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Will Lockett

Will Lockett

1 year ago

Tesla recently disclosed its greatest secret.

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Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

1 year ago

Provide a product roadmap that can withstand startup velocities

This is how to build a car while driving.

Building a high-growth startup is compared to building a car while it's speeding down the highway.

How to plan without going crazy? Or, without losing team, board, and investor buy-in?

I just delivered our company's product roadmap for the rest of the year. Complete. Thorough. Page-long. I'm optimistic about its chances of surviving as everything around us changes, from internal priorities to the global economy.

It's tricky. This isn't the first time I've created a startup roadmap. I didn't invent a document. It took time to deliver a document that will be relevant for months.

Goals matter.

Although they never change, goals are rarely understood.

This is the third in a series about a startup's unique roadmapping needs. Velocity is the intensity at which a startup must produce to survive.

A high-growth startup moves at breakneck speed, which I alluded to when I said priorities and economic factors can change daily or weekly.

At that speed, a startup's roadmap must be flexible, bend but not break, and be brief and to the point. I can't tell you how many startups and large companies develop a product roadmap every quarter and then tuck it away.

Big, wealthy companies can do this. It's suicide for a startup.

The drawer thing happens because startup product roadmaps are often valid for a short time. The roadmap is a random list of features prioritized by different company factions and unrelated to company goals.

It's not because the goals changed that a roadmap is shelved or ignored. Because the company's goals were never communicated or documented in the context of its product.

In the previous post, I discussed how to turn company goals into a product roadmap. In this post, I'll show you how to make a one-page startup roadmap.

In a future post, I'll show you how to follow this roadmap. This roadmap helps you track company goals, something a roadmap must do.

Be vague for growth, but direct for execution.

Here's my plan. The real one has more entries and more content in each.

You can open this as an image at 1920 pixels

Let's discuss smaller boxes.

Product developers and engineers know that the further out they predict, the more wrong they'll be. When developing the product roadmap, this rule is ignored. Then it bites us three, six, or nine months later when we haven't even started.

Why do we put everything in a product roadmap like a project plan?

Yes, I know. We use it when the product roadmap isn't goal-based.

A goal-based roadmap begins with a document that outlines each goal's idea, execution, growth, and refinement.

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Once the goals are broken down into epics, initiatives, projects, and programs, only the idea and execution phases should be modeled. Any goal growth or refinement items should be vague and loosely mapped.

Why? First, any idea or execution-phase goal will result in growth initiatives that are unimaginable today. Second, internal priorities and external factors will change, but the goals won't. Locking items into calendar slots reduces flexibility and forces deviation from the single source of truth.

No soothsayers. Predicting the future is pointless; just prepare.

A map is useless if you don't know where you're going.

As we speed down the road, the car and the road will change. Goals define the destination.

This quarter and next quarter's roadmap should be set. After that, you should track destination milestones, not how to get there.

When you do that, even the most critical investors will understand the roadmap and buy in. When you track progress at the end of the quarter and revise your roadmap, the destination won't change.

Trevor Stark

Trevor Stark

1 year ago

Peter Thiels's Multi-Billion Dollar Net Worth's Unknown Philosopher

Peter Thiel studied philosophy as an undergraduate.

Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, Co-Founders of PayPal

Peter Thiel has $7.36 billion.

Peter is a world-ranked chess player, has a legal degree, and has written profitable novels.

In 1999, he co-founded PayPal with Max Levchin, which merged with X.com.

Peter Thiel made $55 million after selling the company to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

You may be wondering…

How did Peter turn $55 million into his now multi-billion dollar net worth?

One amazing investment?

Facebook.

Thiel was Facebook's first external investor. He bought 10% of the company for $500,000 in 2004.

This investment returned 159% annually, 200x in 8 years.

By 2012, Thiel sold almost all his Facebook shares, becoming a billionaire.

What was the investment thesis of Peter?

This investment appeared ridiculous. Facebook was an innovative startup.

Thiel's $500,000 contribution transformed Facebook.

Screenshot of Facebook in 2004 (Source)

Harvard students have access to Facebook's 8 features and 1 photo per profile.

How did Peter determine that this would be a wise investment, then?

Facebook is a mimetic desire machine.

Social media's popularity is odd. Why peek at strangers' images on a computer?

Peter Thiel studied under French thinker Rene Girard at Stanford.

Mimetic Desire explains social media's success.

Mimetic Desire is the idea that humans desire things simply because other people do.

If nobody wanted it, would you?

