More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
1 year ago
How We Just Raised $6M At An $80M Valuation From 100+ Investors Using A Link (Without Pitching)
Lawtrades nearly failed three years ago.
We couldn't raise Series A or enthusiasm from VCs.
We raised $6M (at a $80M valuation) from 100 customers and investors using a link and no pitching.
We refocused our business first.
Lawtrades raised $3.7M while Atrium raised $75M. By comparison, we seemed unimportant.
We had to close the company or try something new.
As I've written previously, a pivot saved us. Our initial focus on SMBs attracted many unprofitable customers. SMBs needed one-off legal services, meaning low fees and high turnover.
Tech startups were different. Their General Councels (GCs) needed near-daily support, resulting in higher fees and lower churn than SMBs.
We stopped unprofitable customers and focused on power users. To avoid dilution, we borrowed against receivables. We scaled our revenue 10x, from $70k/mo to $700k/mo.
Then, we reconsidered fundraising (and do it differently)
This time was different. Lawtrades was cash flow positive for most of last year, so we could dictate our own terms. VCs were still wary of legaltech after Atrium's shutdown (though they were thinking about the space).
We neither wanted to rely on VCs nor dilute more than 10% equity. So we didn't compete for in-person pitch meetings.
AngelList Roll-Up Vehicle (RUV). Up to 250 accredited investors can invest in a single RUV. First, we emailed customers the RUV. Why? Because I wanted to help the platform's users.
Imagine if Uber or Airbnb let all drivers or Superhosts invest in an RUV. Humans make the platform, theirs and ours. Giving people a chance to invest increases their loyalty.
We expanded after initial interest.
We created a Journey link, containing everything that would normally go in an investor pitch:
- Trailer (from me)
- Product demo
We could also link to our AngelList RUV and send the pitch to an unlimited number of people. Instead of 1:1, we had 1:10,000 pitches-to-investors.
We posted Journey's link in RUV Alliance Discord. 600 accredited investors noticed it immediately. Within days, we raised $250,000 from customers-turned-investors.
Stonks, which live-streamed our pitch to thousands of viewers, was interested in our grassroots enthusiasm. We got $1.4M from people I've never met.
These updates on Pump generated more interest. Facebook, Uber, Netflix, and Robinhood executives all wanted to invest. Sahil Lavingia, who had rejected us, gave us $100k.
We closed the round with public support.
Without a single pitch meeting, we'd raised $2.3M. It was a result of natural enthusiasm: taking care of the people who made us who we are, letting them move first, and leveraging their enthusiasm with VCs, who were interested.
We used network effects to raise $3.7M from a founder-turned-VC, bringing the total to $6M at a $80M valuation (which, by the way, I set myself).
What flipping the fundraising script allowed us to do:
We started with private investors instead of 2–3 VCs to show VCs what we were worth. This gave Lawtrades the ability to:
- Without meetings, share our vision. Many people saw our Journey link. I ended up taking meetings with people who planned to contribute $50k+, but still, the ratio of views-to-meetings was outrageously good for us.
- Leverage ourselves. Instead of us selling ourselves to VCs, they did. Some people with large checks or late arrivals were turned away.
- Maintain voting power. No board seats were lost.
- Utilize viral network effects. People-powered.
- Preemptively halt churn by turning our users into owners. People are more loyal and respectful to things they own. Our users make us who we are — no matter how good our tech is, we need human beings to use it. They deserve to be owners.
I don't blame founders for being hesitant about this approach. Pump and RUVs are new and scary. But it won’t be that way for long. Our approach redistributed some of the power that normally lies entirely with VCs, putting it into our hands and our network’s hands.
This is the future — another way power is shifting from centralized to decentralized.
9 months ago
The Top 14 Software Business Ideas That Are Sure To Succeed in 2023
Software can change any company.
Software is becoming essential. Everyone should consider how software affects their lives and others'.
Software on your phone, tablet, or computer offers many new options. We're experts in enough ways now.
Software Business Ideas will be popular by 2023.
ERP software meets rising demand.
ERP solutions automate and monitor tasks that large organizations, businesses, and even schools would struggle to do manually.
ERP software could reach $49 billion by 2024.
CRM software is a must-have for any customer-focused business.
Having an open mind about your business services and products allows you to change platforms.
