More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
1 year ago
2000s Toys, Secrets, and Cycles
During the dot-com bust, I started my internet career. People used the internet intermittently to check email, plan travel, and do research. The average internet user spent 30 minutes online a day, compared to 7 today. To use the internet, you had to "log on" (most people still used dial-up), unlike today's always-on, high-speed mobile internet. In 2001, Amazon's market cap was $2.2B, 1/500th of what it is today. A study asked Americans if they'd adopt broadband, and most said no. They didn't see a need to speed up email, the most popular internet use. The National Academy of Sciences ranked the internet 13th among the 100 greatest inventions, below radio and phones. The internet was a cool invention, but it had limited uses and wasn't a good place to build a business.
A small but growing movement of developers and founders believed the internet could be more than a read-only medium, allowing anyone to create and publish. This is web 2. The runner up name was read-write web. (These terms were used in prominent publications and conferences.)
Web 2 concepts included letting users publish whatever they want ("user generated content" was a buzzword), social graphs, APIs and mashups (what we call composability today), and tagging over hierarchical navigation. Technical innovations occurred. A seemingly simple but important one was dynamically updating web pages without reloading. This is now how people expect web apps to work. Mobile devices that could access the web were niche (I was an avid Sidekick user).
The contrast between what smart founders and engineers discussed over dinner and on weekends and what the mainstream tech world took seriously during the week was striking. Enterprise security appliances, essentially preloaded servers with security software, were a popular trend. Many of the same people would talk about "serious" products at work, then talk about consumer internet products and web 2. It was tech's biggest news. Web 2 products were seen as toys, not real businesses. They were hobbies, not work-related.
There's a strong correlation between rich product design spaces and what smart people find interesting, which took me some time to learn and led to blog posts like "The next big thing will start out looking like a toy" Web 2's novel product design possibilities sparked dinner and weekend conversations. Imagine combining these features. What if you used this pattern elsewhere? What new product ideas are next? This excited people. "Serious stuff" like security appliances seemed more limited.
The small and passionate web 2 community also stood out. I attended the first New York Tech meetup in 2004. Everyone fit in Meetup's small conference room. Late at night, people demoed their software and chatted. I have old friends. Sometimes I get asked how I first met old friends like Fred Wilson and Alexis Ohanian. These topics didn't interest many people, especially on the east coast. We were friends. Real community. Alex Rampell, who now works with me at a16z, is someone I met in 2003 when a friend said, "Hey, I met someone else interested in consumer internet." Rare. People were focused and enthusiastic. Revolution seemed imminent. We knew a secret nobody else did.
My web 2 startup was called SiteAdvisor. When my co-founders and I started developing the idea in 2003, web security was out of control. Phishing and spyware were common on Internet Explorer PCs. SiteAdvisor was designed to warn users about security threats like phishing and spyware, and then, using web 2 concepts like user-generated reviews, add more subjective judgments (similar to what TrustPilot seems to do today). This staged approach was common at the time; I called it "Come for the tool, stay for the network." We built APIs, encouraged mashups, and did SEO marketing.
Yahoo's 2005 acquisitions of Flickr and Delicious boosted web 2 in 2005. By today's standards, the amounts were small, around $30M each, but it was a signal. Web 2 was assumed to be a fun hobby, a way to build cool stuff, but not a business. Yahoo was a savvy company that said it would make web 2 a priority.
As I recall, that's when web 2 started becoming mainstream tech. Early web 2 founders transitioned successfully. Other entrepreneurs built on the early enthusiasts' work. Competition shifted from ideation to execution. You had to decide if you wanted to be an idealistic indie bar band or a pragmatic stadium band.
Web 2 was booming in 2007 Facebook passed 10M users, Twitter grew and got VC funding, and Google bought YouTube. The 2008 financial crisis tested entrepreneurs' resolve. Smart people predicted another great depression as tech funding dried up.
Many people struggled during the recession. 2008-2011 was a golden age for startups. By 2009, talented founders were flooding Apple's iPhone app store. Mobile apps were booming. Uber, Venmo, Snap, and Instagram were all founded between 2009 and 2011. Social media (which had replaced web 2), cloud computing (which enabled apps to scale server side), and smartphones converged. Even if social, cloud, and mobile improve linearly, the combination could improve exponentially.