Would you desire a family, a luxury car, or expensive clothes if no one else did? Girard says no.

People we admire affect our aspirations because we're social animals. Every person has a role model.

Our nonreligious culture implies role models are increasingly other humans, not God.

The idea explains why social media influencers are so powerful.

Why would Andrew Tate or Kim Kardashian matter if people weren't mimetic?

Humanity is fundamentally motivated by social comparison.

Facebook takes advantage of this need for social comparison, and puts it on a global scale.

It aggregates photographs and updates from millions of individuals.

Facebook mobile allows 24/7 social comparison.

Thiel studied mimetic desire with Girard and realized Facebook exploits the urge for social comparison to gain money.

Social media is more significant and influential than ever, despite Facebook's decline.

Thiel and Girard show that applied philosophy (particularly in business) can be immensely profitable.

Nir Zicherman

Nir Zicherman

1 year ago

The Great Organizational Conundrum

Only two of the following three options can be achieved: consistency, availability, and partition tolerance

A DALL-E 2 generated “photograph of a teddy bear who is frustrated because it can’t finish a jigsaw puzzle”

Someone told me that growing from 30 to 60 is the biggest adjustment for a team or business.

I remember thinking, That's random. Each company is unique. I've seen teams of all types confront the same issues during development periods. With new enterprises starting every year, we should be better at navigating growing difficulties.

As a team grows, its processes and systems break down, requiring reorganization or declining results. Why always? Why isn't there a perfect scaling model? Why hasn't that been found?

The Three Things Productive Organizations Must Have

Any company should be efficient and productive. Three items are needed:

First, it must verify that no two team members have conflicting information about the roadmap, strategy, or any input that could affect execution. Teamwork is required.

Second, it must ensure that everyone can receive the information they need from everyone else quickly, especially as teams become more specialized (an inevitability in a developing organization). It requires everyone's accessibility.

Third, it must ensure that the organization can operate efficiently even if a piece is unavailable. It's partition-tolerant.

From my experience with the many teams I've been on, invested in, or advised, achieving all three is nearly impossible. Why a perfect organization model cannot exist is clear after analysis.

The CAP Theorem: What is it?

Eric Brewer of Berkeley discovered the CAP Theorem, which argues that a distributed data storage should have three benefits. One can only have two at once.

The three benefits are consistency, availability, and partition tolerance, which implies that even if part of the system is offline, the remainder continues to work.

This notion is usually applied to computer science, but I've realized it's also true for human organizations. In a post-COVID world, many organizations are hiring non-co-located staff as they grow. CAP Theorem is more important than ever. Growing teams sometimes think they can develop ways to bypass this law, dooming themselves to a less-than-optimal team dynamic. They should adopt CAP to maximize productivity.

Path 1: Consistency and availability equal no tolerance for partitions

Let's imagine you want your team to always be in sync (i.e., for someone to be the source of truth for the latest information) and to be able to share information with each other. Only division into domains will do.

Numerous developing organizations do this, especially after the early stage (say, 30 people) when everyone may wear many hats and be aware of all the moving elements. After a certain point, it's tougher to keep generalists aligned than to divide them into specialized tasks.

In a specialized, segmented team, leaders optimize consistency and availability (i.e. every function is up-to-speed on the latest strategy, no one is out of sync, and everyone is able to unblock and inform everyone else).

Partition tolerance suffers. If any component of the organization breaks down (someone goes on vacation, quits, underperforms, or Gmail or Slack goes down), productivity stops. There's no way to give the team stability, availability, and smooth operation during a hiccup.

Path 2: Partition Tolerance and Availability = No Consistency

Some businesses avoid relying too heavily on any one person or sub-team by maximizing availability and partition tolerance (the organization continues to function as a whole even if particular components fail). Only redundancy can do that. Instead of specializing each member, the team spreads expertise so people can work in parallel. I switched from Path 1 to Path 2 because I realized too much reliance on one person is risky.

What happens after redundancy? Unreliable. The more people may run independently and in parallel, the less anyone can be the truth. Lack of alignment or updated information can lead to people executing slightly different strategies. So, resources are squandered on the wrong work.

Path 3: Partition and Consistency "Tolerance" equates to "absence"

The third, least-used path stresses partition tolerance and consistency (meaning answers are always correct and up-to-date). In this organizational style, it's most critical to maintain the system operating and keep everyone aligned. No one is allowed to read anything without an assurance that it's up-to-date (i.e. there’s no availability).