Another company may only want your CRM service.
Healthcare facilities need reliable, easy-to-use software.
EHRs, MDDBs, E-Prescribing, and more are software options.
The global medical software market could reach $11 billion by 2025, and mobile medical apps may follow.
Presentation Software in the Cloud
SaaS presentation tools are great.
They're easy to use, comprehensive, and full of traditional Software features.
In today's cloud-based world, these solutions make life easier for people. We don't know about you, but we like it.
Software for Project Management
People began working remotely without signs or warnings before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Many organizations found it difficult to track projects and set deadlines.
With PMP software tools, teams can manage remote units and collaborate effectively.
App for Blockchain-Based Invoicing
This advanced billing and invoicing solution is for businesses and freelancers.
These blockchain-based apps can calculate taxes, manage debts, and manage transactions.
Intelligent contracts help blockchain track transactions more efficiently. It speeds up and improves invoice generation.
Software for Business Communications
Internal business messaging is tricky.
Top business software tools for communication can share files, collaborate on documents, host video conferences, and more.
Payroll Automation System
Software development also includes developing an automated payroll system.
These software systems reduce manual tasks for timely employee payments.
These tools help enterprise clients calculate total wages quickly, simplify tax calculations, improve record-keeping, and support better financial planning.
System for Detecting Data Leaks
Both businesses and individuals value data highly. Yahoo's data breach is dangerous because of this.
This area of software development can help people protect their data.
You can design an advanced data loss prevention system.
AI-based Retail System
AI-powered shopping systems are popular. The systems analyze customers' search and purchase patterns and store history and are equipped with a keyword database.
These systems offer many customers pre-loaded products.
AI-based shopping algorithms also help users make purchases.
Software for Detecting Plagiarism
Software can help ensure your projects are original and not plagiarized.
These tools detect plagiarized content that Google, media, and educational institutions don't like.
Software for Converting Audio to Text
Machine Learning converts speech to text automatically.
These programs can quickly transcribe cloud-based files.
Software for daily horoscopes
Daily and monthly horoscopes will continue to be popular.
Software platforms that can predict forecasts, calculate birth charts, and other astrology resources are good business ideas.
Traditional study methods are losing popularity as virtual schools proliferate and physical space shrinks.
Khan Academy online courses are the best way to keep learning.
Online education portals can boost your learning. If you want to start a tech startup, consider creating an e-learning program.
Software is booming. There's never been a better time to start a software development business, with so many people using computers and smartphones. This article lists eight business ideas for 2023. Consider these ideas if you're just starting out or looking to expand.
9 months ago
2 pitfalls to stay away from when launching a YouTube channel
You do not want to miss these
Stop! Stop it! Two things to avoid when starting a YouTube channel. Critical. Possible channel-killers Its future revenue.
I'll tell you now, so don't say "I wish I knew."
The Notorious Copyright Allegation
My YouTube channel received a copyright claim before I sold it. This claim was on a one-minute video I thought I'd changed enough to make mine, but the original owner disagreed.
It cost me thousands in ad revenue. Original owner got the profits.
Well, it wasn't your video, you say.
I've learned. Sorta
I couldn't stop looking at the video's views. The video got 1,000,000 views without any revenue. I made 4 more similar videos.
If they didn't get copyrighted, I'd be rolling in dough.
You've spent a week editing and are uploading to YouTube. You're thrilled as you stand and stretch your back. You see the video just before publishing.
The red exclamation point on checks.
YouTube lets you publish, but you won't make money.
Sounds fair? Well, it is.
Copyright claims mean you stole someone's work. Song, image, or video clip.
We wouldn't want our content used for money.
The only problem with this is that almost everything belongs to someone else. I doubt some of the biggest creators are sitting down and making their music for their videos. That just seems really excessive when you could make a quick search on YouTube and download a song (I definitely don’t do this because that would be stealing).
So how do you defeat a copyright defense?
Even copyright-free songs on YouTube aren't guaranteed. Some copyrighted songs claim to be free.
Use YouTube's free music library or pay for a subscription to adobe stock, epidemic sound, or artlist.io.
Most of my videos have Nintendo music. Almost all game soundtracks are copyright-free and offer a variety of songs.
Restriction on age
Age restrictions are a must-avoid. A channel dies.
