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Entrepreneurship/Creators

Sanjay Priyadarshi

Sanjay Priyadarshi

1 day ago

Using Ruby code, a programmer created a $48,000,000,000 product that Elon Musk admired.

Unexpected Success

Photo of Tobias Lutke from theglobeandmail

Shopify CEO and co-founder Tobias Lutke. Shopify is worth $48 billion.

World-renowned entrepreneur Tobi

Tobi never expected his first online snowboard business to become a multimillion-dollar software corporation.

Tobi founded Shopify to establish a 20-person company.

The publicly traded corporation employs over 10,000 people.

Here's Tobi Lutke's incredible story.

Elon Musk tweeted his admiration for the Shopify creator.

30-October-2019.

Musk praised Shopify founder Tobi Lutke on Twitter.

Happened:

Screenshot by Author

Explore this programmer's journey.

What difficulties did Tobi experience as a young child?

Germany raised Tobi.

Tobi's parents realized he was smart but had trouble learning as a toddler.

Tobi was learning disabled.

Tobi struggled with school tests.

Tobi's learning impairments were undiagnosed.

Tobi struggled to read as a dyslexic.

Tobi also found school boring.

Germany's curriculum didn't inspire Tobi's curiosity.

“The curriculum in Germany was taught like here are all the solutions you might find useful later in life, spending very little time talking about the problem…If I don’t understand the problem I’m trying to solve, it’s very hard for me to learn about a solution to a problem.”

Studying computer programming

After tenth grade, Tobi decided school wasn't for him and joined a German apprenticeship program.

This curriculum taught Tobi software engineering.

He was an apprentice in a small Siemens subsidiary team.

Tobi worked with rebellious Siemens employees.

Team members impressed Tobi.

Tobi joined the team for this reason.

Tobi was pleased to get paid to write programming all day.

His life could not have been better.

Devoted to snowboarding

Tobi loved snowboarding.

He drove 5 hours to ski at his folks' house.

His friends traveled to the US to snowboard when he was older.

However, the cheap dollar conversion rate led them to Canada.

2000.

Tobi originally decided to snowboard instead than ski.

Snowboarding captivated him in Canada.

On the trip to Canada, Tobi encounters his wife.

Tobi meets his wife Fiona McKean on his first Canadian ski trip.

They maintained in touch after the trip.

Fiona moved to Germany after graduating.

Tobi was a startup coder.

Fiona found work in Germany.

Her work included editing, writing, and academics.

“We lived together for 10 months and then she told me that she need to go back for the master's program.”

With Fiona, Tobi immigrated to Canada.

Fiona invites Tobi.

Tobi agreed to move to Canada.

Programming helped Tobi move in with his girlfriend.

Tobi was an excellent programmer, therefore what he did in Germany could be done anywhere.

He worked remotely for his German employer in Canada.

Tobi struggled with remote work.

Due to poor communication.

No slack, so he used email.

Programmers had trouble emailing.

Tobi's startup was developing a browser.

After the dot-com crash, individuals left that startup.

It ended.

Tobi didn't intend to work for any major corporations.

Tobi left his startup.

He believed he had important skills for any huge corporation.

He refused to join a huge corporation.

Because of Siemens.

Tobi learned to write professional code and about himself while working at Siemens in Germany.

Siemens culture was odd.

Employees were distrustful.

Siemens' rigorous dress code implies that the corporation doesn't trust employees' attire.

It wasn't Tobi's place.

“There was so much bad with it that it just felt wrong…20-year-old Tobi would not have a career there.”

Focused only on snowboarding

Tobi lived in Ottawa with his girlfriend.

Canada is frigid in winter.

Ottawa's winters last.

Almost half a year.

Tobi wanted to do something worthwhile now.

So he snowboarded.

Tobi began snowboarding seriously.

He sought every snowboarding knowledge.

He researched the greatest snowboarding gear first.

He created big spreadsheets for snowboard-making technologies.

Tobi grew interested in selling snowboards while researching.

He intended to sell snowboards online.

