Garry Tan

Best quotes by Garry Tan

Founder Initialized. PM/designer/eng turned Forbes Midas List Top 100 VC in startups worth over $40B, before product-market fit.

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1

Good design is not picking colors and making it pretty Good design is removing steps, understanding motivations, making it clearer, more navigable, faster, easier... it is how it works not how it looks. Too many products (even at the largest firms in tech) forget this.

2

Why is every startup a 10 year overnight success? 80% of new businesses fail in the first 5 years. Another 80% fail in the next 5 years. If you can last 10 years your business is in the top 4% of cos that are still kicking. If you start, be ready to commit for 10 years.

3

When choosing a startup idea, you must be able to check either of these boxes [ ] Truly novel (nobody else has tried) [ ] 10X better product The absolute best check both. 99% of startups check neither. A good pitch is sometimes a strong story explaining how to get the 1st ☑️

4

Ability to focus for long periods of time to become great at something, coupled with the ability to cold call your way to anyone can get you a really long way in this world.

5

Being born in the late 20th century and being interested in computers and capable of programming them is basically like winning the lottery.

6

Show me a fancy resume and I feel nothing. Show me who else is investing and I see lemmings jumping off a cliff. Show me a big unaddressed problem and I am listening. Show me the solution you’ve built and I lean in. Show me the team of true believers you built and I invest.

7

Most underappreciated skill for new founders: Numeracy. Can you speak with authority about your numbers, now and in the future? Can you define the levers of your growth, pick feasible goals, and then hit them week after week, month after month? This is true product market fit

8

Don’t solve with process what you can solve with a conversation

9

Being the best listener in a room pays more long term dividends than being the loudest

10

If you are a startup that has an overfunded competitor that is actually a scam, the least you can do is sleep knowing those other founders have to keep finding more money and bigger fools. You do you. Grow faster and scrappier. The score will take care of itself.

11

Great startups are cleverly selected groups of talented people running hard in a particular direction in lockstep, making valuable things. The money is the byproduct. Focus on the money too much and you mess up the group, the direction and lose the money.

12

Investors at early stage are usually willing to take one of the two: team/execution risk (Can they build and scale it?) or market risk (Do people want it/can it grow quickly?) —If you’re pitching, you should know which risk you are asking investors to believe you can overcome.

13

Show me a get rich quick scheme and I don’t care. Show me a cause that will stir the hearts of talented people and rile them to action? Give them focus, purpose, and meaning? I want to invest.

14

Most startup founders end up spending their entire careers trying to catch lightning in a bottle even once. I caught it once and lost it myself. It’s hard to hold— so much can go wrong. When you catch lightning in a bottle, you have to do everything in your power to harness it.

15

Reminder: It takes ten years to be an overnight success.

16

Basic building blocks of a pitch: 1/ What is it? What problem does it solve? Can you explain it simply? Is it something people want? 2/ Is it working? Traction, stats, stories about users wanting it. 3/ How big could it actually be? Can this be the winner? Moats/network effects.

17

Every ten year overnight startup success had nine years of eating glass where the founders wanted to quit... but didn't.

18

If you made something and you can’t get people to use it, you basically have two options: make it better or do something else. Ask trusted friends who have shipped good things for advice. Don’t listen to people who haven’t made anything: it’s the blind leading the blind.

19

When there is a lot of competition you have basically one tool: specialization Pick off a smaller set of customers and solve their problems completely and in a deeper way. Focus on one city or locality and drive network effects. Then expand. Do what the competition won’t.

20

At early stage, be sure to find some investors who started as labor, then became management before becoming capital. 💪

21

I did an analysis of the dead startups I invested in the past 5 years and the two most common causes are: 1/ People didn’t want X (not a problem or not good enough solution) 2/ People wanted it but weren’t willing to pay Y (low gross margin) Both totally solvable before 💀

22

The most brutal thing about the PM job is that doing the *easy* thing (path of least resistance within an org to get something shipped) is usually the *wrong* thing. The *right* thing is rabid and constant advocacy for the customer. This is why remarkable PMing is quite rare.

23

Lots of college students reach out to me asking me about how to be a VC. I tell them: be a founder first. The best VCs are chosen by founders based on how much they can help bake the 10 year overnight success. Power laws plus adverse selection equal bad returns. Be a founder.

24

If you get slept on, it’s ok. Keep working. Throw that rejection letter on the fire in your heart and burn brighter.

