Search Linus's Notes

Linus's notes on startups and life. 1089 results

  • Profitability is important because a positive revenue stream means, no matter how small, the venture does not have to raise more capital

  • "Ramen Profitability" is assuring to investors and owners that the startup has potential and is keeping expenses low with desirable, marketable products

  • "What keeps people from starting startups is the fear of having so much responsibility."

  • Raising money is the worst distraction, and without its necessity, the company can focus most on the critical work

  • "Bootstrapping" or success without taking investments has a much lower chance of success

  • Partition the day's time wisely. A path may be to have two work days in one, one on "business stuff" and one on the maker's schedule

  • Startups are a localized culture, and hence, so is entrepreneurship

  • Entrepreneurship is a different type of work -- it's not easier than a nine-to-five, it's more taxing in every way

    • Two types of startups:

    • Type I, that arises out of need and creativity
    • Type II, that arises to commercialize a scientific discovery
    • Good design, having a good sense of taste and aesthetic, is hard, and also important

    • Simple
    • Timeless
    • Effective
    • Looks easy
    • Daring
  • Great businesses can come without MBAs and investors, but not without hackers and creatives

  • Better to have small number of passionate users than large body of happy ones

  • "The recipe for great work is: very exacting taste, plus the ability to gratify it."

  • "Relentlessly Resourceful": good founders are not hindered by misfortune and battered by circumstances

  • One of the most powerful forces pushing out innovation is social. People tell other people. If a product can connect other people, that will accelerate. ("Why TV Lost [to computers]")

  • Broadcasting != Sharing. Only one is commutative and transitive

  • You are the first investor in your startup

  • Understand your users. Most important thing.

  • The best ideas and conclusions are often best generated and reached when you separate the ideas and the discourse from your identity and your self-image to be protected

  • Life is short. Avoid bullshit and seek out things that matter.

  • "Don't wait before climbing that mountain or writing that book or visiting your mother. You don't need to be constantly reminding yourself why you shouldn't wait. Just don't wait."

  • Lead, don't manage.

  • The economy of the future is not of scale, but of small, rapidly growing new power

  • Good products focus on the users; good platforms focus on the developers

  • "It's not enough to consider your mind a blank slate. You have to consciously erase it."

  • "How to be a great hacker": only work on things that drive you, but on those few things, make them stunningly great

  • You can be proactive, or you can just be a reaction to the rest of the world. [Amy Schmittauer]

  • Charisma alone goes a long way

  • Look first for the hardest parts of the problem

  • Look for ways to disprove your position

  • Most ideas are not undiscovered because they are complex, but unseen because they look wrong. they're all around us.

  • Learn to differentiate between the passing fads of popularity and the genuinely good things; what you really like.

    • Learn to hold the question, the problem, and the solution in one's head. Working in fewer, longer stretches helps this dramatically.

    • Write code bottom-up, from the biggest structure up, and rewrite the program frequently if possible. This keeps the code base clean.
    • Start small and focused.
  • Always be capturing (Sprint, GV)

    • Google's Design Thinking

    • Discovery: overcome your own biases
    • Define the Problem: small downhill: what does success look like?
    • Brainstorm the Solution 10x: no idea is bad
    • Prototype: test the solution: test as many ideas as many ways as possible
  • Startup culture is defined by constant adaptation

  • "Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting!" - Larry Page, Google Inc.

  • Treat projects like musical improvisation. Embrace the uncertainty and be guided by time. (Surrender to the unknown)

  • Follow actively: If we want a climate where people can accomplish groundbreaking things, we need to know our voice will be heard and where we’re not afraid to take risks.

  • Don't try to 'disrupt' and don't try to upset the industry best practices. That defines you and your work by the status quo, and the best ideas aren't dependent upon the status quo.

  • Story-centered product design looks not at the purely visual presentation but the experience of the user interacting with the product or service, and makes for a better product

  • Being uncomfortable is often a benefit.

  • Users' trust is one of the most important features of a product

  • Your venture is not about you and your work / innovation; it's about how you will change the lives of your customers. Everything else is irrelevant.

  • Pitch: Clear mission -> Demonstrable problem -> User-centric solution -> Team to deliver -> Interactive appendix and answers to questions; it's a story

  • Design is critical and designers are versatile -- founders, some.

  • Elements: Market, Product, Business Model, Strategy, established in that order

    • "How Google Works"

    • Optimize for growth and scale, not revenue or profit
    • People are the most important choices you make initially
    • Innovation is radically useful
    • Successful failure is successful recovery
  • Be "unencumbered by reality": persistence in the face of people who say "no"

    • It's often easier to make something 10x better than it is to make it 10% better. - Astro Teller, X

    • Failure must be an option; give creatives freedom to do great work
    • Be bothered by limitations
    • Measure 10x / 10% in impact, not effort or resources
    • Pay attention to trends
  • Entrepreneurship is about creating change and impact, not about building a company; that's just a side effect. - Mark Zuckerberg, Global Entrepreneurship Summit, 2016

  • The philosophy behind marketing-oriented design: don't lose sight of why the product is useful to the user when you're designing and get held up in the features and technology

  • As long as you care for the customer and show that’s our ultimate goal, they will stick around

  • Google's London design conference: a part of a product designer's job is to calibrate the long-term vision against short term goals and realities

  • Choose the first dozen people by their enthusiasm, not by how good of an employee or coworker they are. (Experience: Sam v. Hunter) The passionate people will find time and come around to stick with it, but the good people may leave you hanging.

  • "Are we running today? Are we making stuff today? Are we changing today?"

  • Great product design is a combination of the company's goals and the customer's goals. Good design makes both parties successful. - Travis Neilson

  • Money is an object. I need money to do the things I want to do. Money is a goal to achieve a better goal.

  • [Hank Green, on Events] People come to events if they can feel comfortable being excited about what they get excited about. When they don't know how that could happen, people don't come or don't have a good time.

  • Effort + Talent, Pettit + Conaway style

  • The actual path to success is going to be "some sort of a zigzaggy thing" - Elon Musk

  • Be a continual amateur.

  • There is a probabilistically great chance that most of the geniuses in the world don't have access to the Internet. Resource matters.

  • Human resources are not static; they're like AWS Lambda functions, dispensable and scalable on-demand in the twenty-first entrepreneurial century

  • Marcus Shingles: The most valuable skill today is the ability to be aware of the frontier of the possible and the 'convergence' of technology, then utilize that to the full extent to solve problems, trained in the 'art of the possible'

    • There are two approaches to creating impact in any space and succeeding:

    • Identify market demands for a product or an innovation and create it at a good price [market demand, maker response]
    • Identify a change or reform that will be necessary in the future, and _create_ market demands to generate sufficient revenue to get there eventually. [maker demand, market response]
  • @zen_habits: If this moment were the most important moment of your life, how would you act differently?

  • The biggest values of a business may originate not from the direct product lines or profit sources of the company, but from its assets, and the potential utility of such assets it may hold or be able to hold in the future

  • "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny.'" - Isaac Asimov

  • Your job is not to be burdened. "My job is to fall in love." - Lin-Manuel Miranda

  • "Dance with a fear ... Risk a bigger dream ... do work that matters." - Seth Godin, "If not now, when?"

    • Vox.com: two different corporate structures: usually, a company is a combination of both, for different aspects of the business

    • Smaller companies / start-ups choose functional organization more (famously, Apple), where divisions are created based on skill sets. This allows agile and efficient allocation of resources, but product lines are prone to unstable amounts of attention
    • Larger companies / groups choose divisional organization more (famously, Berkshire-Hathaway), where divisions are created based on product line. This allows separation of concerns and devotion to each line of business at the cost of agility by separation of concerns.
  • "Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark." - Anon on /r/graphic_design

  • On Google v. Amazon in corporate culture: Amazon is product-first, accountable for customer metrics. Each project has a clear boundary and customers and profits. In contrast ,Google is composed of smaller units with much more freedom and access to resources and leisure, building useful ideas into reality without a clear focus on a set of products.

  • Identify where you compete -- that's your MOST. You should focus on being the BEST at those few things, and settle for enough on other ones. Know the difference. Seth Godin.