He had no choice but to start his own company.

A small local company offered Tobi a job.

Interested.

He must sign papers to join the local company.

He needed a work permit when he signed the documents.

Tobi had no work permit.

He was allowed to stay in Canada while applying for permanent residency.

“I wasn’t illegal in the country, but my state didn’t give me a work permit. I talked to a lawyer and he told me it’s going to take a while until I get a permanent residency.”

Tobi's lawyer told him he cannot get a work visa without permanent residence.

His lawyer said something else intriguing.

Tobis lawyer advised him to start a business.

Tobi declined this local company's job offer because of this.

Tobi considered opening an internet store with his technical skills.

He sold snowboards online.

“I was thinking of setting up an online store software because I figured that would exist and use it as a way to sell snowboards…make money while snowboarding and hopefully have a good life.”

What brought Tobi and his co-founder together, and how did he support Tobi?

Tobi lived with his girlfriend's parents.

In Ottawa, Tobi encounters Scott Lake.

Scott was Tobis girlfriend's family friend and worked for Tobi's future employer.

Scott and Tobi snowboarded.

Tobi pitched Scott his snowboard sales software idea.

Scott liked the idea.

They planned a business together.

“I was looking after the technology and Scott was dealing with the business side…It was Scott who ended up developing relationships with vendors and doing all the business set-up.”

Issues they ran into when attempting to launch their business online

Neither could afford a long-term lease.

That prompted their online business idea.

They would open a store.

Tobi anticipated opening an internet store in a week.

Tobi seeks open-source software.

Most existing software was pricey.

Tobi and Scott couldn't afford pricey software.

“In 2004, I was sitting in front of my computer absolutely stunned realising that we hadn’t figured out how to create software for online stores.”

They required software to:

  • to upload snowboard images to the website.

  • people to look up the types of snowboards that were offered on the website. There must be a search feature in the software.

  • Online users transmit payments, and the merchant must receive them.

  • notifying vendors of the recently received order.

No online selling software existed at the time.

Online credit card payments were difficult.

How did they advance the software while keeping expenses down?

Tobi and Scott needed money to start selling snowboards.

Tobi and Scott funded their firm with savings.

“We both put money into the company…I think the capital we had was around CAD 20,000(Canadian Dollars).”

Despite investing their savings.

They minimized costs.

They tried to conserve.

No office rental.

They worked in several coffee shops.

Tobi lived rent-free at his girlfriend's parents.

He installed software in coffee cafes.

How were the software issues handled?

Tobi found no online snowboard sales software.

Two choices remained:

  1. Change your mind and try something else.

  2. Use his programming expertise to produce something that will aid in the expansion of this company.

Tobi knew he was the sole programmer working on such a project from the start.

“I had this realisation that I’m going to be the only programmer who has ever worked on this, so I don’t have to choose something that lots of people know. I can choose just the best tool for the job…There is been this programming language called Ruby which I just absolutely loved ”

Ruby was open-source and only had Japanese documentation.

Latin is the source code.

Tobi used Ruby twice.

He assumed he could pick the tool this time.

Why not build with Ruby?

How did they find their first time operating a business?

Tobi writes applications in Ruby.

He wrote the initial software version in 2.5 months.

Tobi and Scott founded Snowdevil to sell snowboards.

Tobi coded for 16 hours a day.

His lifestyle was unhealthy.

He enjoyed pizza and coke.

“I would never recommend this to anyone, but at the time there was nothing more interesting to me in the world.”

Their initial purchase and encounter with it

Tobi worked in cafes then.

“I was working in a coffee shop at this time and I remember everything about that day…At some time, while I was writing the software, I had to type the email that the software would send to tell me about the order.”

Tobi recalls everything.

He checked the order on his laptop at the coffee shop.

Pennsylvanian ordered snowboard.

Tobi walked home and called Scott. Tobi told Scott their first order.

They loved the order.

How were people made aware about Snowdevil?

2004 was very different.

Tobi and Scott attempted simple website advertising.

