Startup Turn of Events

I’m back to being a full-time startup founder, and the job never disappoints.

Starting a company is an emotional roller coaster. The highs are high, and the lows are low. Hard not to take it personally when an investor cancels a phone call, or a potential client decides to “go forward with another option” just after a product demo that I nailed.

(I nailed that demo.)

So my every day now is a race to achieve product-market fit before the company runs out of cash. Startups need to build a product that people want to buy, and then find enough people to actually buy it, so the company can pay its bills and stay in business.

Reid Hoffman (the more famous one of the LinkedIn co-founders) repeated his quote to death, but hearing it too often doesn’t make it less true & awesome: “An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.

Myself included, CEOs tend to take on too much work, inevitably isolating themselves from others. Loneliness is as real as self-doubt is, and neither of those make for a healthy mind. So what’s a founder to do if they want to succeed?

Now my personal routine involves weekly check-ins with three mentors who help with different aspects of the business. Others have found mastermind groups helpful. Talking to mentors and peers is helpful to find loneliness, and can help separate the signal from the noise.

Your mileage may vary, but even if work is your passion, working seven days a week for sustained periods rarely does your health any good.

Take time for self-care and for your support system, and you know what to do if there isn’t any time to take. Make time, my friend.

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Is an NFT Less Than a Fart or More Than a Fart?

It’s only the first week of January but we have the funniest NFT story of the year.

So here’s this celebrity, Stephanie Matto, who started to sell her farts in a jar. Both a wonderful troll move and a brilliant business opportunity, bringing in $50K a week (good for her!)

And then she claims that producing farts is such a stressful work that she had a heart attack scare. She even got hospitalized to drive the point home.

Finally, in the ultimate troll move, Steph stops selling physical farts and moves to selling NFTs, which is just genius — a digital fart is somehow both less than a fart and more than a fart at the very same time.

One of the best NFT use cases I’ve seen so far.

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Books of 2021

This year’s reading list is some 50% thinner than it usually gets, but hey ho. I blame missing commute in 2021.

  • From “Small Giants by Bo Burlingham” I learned that if you want a company that cares, you need people who care, and they need to be motivated by more than money
  • From “Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb” I learned that a doctor is pushed by the system to transfer risk from himself to you, from the present into the future.
  • From “Zilch by Nancy Lublin” I learned that if you need to ask for something, be as specific as possible, see “This thing X will cost you Y and will help Z number of women.”

Reading through my notes, I’m sure I’ll re-read some of the books from this year. The complete list:

  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter F. Drucker
  • Zilch by Nancy Lublin
  • Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern
  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
  • The E-myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber
  • Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer
  • Ä by Max Goldt
  • Traction by Gino Wickman
  • After the Quake By: Haruki Murakami
  • The Most Beautiful Woman in Town by Charles Bukowski
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • Start Finishing by Charlie Gilkey
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • 12 Months to $1 Million by Ryan Daniel Moran
  • Big Money Energy by Ryan Serhant
  • All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
  • I Never Knew That About New York by Christopher Winn
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Cosmic Latte

To my deep disappointment, cosmic latte is not a super-massive coffee.

Cosmic latte is the average color of the universe, found by a team of astronomers from Johns Hopkins University. In 2002, Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry determined that the average color of the universe was a greenish white, but they soon corrected their analysis in a 2003 paper in which they reported that their survey of the light from over 200,000 galaxies averaged to a slightly beigeish white.[2] The hex triplet value for cosmic latte is #FFF8E7.
— From Wikipedia

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Simplifying Simplifying

Every time physicists discover something new about the universe, they realize that the world is more complex than they previously thought. Ancient Greeks learned that the physical world can be broken down to tiny particles, and they named the particles “atoms.” They used their word for “indivisible” because they thought, surely, this is as complex as it gets.

Later, the first physicists who worked with the electron had no inkling of quantum mechanics. Now we talk about the types of quarks, and the next time we learn more, would you bet along with me that it won’t get any simpler?

It’s as if our understanding of the world is in constant movement toward the increasingly complex. And most people’s default mindset seems to have adjusted to this well.

When we work on many types of problems, we tend to favor additive solutions rather than starting with the simplification step. We fit an extra wheel to carts, use more description to explain things, or add another layer to a cake—to make it “better.” Sometimes we do these things because the additive solution appears easier, and often because we didn’t even think to consider the alternative.

Simplifying takes effort. Consider the quote, widely attributed to Mark Twain: “I apologize for such a long letter—didn’t have time to write a short one.”

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“Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.” – Edsger W. Dijkstra

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What QA is

A QA engineer walks into a bar. Orders a beer. Orders 0 beers. Orders 99999999999 beers. Orders a lizard. Orders -1 beers. Orders a ueicbksjdhd. 

@brenankeller on Twitter:

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Customize Referral Campaigns Like There’s No Tomorrow

People want to share their experiences with their social circles, even if nobody gives them money for it.

There are many reasons for this, from wanting to look like the most informed person in the community to simply wanting to help others. In fact, being selfless is so important to some of us that financial incentives can hinder our willingness to recommend a product to our friends.

And here we have the marketer’s conceptual dilemma. Can they make a referral look like an organic, word-of-mouth type of invite?

Consider the following sentence: “You will both get 10% off your next order.”

By rephrasing it to “You’ll get 10% off your next order. Your friend will also get 10% off their next order,” we haven’t changed the meaning of the sentence. The offer is still the same; the person sending the referral and their invitee each get exactly 10% discount, yet in an A/B test, each message will usually yield different results.

What many experiments find is that a pro-social emphasis will see better results. Interestingly, we often see that more people will submit to a campaign that says “Your friend gets 10% off their next order, and you’ll also get 10% off.” Why this happens is anybody’s guess, but it might be because the phrasing does a better job of reducing the amount of guilt a referrer may feel for being rewarded.

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The Cohabitation of Two Wealthy Women

A “Boston marriage” was, historically, the cohabitation of two wealthy women, independent of financial support from a man. The term is said to have been in use in New England in the late 19th/early 20th century. Some of these relationships were romantic in nature and might now be considered a lesbian relationship; others were not.

From Wikipedia

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Three Smart People on Work

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote an essay titled, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” in which the economist attempted to predict the future during the bottom years of the Great Depression. Keynes wrote that within 100 years (by 2030), humanity would be so much more technologically advanced that the problem of scarcity would already be solved, and we would only have to work 15 hours a week.

Then, the anthropologist James Suzman spent 30 years studying and living with one of the world’s enduring hunter-gatherer societies. His work with the Ju/’hoansi people in southern Africa has provided a unique lens into our modern obsession with work.

As Suzman writes in his new book, Work: A Deep History, From the Stone Age to the Age of Robots, hunter-gatherer societies spent only about 15 hours a week meeting their material needs. Despite being deeply impoverished by modern standards, they considered themselves affluent.

It just so happens that, in our modern urban world, there actually isn’t a whole lot of life outside of work for most people. Some of the hardest working people are actually the ones who should have to work the least. It’s as if the reward for work were more work.

It’s not only you. When Bill Gates was asked about work-life balance at a conference, he said, “I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one.”

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