  • Regina Dugan, NASA JPL: Design and test to fail, because you'll learn more for the right way to the right answer

    • Not merely about the product, but about the interaction with the client and the customer, that's unmistakable

    • Give each client, each user, an unmistakable experience, and take care for every single user that the experience, the interaction, is hallmark
  • We are human, and the customers are human (so far). Deliver human experiences and interactions. That's what they're paying for.

  • Elon Musk: to be a leader is to avoid being an executive, and instead to be involved in the most important decisions to the product and the customers, wherever they may be happening

  • In leadership, treating partners and employees as if they’re a part of your core network, because they are; outside of furthering business goals, be concerned about furthering their personal goals

  • "Behind any successful person stands a long string of failures." - Keith Ferrazzi

  • In the early days of a venture, it’s critical to get the right people. Namely, people who are themselves entrepreneurial. Because the wrong people will not persist.

  • Compete with yourself 10 years from now, in whichever skill it be.

  • As the company grows, growth becomes a lagging indicator, not a real-time indicator. In larger companies, it can lag 1-2 quarters behind in investments and strategic shifts.

  • Brand with a vision. Your brand is your vision, and the conviction that you will succeed in the end, or will die trying. -- Tesla.

  • The Founder’s Null Hypothesis. Before investing any resources into a problem, statistically verify that the problem exists and proposed solution will solve the problem to customer’s demand.

  • History is cyclical, repeating the problems and thoughts humanity encounters again and again. Let go of the transient issues and focus effort on the long-term, humanity-scale problems.

  • Work passionately, as if the life of a person is in your hands, as if your work will save the life of someone you know. And then make it so.

  • Regard a career selflessly; that is, always be pushing myself to grow what my career can do for others.

  • Become indispensable to the field of solving the problems I want to solve.

  • Doist blog, from the CEO: "What’s better than an exit strategy? It’s a long-term mission that your company truly cares about. It’s focusing on building a company that can outlast you and creating something of true value. I believe this kind of thinking should be the guideline for every company."

  • "Every two months or so I look back and shake my head at how lame the product was, how little I knew, and how inefficient my workflow was. Which is to say, I continue to learn at an incredible clip yet realize I still don't know a thing. I expect this trend to continue - if it doesn't, I'm not growing." - welanes, Hacker News; Don't try to create this retroactively, but try to progress at this pace in the short intervals of days and weeks

  • Get the logistics of an environment down, so we can focus on and put effort towards the import things that move us forward.

  • Add to the inventory of rhetoric styles, on Astro Teller: Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall -- tell a _story_

  • "When hiring, never settle. Only hire people who will be as passionate as you. They'll never let you down." In other words, "Hire people who amaze you." [https://hackernoon.com/how-to-bootstrap-your-saas-company-to-1m-arr-before-raising-venture-capital-d3be086effa0]

  • Sales and marketing are about identifying the customer's pain first, then finding ways to help.

  • At every moment, at every practice of every skill, strive to become better than tomorrow, and strive to have today's efforts diminish in comparison to what'll be done tomorrow. We do this by attempting the absolute passionate best at every task. The Jobsian intensity derives from this will.

  • Peter Thiel: "A startup is the largest endeavor over which you can have definite mastery." And treat each project as such, a problem with a solution, not an open, potential unanswerable problem.

  • Jobs: "We've got to start with the customer and work backwards to the technology. You can't take a product and figure out how to sell it."

  • On writing: the job of your words is not to communicate; your words should paint scenes, and the way you connect them should tell a story that communicates.

  • Do work that you are proud of, and work because you are proud of what you make.

  • The metric we use to measure our impact is lives impacted, human-hours improved. Per project, per unit time.

  • Sales: Really focus on the specific problem this user has and figure out how they could use our product to solve. That’s my answer to figure out, for the customer: how can the product solve their problem the best?

  • In networking: recall the way Brian Fultz used social media -- to keep up with the fringes and make each conversation relevant to the person when meeting up, or reaching out for important events in their lives.

  • Always try to work most with people you know; if you don't know them, get to know them before calling them clients.

  • Productize experience and deadweight assets: for freelance, be creative about productizing what you know. This is a good way to scale revenue without scaling time commitment as a freelancer.

  • Treat each customer / user / event attendee as if they're going to be the next rockstar customer, the next advocate, the next NYT reviewer

  • Julie Zhuo, on managing, esp. teams with more experienced people than you - 'You don’t have to do everything yourself. You just have to make sure everything gets done."

  • Entrepreneurship is largely a process of learning about the market and about your customers, and I'm pretty good at that. It's a learning game in any new industry. So do that. And be good at it.

  • Two ways to be worth 10x: either invest in something that rises 10x, or make 10x more per hour. The former is fine to work to, but the latter is the thing I should work for.

  • Seth Godin: modern (content) marketing induces an environment that shoots for content that shocks / amazes / gets shared / is popular, but that's tangential to the goal of great marketing -- to help, and to gain trust.

  • You as a leader are only as good as your followers, and integrity (trustworthiness) is at the top of the list.

  • Especially if you want to freelance, you can't just be better than your peers. You have to be better, world-class, period.

  • "Your job as a speaker is not to teach; your job as a speaker is to inspire action."

  • Be driven forward by the urge, the need, to work with the best people in the world, not just in a given industry or profession, but across every discipline (TS)

  • Work for others as if they're versions (clones) of myself

  • Networking - When introducing self, give something personal that they can latch onto, and continue a conversation from. A hook > generic, cold facts and details.

  • The most powerful and effective version of a work is always one borne out of passion and personal belief and emotion. Strive to make every work this.''

  • Whenever you get tired or bored of the work at hand, don't spiral off into online video or social media; read. Find something in which you have interest, and pursue it through books.

  • Maximize the rate of customer benefit to company unit cost.

  • "The chief products of the tech industry are (in B2C) developing new habits among consumers and (in B2B) taking a business process which exists in many places and markedly decreasing the total cost of people required to implement it."

  • I’m trying to look for a way to 10x in assets but I also need to 10x in wages. Also shoot for that.

  • The common trait of people that I admire most and people that inspire me the most is that, more than talent or perseverance or even an obsession with high goals, they are in love with and passionate about their craft. Ultimately, that's what drives everyone from Bill Hader to Elon Musk to James May to Casey Neistat to their heights.

    • Character: flexibility between the James May and the William Haynes

    • James May, the quintessential British bloke: an intellect typically reserved behind a facie of a few concise, deliberate words and actions
    • William Haynes, the man of lively, focused action and energy that brings an immediateness to the table
  • You don't become world-class by doing just enough to make an MVP / prototype or get the next marginal customer or make the revenue target. That's how you run a great business. To be great at a craft, to be world-class, you need to continually improve; never be satisfied. That's how you become the best. MasterClass.

  • Buy when things are boring, stay / leave when things are exciting.

  • When envisioning a first end-state for a product, an MVP, begin “from the press release” (AMZN)

  • The holy grail of brand marketing -- Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike. The emotions when you think about those brands are forged, but they are human.

  • Be wary of (SL's) dependence on wealth and guard against it by continually balancing personal capex/L with more frugal / efficient activities and experiences

  • THERE ARE THREE RESPONSES TO A PIECE OF DESIGN—YES, NO, AND WOW! WOW IS THE ONE TO AIM FOR. - Milton Glaser

  • Especially when network effects matter in the user base, the density of users (in physical geography, interests, or in personal / professional networks) matters hugely and can aid user acquisition much.

    • Do time management not based on time availability and reserve, but based on energy availability and reserve. When there is enough time but not enough energy or motivation left, we tend to just waste the time on frivolous things.

    • The best people use their extra, drained time to replenish their energy rather than continue to spend it laterally.
  • The only way to know how strong you are... is to keep testing your limits.

  • When tackling a big, open-ended problem without a clear solution picture (not a clear problem statement, but an observation of inefficiency), just try various solutions and iterate quickly until one sticks (PoetryMe iterations)

  • "If you wish to not get stuck, seek to perceive what you have not yet perceived."

  • Project-unit rather than task-unit vision seems to be a more effective motivator. (Look towards and be motivated by "what we're making", rather than by "let's get this task finished".)

