How to Start a Startup (CS183B Stanford, Y Combinator)

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The market for entertainment will always be larger than the market for information.

This is easily observable on the internet (free-market flow of information) where entertainment-related content gets a disproportionate amount of clicks and views viz a viz information-related content.

There are videos titled “36 GIRLY HACKS YOU WISH YOU KNEW SOONER” that have had 2.7 million views in 5 months (this is a real example by the way, but I won’t link to it. LMM does not link to bullshit.)

Meanwhile, content that is dense in information barely has any eyes on it. CS183B, a Stanford course produced by Y Combinator and taught by actual startup founder billionaires averages about 150,000 average views per lecture (in over six years) across it’s twenty 50-minute long lectures.

I happened to stumble across this course, watched all 20 of the lectures, and found them to be very insightful – every speaker has in-the-trenches experience and is sharing his lessons from his business journey.

I want to increase its visibility, so this article contains all the 20 lectures along with working links (some of them have different sources than the official page as many of the original links have died over the years) to the recommended books and readings for each lecture. The readings are meant to be read before watching the lectures.

Lecture 1 – Sam Altman and Dustin Moskovitz – Ideas and Products; Why to Start a Startup


Books recommended:

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things (India, USA, UK) by Ben Horowitz
  • Zero to One (India, USA, UK) by Peter Thiel
  • The Facebook Effect (India, USA, UK) by David Kirkpatrick
  • The Tao of Leadership (India, USA, UK) by John Heider
  • The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership (India, USA, UK) by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp
  • Nonviolent Communication: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values (India, USA, UK) by Marshall Rosenberg PhD

Lecture 2 – Sam Altman – Teams and Execution


Lecture 3 – Paul Graham – Before the Startup


Lecture 4 – Adora Cheung – Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing


Lecture 5 – Peter Thiel – Business Strategy and Monopoly Theory


  • Chapter 3-5 of Zero to One (India, USA, UK) by Peter Thiel

Lecture 6 – Alex Schultz – Growth


Recommended Books:

  • Ogilvy on Advertising (India, USA, UK) by David Ogilvy
  • Viral Loop (India, USA, UK) by Adam L. Penenberg

Lecture 7 – Kevin Hale – How to Build Products Users Love


Lecture 8 – Walker Williams, Justin Kan, Stanley Tang – Doing Things that Don’t Scale, PR, How to Get Started


Recommended books:

  • Trust Me, I’m Lying (India, USA, UK) by Ryan Holiday
  • A Burned Out Blogger’s Guide To PR (India, USA, UK) by Jason Kincaid

Lecture 9 – Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Parker Conrad – How to Raise Money


Recommended books:

  • Born Standing Up (India, USA, UK) by Steve Martin
  • Product Design for the Web (India, USA, UK) by Randy J. Hunt
  • Talking to Humans (India, USA, UK) by Frank Rimalovski & Giff Constable
  • Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (India, USA, UK) by Geoffrey a. Moore 
  • Four Steps to the Epiphany (India, USA, UK) by Steve Blank
  • Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days (India, USA, UK) by Jessica Livingston
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow (India, USA, UK) by Daniel Kahneman
  • The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership (India, USA, UK) by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison & Craig Walsh
  • Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae (India, USA, UK) by Steven Pressfield
  • High Output Management (India, USA, UK) by Andrew S. Grove
  • The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (India, USA, UK) by Jon Gertner
  • Onward (India, USA, UK) by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon
  • The Art Spirit (India, USA, UK) by Robert Henri

Lecture 10 – Alfred Lin and Brian Chesky – Hiring and Culture, Part I


Recommended books:

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (India, USA, UK) by Patrick Lencioni

Lecture 11 – Patrick Collison, John Collison, Ben Silbermann – Hiring and Culture, Part II


Lecture 12 – Aaron Levie – Building for the Enterprise


Recommended Books:

  • Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (India, USA, UK) by Geoffrey a. Moore 
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma (India, USA, UK) by Clayton Christensen
  • Behind the Cloud (India, USA, UK) by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler

Lecture 13 – Reid Hoffman – How to Be a Great Founder


Lecture 14 – Keith Rabois – How to Operate


  • Bill Walsh, The Score Takes Care of Itself (India, USA, UK), pp. 2-31, 137-146, 202-203
  • Andy Grove, High Output Management (India, USA, UK), Chapters 3 (optional), 4, 9, 11, 13, 14

Lecture 15 – Ben Horowitz – How to Manage


Recommended Books:

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things (India, USA, UK) by Ben Horowitz
  • Lean In (India, USA, UK) by Sheryl Sandberg
  • The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (India, USA, UK) by C.L.R. James

Lecture 16 – Emmett Shear – How to Run a User Interview

Lecture 17 – Hosain Rahman – How to Design Hardware Products


Lecture 18 – Carolynn Levy, Kirsty Nathoo – Legal and Accounting Basics for Startups


Lecture 19 – Tyler Bosmeny, Michael Seibel, Dalton Caldwell, Qasar Younis – Sales and Marketing, How to Pitch, Investor Meeting Roleplaying



Lecture 20 – Sam Altman – Later-stage Advice

And that’s it – 20 lectures, and a lot of reading material. If you complete the course, make sure to pat yourself on the back.

Lecture 17 has 61,390 views at the time of writing this article. YouTube appears to count a view to be about 1 minute of watching, i.e., I would be surprised if more than 10,000 people have completed the entire course (including the article readings) in all it’s six years. So hey, if you managed to do so – you’re clearly a very focused and motivated individual! Keep it up!

Hope this helps.

Your man,

Harsh Strongman

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