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Andy Raskin

Andy Raskin

25 days ago

I've Never Seen a Sales Deck This Good

More on Entrepreneurship

Pat Vieljeux

Pat Vieljeux

25 days ago

The three-year business plan is obsolete for startups.

If asked, run.

Austin Distel — Unsplash

An entrepreneur asked me about her pitch deck. A Platform as a Service (PaaS).

She told me she hadn't done her 5-year forecasts but would soon.

I said, Don't bother. I added "time-wasting."

“I've been asked”, she said.

“Who asked?”

“a VC”

“5-year forecast?”

“Yes”

“Get another VC. If he asks, it's because he doesn't understand your solution or to waste your time.”

Some VCs are lagging. They're still using steam engines.

10-years ago, 5-year forecasts were requested.

Since then, we've adopted a 3-year plan.

But It's outdated.

Max one year.

What has happened?

Revolutionary technology. NO-CODE.

Revolution's consequences?

Product viability tests are shorter. Hugely. SaaS and PaaS.

Let me explain:

  • Building a minimum viable product (MVP) that works only takes a few months.

  • 1 to 2 months for practical testing.

  • Your company plan can be validated or rejected in 4 months as a consequence.

After validation, you can ask for VC money. Even while a prototype can generate revenue, you may not require any.

Good VCs won't ask for a 3-year business plan in that instance.

One-year, though.

If you want, establish a three-year plan, but realize that the second year will be different.

You may have changed your business model by then.

A VC isn't interested in a three-year business plan because your solution may change.

Your ability to create revenue will be key.

  • But also, to pivot.

  • They will be interested in your value proposition.

  • They will want to know what differentiates you from other competitors and why people will buy your product over another.

  • What will interest them is your resilience, your ability to bounce back.

  • Not to mention your mindset. The fact that you won’t get discouraged at the slightest setback.

  • The grit you have when facing adversity, as challenges will surely mark your journey.

  • The authenticity of your approach. They’ll want to know that you’re not just in it for the money, let alone to show off.

  • The fact that you put your guts into it and that you are passionate about it. Because entrepreneurship is a leap of faith, a leap into the void.

  • They’ll want to make sure you are prepared for it because it’s not going to be a walk in the park.

  • They’ll want to know your background and why you got into it.

  • They’ll also want to know your family history.

  • And what you’re like in real life.

So a 5-year plan…. You can bet they won’t give a damn. Like their first pair of shoes.

Sanjay Priyadarshi

Sanjay Priyadarshi

1 month ago

A 19-year-old dropped out of college to build a $2,300,000,000 company in 2 years.

His success was unforeseeable.

2014 saw Facebook's $2.3 billion purchase of Oculus VR.

19-year-old Palmer Luckey founded Oculus. He quit journalism school. His parents worried about his college dropout.

Facebook bought Oculus VR in less than 2 years.

Palmer Luckey started Anduril Industries. Palmer has raised $385 million with Anduril.

The Oculus journey began in a trailer

Palmer Luckey, 19, owned the trailer.

Luckey had his trailer customized. The trailer had all six of Luckey's screens. In the trailer's remaining area, Luckey conducted hardware tests.

At 16, he became obsessed with virtual reality. Virtual reality was rare at the time.

Luckey didn't know about VR when he started.

Previously, he liked "portabilizing" mods. Hacking ancient game consoles into handhelds.

In his city, fewer portabilizers actively traded.

Luckey started "ModRetro" for other portabilizers. Luckey was exposed to VR headsets online.

Luckey:

“Man, ModRetro days were the best.”

Palmer Luckey used VR headsets for three years. His design had 50 prototypes.

Luckey used to work at the Long Beach Sailing Center for minimum salary, servicing diesel engines and cleaning boats.

Luckey worked in a USC Institute for Creative Technologies mixed reality lab in July 2011. (ICT).

Luckey cleaned the lab, did reports, and helped other students with VR projects.

Luckey's lab job was dull.

Luckey chose to work in the lab because he wanted to engage with like-minded folks.

By 2012, Luckey had a prototype he hoped to share globally. He made cheaper headsets than others.

Luckey wanted to sell an easy-to-assemble virtual reality kit on Kickstarter.

He realized he needed a corporation to do these sales legally. He started looking for names. "Virtuality," "virtual," and "VR" are all taken.

Hence, Oculus.

If Luckey sold a hundred prototypes, he would be thrilled since it would boost his future possibilities.

John Carmack, legendary game designer

Carmack has liked sci-fi and fantasy since infancy.

Carmack loved imagining intricate gaming worlds.

