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Max Chafkin

Max Chafkin

2 years ago

Elon Musk Bets $44 Billion on Free Speech's Future

Musk’s purchase of Twitter has sealed his bond with the American right—whether the platform’s left-leaning employees and users like it or not.

Elon Musk's pursuit of Twitter Inc. began earlier this month as a joke. It started slowly, then spiraled out of control, culminating on April 25 with the world's richest man agreeing to spend $44 billion on one of the most politically significant technology companies ever. There have been bigger financial acquisitions, but Twitter's significance has always outpaced its balance sheet. This is a unique Silicon Valley deal.

To recap: Musk announced in early April that he had bought a stake in Twitter, citing the company's alleged suppression of free speech. His complaints were vague, relying heavily on the dog whistles of the ultra-right. A week later, he announced he'd buy the company for $54.20 per share, four days after initially pledging to join Twitter's board. Twitter's directors noticed the 420 reference as well, and responded with a “shareholder rights” plan (i.e., a poison pill) that included a 420 joke.


Musk - Patrick Pleul/Getty Images

No one knew if the bid was genuine. Musk's Twitter plans seemed implausible or insincere. In a tweet, he referred to automated accounts that use his name to promote cryptocurrency. He enraged his prospective employees by suggesting that Twitter's San Francisco headquarters be turned into a homeless shelter, renaming the company Titter, and expressing solidarity with his growing conservative fan base. “The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” he tweeted on April 19.

But Musk got funding, and after a frantic weekend of negotiations, Twitter said yes. Unlike most buyouts, Musk will personally fund the deal, putting up up to $21 billion in cash and borrowing another $12.5 billion against his Tesla stock.

Free Speech and Partisanship

Percentage of respondents who agree with the following

The deal is expected to replatform accounts that were banned by Twitter for harassing others, spreading misinformation, or inciting violence, such as former President Donald Trump's account. As a result, Musk is at odds with his own left-leaning employees, users, and advertisers, who would prefer more content moderation rather than less.


Dorsey - Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Previously, the company's leadership had similar issues. Founder Jack Dorsey stepped down last year amid concerns about slowing growth and product development, as well as his dual role as CEO of payments processor Block Inc. Compared to Musk, a father of seven who already runs four companies (besides Tesla and SpaceX), Dorsey is laser-focused.

Musk's motivation to buy Twitter may be political. Affirming the American far right with $44 billion spent on “free speech” Right-wing activists have promoted a series of competing upstart Twitter competitors—Parler, Gettr, and Trump's own effort, Truth Social—since Trump was banned from major social media platforms for encouraging rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But Musk can give them a social network with lax content moderation and a real user base. Trump said he wouldn't return to Twitter after the deal was announced, but he wouldn't be the first to do so.


Trump - Eli Hiller/Bloomberg

Conservative activists and lawmakers are already ecstatic. “A great day for free speech in America,” said Missouri Republican Josh Hawley. The day the deal was announced, Tucker Carlson opened his nightly Fox show with a 10-minute laudatory monologue. “The single biggest political development since Donald Trump's election in 2016,” he gushed over Musk.

But Musk's supporters and detractors misunderstand how much his business interests influence his political ideology. He marketed Tesla's cars as carbon-saving machines that were faster and cooler than gas-powered luxury cars during George W. Bush's presidency. Musk gained a huge following among wealthy environmentalists who reserved hundreds of thousands of Tesla sedans years before they were made during Barack Obama's presidency. Musk in the Trump era advocated for a carbon tax, but he also fought local officials (and his own workers) over Covid rules that slowed the reopening of his Bay Area factory.


Teslas at the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop Central Station in April 2021. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop was Musk's first commercial project. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Musk's rightward shift matched the rise of the nationalist-populist right and the desire to serve a growing EV market. In 2019, he unveiled the Cybertruck, a Tesla pickup, and in 2018, he announced plans to manufacture it at a new plant outside Austin. In 2021, he decided to move Tesla's headquarters there, citing California's "land of over-regulation." After Ford and General Motors beat him to the electric truck market, Musk reframed Tesla as a company for pickup-driving dudes.

Similarly, his purchase of Twitter will be entwined with his other business interests. Tesla has a factory in China and is friendly with Beijing. This could be seen as a conflict of interest when Musk's Twitter decides how to treat Chinese-backed disinformation, as Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos noted.

Musk has focused on Twitter's product and social impact, but the company's biggest challenges are financial: Either increase cash flow or cut costs to comfortably service his new debt. Even if Musk can't do that, he can still benefit from the deal. He has recently used the increased attention to promote other business interests: Boring has hyperloops and Neuralink brain implants on the way, Musk tweeted. Remember Tesla's long-promised robotaxis!

