale: Sam Altman: Customer love is all you need

  • It is better to have 100 people that love your product than 1 million that kinda like it: A product that is deeply loved by a small group of early users is a product that can scale.

  • What was Loopt? It was an app that let you share your location with friends. We worked on it at Stanford in 2005. There was no iPhone. No App Store.

  • How Sam found Y Combinator: I saw a post from Paul Graham. It said if you are not excited about your summer job come hack on your project and make a startup. That seemed like it would be more fun than being an investment banker. [Sam’s original plan was to be an intern at Goldman Sachs.]

  • We were the first company ever funded by Y Combinator: Then it just kept going. We did deals with Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, etc. We got acquired for $43 million.

  • I started investing. But investing wasn’t fun. I liked running a company: I did not like being on the sidelines. I didn’t get the adrenaline rush I get from running a company. I think a lot of Founders miss it when they start investing.

  • Paul Graham said a number of times over the years that when he retires I should take over Y Combinator: Sam became president of Y Combinator at 28.

  • The mantra he tells every founder at YC: Love is better than like. This seems to be objectively true. If you look at the companies that are important and valuable they tend to have fanatical early users.

  • It’s really important to be loved: Because all the growth hacking stops working at some point. Once companies get to a certain size the only way to grow exponentially is by word of mouth. Your product has to be so good that customers keep telling others to try it.

  • People don’t stick with products they don’t love: It is easy to get a lot of people to try something with a clever growth act. The value of those users is very low. They don’t stick around. That is not how you build an enduring business.

  • Full podcast here.