As a female founder of a YC startup (bottomless.com, YC W19), I totally resonate with this. While it is true that being a female in tech can be difficult, those difficulties don't even compare to how hard it is to get and sustain traction in a startup.
For example, this quote by Jessica: "A good way to ensure that you make something people want is to make something you yourself want." -- is at odds with the ethos of one of my favorite pg essays (all the way from 2005) in which I feel he really gets to the core of "building what people want:"
> If you want to learn what people want, read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. When a friend recommended this book, I couldn't believe he was serious. But he insisted it was good, so I read it, and he was right. It deals with the most difficult problem in human experience: how to see things from other people's point of view, instead of thinking only of yourself. [...] Most smart people don't do that very well. But adding this ability to raw brainpower is like adding tin to copper. The result is bronze, which is so much harder that it seems a different metal.
I think building things that you want is a bit of a red herring. Every time I'm working on a project that solely solves my problems, the solution tends to be solipsistic and myopic. In any case, jl's essay is a great read, and I really do miss when HN had mostly startup content on the front page :)
You do have to make sure you're solving a problem that other people share. If you're the only one who has the problem you won't be able to make a business out of it. However, if you're solving a problem you yourself have, Jessica is right that you'll have special insight into what your customers want that you wouldn't with another kind of problem you don't know about. I think it's great as initial guidance in building the MVP if you have a solution in mind to aim for. Once you've launched (and before then, if you can) you should be talking to users.
Also every time one of PG's essays shows up here, I see this criticism that he's out of touch. Which is possible. It's also possible he's still an expert at evaluating and advising startups and it's your own bias talking - because now you see him as an out of touch rich guy. Careful with that kind of criticism, because very often the problem is just you and your own perceptions.
This point aside, I haven't written anything in 2 years, so it's possible I'm out of shape :)
Not at all, it was a great read! And perhaps, as @eloff mentioned, my own biases might be at work. As an introvert, it's a more significant effort for me to go out there and investigate other people's problems (so pg's point might be more salient).
I believe, pg is talking about scaling up your product so that multiple users that feel the same pain as you do can use it as well: In other words, fixing users' "jobs to be done" .
In fact, one of the other pg essays really drives home jl's point that one comes across things they need but don't exist, regularly: http://paulgraham.com/schlep.html
The great thing about building something for yourself is at least you know it's a real problem. It may potentially be too small of a market, but at least it's a real problem.
Also, it's much easier to build something that you deeply understand. Sure, you want a lot of users feedback and talk with them all the time, but deeply understanding the problem really help you focus on what's important rather than building features that users ask but that aren't that important.
Like to update your content across multiple social media platforms. While they are useful to some people, I don’t really see them as game changers worthy of startup funding.
From my own experience I would underscore Jessica’s point on an organic, strong relationship.
When your cofounder is a life-long friend, the effects are significant: you can emulate their thinking, you two have been through a lot in different scenarios, and make decisions that focus on the long term