Musk may be comfortable saying he has no expectation of profit because it benefits his other businesses. At the TED conference on April 14, Musk insisted that his interest in Twitter was solely charitable. “I don't care about money.”

The rockets and weed jokes make it easy to see Musk as unique—and his crazy buyout will undoubtedly add to that narrative. However, he is a megabillionaire who is risking a small amount of money (approximately 13% of his net worth) to gain potentially enormous influence. Musk makes everything seem new, but this is a rehash of an old media story.

More on Society & Culture

umair haque

umair haque

1 year ago

The reasons why our civilization is deteriorating

The Industrial Revolution's Curse: Why One Age's Power Prevents the Next Ones

Image Credit: Nature

A surprising fact. Recently, Big Oil's 1970s climate change projections were disturbingly accurate. Of course, we now know that it worked tirelessly to deny climate change, polluting our societies to this day. That's a small example of the Industrial Revolution's curse.

Let me rephrase this nuanced and possibly weird thought. The chart above? Disruptive science is declining. The kind that produces major discoveries, new paradigms, and shattering prejudices.

Not alone. Our civilisation reached a turning point suddenly. Progress stopped and reversed for the first time in centuries.

The Industrial Revolution's Big Bang started it all. At least some humans had riches for the first time, if not all, and with that wealth came many things. Longer, healthier lives since now health may be publicly and privately invested in. For the first time in history, wealthy civilizations could invest their gains in pure research, a good that would have sounded frivolous to cultures struggling to squeeze out the next crop, which required every shoulder to the till.

So. Don't confuse me with the Industrial Revolution's curse. Industry progressed. Contrary. I'm claiming that the Big Bang of Progress is slowing, plateauing, and ultimately reversing. All social indicators show that. From progress itself to disruptive, breakthrough research, everything is slowing down.

It's troubling. Because progress slows and plateaus, pre-modern social problems like fascism, extremism, and fundamentalism return. People crave nostalgic utopias when they lose faith in modernity. That strongman may shield me from this hazardous life. If I accept my place in a blood-and-soil hierarchy, I have a stable, secure position and someone to punch and detest. It's no coincidence that as our civilization hits a plateau of progress, there is a tsunami pulling the world backwards, with people viscerally, openly longing for everything from theocracy to fascism to fundamentalism, an authoritarian strongman to soothe their fears and tell them what to do, whether in Britain, heartland America, India, China, and beyond.

However, one aspect remains unknown. Technology. Let me clarify.

How do most people picture tech? Say that without thinking. Most people think of social media or AI. Well, small correlation engines called artificial neurons are a far cry from biological intelligence, which functions in far more obscure and intricate ways, down to the subatomic level. But let's try it.

Today, tech means AI. But. Do you foresee it?

Consider why civilisation is plateauing and regressing. Because we can no longer provide the most basic necessities at the same rate. On our track, clean air, water, food, energy, medicine, and healthcare will become inaccessible to huge numbers within a decade or three. Not enough. There isn't, therefore prices for food, medicine, and energy keep rising, with occasional relief.

Why our civilizations are encountering what economists like me term a budget constraint—a hard wall of what we can supply—should be evident. Global warming and extinction. Megafires, megadroughts, megafloods, and failed crops. On a civilizational scale, good luck supplying the fundamentals that way. Industrial food production cannot feed a planet warming past two degrees. Crop failures, droughts, floods. Another example: glaciers melt, rivers dry up, and the planet's fresh water supply contracts like a heart attack.

Now. Let's talk tech again. Mostly AI, maybe phone apps. The unsettling reality is that current technology cannot save humanity. Not much.

AI can do things that have become cliches to titillate the masses. It may talk to you and act like a person. It can generate art, which means reproduce it, but nonetheless, AI art! Despite doubts, it promises to self-drive cars. Unimportant.

We need different technology now. AI won't grow crops in ash-covered fields, cleanse water, halt glaciers from melting, or stop the clear-cutting of the planet's few remaining forests. It's not useless, but on a civilizational scale, it's much less beneficial than its proponents claim. By the time it matures, AI can help deliver therapy, keep old people company, and even drive cars more efficiently. None of it can save our culture.

Expand that scenario. AI's most likely use? Replacing call-center workers. Support. It may help doctors diagnose, surgeons orient, or engineers create more fuel-efficient motors. This is civilizationally marginal.

