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The Challenges Of A Repeat Founder

Tikhon Bernstam cofounded Scribd (YC S06) and Parse (YC S11).

Updated on February 14

Key Smash Notes In This Episode


Tikhon is a Y Combinator backed founder and investor. He started Scribd and Parse. He later sold Parse to Facebook.


Tikhon was in graduate school in theoretical physics, when he read Paul Graham's essay on How to Start a Startup. Inspired by what he saw, Tikhon applied, not at all sure that he would get in, but once accepted, Tikhon dropped out of grad school and moved to Cambridge, where YC was based at the time. The rest is history!


YouTube was a hot startup at the time, and everyone wanted to be the "YouTube of X," much like in the 2010s everyone wants to be "Uber for Y."

Seeing that viewing documents in the browser was a huge pain, Tikhon and co started Scribd, a "YouTube for documents."


Not knowing much about what they were doing early on, Tikhon and team found feedback from the Y Combinator team to be incredibly useful. They would look at the Scribd's progress and be able to immediately steer the guys in the right direction, saving them invaluable time in wasted effort.


Funding environment was very different back in the early days of Y Combinator than it is now, and after the demo day, Scribd team survived on savings, and the generosity of their parents.


The founders did not want to waste time building products, so instead they spun out 12 different landing pages and launched them all, measuring which one gathered the most interest. Parse won.


Because without a market, even a great relentless team with a great product cannot succeed.


A lot of successful founders had started as solo founders, and Tikhon says that startups are already hard, and if you are willing to persevere on your own, that only shows an additional strength of character.


Invest in a big market, even if it's already crowded. A great product in a big market will outperform a novel product in a small market.

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