25

The key to a good online business: 1/ make a great product that solves the problem 2/ figure out how to get users cheaply and repeatably 3/ keep them around forever (high retention) Seems to be the answer to half the startup q’s I get on IG DM Simple to say, hard to do obvi

26

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. If you are here in startups to get rich quick, if you’re good you’ll get your money. If not, you won’t. See you never. If you are here to go far, I’m here for you. Let’s go there together.

27

More founders would survive if they thought of their seed round as not $X M in the bank but 24 months to grow 3X+ a year or be profitable.

28

You can solve a problem vertically but end up with TAM problems. Or you can solve a problem horizontally but end up with CAC problems. Pick your poison.

29

You can learn a lot from books and podcasts but here’s why you need to still seek out advice from people who have worked with a lot of startups 1:1— Books/podcasts don’t tell you what happens when things go bad. They will just give you the survivorship bias of what goes right.

30

Quality assurance is the most underrated function for early stage startups. Yes your product works on the golden path. But what if you deviate by 1%? 5%? Your users will. And if you don't fix the "edge case" bugs then they'll never come back.

31

Beware work that feels good but has no tangible result.

32

To create the future you need a beginner’s mind: In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few.

33

Give all the startup advice you want but please never advise new founders to lie about anything. It’s fraud.

34

Great experiences require makers who have taste, vision and execution. Taste is discernment. Vision is the ability to articulate a future. Execution is the ability to realize it. We meet teams that can do some partial set every day. When you meet a team with all 3? Magic 💎

35

Early in your career it is important to find encouragement. A lot of failure early on is the result of being discouraged. Later, if you become mega successful, it is important to find people who will keep you moored to reality. A lot of failure later is the result of sycophancy.

36

People often ask if a startup idea is viable based on a description alone. Hard to answer without knowing all of these— 🧲 Can you get customers (CAC)? 🤩 Will they be delighted (NPS)? 🗓 Will they stick with it (long term cohort retention)? Only then can you answer viability.

37

A lot of people worry when they try and fail, that failure will hang around their neck forever The lucky reality is that nobody cares! You will be remembered if you help a lot of people or make something great, but as long as you don’t hurt anyone else the downside is nil.

38

You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the world. It is better and easier to be the best at explaining things. That local maximum will get a better outcome most of the time than absolute brilliance if there is no ability to recreate or incept that idea in others.

39

About 50 reviews through 300 YC applications submitted for comment. Surprising how unaware people are of competition. Yes, you don't die by competition, but when you make something new, you should be hyper-aware of what Google might tell people to use instead of you.

40

Great founders are great magnets, constantly convincing customers to buy, investors to invest, press to cover, great employees to join.

41

80% of startup failure = spending too much money, not working hard, bad product, not doing enough sales, not charging enough, hiring poorly

42

An uncharitable but very useful view of your potential users are ultimately that they are lazy, not very smart, and totally selfish. So if that's the case, the only way our product can see success is if it's easy, clear/understandable, and totally satisfies a fundamental need.

43

The world is all made up, and that’s a great thing Don’t forget, you get to make it up too. Don’t like something? Replace it. Make a better version and grow it from there. To overturn boulders, find a thin edge of a wedge and then apply force. It’s not easy but it is possible.

44

The hardest part about early stage investing is being strong enough to resist saying “This will never work.” The antidote to this is asking “What if it did?” And “What do others understand about this that I don’t?”

45

When hiring most positions, raw talent and energy beats the resume. There are a lot of diamonds in the rough waiting to be found out there.

46

If your fire in your belly burns longer than your adversaries, you will prevail. 5 years or 10 years but definitely by 20 years... nobody has staying power except those driven by something other than just power and money and fame.

47

There’s a direct relationship between how deep your minimum viable product must be and how crowded your market is— Novel? Release what is new first. Iterate. Crowded? Focus on what is novel—you must be clearly better than some of the alternatives for some customers even if few.

48

If you’re on the journey and some clones come with their copy machines, know that people like that generally don’t have the determination to stick it out 10 years to win. Every winning startup is the 10 year overnight success. Few people want to sign up for that lift.

49

Investors tend to make all their money in 2 ways: being in the deal everybody wants to be in, or being in the deal nobody wants to be in.

50

When your competitor starts stealing phrases off your homepage, know you are pushing their pressure points. Push harder, until you win.

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