Always short-lived. In my experience, a business that prioritizes quality and scalability over speedy information transmission can get bogged down in heavy processes that hinder production. Large-scale, this is unsustainable.

Accepting CAP

When two puzzle pieces fit, the third won't. I've watched developing teams try to tackle these difficulties, only to find, as their ancestors did, that they can never be entirely solved. Idealized solutions fail in reality, causing lost effort, confusion, and lower production.

As teams develop and change, they should embrace CAP, acknowledge there is a limit to productivity in a scaling business, and choose the best two-out-of-three path.

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Tim Denning

Tim Denning

1 year ago

One of the biggest publishers in the world offered me a book deal, but I don't feel deserving of it.

Image Credit: Pixelstalk Creative Commons

My ego is so huge it won't fit through the door.

I don't know how I feel about it. I should be excited. Many of you have this exact dream to publish a book with a well-known book publisher and get a juicy advance.

Let me dissect how I'm thinking about it to help you.

How it happened

An email comes in. A generic "can we put a backlink on your website and get a freebie" email.

Almost deleted it.

Then I noticed the logo. It seemed shady. I found the URL. Check. I searched the employee's LinkedIn. Legit. I avoided middlemen. Check.

Mixed feelings. LinkedIn hasn't valued my writing for years. I'm just a guy in an unironed t-shirt whose content they sell advertising against.

They get big dollars. I get $0 and a few likes, plus some email subscribers.

Still, I felt adrenaline for hours.

I texted a few friends to see how they felt. I wrapped them.

Messages like "No shocker. You're entertaining online." I didn't like praises, so I blushed.

The thrill faded after hours. Who knows?

Most authors desire this chance.

"You entitled piece of crap, Denning!"

You may think so. Okay. My job is to stand on the internet and get bananas thrown at me.

I approached writing backwards. More important than a book deal was a social media audience converted to an email list.

Romantic authors think backward. They hope a fantastic book will land them a deal and an audience.

Rarely occurs. So I never pursued it. It's like permission-seeking or the lottery.

Not being a professional writer, I've never written a good book. I post online for fun and to express my opinions.

Writing is therapeutic. I overcome mental illness and rebuilt my life this way. Without blogging, I'd be dead.

I've always dreamed of staying alive and doing something I love, not getting a book contract. Writing is my passion. I'm a winner without a book deal.

Why I was given a book deal

You may assume I received a book contract because of my views or follows. Nope.

They gave me a deal because they like my writing style. I've heard this for eight years.

Several authors agree. One asked me to improve their writer's voice.

Takeaway: highlight your writer's voice.

What if they discover I'm writing incompetently?

An edited book is published. It's edited.

I need to master writing mechanics, thus this concerns me. I need help with commas and sentence construction.

I must learn verb, noun, and adjective. Seriously.

Writing a book may reveal my imposter status to a famous publisher. Imagine the email

"It happened again. He doesn't even know how to spell. He thinks 'less' is the correct word, not 'fewer.' Are you sure we should publish his book?"

Fears stink.

Photo by Nathalia Segato on Unsplash

I'm capable of blogging. Even listicles. So what?

Writing for a major publisher feels advanced.

I only blog. I'm good at listicles. Digital media executives have criticized me for this.

  • It is allegedly clickbait.

  • Or it is following trends.

  • Alternately, growth hacking.

Never. I learned copywriting to improve my writing.

Apple, Amazon, and Tesla utilize copywriting to woo customers. Whoever thinks otherwise is the wisest person in the room.

Old-schoolers loathe copywriters.

Their novels sell nothing.

They assume their elitist version of writing is better and that the TikTok generation will invest time in random writing with no subheadings and massive walls of text they can't read on their phones.

I'm terrified of book proposals.

My friend's book proposal suggestion was contradictory and made no sense.

They told him to compose another genre. This book got three Amazon reviews. Is that a good model?

The process disappointed him. I've heard other book proposal horror stories. Tim Ferriss' book "The 4-Hour Workweek" was criticized.

Because he has thick skin, his book came out. He wouldn't be known without that.

I hate book proposals.

An ongoing commitment

Writing a book is time-consuming.

I appreciate time most. I want to focus on my daughter for the next few years. I can't recreate her childhood because of a book.

No idea how parents balance kids' goals.

My silly face in a bookstore. Really?

Genuine thought.

I don't want my face in bookstores. I fear fame. I prefer anonymity.

I want to purchase a property in a bad Australian area, then piss off and play drums. Is bookselling worth it?

Are there even bookstores anymore?

