Notes – Sam Altman on Masters of Scale Podcast

Here’s my notes from the Masters of Scale Podcast featuring Sam Altman:


Notes taken on Mexico–> Houston–> San Diego flight by Neville Medhora.

*Interesting how Reid’s sponsor ads on the podcast are broken. 3 story based segments in beginning/middle/end.

  • Reid Hoffman= founder of LinkdIn, investor at Greylock
  • Sam Altman = Y Combinator starter accelerator, Airbnb Stripe, Reddit etc.
  • Loves the utility of cargo shorts. “ You can carry a lot of stuff!”
  • His deep fascination for tech history. Collects old swords, tech artifacts.
  • “A product that is deeply loved by it’s users is a product that can scale.”
  • “It’s more important to have 100 people who really love your product, then 1,000,000 that just sorta like it.”
  • The love seed of scale starts with a teeny tiny group of people who are zealous-like in their loyaltys
  • Sam often “pattern matches from history. Enjoys this that were major technologies– in their day, like hand combat weapons.
  • Arrived a YC:
    • Graduated from college. Initially planned to be an intern at Goldman Sachs
    • Started “Loopt”… as an after-class project in 2005. A mobile app 2 years before iphone, so not much chance of success. Paul Graham was founder of Y Combinator, PC put out offer to your idea.
  • Dominique Ansel- Chef that created CroNut. The craze grew orgarally. No marketing, just good product. He puts a huuuge amount of effort to keep the texture etc just right. After blesser wrote about it, 100+ people, then 200 etc. in line to set CroNut.
    • Cannot re-create CroNut success, kind of a “hit” and can’t sustain.
  • “The first step to scale, is to renounce your desire to sale.”
  • “Focus on those happy few.”
  • Sam got $6,000 and free dinners from YC in the 1st class of entrepreneurs.
    • Loopt soon struck deals with At&T
    • Sam shared stage w/ Steve Jobs in 2008 to into loopt on new App Store.
      • Loopt acquired when was 26 for $43 million
  • Loved being IN the trenches, Paul Graham said he was gonna retire (jokingly) and Sam should be president of Y Comb, He was 28.

His Mantra:

Love is better than like.” Central mantra of YC

  • If you look at the current bio co’s they tried to have fairly early fanatical users. “ You likely come across FB of google cause Friend told you about it.”
  • Buuuttt, a lot of startups do this, but don’t always work.
  • Learned from iPhones, the love was DEEP, They used them all the time and it became their most precious item. Even in poor countries they had nothing, but would sill get smartphone.
  • “You gotta use the product it’s so great.”
    • Good things to hear. Indicates might have scale
    • Expencetial possibly
  • Exceedingly hard to get there without making a few people enormously happy.
  • You can’t “trick” users into loving your brand. Example: Spanx.
    • Focused on users who were recruiting other users. Pre-internet influencer marketing.
  • Many people try to scale with slick marketing campaign


  • 2 kinds of scaling!
  • The easy kind!
    When you first have a product users super love. Then you can scale without having to generate demand.
  • The Hard Kind!
    Try to start scaling before the product is great. Then most of your effort is trying to generate demand.

    • People don’t stick with someone they don’t love. You can cleverly hack your way to it, but it rarely sticks and sets harder.
    • Add one narrow set of users, then go after another like Facebook slices of colleges. However main audience is outside that. Find initial user somewhere.
  • Focused a lot of YC on hard tech (cars, energy, super sonic planes).
  • “Boom” raised $51 mil to build a supersonic jet. People are all excited about it.
    • It might be easier to start a hard company, and harder to start an easy company. Hard companies get more people excited about them.
  • The aroutrit companies fewd to be the ones who are working on the bleeding edge of what people are working on.
  • Ended out episode w/sword analogy that when Sam got his Bronze Era Sword he just couldn’t wait to use it.


Download these notes (and transcription) as a Google Doc:

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