Google AdWords was new.

Ad clicks cost 20 cents.

Online snowboard stores were scarce at the time.

Google ads propelled the snowdevil brand.

Snowdevil prospered.

They swiftly recouped their original investment in the snowboard business because to its high profit margin.

Tobi and Scott struggled with inventories.

“Snowboards had really good profit margins…Our biggest problem was keeping inventory and getting it back…We were out of stock all the time.”

Selling snowboards returned their investment and saved them money.

They did not appoint a business manager.

They accomplished everything alone.

Sales dipped in the spring, but something magical happened.

Spring sales plummeted.

They considered stocking different boards.

They naturally wanted to add boards and grow the business.

However, magic occurred.

Tobi coded and improved software while running Snowdevil.

He modified software constantly. He wanted speedier software.

He experimented to make the software more resilient.

Tobi received emails requesting the Snowdevil license.

They intended to create something similar.

“I didn’t stop programming, I was just like Ok now let me try things, let me make it faster and try different approaches…Increasingly I got people sending me emails and asking me If I would like to licence snowdevil to them. People wanted to start something similar.”

Software or skateboards, your choice

Scott and Tobi had to choose a hobby in 2005.

They might sell alternative boards or use software.

The software was a no-brainer from demand.

Daniel Weinand is invited to join Tobi's business.

Tobis German best friend is Daniel.

Tobi and Scott chose to use the software.

Tobi and Scott kept the software service.

Tobi called Daniel to invite him to Canada to collaborate.

Scott and Tobi had quit snowboarding until then.

How was Shopify launched, and whence did the name come from?

The three chose Shopify.

Named from two words.

First:

  • Shop

Final part:

  • Simplify

Shopify

Shopify's crew has always had one goal:

  • creating software that would make it simple and easy for people to launch online storefronts.

Launched Shopify after raising money for the first time.

Shopify began fundraising in 2005.

First, they borrowed from family and friends.

They needed roughly $200k to run the company efficiently.

$200k was a lot then.

When questioned why they require so much money. Tobi told them to trust him with their goals. The team raised seed money from family and friends.

Shopify.com has a landing page. A demo of their goal was on the landing page.

In 2006, Shopify had about 4,000 emails.

Shopify rented an Ottawa office.

“We sent a blast of emails…Some people signed up just to try it out, which was exciting.”

How things developed after Scott left the company

Shopify co-founder Scott Lake left in 2008.

Scott was CEO.

“He(Scott) realized at some point that where the software industry was going, most of the people who were the CEOs were actually the highly technical person on the founding team.”

Scott leaving the company worried Tobi.

Tobis worried about finding a new CEO.

To Tobi:

A great VC will have the network to identify the perfect CEO for your firm.

Tobi started visiting Silicon Valley to meet with venture capitalists to recruit a CEO.

Initially visiting Silicon Valley

Tobi came to Silicon Valley to start a 20-person company.

This company creates eCommerce store software.

Tobi never wanted a big corporation. He desired a fulfilling existence.

“I stayed in a hostel in the Bay Area. I had one roommate who was also a computer programmer. I bought a bicycle on Craiglist. I was there for a week, but ended up staying two and a half weeks.”

Tobi arrived unprepared.

When venture capitalists asked him business questions.

He answered few queries.

Tobi didn't comprehend VC meetings' terminology.

He wrote the terms down and looked them up.

Some were fascinated after he couldn't answer all these queries.

“I ended up getting the kind of term sheets people dream about…All the offers were conditional on moving our company to Silicon Valley.”

Canada received Tobi.

He wanted to consult his team before deciding. Shopify had five employees at the time.

2008.

A global recession greeted Tobi in Canada. The recession hurt the market.

His term sheets were useless.

The economic downturn in the world provided Shopify with a fantastic opportunity.

The global recession caused significant job losses.

Fired employees had several ideas.

They wanted online stores.

Entrepreneurship was desired. They wanted to quit work.

People took risks and tried new things during the global slump.

