1 day ago
Generalists Create Startups; Specialists Scale Them
There’s a funny part of ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson where Jobs says that Bill Gates was more a copier than an innovator:
“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas….He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
Gates lacked flavor. Nobody ever got excited about a Microsoft launch, despite their good products. Jobs had the world's best product taste. Apple vs. Microsoft.
A CEO's core job functions are all driven by taste: recruiting, vision, and company culture all require good taste. Depending on the type of company you want to build, know where you stand between Microsoft and Apple.
How can you improve your product judgment? How to acquire taste?
Test and refine
Product development follows two parallel paths: the ‘customer obsession’ path and the ‘taste and iterate’ path.
The customer obsession path involves solving customer problems. Lean Startup frameworks show you what to build at each step.
Taste-and-iterate doesn't involve the customer. You iterate internally and rely on product leaders' taste and judgment.
Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda explains this method. In Creative Selection, demos are iterated and presented to product leaders. Your boss presents to their boss, and so on up to Steve Jobs. If you have good product taste, you can be a panelist.
The iPhone follows this path. Before seeing an iPhone, consumers couldn't want one. Customer obsession wouldn't have gotten you far because iPhone buyers didn't know they wanted one.
In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz writes:
“It turns out that is exactly what product strategy is all about — figuring out the right product is the innovator’s job, not the customer’s job. The customer only knows what she thinks she wants based on her experience with the current product. The innovator can take into account everything that’s possible, but often must go against what she knows to be true. As a result, innovation requires a combination of knowledge, skill, and courage.“
One path solves a problem the customer knows they have, and the other doesn't. Instead of asking a person what they want, observe them and give them something they didn't know they needed.
It's much harder. Apple is the world's most valuable company because it's more valuable. It changes industries permanently.
If you want to build superior products, use the iPhone of your industry.
How to Improve Your Taste
I. Work for a company that has taste.
People with the best taste in products, markets, and people are rewarded for building great companies. Tasteful people know quality even when they can't describe it. Taste isn't writable. It's feel-based.
Moving into a community that's already doing what you want to do may be the best way to develop entrepreneurial taste. Most company-building knowledge is tacit.
Joining a company you want to emulate allows you to learn its inner workings. It reveals internal patterns intuitively. Many successful founders come from successful companies.
Consumption determines taste. Excellence will refine you. This is why restauranteurs visit the world's best restaurants and serious painters visit Paris or New York. Joining a company with good taste is beneficial.
2. Possess a wide range of interests
“Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the intersection of the humanities and science. I like that intersection. There’s something magical about that place… The reason Apple resonates with people is that there’s a deep current of humanity in our innovation. I think great artists and great engineers are similar, in that they both have a desire to express themselves.” — Steve Jobs
I recently discovered Edwin Land. Jobs modeled much of his career after Land's. It makes sense that Apple was inspired by Land.
A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War notes:
“Land was introverted in person, but supremely confident when he came to his ideas… Alongside his scientific passions, lay knowledge of art, music, and literature. He was a cultured person growing even more so as he got older, and his interests filtered into the ethos of Polaroid.”
Founders' philosophies shape companies. Jobs and Land were invested. It showed in the products their companies made. Different. His obsession was spreading Microsoft software worldwide. Microsoft's success is why their products are bland and boring.
Experience is important. It's probably why startups are built by generalists and scaled by specialists.
Jobs combined design, typography, storytelling, and product taste at Apple. Some of the best original Mac developers were poets and musicians. Edwin Land liked broad-minded people, according to his biography. Physicist-musicians or physicist-photographers.
Da Vinci was a master of art, engineering, architecture, anatomy, and more. He wrote and drew at the same desk. His genius is remembered centuries after his death. Da Vinci's statue would stand at the intersection of humanities and science.
We find incredibly creative people here. Superhumans. Designers, creators, and world-improvers. These are the people we need to navigate technology and lead world-changing companies. Generalists lead.
Aaron Dinin, PhD
4 days ago
There Are Two Types of Entrepreneurs in the World Make sure you are aware of your type!
Know why it's important.
The entrepreneur I was meeting with said, "I should be doing crypto, or maybe AI? Aren't those the hot spots? I should look there for a startup idea.”