His interest in programming and computer science grew with age.

He liked graphics. He liked how mismatching 0 and 1 might create new colors and visuals.

Carmack played computer games as a teen. He created Shadowforge in high school.

He founded Id software in 1991. When Carmack created id software, console games were the best-sellers.

Old computer games have weak graphics. John Carmack and id software developed "adaptive tile refresh."

This technique smoothed PC game scrolling. id software launched 3-D, Quake, and Doom using "adaptive tile refresh."

These games made John Carmack a gaming star. Later, he sold Id software to ZeniMax Media.

How Palmer Luckey met Carmack

In 2011, Carmack was thinking a lot about 3-D space and virtual reality.

He was underwhelmed by the greatest HMD on the market. Because of their flimsiness and latency.

His disappointment was partly due to the view (FOV). Best HMD had 40-degree field of view.

Poor. The best VR headset is useless with a 40-degree FOV.

Carmack intended to show the press Doom 3 in VR. He explored VR headsets and internet groups for this reason.

Carmack identified a VR enthusiast in the comments section of "LEEP on the Cheap." "PalmerTech" was the name.

Carmack approached PalmerTech about his prototype. He told Luckey about his VR demos, so he wanted to see his prototype.

Carmack got a Rift prototype. Here's his May 17 tweet.

John Carmack tweeted an evaluation of the Luckey prototype.

Dan Newell, a Valve engineer, and Mick Hocking, a Sony senior director, pre-ordered Oculus Rift prototypes with Carmack's help.

Everyone praised Luckey after Carmack demoed Rift.

Palmer Luckey received a job offer from Sony.

  • It was a full-time position at Sony Computer Europe.

  • He would run Sony’s R&D lab.

  • The salary would be $70k.

Who is Brendan Iribe?

Brendan Iribe started early with Startups. In 2004, he and Mike Antonov founded Scaleform.

Scaleform created high-performance middleware. This package allows 3D Flash games.

In 2011, Iribe sold Scaleform to Autodesk for $36 million.

How Brendan Iribe discovered Palmer Luckey.

Brendan Iribe's friend Laurent Scallie.

Laurent told Iribe about a potential opportunity.

Laurent promised Iribe VR will work this time. Laurent introduced Iribe to Luckey.

Iribe was doubtful after hearing Laurent's statements. He doubted Laurent's VR claims.

But since Laurent took the name John Carmack, Iribe thought he should look at Luckey Innovation. Iribe was hooked on virtual reality after reading Palmer Luckey stories.

He asked Scallie about Palmer Luckey.

Iribe convinced Luckey to start Oculus with him

First meeting between Palmer Luckey and Iribe.

The Iribe team wanted Luckey to feel comfortable.

Iribe sought to convince Luckey that launching a company was easy. Iribe told Luckey anyone could start a business.

Luckey told Iribe's staff he was homeschooled from childhood. Luckey took self-study courses.

Luckey had planned to launch a Kickstarter campaign and sell kits for his prototype. Many companies offered him jobs, nevertheless.

He's considering Sony's offer.

Iribe advised Luckey to stay independent and not join a firm. Iribe asked Luckey how he could raise his child better. No one sees your baby like you do?

Iribe's team pushed Luckey to stay independent and establish a software ecosystem around his device.

After conversing with Iribe, Luckey rejected every job offer and merger option.

Iribe convinced Luckey to provide an SDK for Oculus developers.

After a few months. Brendan Iribe co-founded Oculus with Palmer Luckey. Luckey trusted Iribe and his crew, so he started a corporation with him.

Crowdfunding

Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey launched a Kickstarter.

Gabe Newell endorsed Palmer's Kickstarter video.

Gabe Newell wants folks to trust Palmer Luckey since he's doing something fascinating and answering tough questions.

Mark Bolas and David Helgason backed Palmer Luckey's VR Kickstarter video.

Luckey introduced Oculus Rift during the Kickstarter campaign. He introduced virtual reality during press conferences.

Oculus' Kickstarter effort was a success. Palmer Luckey felt he could raise $250,000.

Oculus raised $2.4 million through Kickstarter. Palmer Luckey's virtual reality vision was well-received.

Mark Zuckerberg's Oculus discovery

Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey hired the right personnel after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Oculus needs a lot of money for engineers and hardware. They needed investors' money.

Series A raised $16M.

Next, Andreessen Horowitz partner Brain Cho approached Iribe.

Cho told Iribe that Andreessen Horowitz could invest in Oculus Series B if the company solved motion sickness.