YouTube never suggests age-restricted videos.
Shadow banning means YouTube hides your content from subscribers and non-subscribers.
Keeping your channel family-friendly can help.
I hear you complaining that your channel isn't for kids. I agree. Not everyone has a clean mouth or creates content for minors.
YouTube has changed rapidly in recent years. Focusing on kids. Fewer big creators are using profanity or explicit content in videos. Not YouTube-worthy.
Youtube wants to be family-friendly. A family-friendly movie. It won't promote illegal content. Yes, it allows profanity.
Do I recommend avoiding no-no words in videos? Never. Okay. YouTube's policies are shaky. YouTube uses video content to determine ad suitability.
No joke. If you're serious about becoming a content creator, avoid profanity and inappropriate topics.
If your channel covers 18+ topics, like crime or commentary, censor as much as possible.
YouTube can be like walking on eggshells. You never know what is gonna upset the boss. So play it safe and try to avoid getting on their bad side.
Mr. Beast, Dream, Markplier, Faze Rug, and PewDewPie are popular creators. They maintain it family-friendly while entertaining fans.
You got this.
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1 year ago
Fairness alternatives to selling below market clearing prices (or community sentiment, or fun)
When a seller has a limited supply of an item in high (or uncertain and possibly high) demand, they frequently set a price far below what "the market will bear." As a result, the item sells out quickly, with lucky buyers being those who tried to buy first. This has happened in the Ethereum ecosystem, particularly with NFT sales and token sales/ICOs. But this phenomenon is much older; concerts and restaurants frequently make similar choices, resulting in fast sell-outs or long lines.
Why do sellers do this? Economists have long wondered. A seller should sell at the market-clearing price if the amount buyers are willing to buy exactly equals the amount the seller has to sell. If the seller is unsure of the market-clearing price, they should sell at auction and let the market decide. So, if you want to sell something below market value, don't do it. It will hurt your sales and it will hurt your customers. The competitions created by non-price-based allocation mechanisms can sometimes have negative externalities that harm third parties, as we will see.
However, the prevalence of below-market-clearing pricing suggests that sellers do it for good reason. And indeed, as decades of research into this topic has shown, there often are. So, is it possible to achieve the same goals with less unfairness, inefficiency, and harm?
Selling at below market-clearing prices has large inefficiencies and negative externalities
An item that is sold at market value or at an auction allows someone who really wants it to pay the high price or bid high in the auction. So, if a seller sells an item below market value, some people will get it and others won't. But the mechanism deciding who gets the item isn't random, and it's not always well correlated with participant desire. It's not always about being the fastest at clicking buttons. Sometimes it means waking up at 2 a.m. (but 11 p.m. or even 2 p.m. elsewhere). Sometimes it's just a "auction by other means" that's more chaotic, less efficient, and has far more negative externalities.
There are many examples of this in the Ethereum ecosystem. Let's start with the 2017 ICO craze. For example, an ICO project would set the price of the token and a hard maximum for how many tokens they are willing to sell, and the sale would start automatically at some point in time. The sale ends when the cap is reached.
So what? In practice, these sales often ended in 30 seconds or less. Everyone would start sending transactions in as soon as (or just before) the sale started, offering higher and higher fees to encourage miners to include their transaction first. Instead of the token seller receiving revenue, miners receive it, and the sale prices out all other applications on-chain.
The most expensive transaction in the BAT sale set a fee of 580,000 gwei, paying a fee of $6,600 to get included in the sale.
Many ICOs after that tried various strategies to avoid these gas price auctions; one ICO notably had a smart contract that checked the transaction's gasprice and rejected it if it exceeded 50 gwei. But that didn't solve the issue. Buyers hoping to game the system sent many transactions hoping one would get through. An auction by another name, clogging the chain even more.
ICOs have recently lost popularity, but NFTs and NFT sales have risen in popularity. But the NFT space didn't learn from 2017; they do fixed-quantity sales just like ICOs (eg. see the mint function on lines 97-108 of this contract here). So what?
That's not the worst; some NFT sales have caused gas price spikes of up to 2000 gwei.
High gas prices from users fighting to get in first by sending higher and higher transaction fees. An auction renamed, pricing out all other applications on-chain for 15 minutes.