Non-disruptive. Do you see the connection with the paper that indicated disruptive science is declining? AI exemplifies that. It's called disruptive, yet it's a textbook incremental technology. Oh, cool, I can communicate with a bot instead of a poor human in an underdeveloped country and have the same or more trouble being understood. This bot is making more people unemployed. I can now view a million AI artworks.

AI illustrates our civilization's trap. Its innovative technologies will change our lives. But as you can see, its incremental, delivering small benefits at most, and certainly not enough to balance, let alone solve, the broader problem of steadily dropping living standards as our society meets a wall of being able to feed itself with fundamentals.

Contrast AI with disruptive innovations we need. What do we need to avoid a post-Roman Dark Age and preserve our civilization in the coming decades? We must be able to post-industrially produce all our basic needs. We need post-industrial solutions for clean water, electricity, cement, glass, steel, manufacture for garments and shoes, starting with the fossil fuel-intensive plastic, cotton, and nylon they're made of, and even food.

Consider. We have no post-industrial food system. What happens when crop failures—already dangerously accelerating—reach a critical point? Our civilization is vulnerable. Think of ancient civilizations that couldn't survive the drying up of their water sources, the failure of their primary fields, which they assumed the gods would preserve forever, or an earthquake or sickness that killed most of their animals. Bang. Lost. They failed. They splintered, fragmented, and abandoned vast capitols and cities, and suddenly, in history's sight, poof, they were gone.

We're getting close. Decline equals civilizational peril.

We believe dumb notions about AI becoming disruptive when it's incremental. Most of us don't realize our civilization's risk because we believe these falsehoods. Everyone should know that we cannot create any thing at civilizational scale without fossil fuels. Most of us don't know it, thus we don't realize that the breakthrough technologies and systems we need don't manipulate information anymore. Instead, biotechnologies, largely but not genes, generate food without fossil fuels.

We need another Industrial Revolution. AI, apps, bots, and whatnot won't matter unless you think you can eat and drink them while the world dies and fascists, lunatics, and zealots take democracy's strongholds. That's dramatic, but only because it's already happening. Maybe AI can entertain you in that bunker while society collapses with smart jokes or a million Mondrian-like artworks. If civilization is to survive, it cannot create the new Industrial Revolution.

The revolution has begun, but only in small ways. Post-industrial fundamental systems leaders are developing worldwide. The Netherlands is leading post-industrial agriculture. That's amazing because it's a tiny country performing well. Correct? Discover how large-scale agriculture can function, not just you and me, aged hippies, cultivating lettuce in our backyards.

Iceland is leading bioplastics, which, if done well, will be a major advance. Of sure, microplastics are drowning the oceans. What should we do since we can't live without it? We need algae-based bioplastics for green plastic.

That's still young. Any of the above may not function on a civilizational scale. Bioplastics use algae, which can cause problems if overused. None of the aforementioned indicate the next Industrial Revolution is here. Contrary. Slowly.

We have three decades until everything fails. Before life ends. Curtain down. No more fields, rivers, or weather. Freshwater and life stocks have plummeted. Again, we've peaked and declined in our ability to live at today's relatively rich standards. Game over—no more. On a dying planet, producing the fundamentals for a civilisation that left it too late to construct post-industrial systems becomes next to impossible, with output dropping faster and quicker each year, quarter, and day.

Too slow. That's because it's not really happening. Most people think AI when I say tech. I get a politicized response if I say Green New Deal or Clean Industrial Revolution. Half the individuals I talk to have been politicized into believing that climate change isn't real and that any breakthrough technical progress isn't required, desirable, possible, or genuine. They'll suffer.

The Industrial Revolution curse. Every revolution creates new authorities, which ossify and refuse to relinquish their privileges. For fifty years, Big Oil has denied climate change, even though their scientists predicted it. We also have a software industry and its venture capital power centers that are happy for the average person to think tech means chatbots, not being able to produce basics for a civilization without destroying the planet, and billionaires who buy comms platforms for the same eye-watering amount of money it would take to save life on Earth.

The entire world's vested interests are against the next industrial revolution, which is understandable since they were established from fossil money. From finance to energy to corporate profits to entertainment, power in our world is the result of the last industrial revolution, which means it has no motivation or purpose to give up fossil money, as we are witnessing more brutally out in the open.

Thus, the Industrial Revolution's curse—fossil power—rules our globe. Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Wall St., Silicon Valley, and many others—including politics, which they buy and sell—are basically fossil power, and they have no interest in generating or letting the next industrial revolution happen. That's why tiny enterprises like those creating bioplastics in Iceland or nations savvy enough to shun fossil power, like the Netherlands, which has a precarious relationship with nature, do it. However, fossil power dominates politics, economics, food, clothes, energy, and medicine, and it has no motivation to change.