Mark Andreessen was Iribe's dream client.

Marc Andreessen and his partners gave Oculus $75 million.

Andreessen introduced Iribe to Zukerberg. Iribe and Zukerberg discussed the future of games and virtual reality by phone.

Facebook's Oculus demo

Iribe showed Zuckerberg Oculus.

Mark was hooked after using Oculus. The headset impressed him.

The whole Facebook crew who saw the demo said only one thing.

“Holy Crap!”

This surprised them all.

Mark Zuckerberg was impressed by the team's response. Mark Zuckerberg met the Oculus team five days after the demo.

First meeting Palmer Luckey.

Palmer Luckey is one of Mark's biggest supporters and loves Facebook.

Oculus Acquisition

Zuckerberg wanted Oculus.

Brendan Iribe had requested for $4 billion, but Mark wasn't interested.

Facebook bought Oculus for $2.3 billion after months of drama.

After selling his company, how does Palmer view money?

Palmer loves the freedom money gives him. Money frees him from small worries.

Money has allowed him to pursue things he wouldn't have otherwise.

“If I didn’t have money I wouldn’t have a collection of vintage military vehicles…You can have nice hobbies that keep you relaxed when you have money.”

He didn't start Oculus to generate money. His virtual reality passion spanned years.

He didn't have to lie about how virtual reality will transform everything until he needed funding.

The company's success was an unexpected bonus. He was merely passionate about a good cause.

After Oculus' $2.3 billion exit, what changed?

Palmer didn't mind being rich. He did similar things.

After Facebook bought Oculus, he moved to Silicon Valley and lived in a 12-person shared house due to high rents.

Palmer might have afforded a big mansion, but he prefers stability and doing things because he wants to, not because he has to.

“Taco Bell is never tasted so good as when you know you could afford to never eat taco bell again.”

Palmer's leadership shifted.

Palmer changed his leadership after selling Oculus.

When he launched his second company, he couldn't work on his passions.

“When you start a tech company you do it because you want to work on a technology, that is why you are interested in that space in the first place. As the company has grown, he has realized that if he is still doing optical design in the company it’s because he is being negligent about the hiring process.”

Once his startup grows, the founder's responsibilities shift. He must recruit better firm managers.

Recruiting talented people becomes the top priority. The founder must convince others of their influence.

A book that helped me write this:

The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality — Blake Harris


*This post is a summary. Read the full article here.

Sammy Abdullah

Sammy Abdullah

4 days ago

SaaS payback period data

It's ok and even desired to be unprofitable if you're gaining revenue at a reasonable cost and have 100%+ net dollar retention, meaning you never lose customers and expand them. To estimate the acceptable cost of new SaaS revenue, we compare new revenue to operating loss and payback period. If you pay back the customer acquisition cost in 1.5 years and never lose them (100%+ NDR), you're doing well.

To evaluate payback period, we compared new revenue to net operating loss for the last 73 SaaS companies to IPO since October 2017. (55 out of 73). Here's the data. 1/(new revenue/operating loss) equals payback period. New revenue/operating loss equals cost of new revenue.

Payback averages a year. 55 SaaS companies that weren't profitable at IPO got a 1-year payback. Outstanding. If you pay for a customer in a year and never lose them (100%+ NDR), you're establishing a valuable business. The average was 1.3 years, which is within the 1.5-year range.

New revenue costs $0.96 on average. These SaaS companies lost $0.96 every $1 of new revenue last year. Again, impressive. Average new revenue per operating loss was $1.59.

Loss-in-operations definition. Operating loss revenue COGS S&M R&D G&A (technical point: be sure to use the absolute value of operating loss). It's wrong to only consider S&M costs and ignore other business costs. Operating loss and new revenue are measured over one year to eliminate seasonality.

Operating losses are desirable if you never lose a customer and have a quick payback period, especially when SaaS enterprises are valued on ARR. The payback period should be under 1.5 years, the cost of new income < $1, and net dollar retention 100%.

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Sam Hickmann

Sam Hickmann

3 months ago

What is headline inflation?

Headline inflation is the raw Consumer price index (CPI) reported monthly by the Bureau of labour statistics (BLS). CPI measures inflation by calculating the cost of a fixed basket of goods. The CPI uses a base year to index the current year's prices.


Explaining Inflation

As it includes all aspects of an economy that experience inflation, headline inflation is not adjusted to remove volatile figures. Headline inflation is often linked to cost-of-living changes, which is useful for consumers.