  • "Realization: I'm involved in too many things across diverse projects that I can't do 100% on everything -- I need to learn to delegate tasks and hire. I'm hitting a limiting point and I need to switch over to management if I want to scale as a person."

  • Compose simple pieces together to make a solution: "We should not seek to build software. Software is the currency that we pay to solve problems, which is our actual goal. We should endeavor to build as little software as possible to solve our problems."

  • "Software is a cost" and so is everything else. Solutions are not the answer, but the cost of doing business and eliminating problems the hard way because we can't actually remove them from life.

  • "If short-term profit isn’t the goal, long-term goals become much more realistic." - Ben Thompson, on Amazon Health launch

  • Services (horizontal) companies need to maximize addressable market (growth of user base), and [hardware] Products (vertical) companies need to maximize differentiation

  • Investment: regular portfolio rebalancing isn't just safe; it's profitable, because gains get redistributed while losses mean you buy more at the lower price. Practice it regularly.

  • "Use your privilege to create opportunities for others." - Shonna Dorsey, @shonna_dorsey

  • You can always think from a more diverse, more blank-slate, more open, more first-principles perspective. cf. Aarti's convo.

  • Why did you buy device or product X? A reply like "because it's an iPhone" isn't possible with any but the best brands. How do you make a product that warrants and satisfies with just that much exposition?

  • There's the adage that we are average of the five people with whom we spend the most time; take that to the next level: be around five experts in a given field for each specific field of expertise, investing/econ, arts, writing, music, technology, business, politics, etc. This ensures all of my strengths grow evenly rather than one growing at the expense of others.

  • If someone quoted just this line, is it well written and does it say what I want it to say?” If I can’t answer yes, I’ll rewrite that sentence. - Andy Newman

  • Steve Jobs: processes vs. content. What makes a company great is the content, but often as the company grows it tries to replicate processes for different content. Content makes a company great, whereas processes are in place to facilitate the people who have the content to get things done. Focusing on processes and keeping the same processes / improving processes is often misguided.

  • I do things quite well when I'm the sole one responsible for a task. I don't do so well when others are responsible for my assignment. Take it upon myself to indeed micromanage and make sure anything where I'm involved, I make it mine.

    • Conferences: before you attend, reach out to other attendees who would make good connections and reach out for a conversation both can benefit from.

    • As a corollary, make sure it's visible that you'll be at the conference on socials, etc.
  • "Figure out what you are uniquely the best in the world at because you just love it. // And then just find out who or what needs that the most." - twitter/@naval

  • Rather than seek the best answers, ask the better questions.

  • Seek to become a part of open networks, connecting dispersed groups of people, rather than closed networks, in which I'm connected to people who are already connected. This exposes you to more ideas and diverse people.

  • "You should take the approach that you're wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong." - Elon Musk

  • "Aim to become not the best at what you do but the ONLY person who does what you do" - twitter/@rabois

  • Continually strive to make yourself more and more scalable, in more and more aspects of my work and services.

  • Y Combinator RFS: "This population has to navigate a world with substandard services, low quality housing, overcrowded schools, and crime in their neighborhoods. They are often unbanked and living paycheck to paycheck."

  • Kapawing: starting an Internet business -- the unexpected, unexplained stuff - https://www.kapwing.com/blog/unexpected-challenges-of-making-money/

  • Business is inherently about taking something scarce and scaling it into something abundant. That's how value creation occurs.

  • People are most creative when placed in the right context and fresh canvas with authenticity and trust.

  • Technology can make humans capable of great things, but tech in itself is not good. Humans have to use it for good. - Eddy Cue

  • Make arguments through measuring the lifetime cost of inaction rather than revenue of action.

  • The best degree of complexity is built on extreme simplicity. Optimize systems complexity; don't maximize.

  • Iterate on pricing and revenue model with the same intensity with which we tackle product iteration.

  • It's all about what people want, what people want to optimize in their lives. Not just what they're doing now but why. Use that to forge relationships, work or otherwise.

  • 1. Know your customers and 2. know your value. Everything follows.

  • If you measure it, it will improve. corollary: if your measure is a proxy metric, it will be abused.

  • "Most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive" / The end is in the beginning.

  • "What's not working at Pixar?" - Steve Jobs (instead of just asking "Any questions?"

  • Evan Spiegel: Rather than just iterate in the short term with data, sometimes you have to identify a longer-term goal and iterate on solutions with data as a guidance, not the goal. Otherwise, the horizon of focused is narrowed greatly.

  • Data isn't useful. Good decisions are useful. Data is a way to inform good decisions and it loses its purpose outside the context of decisions to make.

  • You can't predict how business decisions will end up; you _can_ predict how you'll feel about decisions on value and principle. - Brian Chesky

  • When people hate you, talk to them. - Brian Chesky

  • "We need reserves to rebound from the shocks and disasters that take us by surprise." - Mayor of PGH, resilient cities strategy

  • Bezos: "in the short run, the stock market is a voting machine, in the long run, it's a scale"

  • Once product-market fit is reached, we need to look at the top of the adoption S-curve and determine ways to prolong it -- i.e. what's going to stop _everyone_ from adopting us?

  • Customers are bad about specifying what they actually want, but very good about articulating what they don't like currently. Focus not just on who comes through the sales funnel, but on who don't make it through, and ask.

  • I need to apply often to things that are beyond me currently. I need to fail and be rejected more often! Otherwise I'm not moving forward.

  • In product design, look for two really important things: 1) "desire paths", which are things that people do without them intentionally having been designed, hinting at what the market really needs -- think e.g. city streets, and which passageways "become" discovered because people use them where there should be streets per se; 2) "invisible asymptotes", or the opposite of desire paths, which are things about a product that people will just not to or not take, beyond which a product can't expand unless that barrier is removed. Amazon's invisible asymptote was shipping fees, whose wildly successful response was Prime.

  • Cost of complexity: Apple succeeded because of the minimized complexity to value ratio. They didn't offer maximum value but offered maximum c/v, which is what actually matters to consumers, especially those who are not professionals or early adopters.

  • Pre-PMF startup: "The best signal of product/market fit and differentiation or moat is the ability to raise prices repeatedly without loosing customers."

  • Pre-PMF startup: "Things to focus on include margin, customer churn, and organic adoption. If you have a high margin, negative churn business and a good acquisition funnel, you will do great 99% of the time. The 1% is due to competitive pressure."

  • "A brand is not what you say it is, it is what they say it is. In career, your personal brand is not what you set out to be, but what you become to others."

  • "I strongly believe we shouldn't make things easier, but simpler." - Hacker News, on product design. Easier is hiding complexity; simpler is removing complexity.

  • If you don't have retention you don't have a product of value. Aim to a value proposition / feature / product components that gets used again and again.

  • Find areas that will become valuable in the future but haven't been capitalized on and build skills there as both companies and people. That's skating to where the puck will be.

  • There's two things I view critical to success. One is when curiosity comes you don't stop until you understand the curiosity. Second is when an issue arises you don't stop until the issue is resolved. One is about learning; the other is about actions and applications.

  • One powerful way of creating products with built-in industry demand is to look at what kinds of moats incumbents have built, and how to productize the moats at scale to dissolve those moats, like what Stripe and Twilio have done.

  • Work and create like you're about to lose the opportunity if it sucks. Steve jobs? This is how you create such a high bar of quality.

  • "A company is great [just] because it is great." - Steve Wozniak, on the novelty of Apple's trillion USD valuation

  • Idea communication in arts, etc. doesn't need to communicate the whole idea in many ways (like shape and color and etc) but holistically communicate one idea even if the parts don't individually. In other words, arts and literature aren't about what the parts say, but about what the piece as a whole says. A piece can offer self-consistent ideas and questions despite inconsistencies within its parts. Perhaps the question is one about inconsistencies.

  • Scale erases individual intent and mission, so as a leader of an org it's the duty to align organizational mission and motivation with individual passions and goals so they don't erase each other but align stronger.

  • Information has no value outside of a decision to be made; knowledge does and that's the distinction.