Allow disruptive innovations again. As they occur, its position becomes increasingly vulnerable. If you were fossil power, would you allow another industrial revolution to destroy its privilege and wealth?

You might, since power and money haven't corrupted you. However, fossil power prevents us from building, creating, and growing what we need to survive as a society. I mean the entire economic, financial, and political power structure from the last industrial revolution, not simply Big Oil. My friends, fossil power's chokehold over our society is likely to continue suffocating the advances that could have spared our civilization from a decline that's now here and spiraling closer to oblivion.

Hector de Isidro

Hector de Isidro

1 year ago

Why can't you speak English fluently even though you understand it?

Many of us have struggled for years to master a second language (in my case, English). Because (at least in my situation) we've always used an input-based system or method.

I'll explain in detail, but briefly: We can understand some conversations or sentences (since we've trained), but we can't give sophisticated answers or speak fluently (because we have NOT trained at all).

What exactly is input-based learning?

Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are key language abilities (if you look closely at that list, it seems that people tend to order them in this way: inadvertently giving more priority to the first ones than to the last ones).

These talents fall under two learning styles:

  • Reading and listening are input-based activities (sometimes referred to as receptive skills or passive learning).

  • Writing and speaking are output-based tasks (also known as the productive skills and/or active learning).

by Anson Wong

What's the best learning style? To learn a language, we must master four interconnected skills. The difficulty is how much time and effort we give each.

According to Shion Kabasawa's books The Power of Input: How to Maximize Learning and The Power of Output: How to Change Learning to Outcome (available only in Japanese), we spend 7:3 more time on Input Based skills than Output Based skills when we should be doing the opposite, leaning more towards Output (Input: Output->3:7).

I can't tell you how he got those numbers, but I think he's not far off because, for example, think of how many people say they're learning a second language and are satisfied bragging about it by only watching TV, series, or movies in VO (and/or reading a book or whatever) their Input is: 7:0 output!

You can't be good at a sport by watching TikTok videos about it; you must play.

“being pushed to produce language puts learners in a better position to notice the ‘gaps’ in their language knowledge”, encouraging them to ‘upgrade’ their existing interlanguage system. And, as they are pushed to produce language in real time and thereby forced to automate low-level operations by incorporating them into higher-level routines, it may also contribute to the development of fluency. — Scott Thornbury (P is for Push)

How may I practice output-based learning more?

I know that listening or reading is easy and convenient because we can do it on our own in a wide range of situations, even during another activity (although, as you know, it's not ideal), writing can be tedious/boring (it's funny that we almost always excuse ourselves in the lack of ideas), and speaking requires an interlocutor. But we must leave our comfort zone and modify our thinking to go from 3:7 to 7:3. (or at least balance it better to something closer). Gradually.

“You don’t have to do a lot every day, but you have to do something. Something. Every day.” — Callie Oettinger (Do this every day)

We can practice speaking like boxers shadow box.

Speaking out loud strengthens the mind-mouth link (otherwise, you will still speak fluently in your mind but you will choke when speaking out loud). This doesn't mean we should talk to ourselves on the way to work, while strolling, or on public transportation. We should try to do it without disturbing others, such as explaining what we've heard, read, or seen (the list is endless: you can TALK about what happened yesterday, your bedtime book, stories you heard at the office, that new kitten video you saw on Instagram, an experience you had, some new fact, that new boring episode you watched on Netflix, what you ate, what you're going to do next, your upcoming vacation, what’s trending, the news of the day)

Who will correct my grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation with an imagined friend? We can't have everything, but tools and services can help [1].

Lack of bravery

Fear of speaking a language different than one's mother tongue in front of native speakers is global. It's easier said than done, because strangers, not your friends, will always make fun of your accent or faults. Accept it and try again. Karma will prevail.

Perfectionism is a trap. Stop self-sabotaging. Communication is key (and for that you have to practice the Output too ).

“Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process.” — Ruri Ohama

[1] Grammarly, Deepl, Google Translate, etc.

DC Palter

DC Palter

1 year ago

Why Are There So Few Startups in Japan?

Japan's startup challenge: 7 reasons

Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Every day, another Silicon Valley business is bought for a billion dollars, making its founders rich while growing the economy and improving consumers' lives.

Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Medium dominate our daily lives. Tesla automobiles and Moderna Covid vaccinations.

The startup movement started in Silicon Valley, California, but the rest of the world is catching up. Global startup buzz is rising. Except Japan.

