Running Your Company by Patrick Collison | Summary and Q&A

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October 3, 2018
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Y Combinator
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Running Your Company by Patrick Collison

TL;DR

Stripe, the payment processing company, started with a small team and gradually expanded, focusing on product-market fit and user feedback, eventually becoming a global entity worth billions of dollars.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did Stripe address the challenge of establishing banking partnerships before launching?

Stripe prioritized establishing partnerships with banks and invested time in building relationships to ensure a smooth launch process. This involved extensive coordination and negotiation with various banking institutions.

Q: How did Stripe gradually expand its user base before publicly launching?

Stripe added a small number of users each month and focused on refining the product based on user feedback during the pre-launch phase. This approach allowed them to actively iterate and improve the product before scaling to a larger audience.

Q: How did Stripe ensure a culture of innovation and speed as the company grew?

The co-founders emphasized the importance of speed, agility, and a "yes and" culture within the organization. They encouraged employees to be intellectually honest, care deeply about their work, and love getting things done. Regular communication and transparency also played a crucial role in fostering a culture of innovation.

Q: How did Stripe's approach to hiring change as the company scaled?

Initially, Stripe focused on hiring individuals who could help build the product. As the company grew, they hired specialists in areas where they lacked expertise, such as partnerships. However, they were cautious about maintaining a balance between speed and agility and allowing individuals to have a sense of ownership and agency within the organization.

Summary

In this video, Patrick Collison, the co-founder and CEO of Stripe, discusses the journey of building and scaling a startup. He shares insights on the importance of product-market fit, the process of gradually expanding the user base, and the role of founders in running a startup. Patrick also talks about the challenges and lessons learned in hiring and transitioning as the startup grows.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Stripe take almost two years to launch publicly?

The delay in launching Stripe was due to the time required to establish banking partnerships and other necessary preparations. Stripe wanted to ensure all necessary components were in place before going live, which resulted in a delay of almost two years.

Q: How did Stripe gradually expand its user base before launching publicly?

Despite not being publicly available, Stripe managed to acquire a hundred users by gradually expanding its user base every month. By adding a handful of users each month, Stripe had a significant user base by the time of its public launch.

Q: What was the concept behind the "Collison installation"?

The "Collison installation" referred to the strategy of personally visiting potential users to install the Stripe API and gather user feedback. This approach served two purposes - user research and UI/UX feedback, as well as creating a "why now" moment for potential users by personally demonstrating the value of Stripe.

Q: How did Patrick and his brother, John, decide on their respective roles in the company?

Patrick and John, being brothers and co-founders, trusted each other and ran the company together. Although Patrick took on the CEO role, major decisions were made through cooperation, and both had significant roles in running the company. Their roles were determined based on specialization and passionate alignment rather than a hierarchical designation.

Q: How did Patrick define product-market fit for Stripe and at what point did they achieve it?

Stripe considered achieving product-market fit when they launched publicly in September 2011. The repeated iterations of their product based on user feedback and reaching a point where they were bottlenecked by serving user demand rather than generating it indicated the achievement of product-market fit. At the time of launch, Stripe had a significant user base and market demand.

Q: How did Patrick maintain a positive attitude during the early days of Stripe?

Patrick emphasizes the distinction between happiness and fulfillment. He admits that the early days were not necessarily happy, as they were constantly aware of product deficiencies and challenges. However, the fulfillment of working with his brother, hiring talented individuals, and serving businesses with a potential impact on the world brought a sense of fulfillment and meaning to the work.

Q: When did Stripe start hiring people and for what roles?

Stripe hired its first engineer shortly after its launch. The initial hires focused on building the product and improving it based on user feedback. They later made key hires, such as Billy Alvarado, to lead partnerships and address specific areas where they lacked expertise.

Q: How did Patrick transition from being involved in all aspects of the business to delegating and hiring people to handle different responsibilities?

Patrick acknowledges that the transition could have been smoother. They should have mapped out the market segments and their organization's ability to serve each segment ahead of time. This would have allowed them to build the necessary go-to-market functions and organization earlier. The goal is to focus on building an organization that can serve the entire market, even if the company is not there yet.

Q: How did Patrick approach hiring at different stages of Stripe's growth?

Patrick's approach to hiring was based on the need to iterate quickly and maintain responsiveness. In the early stages, the focus was on hiring people who could help build the product. The optimal team size ranged from two to ten people, depending on the specific requirements. The key consideration in hiring was how each additional person would contribute to accelerating the speed of iteration.

Q: Is there a point where hiring more people becomes detrimental to a startup?

Every additional hire carries costs in terms of time, coordination, and alignment. The trade-off is between the benefits of adding new team members versus the costs associated with their onboarding and ongoing coordination. There is no fixed point where hiring more people becomes detrimental, as it depends on the specific circumstances of the startup. Constant evaluation of the value-add and ensuring alignment with the organization's goals is necessary.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Stripe took almost two years from the first line of code to public launch, due to the need to establish banking partnerships.

  • The company gradually expanded its user base before publicly launching, adding a handful of users each month.

  • Stripe's initial team focused on user research and feedback, iterating the product in response to user needs.

  • The co-founders, Patrick and John Collison, made important hires to address areas where they lacked expertise, such as partnerships.

  • Stripe's success can be attributed to its focus on speed, agility, and a culture of innovation.

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