Paul Graham, Star Trek, College and Startups

Pual Graham's Lecture

Y-Combinator recently ran a class (CS183B) at Stanford. All of the lectures for this class have since been published via YouTube and i've watched all of them via the interwebs.

One of the more interesting lectures to me was one given by Paul Graham called "Before the Startup".

Shortly after giving the lecture he captured the essence of it in one of his essays.

The lecture is sprinkled with tidbits on why starting a startup in college isn't optimal and about 19 minutes into the lecture he even pleads to the audience of college students to not start a startup in college.

Star Trek

Lately i've been rewatching episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Just the other night i rewatched the episode Valiant. This episode is about an elite squadron of cadets called Red Squad, who wind up in command of the starship Valiant when their supervising commanders get killed.

Red Squad

Red Squad is made up of Starfleet cadets, which in a sense are effectively college students. Tim Watters is the leader of Red Squad who received a battlefield commission as captain, which would effectively make him a founder of sorts if the ship were a start up.

Through a series of "know it all", arrogant and prideful judgement calls of command, Captain Tim Watters lead Red Squad and the starship Valiant into a completely avoidable and unnecessary demise.

Valiant Destroyed

Lieutenant Nog and Cadet Collins managed to escape from the destruction of the starship Valiant. Once safely back in the infirmary at Deep Space Nine Cadet Collins attempts to defend the actions of Captain Tim Watters by claiming that he was a great man. Nog responded to Colins saying that "He may have been a hero, he may have even of been a great man, but in the end, he was a bad captain".

Nog and Collins

College and Startups

I'm personally a self taught programmer who never attended college. I did however serve as an infantryman in the US Army immediately after High School. So in a sense, i attended my "college" at Ft. Benning Georgia, home of the infantry.

After returning from my first and only deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I have had the opportunity to work for some startups of varying size, success and culture as a software engineer.

I've gotten to work at Tagged, Kixeye, with the Flow Town team at Demand Force and am now working with LendUp (YC W12).

One of my more influential and last team leaders in the army told me that i would have lots of different leaders in my military career, some of them will be good and some of them will be terrible and that i should learn equally from both types when it comes to what and what not to do when i become a team leader.

Turns out my team leaders advice has been holding true even after the army. I've gotten to work under some great and some not so great leadership in various startups. I've learned a tremendous amount from all of these experiences and continue to learn more every day.

I probably could have attempted to start my own startup immediately after the army, but i'm fairly certain it would have been a complete catastrophe. One day though i'll be ready to make the leap, admittedly i'm just not there yet and thats perfectly fine.

In closing, i'd like to urge anyone reading this not to follow in the footsteps of Red Squad from Star Trek. There's great value in putting in the time to learn from under great leadership and it's ok to take things slow at first so you can travel at warp 9 later in life.