644 of CB Insights' 1170 unicorns—successful firms valued at over $1 billion—are US-based. China follows with 302 and India third with 108.

Japan? 6!

1% of US startups succeed. The third-largest economy is tied with small Switzerland for startup success.

Mexico (8), Indonesia (12), and Brazil (12) have more successful startups than Japan (16). South Korea has 16. Yikes! Problem?

Why Don't Startups Exist in Japan More?

Not about money. Japanese firms invest in startups. To invest in startups, big Japanese firms create Silicon Valley offices instead of Tokyo.

Startups aren't the issue either. Local governments are competing to be Japan's Shirikon Tani, providing entrepreneurs financing, office space, and founder visas.

Startup accelerators like Plug and Play in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, the Startup Hub in Kobe, and Google for Startups are many.

Most of the companies I've encountered in Japan are either local offices of foreign firms aiming to expand into the Japanese market or small businesses offering local services rather than disrupting a staid industry with new ideas.

There must be a reason Japan can develop world-beating giant corporations like Toyota, Nintendo, Shiseido, and Suntory but not inventive startups.

Culture, obviously. Japanese culture excels in teamwork, craftsmanship, and quality, but it hates moving fast, making mistakes, and breaking things.

If you have a brilliant idea in Silicon Valley, quit your job, get money from friends and family, and build a prototype. To fund the business, you approach angel investors and VCs.

Most non-startup folks don't aware that venture capitalists don't want good, profitable enterprises. That's wonderful if you're developing a solid small business to consult, open shops, or make a specialty product. However, you must pay for it or borrow money. Venture capitalists want moon rockets. Silicon Valley is big or bust. Almost 90% will explode and crash. The few successes are remarkable enough to make up for the failures.

Silicon Valley's high-risk, high-reward attitude contrasts with Japan's incrementalism. Japan makes the best automobiles and cleanrooms, but it fails to produce new items that grow the economy.

Changeable? Absolutely. But, what makes huge manufacturing enterprises successful and what makes Japan a safe and comfortable place to live are inextricably connected with the lack of startups.

Barriers to Startup Development in Japan

These are the 7 biggest obstacles to Japanese startup success.

  1. Unresponsive Employment Market

While the lifelong employment system in Japan is evolving, the average employee stays at their firm for 12 years (15 years for men at large organizations) compared to 4.3 years in the US. Seniority, not experience or aptitude, determines career routes, making it tough to quit a job to join a startup and then return to corporate work if it fails.

  1. Conservative Buyers

Even if your product is buggy and undocumented, US customers will migrate to a cheaper, superior one. Japanese corporations demand perfection from their trusted suppliers and keep with them forever. Startups need income fast, yet product evaluation takes forever.

  1. Failure intolerance

Japanese business failures harm lives. Failed forever. It hinders risk-taking. Silicon Valley embraces failure. Build another startup if your first fails. Build a third if that fails. Every setback is viewed as a learning opportunity for success.

4. No Corporate Purchases

Silicon Valley industrial giants will buy fast-growing startups for a lot of money. Many huge firms have stopped developing new goods and instead buy startups after the product is validated.

Japanese companies prefer in-house product development over startup acquisitions. No acquisitions mean no startup investment and no investor reward.

Startup investments can also be monetized through stock market listings. Public stock listings in Japan are risky because the Nikkei was stagnant for 35 years while the S&P rose 14x.

5. Social Unity Above Wealth

In Silicon Valley, everyone wants to be rich. That creates a competitive environment where everyone wants to succeed, but it also promotes fraud and societal problems.

Japan values communal harmony above individual success. Wealthy folks and overachievers are avoided. In Japan, renegades are nearly impossible.

6. Rote Learning Education System

Japanese high school graduates outperform most Americans. Nonetheless, Japanese education is known for its rote memorization. The American system, which fails too many kids, emphasizes creativity to create new products.

  1. Immigration.

Immigrants start 55% of successful Silicon Valley firms. Some come for university, some to escape poverty and war, and some are recruited by Silicon Valley startups and stay to start their own.

Japan is difficult for immigrants to start a business due to language barriers, visa restrictions, and social isolation.

How Japan Can Promote Innovation

Patchwork solutions to deep-rooted cultural issues will not work. If customers don't buy things, immigration visas won't aid startups. Startups must have a chance of being acquired for a huge sum to attract investors. If risky startups fail, employees won't join.

Will Japan never have a startup culture?

Once a consensus is reached, Japan changes rapidly. A dwindling population and standard of living may lead to such consensus.

Toyota and Sony were firms with renowned founders who used technology to transform the world. Repeatable.