So why do sellers sometimes sell below market price?
Selling below market value is nothing new, and many articles, papers, and podcasts have written (and sometimes bitterly complained) about the unwillingness to use auctions or set prices to market-clearing levels.
Many of the arguments are the same for both blockchain (NFTs and ICOs) and non-blockchain examples (popular restaurants and concerts). Fairness and the desire not to exclude the poor, lose fans or create tension by being perceived as greedy are major concerns. The 1986 paper by Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler explains how fairness and greed can influence these decisions. I recall that the desire to avoid perceptions of greed was also a major factor in discouraging the use of auction-like mechanisms in 2017.
Aside from fairness concerns, there is the argument that selling out and long lines create a sense of popularity and prestige, making the product more appealing to others. Long lines should have the same effect as high prices in a rational actor model, but this is not the case in reality. This applies to ICOs and NFTs as well as restaurants. Aside from increasing marketing value, some people find the game of grabbing a limited set of opportunities first before everyone else is quite entertaining.
But there are some blockchain-specific factors. One argument for selling ICO tokens below market value (and one that persuaded the OmiseGo team to adopt their capped sale strategy) is community dynamics. The first rule of community sentiment management is to encourage price increases. People are happy if they are "in the green." If the price drops below what the community members paid, they are unhappy and start calling you a scammer, possibly causing a social media cascade where everyone calls you a scammer.
This effect can only be avoided by pricing low enough that post-launch market prices will almost certainly be higher. But how do you do this without creating a rush for the gates that leads to an auction?
It's 2021. We have a blockchain. The blockchain is home to a powerful decentralized finance ecosystem, as well as a rapidly expanding set of non-financial tools. The blockchain also allows us to reset social norms. Where decades of economists yelling about "efficiency" failed, blockchains may be able to legitimize new uses of mechanism design. If we could use our more advanced tools to create an approach that more directly solves the problems, with fewer side effects, wouldn't that be better than fiddling with a coarse-grained one-dimensional strategy space of selling at market price versus below market price?
Begin with the goals. We'll try to cover ICOs, NFTs, and conference tickets (really a type of NFT) all at the same time.
1. Fairness: don't completely exclude low-income people from participation; give them a chance. The goal of token sales is to avoid high initial wealth concentration and have a larger and more diverse initial token holder community.
2. Don’t create races: Avoid situations where many people rush to do the same thing and only a few get in (this is the type of situation that leads to the horrible auctions-by-another-name that we saw above).
3. Don't require precise market knowledge: the mechanism should work even if the seller has no idea how much demand exists.
4. Fun: The process of participating in the sale should be fun and game-like, but not frustrating.
5. Give buyers positive expected returns: in the case of a token (or an NFT), buyers should expect price increases rather than decreases. This requires selling below market value.
Let's start with (1). From Ethereum's perspective, there is a simple solution. Use a tool designed for the job: proof of personhood protocols! Here's one quick idea:
Mechanism 1 Each participant (verified by ID) can buy up to ‘’X’’ tokens at price P, with the option to buy more at an auction.
With the per-person mechanism, buyers can get positive expected returns for the portion sold through the per-person mechanism, and the auction part does not require sellers to understand demand levels. Is it race-free? The number of participants buying through the per-person pool appears to be high. But what if the per-person pool isn't big enough to accommodate everyone?
Make the per-person allocation amount dynamic.
Mechanism 2 Each participant can deposit up to X tokens into a smart contract to declare interest. Last but not least, each buyer receives min(X, N / buyers) tokens, where N is the total sold through the per-person pool (some other amount can also be sold by auction). The buyer gets their deposit back if it exceeds the amount needed to buy their allocation.
No longer is there a race condition based on the number of buyers per person. No matter how high the demand, it's always better to join sooner rather than later.
Here's another idea if you like clever game mechanics with fancy quadratic formulas.
Mechanism 3 Each participant can buy X units at a price P X 2 up to a maximum of C tokens per buyer. C starts low and gradually increases until enough units are sold.
The quantity allocated to each buyer is theoretically optimal, though post-sale transfers will degrade this optimality over time. Mechanisms 2 and 3 appear to meet all of the above objectives. They're not perfect, but they're good starting points.
