Lessons from an AI Startup

Question. Learn. Adapt.

The untold narrative of our era is that there are yet untraveled paths to tread and new discoveries to uncover in the world of artificial intelligence (AI). In Grow Up Fast, Zach Rattner, an entrepreneur who journeyed from being a corporate employee to a startup founder, reveals how we can navigate this relatively unknown terrain to create novel leadership and management solutions.

Zach, CTO and Co-Founder of the AI startup Yembo, offers an honest and enlightening perspective on the journey of building a startup in the rapidly evolving field of AI.

This book isn't about quick success or easy wins; instead, it emphasizes the importance of adaptability, patience, and resilience in the face of unexpected hurdles.

It's a guide for those who are eager to venture into the world of AI, based on Zach's own trials and triumphs.

Zach opens with the transformative concept that in the realm of AI startups, uncertainty and discomfort are not hurdles but catalysts for growth. While many may be blinded by the allure of cutting-edge technology and rapid development, Zach argues that progress should not be confined to established tech hubs or pre-defined paths. Every industry, every business holds the potential for evolution.

It is all rooted in one crucial capability that every leader must cultivate: the power to question, learn, and adapt.

The book includes key lessons learned:

  • The importance of questioning assumptions
  • The value of diversity within a team
  • The traps and benefits of feedback
  • The beauty of constraints

Zach shows us that getting comfortable with discomfort, effectively managing uncertainty, and empowering teams are critical elements in a startup's progression.

Grow Up Fast brings forth both an invigorating vision of future growth in the AI sector, and a fresh approach to understanding innovation: it all begins by asking the right questions which then lead you to discover untapped potential.

Zach's experiences and insights serve as an inspirational compass for those eager to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey in the captivating yet intricate world of AI startups.

Amazon Zach's Amazon Author Page

Quotes from Grow Up Fast © Copyright 2023 Zach Rattner

In hindsight, no official degree or credential deems one ready for startup life. It’s been my experience that many people feel the threshold to make that leap is just a little past their current abilities. Maybe they need just a bit more experience before they think they will be ready

Pg. 16

All projects carry risks, but not all risks are created equal. By focusing on the existential dangers first, we could effectively zero in on a solution and then unlock other tasks.

Pg. 31

There are many untapped companies when looking at the intersection of a novel technology and an industry that hasn’t been substantially influenced by that technology yet.

Pg. 46

There are many easier ways to have a fulfilling career without taking the startup path, but at the end of the day, the opportunity at a startup is what you choose to make of it. The industry you choose to go in, the partners, customers, investors, employees, the entire ecosystem around the company is all something you can influence and, to a certain extent, control.


In 2001, the AI assistant HAL 9000 murders the spaceship crew he is supposed to be looking after. But those fictions paper over AI’s genuine potential to improve the human experience in various unexpected and unforeseeable ways.

Pg. 58

The value delivered to the customer is not the technology itself, but rather the benefit that the technology enables.


The best entrepreneurs I have met don’t glorify the days of eating ramen and working until the early morning hours. You do it if you have to (and you will have to), but it’s something to be minimized instead of glorified.

Pg. 71

There are no universally good or bad ideas when it comes to startup concepts. What is good depends on the founding team.

Pg. 71

By telling them beforehand the product sucks and merely asking them to fill in the blanks, you are overcoming the ingrained psychological hurdle to be friendly and soft pedal feedback. As a result, you are much more likely to get helpful feedback

Pg. 76

By assuming the first version of your product sucks and making it easy for people to gripe about it, you can build a great product.

Pg. 78

Entrepreneurs are generally good at starting initiatives. Great entrepreneurs are also good at handing off initiatives to focus on the next challenge.

Pg. 87

In my experience, all too often individuals take opportunities as they come, without giving much thought to the trajectory they are setting themselves on.

Pg. 233

As consumers, governments, corporations, and individuals grapple with the implications of AI, we need input from everyone to make sure it speaks for all of us. Please do not to sit idly and watch things play out — get involved and help the world figure out how to embed AI in the fabric of society.

Pg. 233

I don’t think I am hyperbolizing to say society is in the midst of being reinvented by AI. Will we achieve a utopia with universal basic income, where artificially intelligent agents willingly perform the mundane work of day-to-day life for us? Or will income inequity, already at points never before seen in the US economy, become further exaggerated?

Pg. 234

I predict that the nascent AI technology will be welcomed in areas where people can handle incomplete work products. As long as generative AI makes mistakes that are obvious to a viewer, AI is not going to replace an artist.

Pg. 235

s technology decreases the barrier to entry to an industry, it is generally the most obvious use cases that get disrupted first. The simplest tasks, the most tedious, the ones that are the most clearly defined.

Pg. 237

The AI revolution of the 2020s will follow similar fundamental trends. The cost of sifting through enormous datasets and extracting insights is becoming much less expensive, but this does not make everyone an analyst. We will likely see more businesses run by solopreneurs, but there will still be a human at the top for the foreseeable future.

Pg. 237

They are emulating work products created by someone with the ability to reason, but they themselves do not have the ability to reason. This is why the mistakes are sometimes so obvious.

Pg. 238

Look carefully and deeply at the opportunity it affords to develop new ideas and businesses. And do it now, because AI is going to grow up fast.

Pg. 239

It still blows my mind how my gong provider was able to be a more reliable source of masks to a legitimate medical facility than the local stores in those days.

Pg. 217

Some of the most pivotal moments in a startup’s development are initiated by events outside a founder’s immediate control

Pg. 211

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