Silicon Valley is flawed too. Many people struggle due to wealth disparities, job churn and layoffs, and the tremendous ups and downs of the economy caused by stock market fluctuations.

The founders of the 10% successful startups are heroes. The 90% that fail and return to good-paying jobs with benefits are never mentioned.

Silicon Valley startup culture and Japanese corporate culture are opposites. Each have pros and cons. Big Japanese corporations make the most reliable, dependable, high-quality products yet move too slowly. That's good for creating cars, not social networking apps.

Can innovation and success be encouraged without eroding social cohesion? That can motivate software firms to move fast and break things while recognizing the beauty and precision of expert craftsmen? A hybrid culture where Japan can make the world's best and most original items. Hopefully.

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Rick Blyth

Rick Blyth

1 year ago

Looking for a Reliable Micro SaaS Niche

Niches are rich, as the adage goes.

Micro SaaS requires a great micro-niche; otherwise, it's merely plain old SaaS with a large audience.

Instead of targeting broad markets with few identifying qualities, specialise down to a micro-niche. How would you target these users?

Better go tiny. You'll locate and engage new consumers more readily and serve them better with a customized solution.

Imagine you're a real estate lawyer looking for a case management solution. Because it's so specific to you, you'd be lured to this link:

instead of below:

Next, locate mini SaaS niches that could work for you. You're not yet looking at the problems/solutions in these areas, merely shortlisting them.

The market should be growing, not shrinking

We shouldn't design apps for a declining niche. We intend to target stable or growing niches for the next 5 to 10 years.

If it's a developing market, you may be able to claim a stake early. You must balance this strategy with safer, longer-established niches (accountancy, law, health, etc).

First Micro SaaS apps I designed were for Merch By Amazon creators, a burgeoning niche. I found this niche when searching for passive income.

Graphic designers and entrepreneurs post their art to Amazon to sell on clothes. When Amazon sells their design, they get a royalty. Since 2015, this platform and specialty have grown dramatically.

Amazon doesn't publicize the amount of creators on the platform, but it's possible to approximate by looking at Facebook groups, Reddit channels, etc.

I could see the community growing week by week, with new members joining. Merch was an up-and-coming niche, and designers made money when their designs sold. All I had to do was create tools that let designers focus on making bestselling designs.

Look at the Google Trends graph below to see how this niche has evolved and when I released my apps and resigned my job.

Are the users able to afford the tools?

Who's your average user? Consumer or business? Is your solution budgeted?

If they're students, you'll struggle to convince them to subscribe to your study-system app (ahead of video games and beer).

Let's imagine you designed a Shopify plugin that emails customers when a product is restocked. If your plugin just needs 5 product sales a month to justify its cost, everyone wins (just be mindful that one day Shopify could potentially re-create your plugins functionality within its core offering making your app redundant ).

Do specialized users buy tools? If so, that's comforting. If not, you'd better have a compelling value proposition for your end customer if you're the first.

This should include how much time or money your program can save or make the user.

Are you able to understand the Micro SaaS market?

Ideally, you're already familiar about the industry/niche. Maybe you're fixing a challenge from your day job or freelance work.

If not, evaluate how long it would take to learn the niche's users. Health & Fitness is easier to relate to and understand than hedge fund derivatives trading.

Competing in these complex (and profitable) fields might offer you an edge.

B2C, B2M, or B2B?

Consider your user base's demographics. Will you target businesses, consumers, or both? Let's examine the different consumer types:

  • B2B refers to business-to-business transactions where customers are other businesses. UpVoty, Plutio, Slingshot, Salesforce, Atlassian, and Hubspot are a few examples of SaaS, ranging from Micro SaaS to SaaS.

  • Business to Consumer (B2C), in which your clients are people who buy things. For instance, Duolingo, Canva, and Nomad List.

  • For instance, my tool KDP Wizard has a mixed user base of publishing enterprises and also entrepreneurial consumers selling low-content books on Amazon. This is a case of business to many (B2M), where your users are a mixture of businesses and consumers. There is a large SaaS called Dropbox that offers both personal and business plans.

Targeting a B2B vs. B2C niche is very different. The sales cycle differs.

  • A B2B sales staff must make cold calls to potential clients' companies. Long sales, legal, and contractual conversations are typically required for each business to get the go-ahead. The cost of obtaining a new customer is substantially more than it is for B2C, despite the fact that the recurring fees are significantly higher.

  • Since there is typically only one individual making the purchasing decision, B2C signups are virtually always self-service with reduced recurring fees. Since there is typically no outbound sales staff in B2C, acquisition costs are significantly lower than in B2B.