  • On networking: operate under the assumption that for any given person, I can be their friend

  • Think of the value proposition as a contract between the customer and your company where the customer "hires" your startup to solve a problem. (SOM, Steve Blank)

  • The best startups discover a situation where customers have tried to build a solution themselves. This is a good source of information and research, and is a great sign.

  • Winners understand why customers buy.

    • Hold "dinner parties" that bring new people together and that I can invite new people to. This how you make *and* facilitate connections. (think Kenneth from Berkeley)

    • Doesn't have to be dinner per se; it can be boba, lunch or anything in between. Maybe theme it, to give it something for people to talk about. This would be leveraging existing connections to grow connections.
  • Validate for: solvency, scalability (and market size), and virality (people want to tell their friends)

  • "One hack we've employed with our customers in interviews and through surveys: have them rank/prioritize our current features, and consider/rank a set of potential new features. It's much easier for someone to order a list (reaction), than to provide an explanation (creation). Not a substitute for a full interview, but a quick way to determine what your customer values." - HN, npollock

  • Great interview questions don't elicit answers; they lead people to tell great stories.

  • An alternative definition of MVP: the smallest set of activities to disprove a business model hypothesis. - The Lean Startup (Harvard Business School)

  • Business models on the internet (where scarcity is very low and marginal cost is zero) works by controlling demand, not supply. This is aggregation theory.

  • Give deeper, more meaningful compliments! Instead of just "I like your dress!" or "You look great today!", talk about something they'd care about more and remember. Compliment their person rather than their existence.

  • Teaching is about relationships. Students don't care what you know until they know you care.

  • No company whose CEO stops doing customer calls keeps caring about them.

  • Every day you either get better or get worse. You never stay the same. Try to get better every day, and don't get worse every day.

  • Pay attention to all participants in the ecosystem. That's what makes it an ecosystem -- the way ecologists think about environments or economists think about the economy. Especially pertinent to community-related jobs.

  • "Steve Jobs was not charismatic. He spoke from the heart compelling others to follow him." - @asymco

  • The type of information pushed to people in an organization shapes the culture considerably.

  • People who don't remember what you did will remember how you made them feel.

  • If something offers or creates real value -- something people really value, genuinely -- it's a matter of technicality to build a business off of it. If there is no real value, it'll be an uphill battle.

  • The combination of persistence and curiosity is a great formula for success. - Eric Schmidt

  • Never hire someone to work for you if you wouldn't work for them. - Mark Zuckerberg

  • Aim for every interaction to be an "11-star experience". That's how you create viral products and word-of-mouth marketing. - Brian Chesky

  • A startup is an idea, and then it’s an machine for making the idea and a machine for getting people to use the idea. A huge amount of what people mean by ‘a great entrepreneur’ comes in 2 and 3. Especially 3. - Ben Evans

  • The best way to open a conversation while networking is -- I think we know someone in common! (And make sure you do -- LinkedIn is great for this).

  • "Find 40 customers for your product in 2 weeks"

    • People only buy stuff from startups if they're desperate.

    • Find those desperate users, and see how many we can get (critical mass). These become your early adopters.
  • If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. - Steve Jobs, on finding what to work on, and on making decisions.

  • Beware of scaling prematurely. Until the business model and sales process is validated, scaling is a waste of money more than profitable.

  • Depth to work; integrity to passion. Bring rigor to every corner of your work.

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Be that light.

  • How do you delegate focus and vision? Repetition and vigilance. Settle debates until everybody's aligned, and constant repetition, all the time. Be the reiterator / reminder of the vision.

  • Try to be well-known among peers in the field of expertise in your area, and well-respected [Jemma Kwak, to Berkeley UX Design, I want to be for tech / entrepreneurship / VC]

    • A way to gauge product-market fit as a leading metric: Ask your users, “How disappointed would you be if you could no longer use the product?” PM fit generally happens around the 40% “very disappointed” threshold (out of very, somewhat, and not disappointed).

    • Typically, you want to focus on users that have used the product at least twice in the last two weeks
    • This “very disappointed” segment of your user base is also typically your ideal target market. Profile them and grow users in that segment.
  • Useful question: “What type of people do you think would most benefit from this product / service?”

  • Also ask: "What's the main benefit you get from this product?" and 'What's something that's holding you back from loving this product?"

  • Do not push for growth or scale before product-market fit is achieved and verified. All else will end in disaster, and this premature scaling is still far too common.

  • Advertising concept generation: Take a core idea and distill it down to its most essential, atomic part. Then demonstrate and show it, rather than telling it.

    • "1-in-10" rule of creativity -- in any creative work, the really great stuff is at most 10% of what we create. Expect and work with that in mind.

    • To find the best ideas, 1) Spend time discovering the most important and powerful ideas behind the project, and 2) spend time really _polishing_ it, down to its most important and essential parts. Remember to use the audience's imagination as a part of the work -- imagination is often most powerful.
  • "Lose the ability to slip out of meetings unnoticed." - The Economist Ad Campaign

  • "A hallmark of good writing is that it answers more questions that it asks." Writing should expose its ideas in such a way that the reader discovers answers, rather than stumbles upon questions that don't get answered until much later.

  • In addition to conciseness and positive clarity and narrative interest, good writing is also devoid of potential ambiguities. "1" versus the pronoun "one", for example, is a common but unacknowledged source of ambiguity in scientific literature.

  • When we say "focus on the problem" (in a pitch setting), what we really mean is focus on the desperate users, and build your case on the desperate users to build out the picture of a hungry market.

  • I'm a builder/designer, so I tend to build early. That's fine if I like building, but when building a scalable business, validate the desperate users and the market at scale _first_, before building the product. Otherwise, it's a lot harder to convince yourself to pivot away hard.

  • Optionality: if plan A or core technology A fails at product-market feat or feasibility testing, do you have suitable fallback options to de-risk the venture?

  • Networking: turn slack and Facebook relationships into iMessage and texting and calling relationships. That should be the approach to meeting anyone who isn't already an iMessage / calling / SMS relationship

  • "Live as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation."

  • On talking to people: don't just connect with people for FIT, just connect with people to be friends, and to be interested in their everyday life as a human. You don't need to circle back with people just for work. Just connect with people, for sake of knowing people and building relationships.

  • Service is the rent you pay for your time here on Earth. - Muhammad Ali

  • Dan Simons, on writing openings: Entice your readers. Establish a controversy, present a real-world conundrum, or reveal a mystery. All are more effective than simply stating your topic because they develop a narrative thread, one that compels readers to seek a resolution.

  • Passion and mission. Driven by passion and mission. With heart, where heart leads. All the same idea.

  • Networking: Don't be coy when you're reaching out to someone you're really enthusiastic about. Let them know why you think they're awesome, and why you want to meet them. This is better than playing tricks to seem disinterested.

  • "A successful brand, then, is the promise and guarantee of a mind-shattering experience each and every time. It’s the e-mail you always read because of who it’s from. It’s the employee who always gets the cool projects." // "The pursuit of Wow in everything you do."

  • There's a certain amount of intangible know-how that Ferrazzi knows, and that I understand. When networking, "what would Keith Ferrazzi do?" is a good way to get that feeling.

  • The goal of human communication isn't transacting information; it's discovery. Discovery of the members of the communication. This applies to all kinds of writing and talking. And drives why people get engaged and don't get engaged.

  • Brian Bordley (SkyDeck): Engineers that are also great listeners, more than good salespeople, make great founders.

    • Focus on a specific user and design/build for them. Get traction building for a specific, niche use case versus starting with a general problem and marketing it broadly.

    • Incidentally, this is the main advantage startups have over incumbents -- ability to focus on smaller markets and solve high-value low-volume problems first.
  • Is the venture going to change the status quo in the marketplace? Innovative ventures should alter the status quo such that it is no longer the status quo.

  • Josh from FRC: We want to understand what about your thesis as a founder is contrarian. i.e. why do you think the existing players are wrong, and why do you think a startup (and yours specifically) will win?

  • Don't just think about innovating the product, innovate the go-to-market.

    • Align ideas when bringing people on board. Ask what they want to work on vs delegating.