Shopify subscribers skyrocketed during the recession.

“In 2009, the company reached neutral cash flow for the first time…We were in a position to think about long-term investments, such as infrastructure projects.”

Then, Tobi Lutke became CEO.

How did Tobi perform as the company's CEO?

“I wasn’t good. My team was very patient with me, but I had a lot to learn…It’s a very subtle job.”

2009–2010.

Tobi limited the company's potential.

He deliberately restrained company growth.

Tobi had one costly problem:

  • Whether Shopify is a venture or a lifestyle business.

The company's annual revenue approached $1 million.

Tobi battled with the firm and himself despite good revenue.

His wife was supportive, but the responsibility was crushing him.

“It’s a crushing responsibility…People had families and kids…I just couldn’t believe what was going on…My father-in-law gave me money to cover the payroll and it was his life-saving.”

Throughout this trip, everyone supported Tobi.

They believed it.

$7 million in donations received

Tobi couldn't decide if this was a lifestyle or a business.

Shopify struggled with marketing then.

Later, Tobi tried 5 marketing methods.

He told himself that if any marketing method greatly increased their growth, he would call it a venture, otherwise a lifestyle.

The Shopify crew brainstormed and voted on marketing concepts.

Tested.

“Every single idea worked…We did Adwords, published a book on the concept, sponsored a podcast and all the ones we tracked worked.”

To Silicon Valley once more

Shopify marketing concepts worked once.

Tobi returned to Silicon Valley to pitch investors.

He raised $7 million, valuing Shopify at $25 million.

All investors had board seats.

“I find it very helpful…I always had a fantastic relationship with everyone who’s invested in my company…I told them straight that I am not going to pretend I know things, I want you to help me.”

Tobi developed skills via running Shopify.

Shopify had 20 employees.

Leaving his wife's parents' home

Tobi left his wife's parents in 2014.

Tobi had a child.

Shopify has 80,000 customers and 300 staff in 2013.

Public offering in 2015

Shopify investors went public in 2015.

Shopify powers 4.1 million e-Commerce sites.

Shopify stores are 65% US-based.

It is currently valued at $48 billion.

Alex Mathers

Alex Mathers

12 days ago

400 articles later, nobody bothered to read them.

Writing for readers:

14 years of daily writing.

I post practically everything on social media. I authored hundreds of articles, thousands of tweets, and numerous volumes to almost no one.

Tens of thousands of readers regularly praise me.

I despised writing. I'm stuck now.

I've learned what readers like and what doesn't.

Here are some essential guidelines for writing with impact:

Readers won't understand your work if you can't.

Though obvious, this slipped me up. Share your truths.

Stories engage human brains.

Showing the journey of a person from worm to butterfly inspires the human spirit.

Overthinking hinders powerful writing.

The best ideas come from inner understanding in between thoughts.

Avoid writing to find it. Write.

Writing a masterpiece isn't motivating.

Write for five minutes to simplify. Step-by-step, entertaining, easy steps.

Good writing requires a willingness to make mistakes.

So write loads of garbage that you can edit into a good piece.

Courageous writing.

A courageous story will move readers. Personal experience is best.

Go where few dare.

Templates, outlines, and boundaries help.

Limitations enhance writing.

Excellent writing is straightforward and readable, removing all the unnecessary fat.

Use five words instead of nine.

Use ordinary words instead of uncommon ones.

Readers desire relatability.

Too much perfection will turn it off.

Write to solve an issue if you can't think of anything to write.

Instead, read to inspire. Best authors read.

Every tweet, thread, and novel must have a central idea.

What's its point?

This can make writing confusing.

️ Don't direct your reader.

Readers quit reading. Demonstrate, describe, and relate.

Even if no one responds, have fun. If you hate writing it, the reader will too.

Jared Heyman

Jared Heyman

16 days ago

The survival and demise of Y Combinator startups

I've written a lot about Y Combinator's success, but as any startup founder or investor knows, many startups fail.