The headline figure doesn't account for seasonality or volatile food and energy prices, which are removed from the core CPI. Headline inflation is usually annualized, so a monthly headline figure of 4% inflation would equal 4% inflation for the year if repeated for 12 months. Top-line inflation is compared year-over-year.

Inflation's downsides

Inflation erodes future dollar values, can stifle economic growth, and can raise interest rates. Core inflation is often considered a better metric than headline inflation. Investors and economists use headline and core results to set growth forecasts and monetary policy.

Core Inflation

Core inflation removes volatile CPI components that can distort the headline number. Food and energy costs are commonly removed. Environmental shifts that affect crop growth can affect food prices outside of the economy. Political dissent can affect energy costs, such as oil production.

From 1957 to 2018, the U.S. averaged 3.64 percent core inflation. In June 1980, the rate reached 13.60%. May 1957 had 0% inflation. The Fed's core inflation target for 2022 is 3%.
 

Central bank:

A central bank has privileged control over a nation's or group's money and credit. Modern central banks are responsible for monetary policy and bank regulation. Central banks are anti-competitive and non-market-based. Many central banks are not government agencies and are therefore considered politically independent. Even if a central bank isn't government-owned, its privileges are protected by law. A central bank's legal monopoly status gives it the right to issue banknotes and cash. Private commercial banks can only issue demand deposits.

What are living costs?

The cost of living is the amount needed to cover housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain place and time. Cost of living is used to compare the cost of living between cities and is tied to wages. If expenses are higher in a city like New York, salaries must be higher so people can live there.

What's U.S. bureau of labor statistics?

BLS collects and distributes economic and labor market data about the U.S. Its reports include the CPI and PPI, both important inflation measures.

https://www.bls.gov/cpi/

Bob Service

Bob Service

3 months ago

Did volcanic 'glasses' play a role in igniting early life?

Quenched lava may have aided in the formation of long RNA strands required by primitive life.

It took a long time for life to emerge. Microbes were present 3.7 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the 4.5-billion-year-old Earth had cooled enough to sustain biochemistry, according to fossils, and many scientists believe RNA was the genetic material for these first species. RNA, while not as complicated as DNA, would be difficult to forge into the lengthy strands required to transmit genetic information, raising the question of how it may have originated spontaneously.

Researchers may now have a solution. They demonstrate how basaltic glasses assist individual RNA letters, also known as nucleoside triphosphates, join into strands up to 200 letters long in lab studies. The glasses are formed when lava is quenched in air or water, or when melted rock generated by asteroid strikes cools rapidly, and they would have been plentiful in the early Earth's fire and brimstone.

The outcome has caused a schism among top origin-of-life scholars. "This appears to be a great story that finally explains how nucleoside triphosphates react with each other to create RNA strands," says Thomas Carell, a scientist at Munich's Ludwig Maximilians University. However, Harvard University's Jack Szostak, an RNA expert, says he won't believe the results until the study team thoroughly describes the RNA strands.

Researchers interested in the origins of life like the idea of a primordial "RNA universe" since the molecule can perform two different functions that are essential for life. It's made up of four chemical letters, just like DNA, and can carry genetic information. RNA, like proteins, can catalyze chemical reactions that are necessary for life.

However, RNA can cause headaches. No one has yet discovered a set of plausible primordial conditions that would cause hundreds of RNA letters—each of which is a complicated molecule—to join together into strands long enough to support the intricate chemistry required to kick-start evolution.

Basaltic glasses may have played a role, according to Stephen Mojzsis, a geologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. They're high in metals like magnesium and iron, which help to trigger a variety of chemical reactions. "Basaltic glass was omnipresent on Earth at the time," he adds.

He provided the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution samples of five different basalt glasses. Each sample was ground into a fine powder, sanitized, and combined with a solution of nucleoside triphosphates by molecular biologist Elisa Biondi and her colleagues. The RNA letters were unable to link up without the presence of glass powder. However, when the molecules were mixed with the glass particles, they formed long strands of hundreds of letters, according to the researchers, who published their findings in Astrobiology this week. There was no need for heat or light. Biondi explains, "All we had to do was wait." After only a day, little RNA strands produced, yet the strands continued to grow for months. Jan Paek, a molecular biologist at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences, says, "The beauty of this approach is its simplicity." "Mix the components together, wait a few days, and look for RNA."

Nonetheless, the findings pose a slew of problems. One of the questions is how nucleoside triphosphates came to be in the first place. Recent study by Biondi's colleague Steven Benner suggests that the same basaltic glasses may have aided in the creation and stabilization of individual RNA letters.