I shook my head. Yes, they're exciting, but that doesn't mean they're best for you and your business.
“There are different types of entrepreneurs?” he asked.
I said "obviously." Two types, actually. Knowing what type of entrepreneur you are helps you build the right startup.
The two types of businesspeople
The best way for me to describe the two types of entrepreneurs is to start by telling you exactly the kinds of entrepreneurial opportunities I never get excited about: future opportunities.
In the early 1990s, my older brother showed me the World Wide Web and urged me to use it. Unimpressed, I returned to my Super Nintendo.
My roommate tried to get me to join Facebook as a senior in college. I remember thinking, This is dumb. Who'll use it?
In 2011, my best friend tried to convince me to buy bitcoin and I laughed.
Heck, a couple of years ago I had to buy a new car, and I never even considered buying something that didn’t require fossilized dinosaur bones.
I'm no visionary. I don't anticipate the future. I focus on the present.
This tendency makes me a problem-solving entrepreneur. I identify entrepreneurial opportunities by spotting flaws and/or inefficiencies in the world and devising solutions.
There are other ways to find business opportunities. Visionary entrepreneurs also exist. I don't mean visionary in the hyperbolic sense that implies world-changing impact. I mean visionary as an entrepreneur who identifies future technological shifts that will change how people work and live and create new markets.
Problem-solving and visionary entrepreneurs are equally good. But the two approaches to building companies are very different. Knowing the type of entrepreneur you are will help you build a startup that fits your worldview.
What is the distinction?
Let's use some simple hypotheticals to compare problem-solving and visionary entrepreneurship.
Imagine a city office building without nearby restaurants. Those office workers love to eat. Sometimes they'd rather eat out than pack a lunch. As an entrepreneur, you can solve the lack of nearby restaurants. You'd open a restaurant near that office, say a pizza parlor, and get customers because you solved the lack of nearby restaurants. Problem-solving entrepreneurship.
Imagine a new office building in a developing area with no residents or workers. In this scenario, a large office building is coming. The workers will need to eat then. As a visionary entrepreneur, you're excited about the new market and decide to open a pizzeria near the construction to meet demand.
Both possibilities involve the same product. You opened a pizzeria. How you launched that pizza restaurant and what will affect its success are different.
Why is the distinction important?
Let's say you opened a pizzeria near an office. You'll probably get customers. Because people are nearby and demand isn't being met, someone from a nearby building will stop in within the first few days of your pizzeria's grand opening. This makes solving the problem relatively risk-free. You'll get customers unless you're a fool.
The market you're targeting existed before you entered it, so you're not guaranteed success. This means people in that market solved the lack of nearby restaurants. Those office workers are used to bringing their own lunches. Why should your restaurant change their habits? Even when they eat out, they're used to traveling far. They've likely developed pizza preferences.
To be successful with your problem-solving startup, you must convince consumers to change their behavior, which is difficult.
Unlike opening a pizza restaurant near a construction site. Once the building opens, workers won't have many preferences or standardized food-getting practices. Your pizza restaurant can become the incumbent quickly. You'll be the first restaurant in the area, so you'll gain a devoted following that makes your food a routine.
Great, right? It's easier than changing people's behavior. The benefit comes with a risk. Opening a pizza restaurant near a construction site increases future risk. What if builders run out of money? No one moves in? What if the building's occupants are the National Association of Pizza Haters? Then you've opened a pizza restaurant next to pizza haters.
Which kind of businessperson are you?
This isn't to say one type of entrepreneur is better than another. Each type of entrepreneurship requires different skills.
As my simple examples show, a problem-solving entrepreneur must operate in markets with established behaviors and habits. To be successful, you must be able to teach a market a new way of doing things.
Conversely, the challenge of being a visionary entrepreneur is that you have to be good at predicting the future and getting in front of that future before other people.
Both are difficult in different ways. So, smart entrepreneurs don't just chase opportunities. Smart entrepreneurs pursue opportunities that match their skill sets.
5 days ago
I currently manage 4 profitable online companies. I find all the generic advice and garbage courses very frustrating. The only advice you need is this.
This is for young entrepreneurs, especially in tech.
