Startup School Radio: YC's Geoff Ralston On Learning As You Go

In Episode 9 of YC's Startup School Radio, our host Aaron Harris first sat down with YC partner Geoff Ralston to talk about his keen interest in funding education startups both at YC and through the Imagine K12 accelerator he founded. In the second portion of the episode, Aaron talked to David Bladow, the co-founder and CEO of BloomThat, the YC S13 company that's been dubbed the "Uber for flowers," delivering organic floral arrangements within 90 minutes.

You can listen to the full hour-long episode on SoundCloud here or on iTunes here, and read the full transcript on Genius here.

In Geoff's interview, he talked about how the evolving nature of work has contributed to his focus on new education technologies -- and how the best founders are the ones who know how to learn new things:


Geoff: It is also true however that [in the past] the job security was much better. If you were a farmer, you stayed on your farm forever and it was very unlikely that you would do anything else in your career. The [current] realities of a lifetime where you will be forced to have multiple careers and multiple expertise, learn multiple things, sort of goes to the heart of why I am interested in education. ...You can't do that unless learning is something that becomes a part of how you do your job, and how you think about your life.

Aaron: I guess when you think about being a founder it isn't a single skill set. There is no thing that you go and say, 'Oh, you've learned this, therefore you can start a company.' It's actually an amalgamation of lots of different skills and I think a lot of it is a mindset, the determination that you're going to go do all of those things necessary to make your company succeed.

Geoff: I've always been so impressed with people, you see them around you in life and in the workplace, where something comes up that's necessary to do, you would say okay, someone's got to do it, and they say, 'Okay, I'll do it' and then it gets done. They figure out how to make things happen. How to pull together the different threads of creation or whatever they're doing and make it so and that's what a startup is. If you're an engineer when you start a startup you might actually have to be the head communications officer where they have to do radio shows like this, even if you're kind of a geeky guy like I am, or you know, I hesitate to say it, but like you are. And here we are, talking on the radio.

You better be able to learn how to do things. But one of the things we've noticed at Y Combinator is that some of the very best enterprise companies that are created by kind of really super smart, super competent, kind of geeky guys who understand how to build software is when they actually learn how to do enterprise sales all on their own.

Aaron: Right, which isn't a skill that you think they'd have. The classic idea here is someone who doesn't want to talk to people.

Geoff: Exactly, they seldom have it. But the best ones gain it. It's really impressive. And once they do that, they make for the very very best founders.