    • Instead of asking, "I need someone to work on X, can you do it?" Ask, "We're building this product/initiative, and I want to know if you're interested in being a part of it. What kind of things are you interested in working on?"
  • Being an Aggregator doesn’t simply mean acquiring a large pool of captive customers, it means controlling the value chains such that suppliers come on to your platform on your terms because you monetize them better than anyone else, even as you capture the excess value.

  • Salary/money and wealth are lagging indicators of success. Passion + mission is a leading indicator.

  • Always with positive energy. Impart positive energy. Positive energy and encouragement is a resources I have a lot of -- distribute it as opportunity.

  • What are you studying to be? not What's your major? -- interesting.

  • Some software are tools; some software are services. Tools should be built to completion; services should continually be improved. Tools include languages, CLIs (TeX, cURL); services include SaaS/PaaS.

  • Even when leading large groups or fellowship programs, mentoring teams -- all of these organizations are composed of people. So get to know people as people first, as humans. And then guide them along and teach them. Don't make the mistakes I made at Fellowship 5.0

  • If someone is mad about your product, that's good. It means it's good enough for them to care and matter and have looked at.

  • Always have options B, C, and D, especially when key parts of your plan depend on third party partners (SafeBox)

  • Fighting monopolies: make things easy to adopt and sticky, against hard switching costs. Make something additional, not replacements (at first).

  • Campus events organization: Eventbrite / Facebook Event == 15% show up; Wed/Thurs events are best for attendance

  • Good love is "a friend of the mind", someone whose story you want next to yours, and your story next to theirs.

  • Software engineering == programming integrated over time and engineering scale

  • Investors don't base their decisions based on whether you're right or wrong. They invest based on whether you can figure out if you're right or wrong, and correct it.

  • When talking to companies or networking / coffee chatting in general, ask specific example question like Zach Latta. What's a specific example? What's a specific experience? What's a specific person? story? You learn a lot more from this than general principles, and it's very easy as well to tell if the other person is BS-ing it.

  • Like Kevin Kwak, as we explore projects to work on, don't be afraid to start and work on ambitious, research-y projects that really dig into the technicals; I tend to bias right now towards consumer-grade product- and design-driven software.

  • When looking for mentors -- don’t just share the company info, share team info since mentors are interested in the team itself, as much as the investors.

  • "As capital and advice get more commoditized, network becomes the durable advantage." - Sam Altman, stepping down from YC president role

  • Enterprise users don't buy products; they buy solutions.

  • "Banking rests on an illusion, in which banks transform risky assets (loans, securities trading) into risk-free liabilities (deposits, repo): People give money to banks expecting the money to be absolutely safe, and then the banks go and do risky things with it." - Matt Levine, Money Stuff

  • Core job of an accelerator / me in e.g. Fellowship is to help teams prioritize. What should they work on next? That's the constant question teams will be asking, and the question where mentorship/accelerators offers the most value.

  • Nonprofit accelerator with some good recs: Blue Ridge Labs, NYC focused - https://labs.robinhood.org/

  • "When getting ready to pitch VCs, founders often jump right into assembling a slide deck. I think this is a mistake.I’d suggest that you start by writing twenty headlines that sum up your startup, and only then build the slides." On forming a coherent narrative, not a stack of evidence. - @epaley

  • "Is this for me?" type list/FAQ is highly effective to identify and call out the target market on the landing page, identifying the problem and solvency you're attacking.

  • Pitching: Write 20 headlines about the company first, make sure those are the things people remember about you (your story) after the pitch. You won’t get many chances to make sure people remember things about you. (- Steve Jobs)

  • Introduction of writing and talking should frame a problem the audience (hero) should be guided thru the rest of the piece. This makes it compelling.

  • When connecting with people, really connect with people, at an emotional level (Sofi!). A surface-level connection serves fine for developing business connections / professional network, but if you want to move out of that rut into something beyond work, you need to build more personal, emotional connections.

  • Thing to learn about entrepreneurship from Hank Green (who inexplicably has exited multiple companies): build things to help people first, then improve. All else will follow.

  • No-code prototyping tool from WorknGo: https://bubble.is

  • It is impossible to overstate the power of aligning incentives.

  • Charisma and persuasive influence and impact like Alessia-Cortez comes from passion. Embrace it and use it to move minds.

  • Community building / team building / organizational leadership: always strive to build a community that people you admire would want to join.

  • If there's a way to hedge the risky personal investment of launching a startup company, it surely must be to do it with people you love and respect. - Guillermo, ZEIT

  • Organizations don't innovate and don't create impact. Organizations bring people together. People innovate and create. The primary motive of an organization should be to gather the best people, then get out of the way, so people can do what they do best.

  • There are two kinds of innovations. The kind that emerges from relentless pursuit of vision, from a single person's imperative; and the kind that is built from a team, a group of people, persevering against large, seemingly intractable problems. We need both.

  • Strive to reach Sun's Bryan Cantrill's level of integrity, respect for others, passion for engineering, and standard for quality of work. This is a gold standard (not the, but a gold standard).

  • A team's greatest asset is always a world-class team. The founder's task after delivering the initial product is to deliver the best team for the company.

  • Company formation 83b Election filing for taxes. Physical mail 30 days of share purchases by founders.

  • It's typical for each early fundraising round to add 20% dilution to existing shares.

  • C-corp (Delaware) is typically recommended and Stripe Atlas / Clerky is good, but if you're going to make profit (that'll be taxed) relatively soon and you don't care about giving away shares, LLCs make a lot more sense. (e.g. Codeframe Inc.)

  • Sequoia: every stage, a behemoth but kinda well known for not being the most founder friendly; Greylock is Seed thru Series B, but also not the most founder friendly

  • Find friends, and become friends. Not making friends. It's not something you create or conjure from nothing, but something you build over time and with fortune.

  • Everyone wants to do content marketing until they find out how expensive it is. It's a whole new product, with its own market research distribution, target, problem/solution fit, and PR backing.

  • PG: how does this become bigger than Google/Apple? You can take anything frivolous and, if it provides good value, it can be big. Figure that out.

  • If you can raise extra money, only raise more if you have a proven / confident business model and have a plan for how you can use the money now to mitigate existential (tail) risks.

  • General thought experiment, but specifically useful for missions / acquisitions: if you could acquire any big company in the world to further your startup's work, which would it be?

  • The great thing about startups is the rawness of problems -- there are no unnecessary layers of abstractions between you, the founder, and the problem itself. And you should try to keep it that way as much as possible.

  • From Cal Hacks / The Boiler Demo Day thoughts: "Startup is not a joke. That's why I'm not starting one now and it seems a little hypocritical that I'm leading others into that life. I think fellowship should focus more on Codeframe/IndieHackers type businesses. That's Fellowship 6.0. Startups are fucking hard. Don't convince people it isn't. Don't be another accelerator."

  • On colleges and career paths: "The individual has merely acquired stamps of approval and has acquired safety net upon safety net. These safety nets don't end up enabling big risk-taking -- individuals just become habitual acquirers of safety nets. The comfort of a high-paying job at a prestigious firm surrounded by smart people is simply too much to give up." - danwang.co, Girardian social dynamism.

  • SaaS in linear growth can't work under $40 monthly price point per customer, especially when running as one-person businesses.

  • Everyone comes to LA to work because LA is the Valley of the media industry. With every city, what could this city be the Silicon Valley / Hollywood of? It is unique to each city. Don't try to turn every city into Silicon Valley; for every city, find what it could be the Silicon Valley / LA of.

  • I might not have someone to love and work to make happy currently but I do in the future -- Work for my future love. Imagine.

  • The world is probabilistic, and a world full of incomplete information like VC especially so. Think in probabilistic terms, not absolute positions or opinions. [from AllDRF]

  • We, especially at the beginning stages of our careers, tend to outsource our confidence and insource guidance; we should insource confidence and outsource domain knowledge and mentorship / guidance.

  • If you're strapped for budget and pre-sales, don't try to gauge fit on A/B tests on social media top-of-funnel things with paid acq. Do interviews instead to get to fit and first sales. ("I spent $10 on ads and got 4 clicks." isn't useful.) First get to sales, then optimize.

  • Macroeconomics: think about leverage as a macroeconomic metric across time in an economic system, where leverage allows for liquidity and growth without structural productivity gains. In early 2019, now that we've exhausted existing leverages to get to sustained late cycle, we need more sources / room in new ways of leveraging for risk to grow more.