User Characteristics for B2B vs. B2C

Consider where your niche's users congregate if you don't already have a presence there.

B2B users frequent LinkedIn and Twitter. B2C users are on Facebook/Instagram/Reddit/Twitter, etc.

Churn is higher in B2C because consumers haven't gone through all the hoops of a B2B sale. Consumers are more unpredictable than businesses since they let their bank cards exceed limitations or don't update them when they expire.

With a B2B solution, there's a contractual arrangement and the firm will pay the subscription as long as they need it.

Depending on how you feel about the above (sales team vs. income vs. churn vs. targeting), you'll know which niches to pursue.

You ought to respect potential customers.

Would you hang out with customers?

You'll connect with users at conferences (in-person or virtual), webinars, seminars, screenshares, Facebook groups, emails, support calls, support tickets, etc.

If talking to a niche's user base makes you shudder, you're in for a tough road. Whether they're demanding or dull, avoid them if possible.

Merch users are mostly graphic designers, side hustlers, and entrepreneurs. These laid-back users embrace technologies that assist develop their Merch business.

I discovered there was only one annual conference for this specialty, held in Seattle, USA. I decided to organize a conference for UK/European Merch designers, despite never having done so before.

Hosting a conference for over 80 people was stressful, and it turned out to be much bigger than expected, with attendees from the US, Europe, and the UK.

I met many specialized users, built relationships, gained trust, and picked their brains in person. Many of the attendees were already Merch Wizard users, so hearing their feedback and ideas for future features was invaluable.

focused and specific

Instead of building for a generic, hard-to-reach market, target a specific group.

I liken it to fishing in a little, hidden pond. This small pond has only one species of fish, so you learn what bait it likes. Contrast that with trawling for hours to catch as many fish as possible, even if some aren't what you want.

In the case management scenario, it's difficult to target leads because several niches could use the app. Where do your potential customers hang out? Your generic solution: No.

It's easier to join a community of Real Estate Lawyers and see if your software can answer their pain points.

My Success with Micro SaaS

In my case, my Micro SaaS apps have been my chrome extensions. Since I launched them, they've earned me an average $10k MRR, allowing me to quit my lousy full-time job years ago.

I sold my apps after scaling them for a life-changing lump amount. Since then, I've helped unfulfilled software developers escape the 9-5 through Micro SaaS.

Whether it's a profitable side hustle or a liferaft to quit their job and become their own Micro SaaS boss.

Having built my apps to the point where I could quit my job, then scaled and sold them, I feel I can share my skills with software developers worldwide.

Read my free guide on self-funded SaaS to discover more about Micro SaaS, or download your own copy. 12 chapters cover everything from Idea to Exit.

Watch my YouTube video to learn how to construct a Micro SaaS app in 10 steps.

Peter Steven Ho

Peter Steven Ho

1 year ago

Thank You for 21 Fantastic Years, iPod

Apple's latest revelation may shock iPod fans and former owners.

Image by Sly from Pixabay

Apple discontinued the iPod touch on May 11, 2022. After 21 years, Apple killed the last surviving iPod, a device Steve Jobs believed would revolutionize the music industry.

Jobs was used to making bold predictions, but few expected Apple's digital music player to change the music industry. It did.

This chaos created new business opportunities. Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon are products of that chaotic era.

As the digital landscape changes, so do consumers, and the iPod has lost favor. I'm sure Apple realizes the importance of removing an icon. The iPod was Apple like the Mac and iPhone. I think it's bold to retire such a key Apple cornerstone. What would Jobs do?

iPod evolution across the ages

Here's an iPod family tree for all you enthusiasts.

iPod classic — Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

iPod vintage (Oct 2001 to Sep 2014, 6 generations)

The original iPod had six significant upgrades since 2001. Apple announced an 80 GB ($249) and 160 GB ($349) iPod classic in 2007.

Apple updated the 80 GB model with a 120 GB device in September 2008. Apple upgraded the 120 GB model with a 160 GB variant a year later (2009). This was the last iteration, and Apple discontinued the classic in September 2014.

iPod nano (Jan 2004 to Sep 2005, 2 generations)

Apple debuted a smaller, brightly-colored iPod in 2004. The first model featured 4 GB, enough for 1,000 songs.