One more issue. For fixed and limited supply NFTs, the equilibrium purchased quantity per participant may be fractional (in mechanism 2, number of buyers > N, and in mechanism 3, setting C = 1 may already lead to over-subscription). With fractional sales, you can offer lottery tickets: if there are N items available, you have a chance of N/number of buyers of getting the item, otherwise you get a refund. For a conference, groups could bundle their lottery tickets to guarantee a win or a loss. The certainty of getting the item can be auctioned.
The bottom tier of "sponsorships" can be used to sell conference tickets at market rate. You may end up with a sponsor board full of people's faces, but is that okay? After all, John Lilic was on EthCC's sponsor board!
Simply put, if you want to be reliably fair to people, you need an input that explicitly measures people. Authentication protocols do this (and if desired can be combined with zero knowledge proofs to ensure privacy). So we should combine the efficiency of market and auction-based pricing with the equality of proof of personhood mechanics.
Answers to possible questions
Q: Won't people who don't care about your project buy the item and immediately resell it?
A: Not at first. Meta-games take time to appear in practice. If they do, making them untradeable for a while may help mitigate the damage. Using your face to claim that your previous account was hacked and that your identity, including everything in it, should be moved to another account works because proof-of-personhood identities are untradeable.
Q: What if I want to make my item available to a specific community?
A: Instead of ID, use proof of participation tokens linked to community events. Another option, also serving egalitarian and gamification purposes, is to encrypt items within publicly available puzzle solutions.
Q: How do we know they'll accept? Strange new mechanisms have previously been resisted.
A: Having economists write screeds about how they "should" accept a new mechanism that they find strange is difficult (or even "equity"). However, abrupt changes in context effectively reset people's expectations. So the blockchain space is the best place to try this. You could wait for the "metaverse", but it's possible that the best version will run on Ethereum anyway, so start now.
10 months ago
What I learned from my experience as a recent graduate working in venture capital
Every week I meet many people interested in VC. Many of them ask me what it's like to be a junior analyst in VC or what I've learned so far.
Looking back, I've learned many things as a junior VC, having gone through an almost-euphoric peak bull market, failed tech IPOs of 2019 including WeWorks' catastrophic fall, and the beginnings of a bearish market.
1. Network, network, network!
VCs spend 80% of their time networking. Junior VCs source deals or manage portfolios. You spend your time bringing startups to your fund or helping existing portfolio companies grow. Knowing stakeholders (corporations, star talent, investors) in your particular areas of investment helps you develop your portfolio.
Networking was one of my strengths. When I first started in the industry, I'd go to startup events and meet 50 people a month. Over time, I realized these relationships were shallow and I was only getting business cards. So I stopped seeing networking as a transaction. VC is a long-term game, so you should work with people you like. Now I know who I click with and can build deeper relationships with them. My network is smaller but more valuable than before.
2. The Most Important Metric Is Founder
People often ask how we pick investments. Why some companies can raise money and others can't is a mystery. The founder is the most important metric for VCs. When a company is young, the product, environment, and team all change, but the founder remains constant. VCs bet on the founder, not the company.
How do we decide which founders are best after 2-3 calls? When looking at a founder's profile, ask why this person can solve this problem. The founders' track record will tell. If the founder is a serial entrepreneur, you know he/she possesses the entrepreneur DNA and will likely succeed again. If it's his/her first startup, focus on industry knowledge to deliver the best solution.
3. A company's fate can be determined by macrotrends.
Macro trends are crucial. A company can have the perfect product, founder, and team, but if it's solving the wrong problem, it won't succeed. I've also seen average companies ride the wave to success. When you're on the right side of a trend, there's so much demand that more companies can get a piece of the pie.
In COVID-19, macro trends made or broke a company. Ed-tech and health-tech companies gained unicorn status and raised funding at inflated valuations due to sudden demand. With the easing of pandemic restrictions and the start of a bear market, many of these companies' valuations are in question.
4. Look for methods to ACTUALLY add value.
You only need to go on VC twitter (read: @vcstartterkit and @vcbrags) for 5 minutes or look at fin-meme accounts on Instagram to see how much VCs claim to add value but how little they actually do. VC is a long-term game, though. Long-term, founders won't work with you if you don't add value.
