“Don’t start a company simply for the sake of starting one” – The Posterous Interview

Written on June 3, 2011
Posterous is a Y Combinator startup that launched in mid-2008, and has since grown into one of the most successful and widely-used blogging platforms. To share the Posterous story with us, and to offer his advice on launching and running a startup, we invited the co-founder and CEO of Posterous, Sachin Agarwal, to have a chat.

 

Posterous was initially funded by Y-Combinator, tell us about your experiences applying and being accepted into the program. How important has Y-Combinator been to the success of Posterous?

Y Combinator gives startups a head start. A lot of engineers enter YC with an idea, maybe a prototype, and no idea how to run the rest of the business. YC helps you turn your prototype into a product. They help you with the legal hurdles of starting a company. And ultimately they get you launched and on to the next stage of fundraising. It’s a huge advantage over trying to do all this on your own.

Both you and your co-founder left your full-time jobs to work on Posterous, how difficult was it to make that decision? What advice would you offer to those considering making the same jump?

It was *very* hard for me to leave Apple. I loved my job and the company. Working at Apple was a dream come true. But then I had another dream: I wanted to make sharing online easier and safer. This idea kept me up at night, and eventually drove me to work nights and weekends to make it happen. I have two pieces of advice: first of all, working for an established company before starting your own company is a great idea. I learned a ton at Apple about how to develop and ship products. That experience still helps me every day at Posterous. Second, don’t start a company just for the sake of starting one. Wait until you have an idea that you believe in so much, that the decision to quit your job is simple.

What is the greatest technical challenge that Posterous has faced? How did you overcome that?

The greatest challenge is building a strong team. Hiring is hard. You want to get only the best engineers, and also maintain the culture of the company as you go. We’ve been very selective in our hiring. We’ve hired slower than more companies to make sure we only get the best. And we’ve let people go who didn’t work out. That’s not easy to do, but it’s the right thing for the company. The first few hires set the tone for everyone, so it’s critical that they are the best.

Posterous has no advertising (at least in the form of generic banner ads), what lead you to that decision? Has it been a good one?

If I find value in a product or service, I’ll pay for it. I buy my music. I pay for Netflix. I don’t like it when advertising ruins my experience when using a product. And that’s why there’s no advertising on Posterous. We want you to enjoy the content. When you’re viewing your friends photos or your family home videos, you don’t want to see ads alongside those. And I believe if we create a lot of value for our users, there will be other ways to generate revenue.

 

How has the way in which you initially thought people would use Posterous changed?

Initially Posterous was entirely public. The idea was that people wanted personal, customizable, public websites to share. But really what has taken off for Posterous is private group sharing. That’s really how the world wants to share online: people sharing with their family, friends, or work colleagues. Private sharing is safer and much bigger than public sharing.

 

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