The form of the lengthy RNA strands, according to Szostak, is a significant challenge. Enzymes in modern cells ensure that most RNAs form long linear chains. RNA letters, on the other hand, can bind in complicated branching sequences. Szostak wants the researchers to reveal what kind of RNA was produced by the basaltic glasses. "It irritates me that the authors made an intriguing initial finding but then chose to follow the hype rather than the research," Szostak says.

Biondi acknowledges that her team's experiment almost probably results in some RNA branching. She does acknowledge, however, that some branched RNAs are seen in species today, and that analogous structures may have existed before the origin of life. Other studies carried out by the study also confirmed the presence of lengthy strands with connections, indicating that they are most likely linear. "It's a healthy argument," says Dieter Braun, a Ludwig Maximilian University origin-of-life chemist. "It will set off the next series of tests."

Vitalik

Vitalik

8 months ago

An approximate introduction to how zk-SNARKs are possible (part 1)

You can make a proof for the statement "I know a secret number such that if you take the word ‘cow', add the number to the end, and SHA256 hash it 100 million times, the output starts with 0x57d00485aa". The verifier can verify the proof far more quickly than it would take for them to run 100 million hashes themselves, and the proof would also not reveal what the secret number is.

In the context of blockchains, this has 2 very powerful applications: Perhaps the most powerful cryptographic technology to come out of the last decade is general-purpose succinct zero knowledge proofs, usually called zk-SNARKs ("zero knowledge succinct arguments of knowledge"). A zk-SNARK allows you to generate a proof that some computation has some particular output, in such a way that the proof can be verified extremely quickly even if the underlying computation takes a very long time to run. The "ZK" part adds an additional feature: the proof can keep some of the inputs to the computation hidden.

You can make a proof for the statement "I know a secret number such that if you take the word ‘cow', add the number to the end, and SHA256 hash it 100 million times, the output starts with 0x57d00485aa". The verifier can verify the proof far more quickly than it would take for them to run 100 million hashes themselves, and the proof would also not reveal what the secret number is.

In the context of blockchains, this has two very powerful applications:

  1. Scalability: if a block takes a long time to verify, one person can verify it and generate a proof, and everyone else can just quickly verify the proof instead
  2. Privacy: you can prove that you have the right to transfer some asset (you received it, and you didn't already transfer it) without revealing the link to which asset you received. This ensures security without unduly leaking information about who is transacting with whom to the public.

But zk-SNARKs are quite complex; indeed, as recently as in 2014-17 they were still frequently called "moon math". The good news is that since then, the protocols have become simpler and our understanding of them has become much better. This post will try to explain how ZK-SNARKs work, in a way that should be understandable to someone with a medium level of understanding of mathematics.

Why ZK-SNARKs "should" be hard

Let us take the example that we started with: we have a number (we can encode "cow" followed by the secret input as an integer), we take the SHA256 hash of that number, then we do that again another 99,999,999 times, we get the output, and we check what its starting digits are. This is a huge computation.

A "succinct" proof is one where both the size of the proof and the time required to verify it grow much more slowly than the computation to be verified. If we want a "succinct" proof, we cannot require the verifier to do some work per round of hashing (because then the verification time would be proportional to the computation). Instead, the verifier must somehow check the whole computation without peeking into each individual piece of the computation.

One natural technique is random sampling: how about we just have the verifier peek into the computation in 500 different places, check that those parts are correct, and if all 500 checks pass then assume that the rest of the computation must with high probability be fine, too?

Such a procedure could even be turned into a non-interactive proof using the Fiat-Shamir heuristic: the prover computes a Merkle root of the computation, uses the Merkle root to pseudorandomly choose 500 indices, and provides the 500 corresponding Merkle branches of the data. The key idea is that the prover does not know which branches they will need to reveal until they have already "committed to" the data. If a malicious prover tries to fudge the data after learning which indices are going to be checked, that would change the Merkle root, which would result in a new set of random indices, which would require fudging the data again... trapping the malicious prover in an endless cycle.

But unfortunately there is a fatal flaw in naively applying random sampling to spot-check a computation in this way: computation is inherently fragile. If a malicious prover flips one bit somewhere in the middle of a computation, they can make it give a completely different result, and a random sampling verifier would almost never find out.


It only takes one deliberately inserted error, that a random check would almost never catch, to make a computation give a completely incorrect result.

If tasked with the problem of coming up with a zk-SNARK protocol, many people would make their way to this point and then get stuck and give up. How can a verifier possibly check every single piece of the computation, without looking at each piece of the computation individually? There is a clever solution.

see part 2