How can we add value when we're young and have no network? Leaning on my strengths helped me. Instead of viewing my age and limited experience as a disadvantage, I realized that I brought a unique perspective to the table.
As a VC, you invest in companies that will be big in 5-7 years, and millennials and Gen Z will have the most purchasing power. Because you can relate to that market, you can offer insights that most Partners at 40 can't. I added value by helping with hiring because I had direct access to university talent pools and by finding university students for product beta testing.
5. Develop your personal brand.
Generalists or specialists run most funds. This means that funds either invest across industries or have a specific mandate. Most funds are becoming specialists, I've noticed. Top-tier founders don't lack capital, so funds must find other ways to attract them. Why would a founder work with a generalist fund when a specialist can offer better industry connections and partnership opportunities?
Same for fund members. Founders want quality investors. Become a thought leader in your industry to meet founders. Create content and share your thoughts on industry-related social media. When I first started building my brand, I found it helpful to interview industry veterans to create better content than I could on my own. Over time, my content attracted quality founders so I didn't have to look for them.
These are my biggest VC lessons. This list isn't exhaustive, but it's my industry survival guide.
11 months ago
Tesla recently disclosed its greatest secret.
The VP has revealed a secret that should frighten the rest of the EV world.
Tesla led the EV revolution. Elon Musk's invention offers a viable alternative to gas-guzzlers. Tesla has lost ground in recent years. VW, BMW, Mercedes, and Ford offer EVs with similar ranges, charging speeds, performance, and cost. Tesla's next-generation 4680 battery pack, Roadster, Cybertruck, and Semi were all delayed. CATL offers superior batteries than the 4680. Martin Viecha, Tesla's Vice President, recently told Business Insider something that startled the EV world and will establish Tesla as the EV king.
Viecha mentioned that Tesla's production costs have dropped 57% since 2017. This isn't due to cheaper batteries or devices like Model 3. No, this is due to amazing factory efficiency gains.
Musk wasn't crazy to want a nearly 100% automated production line, and Tesla's strategy of sticking with one model and improving it has paid off. Others change models every several years. This implies they must spend on new R&D, set up factories, and modernize service and parts systems. All of this costs a ton of money and prevents them from refining production to cut expenses.
Meanwhile, Tesla updates its vehicles progressively. Everything from the backseats to the screen has been enhanced in a 2022 Model 3. Tesla can refine, standardize, and cheaply produce every part without changing the production line.
In 2017, Tesla's automobile production averaged $84,000. In 2022, it'll be $36,000.
Mr. Viecha also claimed that new factories in Shanghai and Berlin will be significantly cheaper to operate once fully operating.
Tesla's hand is visible. Tesla selling $36,000 cars for $60,000 This barely beats the competition. Model Y long-range costs just over $60,000. Tesla makes $24,000+ every sale, giving it a 40% profit margin, one of the best in the auto business.
VW I.D4 costs about the same but makes no profit. Tesla's rivals face similar challenges. Their EVs make little or no profit.
Tesla costs the same as other EVs, but they're in a different league.
But don't forget that the battery pack accounts for 40% of an EV's cost. Tesla may soon fully utilize its 4680 battery pack.
The 4680 battery pack has larger cells and a unique internal design. This means fewer cells are needed for a car, making it cheaper to assemble and produce (per kWh). Energy density and charge speeds increase slightly.
Tesla underestimated the difficulty of making this revolutionary new cell. Each time they try to scale up production, quality drops and rejected cells rise.
Tesla recently installed this battery pack in Model Ys and is scaling production. If they succeed, Tesla battery prices will plummet.
Tesla's Model Ys 2170 battery costs $11,000. The same size pack with 4680 cells costs $3,400 less. Once scaled, it could be $5,500 (50%) less. The 4680 battery pack could reduce Tesla production costs by 20%.
With these cost savings, Tesla could sell Model Ys for $40,000 while still making a profit. They could offer a $25,000 car.
Even with new battery technology, it seems like other manufacturers will struggle to make EVs profitable.
Teslas cost about the same as competitors, so don't be fooled. Behind the scenes, they're still years ahead, and the 4680 battery pack and new factories will only increase that lead. Musk faces a first. He could sell Teslas at current prices and make billions while other manufacturers struggle. Or, he could massively undercut everyone and crush the competition once and for all. Tesla and Elon win.