Rebel Fund invests in the top 5-10% of new Y Combinator startups each year, so we focus on identifying and supporting the most promising technology startups in our ecosystem. Given the power law dynamic and asymmetric risk/return profile of venture capital, we worry more about our successes than our failures. Since the latter still counts, this essay will focus on the proportion of YC startups that fail.

Since YC's launch in 2005, the figure below shows the percentage of active, inactive, and public/acquired YC startups by batch.

As more startups finish, the blue bars (active) decrease significantly. By 12 years, 88% of startups have closed or exited. Only 7% of startups reach resolution each year.

YC startups by status after 12 years:

Half the startups have failed, over one-third have exited, and the rest are still operating.

In venture investing, it's said that failed investments show up before successful ones. This is true for YC startups, but only in their early years.

Below, we only present resolved companies from the first chart. Some companies fail soon after establishment, but after a few years, the inactive vs. public/acquired ratio stabilizes around 55:45. After a few years, a YC firm is roughly as likely to quit as fail, which is better than I imagined.

I prepared this post because Rebel investors regularly question me about YC startup failure rates and how long it takes for them to exit or shut down.

Early-stage venture investors can overlook it because 100x investments matter more than 0x investments.

YC founders can ignore it because it shouldn't matter if many of their peers succeed or fail ;)

Alana Rister, Ph.D.

Alana Rister, Ph.D.

23 days ago

Don't rely on lessons you learned with a small audience.

My growth-killing mistake

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

When you initially start developing your audience, you need guidance.

What does my audience like? What do they not like? How can I grow more?

When I started writing two years ago, I inquired daily. Taking cues from your audience to develop more valuable content is a good concept, but it's simple to let them destroy your growth.

A small audience doesn't represent the full picture.

When I had fewer than 100 YouTube subscribers, I tried several video styles and topics. I looked to my audience for what to preserve and what to change.

If my views, click-through rate, or average view % dropped, that topic or style was awful. Avoiding that style helped me grow.

Vlogs, talking head videos on writing, and long-form tutorials didn't fare well.

Since I was small, I've limited the types of films I make. I have decided to make my own videos.

Surprisingly, the videos I avoided making meet or exceed my views, CTR, and audience retention.

Recent Video Stats from YouTube studio — Provided by Author

A limited audience can't tell you what your tribe wants. Therefore, limiting your innovation will prohibit you from reaching the right audience. Finding them may take longer.

Large Creators Experience The Same Issue

In the last two years, I've heard Vanessa Lau and Cathrin Manning say they felt pigeonholed into generating videos they didn't want to do.

Why does this happen over and over again?

Once you have a popular piece of content, your audience will grow. So when you publish inconsistent material, fewer of your new audience will view it. You interpret the drop in views as a sign that your audience doesn't want the content, so you stop making it.

Repeat this procedure a few times, and you'll create stuff you're not passionate about because you're frightened to publish it.

How to Manage Your Creativity and Audience Development

I'm not recommending you generate random content.

Instead of feeling trapped by your audience, you can cultivate a diverse audience.

Create quality material on a range of topics and styles as you improve. Be creative until you get 100 followers. Look for comments on how to improve your article.

If you observe trends in the types of content that expand your audience, focus 50-75% of your material on those trends. Allow yourself to develop 25% non-performing material.

This method can help you expand your audience faster with your primary trends and like all your stuff. Slowly, people will find 25% of your material, which will boost its performance.

How to Expand Your Audience Without Having More Limited Content

Follow these techniques to build your audience without feeling confined.

  • Don't think that you need restrict yourself to what your limited audience prefers.

  • Don't let the poor performance of your desired material demotivate you.

  • You shouldn't restrict the type of content you publish or the themes you cover when you have less than 100 followers.

  • When your audience expands, save 25% of your content for your personal interests, regardless of how well it does.

Jayden Levitt

Jayden Levitt

23 days ago

Billionaire who was disgraced lost his wealth more quickly than anyone in history

If you're not genuine, you'll be revealed.

Photo By Fl Institute — Flikr

Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) was called the Cryptocurrency Warren Buffet.