People give useless success advice on TikTok and Reddit. Early risers, bookworms, etc. Entrepreneurship courses. Work hard and hustle.
False. These aren't successful traits.
I mean, organization is good. As someone who founded several businesses and now works at a VC firm, I find these tips to be clichés.
Based on founding four successful businesses and working with other successful firms, here's my best actionable advice:
1. Choose a sector or a niche and become an expert in it.
This is more generic than my next tip, but it's a must-do that's often overlooked. Become an expert in the industry or niche you want to enter. Discover everything.
Buy (future) competitors' products. Understand consumers' pain points. Market-test. Target keyword combos. Learn technical details.
The most successful businesses I've worked with were all formed by 9-5 employees. They knew the industry's pain points. They started a business targeting these pain points.
2. Choose a niche or industry crossroads to target.
How do you choose an industry or niche? What if your industry is too competitive?
List your skills and hobbies. Randomness is fine. Find an intersection between two interests or skills.
Say you build websites well. You like cars.
Web design is a *very* competitive industry. Cars and web design?
Instead of web design, target car dealers and mechanics. Build a few fake demo auto mechanic websites, then cold call shops with poor websites. Verticalize.
I've noticed a pattern:
Person works in a particular industry for a corporation.
Person gains expertise in the relevant industry.
Person quits their job and launches a small business to address a problem that their former employer was unwilling to address.
I originally posted this on Reddit and it seemed to have taken off so I decided to share it with you all.
Focus on the product. When someone buys from you, you convince them the product's value exceeds the price. It's not fair and favors the buyer.
Creating a superior product or service will win. Narrowing this helps you outcompete others.
You may be their only (lucky) option.
8 days ago
Startups are difficult. Streamlining the procedure for creating the following unicorn.
New ventures are exciting. It's fun to imagine yourself rich, successful, and famous (if that's your thing). How you'll help others and make your family proud. This excitement can pull you forward for years, even when you intuitively realize that the path you're on may not lead to your desired success.
Know when to change course. Switching course can mean pivoting or changing direction.
In this not-so-short blog, I'll describe the journey of building your dream. And how the journey might look when you think you're building your dream, but fall short of that vision. Both can feel similar in the beginning, but there are subtle differences.
Let’s dive in.
How an exciting journey to a dead end looks and feels.
You want to help many people. You're business-minded, creative, and ambitious. You jump into entrepreneurship. You're excited, free, and in control.
I'll use tech as an example because that's what I know best, but this applies to any entrepreneurial endeavor.
So you start learning the basics of your field, say coding/software development. You read books, take courses, and may even join a bootcamp. You start practicing, and the journey begins. Once you reach a certain level of skill (which can take months, usually 12-24), you gain the confidence to speak with others in the field and find common ground. You might attract a co-founder this way with time. You and this person embark on a journey (Tip: the idea you start with is rarely the idea you end with).
Amateur mistake #1: You spend months building a product before speaking to customers.
Building something pulls you forward blindly. You make mistakes, avoid customers, and build with your co-founder or small team in the dark for months, usually 6-12 months.
You're excited when the product launches. We'll be billionaires! The market won't believe it. This excites you and the team. Launch.
Some people may sign up out of pity, only to never use the product or service again.
You and the team are confused, discouraged and in denial. They don't get what we've built yet. We need to market it better, we need to talk to more investors, someone will understand our vision.
This is a hopeless path, and your denial could last another 6 months. If you're lucky, while talking to consumers and investors (which you should have done from the start), someone who has been there before would pity you and give you an idea to pivot into that can create income.
Suppose you get this idea and pivot your business. Again, you've just pivoted into something limited by what you've already built. It may be a revenue-generating idea, but it's rarely new. Now you're playing catch-up, doing something others are doing but you can do better. (Tip #2: Don't be late.) Your chances of winning are slim, and you'll likely never catch up.
You're finally seeing revenue and feel successful. You can compete, but if you're not a first mover, you won't earn enough over time. You'll get by or work harder than ever to earn what a skilled trade could provide. You didn't go into business to stress out and make $100,000 or $200,000 a year. When you can make the same amount by becoming a great software developer, electrician, etc.