(Except for Ryan Holiday's legendary Painted Porch Bookshop in Texas.)

What's most important about books

Many were duped.

Tweets and TikTok hopscotch vids are their future. Short-form content creates devoted audiences that buy newsletter subscriptions.

Books=depth.

Depth wins (if you can get people to buy your book). Creating a book will strengthen my reader relationships.

It's cheaper than my classes, so more people can benefit from my life lessons.

A deeper justification for writing a book

Mind wandered.

If I write this book, my daughter will follow it. "Look what you can do, love, when you ignore critics."

That's my favorite.

I'll be her best leader and teacher. If her dad can accomplish this, she can too.

My kid can read my book when I'm gone to remember her loving father.

Last paragraph made me cry.

The positive

This book thing might make me sound like Karen.

The upside is... Building in public, like I have with online writing, attracts the right people.

Proof-of-work over proposals, beautiful words, or huge aspirations. If you want a book deal, try writing online instead of the old manner.

Next steps

No idea.

I'm a rural Aussie. Writing a book in the big city is intimidating. Will I do it? Lots to think about. Right now, some level of reflection and gratitude feels most appropriate.

Sometimes when you don't feel worthy, it gives you the greatest lessons. That's how I feel about getting offered this book deal.

Perhaps you can relate.

Kaitlin Fritz

Kaitlin Fritz

1 year ago

The Entrepreneurial Chicken and Egg

University entrepreneurship is like a Willy Wonka Factory of ideas. Classes, roommates, discussions, and the cafeteria all inspire new ideas. I've seen people establish a business without knowing its roots.

Chicken or egg? On my mind: I've asked university founders around the world whether the problem or solution came first.

The Problem

One African team I met started with the “instant noodles” problem in their academic ecosystem. Many of us have had money issues in college, which may have led to poor nutritional choices.

Many university students in a war-torn country ate quick noodles or pasta for dinner.

Noodles required heat, water, and preparation in the boarding house. Unreliable power from one hot plate per blue moon. What's healthier, easier, and tastier than sodium-filled instant pots?

BOOM. They were fixing that. East African kids need affordable, nutritious food.

This is a real difficulty the founders faced every day with hundreds of comrades.

This sparked their serendipitous entrepreneurial journey and became their business's cornerstone.

The Solution

I asked a UK team about their company idea. They said the solution fascinated them.

The crew was fiddling with social media algorithms. Why are some people more popular? They were studying platforms and social networks, which offered a way for them.

Solving a problem? Yes. Long nights of university research lead them to it. Is this like world hunger? Social media influencers confront this difficulty regularly.

It made me ponder something. Is there a correct response?

In my heart, yes, but in my head…maybe?

I believe you should lead with empathy and embrace the problem, not the solution. Big or small, businesses should solve problems. This should be your focus. This is especially true when building a social company with an audience in mind.

Philosophically, invention and innovation are occasionally accidental. Also not penalized. Think about bugs and the creation of Velcro, or the inception of Teflon. They tackle difficulties we overlook. The route to the problem may look different, but there is a path there.

There's no golden ticket to the Chicken-Egg debate, but I'll keep looking this summer.

Ezra Reguerra

Ezra Reguerra

2 years ago

Yuga Labs’ Otherdeeds NFT mint triggers backlash from community

Unhappy community members accuse Yuga Labs of fraud, manipulation, and favoritism over Otherdeeds NFT mint.

Following the Otherdeeds NFT mint, disgruntled community members took to Twitter to criticize Yuga Labs' handling of the event.

Otherdeeds NFTs were a huge hit with the community, selling out almost instantly. Due to high demand, the launch increased Ethereum gas fees from 2.6 ETH to 5 ETH.

But the event displeased many people. Several users speculated that the mint was “planned to fail” so the group could advertise launching its own blockchain, as the team mentioned a chain migration in one tweet.

Others like Mark Beylin tweeted that he had "sold out" on all Ape-related NFT investments after Yuga Labs "revealed their true colors." Beylin also advised others to assume Yuga Labs' owners are “bad actors.”

Some users who failed to complete transactions claim they lost ETH. However, Yuga Labs promised to refund lost gas fees.

CryptoFinally, a Twitter user, claimed Yuga Labs gave BAYC members better land than non-members. Others who wanted to participate paid for shittier land, while BAYCS got the only worthwhile land.

The Otherdeed NFT drop also increased Ethereum's burn rate. Glassnode and Data Always reported nearly 70,000 ETH burned on mint day.