Apple produced a new 4 GB or 6 GB iPod mini in February 2005 and discontinued it in September when they released a better-looking iPod nano.

iTouch nano (Sep 2005 to July 2017, 7 generations)

I loved the iPod nano. It was tiny and elegant with enough tech to please most music aficionados, unless you carry around your complete music collection.

iPod nano — Image by Herbert Aust from Pixabay

Apple owed much of the iPod nano's small form and success to solid-state flash memory. Flash memory doesn't need power because it has no moving parts. This makes the iPod nano more durable than the iPod classic and mini, which employ hard drives.

Apple manufactured seven generations of the iPod nano, improving its design, display screen, memory, battery, and software, but abandoned it in July 2017 due to dwindling demand.

Shuffle iPod (Jan 2005 to Jul 2017, 4 generations)

The iPod shuffle was entry-level. It was a simple, lightweight, tiny music player. The iPod shuffle was perfect for lengthy bike trips, runs, and hikes.

iPod shuffle — Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Apple sold 10 million iPod shuffles in the first year and kept making them for 12 years, through four significant modifications.

iOS device (Sep 2007 to May 2022, 7 generations)

The iPod touch's bigger touchscreen interface made it a curious addition to the iPod family. The iPod touch resembled an iPhone more than the other iPods, making them hard to tell apart.

Many were dissatisfied that Apple removed functionality from the iPod touch to avoid making it too similar to the iPhone. Seven design improvements over 15 years brought the iPod touch closer to the iPhone, but not completely.

The iPod touch uses the same iOS operating system as the iPhone, giving it access to many apps, including handheld games.

The iPod touch's long production run is due to the next generation of music-loving gamers.

What made the iPod cool

iPod revolutionized music listening. It was the first device to store and play MP3 music, allowing you to carry over 1,000 songs anywhere.

The iPod changed consumer electronics with its scroll wheel and touchscreen. Jobs valued form and function equally. He showed people that a product must look good to inspire an emotional response and ignite passion.

The elegant, tiny iPod was a tremendous sensation when it arrived for $399 in October 2001. Even at this price, it became a must-have for teens to CEOs.

It's hard to identify any technology that changed how music was downloaded and played like the iPod. Apple iPod and iTunes had 63% of the paid music download market in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The demise of the iPod was inevitable

Apple discontinuing the iPod touch after 21 years is sad. This ends a 00s music icon.

Jobs was a genius at anticipating market needs and opportunities, and Apple launched the iPod at the correct time.

Few consumer electronics items have had such a lasting impact on music lovers and the music industry as the iPod.

Smartphones and social media have contributed to the iPod's decline. Instead of moving to the music, the new generation of consumers is focused on social media. They're no longer passive content consumers; they're active content creators seeking likes and followers. Here, the smartphone has replaced the iPod.

It's hard not to feel a feeling of loss, another part of my adolescence now forgotten by the following generation.

So, if you’re lucky enough to have a working iPod, hang on to that relic and enjoy the music and the nostalgia.

Ash Parrish

Ash Parrish

1 year ago

Sonic Prime and indie games on Netflix

Netflix will stream Spiritfarer, Raji: An Ancient Epic, and Lucky Luna.

Netflix's Geeked Week brought a slew of announcements. The flurry of reveals for The Sandman, The Umbrella Academy season 3, One Piece, and more also included game and game-adjacent announcements.

Netflix released a teaser for Cuphead season 2 ahead of its August premiere, featuring more of Grey DeLisle's Ms. Chalice. DOTA: Dragon's Blood season 3 hits Netflix in August. Tekken, the fighting game that throws kids off cliffs, gets an anime, Tekken: Bloodline.

Netflix debuted a clip of Sonic Prime before Sonic Origins in June and Sonic Frontiers in 2022.

Castlevania: Nocturne will follow Richter Belmont.

Netflix is reviving licensed games with titles based on its shows. There's a Queen's Gambit chess game, a Shadow and Bone RPG, a La Casa de Papel heist adventure, and a Too Hot to Handle game where a pregnant woman must choose between stabbing her cheating ex or forgiving him.

Riot's rhythm platformer Hextech Mayhem debuted on Netflix last year, and now Netflix is adding games from Devolver Digital. Reigns: Three Kingdoms is a card game that lets players choose the fate of Three Kingdoms-era China by swiping left or right on cards. Spiritfarer, the "cozy game about death" from 2020, and Raji: An Ancient Epic are coming to Netflix. Poinpy, a vertical climber from the creator of Downwell, is now on Netflix.

Desta: The Memories Between is a turn-based strategy game set in dreams and memories.

Snowman's Lucky Luna will also be added soon.

With these games, Netflix is expanding beyond dinky mobile games — it plans to have 50 by the end of the year — and could be a serious platform for indies that want to expand into mobile. It takes gaming seriously.