No wonder.

SBF's trading expertise, Blockchain knowledge, and ability to construct FTX attracted mainstream investors.

He had a fantastic worldview, donating much of his riches to charity.

As the onion layers peel back, it's clear he wasn't the altruistic media figure he portrayed.

SBF's mistakes were disastrous.

  • Customer deposits were traded and borrowed by him.

  • With ten other employees, he shared a $40 million mansion where they all had polyamorous relationships.

  • Tone-deaf and wasteful marketing expenditures, such as the $200 million spent to change the name of the Miami Heat stadium to the FTX Arena

  • Democrats received a $40 million campaign gift.

  • And now there seems to be no regret.

FTX was a 32-billion-dollar cryptocurrency exchange.

It went bankrupt practically overnight.

SBF, FTX's creator, exploited client funds to leverage trade.

FTX had $1 billion in customer withdrawal reserves against $9 billion in liabilities in sister business Alameda Research.

Bloomberg Billionaire Index says it's the largest and fastest net worth loss in history.

It gets worse.

SBF's net worth is $900 Million, however he must still finalize FTX's bankruptcy.

SBF's arrest in the Bahamas and SEC inquiry followed news that his cryptocurrency exchange had crashed, losing billions in customer deposits.

A journalist contacted him on Twitter D.M., and their exchange is telling.

His ideas are revealed.

Kelsey Piper says they didn't expect him to answer because people under investigation don't comment.

Bankman-Fried wanted to communicate, and the interaction shows he has little remorse.

SBF talks honestly about FTX gaming customers' money and insults his competition.

Reporter Kelsey Piper was outraged by what he said and felt the mistakes SBF says plague him didn't evident in the messages.

Before FTX's crash, SBF was a poster child for Cryptocurrency regulation and avoided criticizing U.S. regulators.

He tells Piper that his lobbying is just excellent PR.

It shows his genuine views and supports cynics' opinions that his attempts to win over U.S. authorities were good for his image rather than Crypto.

SBF’s responses are in Grey, and Pipers are in Blue.

Source — Kelsey Piper

It's unclear if SBF cut corners for his gain. In their Twitter exchange, Piper revisits an interview question about ethics.

SBF says, "All the foolish sh*t I said"

SBF claims FTX has never invested customer monies.

Source — Kelsey PiperSource — Kelsey Piper

Piper challenged him on Twitter.

While he insisted FTX didn't use customer deposits, he said sibling business Alameda borrowed too much from FTX's balance sheet.

He did, basically.

When consumers tried to withdraw money, FTX was short.

SBF thought Alameda had enough money to cover FTX customers' withdrawals, but life sneaks up on you.

Source — Kelsey Piper

SBF believes most exchanges have done something similar to FTX, but they haven't had a bank run (a bunch of people all wanting to get their deposits out at the same time).

SBF believes he shouldn't have consented to the bankruptcy and kept attempting to raise more money because withdrawals would be open in a month with clients whole.

If additional money came in, he needed $8 billion to bridge the creditors' deficit, and there aren't many corporations with $8 billion to spare.

Once clients feel protected, they will continue to leave their assets on the exchange, according to one idea.

Kevin OLeary, a world-renowned hedge fund manager, says not all investors will walk through the open gate once the company is safe, therefore the $8 Billion wasn't needed immediately.

SBF claims the bankruptcy was his biggest error because he could have accumulated more capital.

Source — Kelsey PiperSource — Kelsey Piper

Final Reflections

Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, became the world's youngest billionaire in four years.

Never listen to what people say about investing; watch what they do.

SBF is a trader who gets wrecked occasionally.

Ten first-time entrepreneurs ran FTX, screwing each other with no risk management.

It prevents opposing or challenging perspectives and echo chamber highs.

Twitter D.M. conversation with a journalist is the final nail.

He lacks an experienced crew.

This event will surely speed up much-needed regulation.

It's also prompted cryptocurrency exchanges to offer proof of reserves to calm customers.