You become stuck. Either your firm continues this way for years until you realize there isn't enough growth to recruit a strong team and remove yourself from day-to-day operations due to competition. Or a catastrophic economic event forces you to admit that what you were building wasn't new and unique and wouldn't get you where you wanted to be.
This realization could take 6-10 years. No kidding.
The good news is, you’ve learned a lot along the way and this information can be used towards your next venture (if you have the energy).
Key Lesson: Don’t build something if you aren’t one of the first in the space building it just for the sake of building something.
Let's discuss what it's like to build something that can make your dream come true.
Case 2: Building something the market loves is difficult but rewarding.
It starts with a problem that hasn't been adequately solved for a long time but is now solvable due to technology. Or a new problem due to a change in how things are done.
Let's examine each example.
Example #1: Mass communication. The problem is now solvable due to some technological breakthrough.
Twitter — One of the first web 2 companies that became successful with the rise of smart mobile computing.
People can share their real-time activities via mobile device with friends, family, and strangers. Web 2 and smartphones made it easy and fun.
Example #2: A new problem has emerged due to some change in the way things are conducted.
Zoom- A web-conferencing company that reached massive success due to the movement towards “work from home”, remote/hybrid work forces.
Online web conferencing allows for face-to-face communication.
These two examples show how to build a unicorn-type company. It's a mix of solving the right problem at the right time, either through a technological breakthrough that opens up new opportunities or by fundamentally changing how people do things.
Let's find these opportunities.
Start by examining problems, such as how the world has changed and how we can help it adapt. It can also be both. Start team brainstorming. Research technologies, current world-trends, use common sense, and make a list. Then, choose the top 3 that you're most excited about and seem most workable based on your skillsets, values, and passion.
Once you have this list, create the simplest MVP you can and test it with customers. The prototype can be as simple as a picture or diagram of user flow and end-user value. No coding required. Market-test. Twitter's version 1 was simple. It was a web form that asked, "What are you doing?" Then publish it from your phone. A global status update, wherever you are. Currently, this company has a $50 billion market cap.
Here's their MVP screenshot.
Small things grow. Tiny. Simplify.
Remember Frequency and Value when brainstorming. Your product is high frequency (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok) or high value (Airbnb for renting travel accommodations), or both (Gmail).
Once you've identified product ideas that meet the above criteria, they're simple, have a high frequency of use, or provide deep value. You then bring it to market in the simplest, most cost-effective way. You can sell a half-working prototype with imagination and sales skills. You need just enough of a prototype to convey your vision to a user or customer.
With this, you can approach real people. This will do one of three things: give you a green light to continue on your vision as is, show you that there is no opportunity and people won't use it, or point you in a direction that is a blend of what you've come up with and what the customer / user really wants, and you update the prototype and go back to the maze. Repeat until you have enough yeses and conviction to build an MVP.
9 days ago
What prevents companies from disclosing salary information?
Yes, salary details ought to be mentioned in job postings. Recruiters and candidates both agree, so why doesn't it happen?
The short answer is “Unfortunately, it’s not the Recruiter’s decision”. The longer answer is well… A LOT.
Starting in November 2022, NYC employers must include salary ranges in job postings. It should have started in May, but companies balked.
I'm thrilled about salary transparency. This decision will promote fair, inclusive, and equitable hiring practices, and I'm sure other states will follow suit. Good news!
Candidates, recruiters, and ED&I practitioners have advocated for pay transparency for years. Why the opposition?
Let's quickly review why companies have trouble sharing salary bands.
💰 Pay Parity
Many companies and leaders still oppose pay parity. Yes, even in 2022.
💰 Pay Equity
Many companies believe in pay parity and have reviewed their internal processes and systems to ensure equality.
However, Pay Equity affects who gets roles/promotions/salary raises/bonuses and when. Enter the pay gap!
💰Pay Transparency and its impact on Talent Retention
Sharing salary bands with external candidates (and the world) means current employees will have access to that information, which is one of the main reasons companies don't share salary data.
If a company has Pay Parity and Pay Equity issues, they probably have a Pay Transparency policy as well.
Sharing salary information with external candidates without ensuring current employees understand their own salary bands and how promotions/raises are decided could impact talent retention strategies.
This information should help clarify recent conversations.