  • When you have a sustained (awkward) silence in a conversation, that's when unplanned things off the top of their head come out. It's useful for learning more.

  • Zack Kanter's "What is Amazon?": "And so, circa 2002, we start to see the emergence of a pattern: 1) Amazon had encountered a bottleneck to growth, 2) it had determined that some internal process or resource was the bottleneck, 3) it had realized that it could not possibly develop and deploy enough resources internally to remove that bottleneck, so 4) it instead removed the bottleneck by building an interface to allow the broader market to solve it en masse. This exact pattern was repeated with vendor selection (Amazon Marketplace), technology infrastructure (Amazon Web Services, or AWS), and merchandising (Amazon’s Catalog API)."

  • One effective way to think about conflict and community organization is the Girardian view of memetic violence: https://danco.substack.com/p/snippets-2-episode-2-a-girardian

  • Intimidating progress. When talking to investors, your progress should be so surprising that they're afraid they're going to miss the opportunity to invest if they wait.

  • @mwseibel: early indicators of progress aren't reliable indicators of future success

  • A useful way to ask for feedback: we're running out of resources and have to cut some features / parts of the product. Which would you have us cut first / never remove?

  • Make it till you make it -- creative mindset.

  • Especially when pitching: GTM and current product as wedge into broader market with larger opportunity. How could it be? How certain / easy is it? Are there moats to be built up here?

  • We need to tune for hyperparameters / meta factors in our learning and adaptability since we can't just learn stuff for now, in the present world, and retain it and have it be relevant and reliable indefinitely into the future. Things like building a habit of reading, learning languages -- what else is a meta factor in learning, first and second derivatives in learning? Do those as goals, and write about it. What are the derivatives of learning?

  • In sales conversations, to start, the point is not to make a sale, but to start a conversation to learn about the customers' frustrations (in the problem space). "...By asking about frustrations they can start easily and you can easily ask clarifying questions about how they’d like them to be solved. // I try to get to get on a call with anyone who responds. From there I can talk more and ultimately demo ConvertKit."

    • When prospecting first customers, the benefit of narrowing down the niche significantly is that you can create an echo chamber, where your product is in conversation, and grow out from there with momentum. "the goal is to get so specific that through Google searches and following links you can list out all the major customers."

    • "Don’t move on just when you are starting to gain momentum." -> Stick with niches and move to adjacent ones, until prospectives come to you and a significant portion of that niche wants you.
  • If you notice one prominent reason customers keep saying no, your top priority should be to eliminate that no matter the cost. Even if it's a thing that doesn't scale (like ConvertKit's manual migrations from previous email solution), with low enough churn, the math works out.

  • A useful way to get into conversations with clients who never reply is to start providing value before the conversation.

  • Tinder does upsells perfectly -- timely, relevant, based on need or demand indicators and timing, give user options.

  • PG: one of the best ways to get a student interested in learning something seemingly difficult is to quickly get them to a point where, through pattern matching or otherwise, they can do things that were seemingly impossible. Programming is this way, noticing patterns in math that generalize to large numbers (what's the last digit of 2^4384?) is another.

  • Amjad: Learning should be a process of Invention by Need; you need something (like a load balancer in repl.it), you create the concept, or feel the need or the problem it solves, and then you learn and appreciate how this concept has been created before and polished up to today in history.

  • UX Design: think of UX / UI in terms of the user experience holistically /across devices/, not just a 2D interface on a single smartphone or computer. This includes everything from multi-device support and compatibility to watch notifications as UI to the workflows that occur cross-device. We're in that generation now. (cf. Apple Watch WWDC App talk)

  • @amasad: Most VC's and partners will bias towards relatively safe paths ensuring quick revenue and profitability, e.g. taking Repl.it towards profitability by selling to software companies or schools. The bigger advances come when you have the resources and conviction to be more ambitious, to say we have enough traction, so let's dream bigger and take even bigger optimistic risks to rewrite how software is built and run. And I think that's a great way to grow a mission -driven venture.

  • @mwseibel, to people who are "passionate about" a broad field like environment, architecture, education, etc. Find your _specific passion_ (my term). i.e. You aren't just passionate about that general field, if you're genuinely deeply interested about something, it's because there's some personal connection, history, or other very specific, anecdotal reason that got you into it. Instead of just solving something vaguely in the field, really find problems worth working on in the specific passion that you have. Solve for the person / person you actually care about, etc. This is relevant for my Simula-related ideas, and Simula is a direct example of how Spark < Simula because it's closer to my specific passions.

  • Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. Great organization and great leaders lead by granting these to team members. - a @bcantrill talk on leadership and technical principles

  • Assuming a leadership role can only happen organically. Start by being an exemplar: show up and finish your work on time. When appropriate, jump in and be the hero. Others will then naturally ask for your help and you will de-facto be a leader.

  • Tom Preston-Werner's light vs. dark rooms analogy to innovation: frequently, the frontiers of discovery and new inventions are just at the edges of what's known. In a world of a million rooms, only a few are lit and those are what we know. To get to what we don't, we must first light up the rooms adjacent to the ones we have lit already. So frequently, as lights are turned on, many people will turn to similar formerly dark rooms to light up -- that's why there's such a thing as the right time, and why discoveries like Calculus get made contemporaneously.

  • Tom PW, in response to how to know what works in a product / organization and what doesn't -- you gotta be attentive and looking for problems. If you keep your eye open and pay attention, you'll notice problems and see what works and what doesn't. Have one-on-one's, talk to customers, see how people are working and living, and if things aren't working, it'll be on you to notice it, because if you're paying attention, you'll see it.

  • Complex systems are inherently dangerous, and have defense and safety in-depth. That means it tends to run day-to-day in degraded mode, because a single failure is not enough to harm it. That makes it all the more dangerous when the last point of defense falls.

  • "Linus has demonstrated incredible long-term effectiveness as a software developer, both creating and then shepherding two of the most important pieces of software of the last 50 years. But he seems qualitatively different than Ballard. // I'm trying to put into words what the difference feels like. Git and linux demonstrate, for Linus, great intelligence but not genius, the way Ballard's works do. And on Linus' side, git and linux demonstrate leadership, pragmatism, and a tremendous understanding of how to actually drive a large project forward over time, which Ballard's works don't." Also, John Carmack. Technically, these people should be my inspiration in engineering and hacking on side projects.

    • Enterprise is ultimately about people, caring about their personhood and lives, and about what we share in the human condition. It's about principles -- honesty, integrity, kindness. These should be core to the forefront of any venture, a la Bryan Cantrill, harkening back to _Life in a Day_.

    • Business is founded on empathy. The foundation for empathy is the common human condition and experience, especially outside of our daily social norms. These conditions are not found in trends and local comms but in travel and reading / the arts. That's why it's important.
  • Functionality is an asset; code is a liability.

  • Good interview and team leading questions: what's a time when you worked really well within a team and a time when you didn't fit well and couldn't get a lot done? Then optimize to be like the former and avoid the latter.

  • Being aligned with the business will ship products quickly, but investing in good software engineering will last longer and stay more efficient and reason-able over time.

    • Find your village. Be around and talk to other founders. These will help with mental health / emotional stability while being an early stage founder with the requisite stress levels.

    • Reflection and journaling also helps, as well as celebrating small wins.
  • The four conditions that characterize wise crowds / collective intelligence: diversity of opinion, independence, decentralization, and aggregation. Not one is more important than the other, and all are necessary.

  • Having a bunch of smart people doesn't automatically make great collective intelligence -- often, collective coverage (diversity of background and opinion) is much more useful here. [High individual IQ != High collective, organizational IQ]

  • Bill Walsh: concentrate on what will produce results rather than the results, the process rather than the prize. // You are putting yourself on a slippery slope when you start believing that the outcome of your effort represents or embodies who you really are as a person -- what your value as a person is. [There's a lot between the process and the results that are just out of our control.]

  • A leader should inspire and motivate through teaching people how to execute their jobs at a high level, and hold the bar high. Conaway-style.

  • The craft of entrepreneurship is the delicate balance between caring deeply about a problem and caring deeply about a product that relieves it.

