Writing a Novel is Not Like Running a Business

The Incompetent Writer

Paul Graham is one of the founders of Y Combinator, a very successful incubators of tech startups. He has funded and instructed companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, and reddit, amongst others.

The other day, I started reading Graham’s many essays about business and technology, and I was struck by one point he made, in “Startup = Growth.” There, he argues that a startup is not like a normal business.

Let’s start with a distinction that should be obvious but is often overlooked: not every newly founded company is a startup. Millions of companies are started every year in the US. Only a tiny fraction are startups. Most are service businesses—restaurants, barbershops, plumbers, and so on. These are not startups, except in a few unusual cases. A barbershop isn’t designed to grow fast. Whereas a search engine, for example, is.

When I say startups are designed to grow fast, I mean it in two…

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