  • @zrl: "Make a pitch only you can make."

  • @collinmathilde, @frontapp" - "Leverage your data to tell a story about what the business has achieved and where it's going. Metrics are necessary, but they are too often shared without a narrative arc."

  • @sashaorloff - "Try and identify all the questions you don't want investors to ask -- and get answers to them. Investors try to gauge how you handle problems, especially the hard problems."

  • Investor relationships can easily last 10+ years -- try to pick the right ones.

  • "Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness."

  • Authenticity makes for even more powerful stories than simply hero's-journey good storytelling. 100R's story is appealing because it is authentic.

  • Ben Thompson: "Services (horizontal) and hardware (vertical) companies have very different strategic priorities: the former ought to maximize their addressable market (by, say, making a cheaper iPhone), while the latter ought to maximize their differentiation."

  • Compliment the people around me more in the presence of other people. Like Jean-Claude in reference to my side projects, all the time ... same with Shrey @ DRF.

  • "We only have what we give." - Isabel Allende

  • A lagging indicator of a great manager is that they successfully attract top talent to their team / to work for them.

  • Han Yuan on managing junior vs. senior engineers; Junior engineers need to be supported by a great team and a good mentor, and managed from a mentoring capacity; senior engineers have evolved into different archetypes and have developed knowable strengths and weaknesses, so the manager's role becomes to be intimately familiar with their working style and strengths/weaknesses from a technical capacity, and be able to mediate their work such that they can work effectively.

  • Investment Framework: what are the assumptions that must be true, in order for this company to succeed, by whatever our definition of success is? Rank and study those assumptions, the "need-to-believe"s of investing in the company -- do you believe them?

  • Question for founders: "what are you working hardest on right now?"

  • Bringing out the best of founders by challenging them, asking them hard and unseen questions, being their co-conspirator. Same with people in general -- bring out the best in people, and they'll enjoy your company.

  • YC interview training app: https://jamescun.github.io/iPG/

  • Hinojosa: how to read dense, literature / academic texts: Take it paragraph by paragraph and dissect and understand / summarize each before moving onto the next. Also book reviews for academic books are useful, because they often contain summaries / abstracts as they're intended for other scholars to be able to read reviews and decide whether to read the whole book or not.

  • Expensify mission: Live rich, have fun, save the world.

  • In a business network context: a value to maximize for is amount of helpfulness per unit time spent with someone. Kat: talking with Zach is the single highest ROI activity I engage in. Strive to be like that with everyone in my life.

  • Limit risk and allocate it like capital. Otherwise you overcommit.

  • There are people who build companies to exit and build companies to build institutions. David Barrett: we have lost the will to do the latter as a Silicon Valley tribe.

  • It's important as a product owner/founder/ceo to balance focus between product quality / vision / solvency as well as business and opportunity/market.

  • A market as an autonomous machine and optimization system, building problem solving systems on top of markets.

  • The House Fund II event: Not about identifying technology trends, more about knowing when the market is ready and getting go-to-market right.

  • When describing myself / my story, it's all about storytelling. Although I don't think about it this way much (for my own good), my story of doing cool stuff in high school / gap year / working at Hack Club / repl.it via cold email, side project legend + traveling a lot... all of this is immense social capital fuel and can easily be spinned into an amazing narrative the first time I meet anyone. I have a lot of depth to my story, leverage that and use it to my advantage to build allies and advocates. When doing this, mindfully cater it to each audience -- some people are more impressed by some parts of this story than others.

  • To keep productivity / momentum long term as a working / creative person / maker, make sure we are consistently doing things that are not urgent but high-impact/important, even at the cost of missing some urgent things. This builds long-term momentum, and the burnout of fa19 was because this got lost in the Hack Club Bank shuffle.

  • When building arguments, especially complex ones about abstract ideas, always try to ground them in reality, in concrete experiences, or anecdotes -- the brain processes them better, and I have a tendency to write high-brow arguments without coming back down to the ground level and examining primary sources.

  • Basecamp's general guide to bootstrapping a company, from technical to management: https://basecamp.com/shapeup

  • Think not in terms of finding for skills that fits a JD, but instead finding a person that fits a role. When hiring, skills can be taught; you're really looking for the right person for the job, and the person goes way beyond the skills they have. Similarly, what kind of person am I, and what role do I want to play at companies?

  • In designing both software systems and organizational, human systems, the Unix Philosophy: single responsibility abstractions that compose well together through agreed-upon universal interfaces. It leads to higher debuggability, better modularity, scalability, and adaptability.

    • It's natural when designing software in a new domain to have to rewrite a couple of times: understand the problem, understand the solution, get it right, in this order.

    • The first version is always an exploration of the problem domain. - @marcus_holmes, hn
    • There isn't a "best" architecture -- architecture has to be shaped by the problem domain, and nothing can replace having designed a system once in knowing what that looks like.
  • Good storytelling is the ability to take something that you are deeply moved by, and communicate it to someone without context. - @zrl

  • "You first 10 years of work are a journey to find the the people you want to work with for the next 50."

  • "Effective organizations and institutions are motivation distribution systems." - Zach Latta

  • The future of community is a hierarchy of networks. Hyperlocal networks, connected by the Internet to make a network of chapters, like Nerdfighter meetups, Hack Clubs. This is also the future of work.

  • Self-similar human systems. In the same way that neurons self organize in interesting ways to communicate effectively as networks of networks, humans also self organize in layers of networks and communicate in that way. Stretch this to the idea of "activation energies" for human communication and message distribution in human networks.

  • Tom from GitHub's early days: +1, +10, +100 method of hiring. Everyone on the team needs to be at least a +1 on a new hire, and at least one person has to be +100.

  • Pace of execution is the highest-order term in determining the long term trajectory of a startup, and if it's high enough, other terms become negligible. Phin: "How many bullets you fire, and how quickly."

  • In cofounder relationships, some people are driving, others are being pushed harder than they've ever been pushed before, both are good, in their own ways.

  • Startups are usually messy, but good ones do a few things perfectly. As long as that's set, other things can be just good enough.

  • Brett @ FRC: Successful founders have a knack for altitude-shifting between high level abstracts in the market / frameworks thinking and in the weeds details and attention to those details. High level motivation <-> the mechanics of the chess game.

  • Storytelling: "Every character should want something, even if it's just a glass of water." Great stories are breat because the plot is driven by character motivations, not the other way around.

  • "Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you'll have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing." - Neil Gaiman. Engineering, startups, life.

  • "There's no win and no fail, there is only make." - Sister Corita Kent.

  • "Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source code to." - PG

  • "Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity - stay home, don’t go to events/conferences, and just put ideas down. Building your network, your audience, and your ideas will be something you’ll want to do over your entire career. Think of your writing like a multi-decade project." - perell.com

  • Plan meticulously; execute spontaneously. - TLT, 2015

  • Data first, software in service of data, deployment in service of software. This was the guiding principle behind the design of Polyx + Noct, but is also a generally great software design principle and rings true with what Linus Torvalds talks about re: data structures.

    • "Hacks, then Idioms" as a general rule in building software based products -- observe common hacks, and find an idiomatic, dogmatic solution with better ergonomics. - "React team principles"

    • As a corollary, "a flexible hack is better than a poor but entrenched idiom".
  • When programming, especially with data-oriented types and around data structures, design checks and validators to parse, not validate. Functions should return data structures that preserve the proof or evidence of the assertion being checked, not just a boolean. Booleans are dumb, whereas a type that guarantees some truth or a data structure that contains knowledge is useful. c.f. https://lexi-lambda.github.io/blog/2019/11/05/parse-don-t-validate/

  • @rauchg (Zeit): the best horizontally scaling applications (products) are really just productized forms of very specific data structures. Excel / spreadsheet is a data structure, Notion is built on this advantage, and Roam Research follows suit. The data topology is flexible and user-defined, allowing easy composition.

  • Active vs. passive work and productivity. In more entrepreneurial and managerial roles where your work involves responding to other people's requests, it's easy to think that you're being productive because you're responding intermittently to everyone else's requests, but really, it's inefficient and you won't get anything done of the work you need to get done. The solution here seems to be to be *active*, not *passive*, controller of how you spend your time. Spend your time consciously and do deep work intentionally, pushing back on the urge to respond to requests immediately. When I'm deep in programming or creative work, everything else falls to the sidelines. I need to be in that mode with any kind of work when I want to be productive, not just creative / software development.

  • "We were all huddled together, as wet as water could make us." - Ben Franklin, in his autobiography. I don't know what the context of this recollection is, but I think if we imagine it set in the brink of the revolutionary war, just before a victorious battle, we can imagine something similar for a startup trying to cross the chasm, running out of runway or facing a hurdle. The team binds together; there's hope.

  • You don't say "Good luck!". You say "Don't give up!". - The Roots, in "The Fire"

  • "Get some paper, put it in a typewriter, type FADE IN... and keep typing." - Peter Falk. Don't get tied down preparing. Just create.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean + cs-syd.eu: "So, what do you think? Does Captain Jack Sparrow plan everything out? // I think he doesn't need to plan a lot out. He has this compass that points to the thing he wants most at all times. Anyone who knows me knows that my advice on anything starts with "What do you want?". Imagine of what kind of value that compass could be. If you know what you want, or you know where to go to get it, you can make everything else up as you go."

  • "Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect." - Raymond Joseph Teller

  • Motivation is not a constant nor a property of an individual, but a product of circumstance and effort. It needs to be continuously replenished and adapted with the surroundings.

  • Productivity tip I learned the hard way: when you feel like there's a backlog of work of varying importance and urgency that prevents you from getting deep, good work done: every day, pick one *important* task that you'd be happy to have completed, and then no matter what else you do during that day, make sure to get that one important task done. Continue until it feels natural, and then try two, three, etc. The important thing is that momentum in productivity comes not from hours worked but from the weight of the tasks completed consistently.

  • In the long term, execution speed / iteration throughput and pace is the overwhelming growth coefficient for startups, and execution speed / learning rate is also of similar significant for personal growth and productivity. Try to keep it high, and try to keep it focused on important things; do one or two important tasks every day.

  • "Fear not dying. Fear not living." - MBX

  • Time spent thinking deeply is not wasted time...In this new and different kind of work, I need to spend more time thinking and less time making, and tweak my internal measurement of what feels like productive work. It's gonna feel weird at first. But the things I make need to be the right things, and the best way to ensure that's the case is to spend more time thinking about what I put on that queue. - thesephist.com/posts/thinking/

  • The best marketing campaigns sell products as the vehicle for an idea. Girls Who Code; Think Different; Just Do It. Self-branding is also an exercise in being a vehicle for an idea.

    • Ira Glass on storytelling: two basic building blocks

    • First, anecdote. It's a sequence of actions with thoughts/feelings interjecting. One thing leading to another, it should feel like a train with a destination -- it's obvious that there's a destination and you're heading towards it. No destination = no good.
    • Second, question (bait). You want to constantly be raising a question. It's implied that any question you raise, the story's going to answer. The number of open questions should never be zero.
    • A good story also has moments of reflection that answer, "why am I listening to this story?" interwoven with the story itself.
  • Lisa Su, AMD CEO: ambitious companies should make long bets and check in on them frequently.

  • "Here's the thing most people don't understand about learning: most of it comes down to love, not knowledge acquisition. If you love what you're doing, it doesn't feel like work. You don't need tests, or homework, or arbitrary measures of success to figure out if students are actually learning. It's so blatantly obvious -- you can see it on their faces. // And this is the fundamental problem with classrooms: they don't facilitate love. They don't create community and rarely create excitement." - @zrl, Zach Latta

  • Until PMF, traction and revenue numbers should largely be ignored -- they're distractions that'll lead to prematurely pushing for traction and marketing before PMF.

  • "I'll do whatever it takes to win. Whether it's sitting on the bench waiving a towel. Handing out cups of water to my teammates or hitting the game winning shot." - Mamba https://t.co/p1BowN840D

  • Work-life balance and full-time work is about work efficiency, like compute performance is about efficiency and not absolute numbers. Get more efficient at work, and I can do so much more while working so much less.

  • Steve Huffman, Reddit co-founder: A mistake in early days of Reddit was that it was PG homework, but was not driven by vision. They had mad PMF (product was going horribly, but kept growing organically) but didn't recognize it as a result.

  • PMF is when the company is doing everything wrong and the product is still growing. Reddit had PMF from the start but didn't recognize it early; Hipmunk had great execution, team, leadership, early traction but negative organic growth despite everything else. No PMF.

  • Good communities are feeling / empathy / love transmission and distribution systems. The better you architect systems for this, the better everything will fall into place. The question is how you do this -- sharing event photos, secret Santa, IRL meetups, etc.

  • Enterprise is a human endeavor. Products are extensions of the team that built it. Consequence: products leave impressions and feelings on people using them. What feelings does your product leave your users with? That's what gets remembered and reviewed.

  • Software ages and rots. Data structures and data abstraction / interface design does so much much more slowly. So encode your domain knowledge in your data structures, not your program logic, for max longevity.

  • There is disproportionate value is in connecting with community leaders who can be internal advocates in strong communities, especially ones that are harder to come into as an outsider.

  • People like jumping on to moving trains; if a startup doesn't have any forward movement, when nothing exciting's happening, no great idea can coerce people to join. But even if it's a high-risk venture, if the train is moving forward and upwards quickly, it's much easier to recruit. Change every week attracts good people.

  • Luca Consentino: The core US payment infrastructure is difficult to disrupt. So consequentially, there are two kinds of payment processing startups -- (1) improving the last-mile experience for consumers and end users, and (2) building more efficient infrastructure or infra that works better, i.e. Stripe and friends.

  • Social class is about shared human contexts in experience, only about money at a primitive level. Parasite / Nobu: What really creates the inability for one to move more than one above and one level below your social level you're born into, is that those are the only ones with overlapping experiences, on the good days and the bad. Beyond that, the people have different problems and different habits. So social mobility is about cultural mobility, which is stronger in large diverse urban cities.

  • Luca on poverty: there's different experiences there, that you can't natively differentiate if you're in a higher rung of the ladder. Living on $2 a day, you have a completely different set of problems in your live than living on $20 a day.

  • There's a lot of value in making the cost of mistakes zero. This encourages experimentation and play, which is how people learn best and invent undo / redo, git histories, all are like this. Schools should always be like this.

  • What makes Go's language design great is that it's _orthogonal design_ -- all the concerns and features are orthogonal to each other in their effect, and they don't conflict or cause redundancy.

  • Good communities: there's pressure to care if you're in the community, pressure to join the community if you care. Care about what? That's what defines the community.

  • Nonprofit especially, but also higher level in enterprise at large: in absence of business motivated growth goals, we should come back to mission oriented goals and motivate our direction from mission rooted problem statements. What are the biggest problem spaces in the world around our space and how can our products and resources address them? How can we build products that people really want, that dovetail off of this and leverage opportunistic problem gaps in the market?

  • A tool as a validator for capability, self-confidence/belief: The existence of a tool validates that you can do it. There's a whole app for it. (Hack Club Bank, working in the real world, participating in the moneyed society)

  • Amjad, on productivity: Split todo list into two columns: (1) defense: emails, chores, fires (2) offense: coding, hiring, managing. If I'm spending more than 25% on defense a day then something is wrong. Need to step back and debug.

  • From the London Design Museum: everything around us is designed / can be viewed from a design perspective, and it's useful to examine environment of life as such. I can build these objects that go in a museum. The Pebble watch, the iPod, etc. Live and work with a designer's eye and mind. Design underlies everything, as does community and language and technology. Strive to build objects and products that can proliferate like the iPhone, but also be museum pieces like the iPhone.

  • View the process of getting to PMF as debugging (not just iterating or "tuning" as Bryan Cantrill compares). Iteration of questions and answers, before finally hypothesis, and then testing.

  • In conversations: Childhood stories when naturally elicited tell so much about people, often the things you'd never learn about any other way, often about fundamental things about the person that adulthood would have masked over. Extraordinary people have always been extraordinary.

  • Community evolves by continually forking and merging ideas and beliefs -- a la memetics.