This chart shows how I view product and financial cycles. Product and financial cycles evolve separately. The Nasdaq index is a proxy for the financial sentiment. Financial sentiment wildly fluctuates.
Next row shows iconic startup or product years. Bottom-row product cycles dictate timing. Product cycles are more predictable than financial cycles because they follow internal logic. In the incubation phase, enthusiasts build products for other enthusiasts on nights and weekends. When the right mix of technology, talent, and community knowledge arrives, products go mainstream. (I show the biggest tech cycles in the chart, but smaller ones happen, like web 2 in the 2000s and fintech and SaaS in the 2010s.)
Tech has changed since the 2000s. Few tech giants dominate the internet, exerting economic and cultural influence. In the 2000s, web 2 was ignored or dismissed as trivial. Entrenched interests respond aggressively to new movements that could threaten them. Creative patterns from the 2000s continue today, driven by enthusiasts who see possibilities where others don't. Know where to look. Crypto and web 3 are where I'd start.
Today's negative financial sentiment reminds me of 2008. If we face a prolonged downturn, we can learn from 2008 by preserving capital and focusing on the long term. Keep an eye on the product cycle. Smart people are interested in things with product potential. This becomes true. Toys become necessities. Hobbies become mainstream. Optimists build the future, not cynics.
Full article is available here
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.
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.
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.
1 year ago
If you don't crush these 3 metrics, skip the Series A.
I recently wrote about getting VCs excited about Marketplace start-ups. SaaS founders became envious!
Understanding how people wire tens of millions is the only Series A hack I recommend.
Few people understand the intellectual process behind investing.
VC is risk management.
Series A-focused VCs must cover two risks.
1. Market risk
You need a large market to cross a threshold beyond which you can build defensibilities. Series A VCs underwrite market risk.
They must see you have reached product-market fit (PMF) in a large total addressable market (TAM).
2. Execution risk
When evaluating your growth engine's blitzscaling ability, execution risk arises.
When investors remove operational uncertainty, they profit.
Series A VCs like businesses with derisked revenue streams. Don't raise unless you have a predictable model, pipeline, and growth.
Please beat these 3 metrics before Series A:
Achieve $1.5m ARR in 12-24 months (Market risk)
Above 100% Net Dollar Retention. (Market danger)
Lead Velocity Rate supporting $10m ARR in 2–4 years (Execution risk)
Hit the 3 and you'll raise $10M in 4 months. Discussing 2/3 may take 6–7 months.
If none, don't bother raising and focus on becoming a capital-efficient business (Topics for other posts).
Let's examine these 3 metrics for the brave ones.
1. Lead Velocity Rate supporting €$10m ARR in 2 to 4 years
Last because it's the least discussed. LVR is the most reliable data when evaluating a growth engine, in my opinion.
SaaS allows you to see the future.
Monthly Sales and Sales Pipelines, two predictive KPIs, have poor data quality. Both are lagging indicators, and minor changes can cause huge modeling differences.
Analysts and Associates will trash your forecasts if they're based only on Monthly Sales and Sales Pipeline.
LVR, defined as month-over-month growth in qualified leads, is rock-solid. There's no lag. You can See The Future if you use Qualified Leads and a consistent formula and process to qualify them.
With this metric in your hand, scaling your company turns into an execution play on which VCs are able to perform calculations risk.
2. Above-100% Net Dollar Retention.
Net Dollar Retention is a better-known SaaS health metric than LVR.
Net Dollar Retention measures a SaaS company's ability to retain and upsell customers. Ask what $1 of net new customer spend will be worth in years n+1, n+2, etc.
Depending on the business model, SaaS businesses can increase their share of customers' wallets by increasing users, selling them more products in SaaS-enabled marketplaces, other add-ons, and renewing them at higher price tiers.
If a SaaS company's annualized Net Dollar Retention is less than 75%, there's a problem with the business.
Slack's ARR chart (below) shows how powerful Net Retention is. Layer chart shows how existing customer revenue grows. Slack's S1 shows 171% Net Dollar Retention for 2017–2019.
3. $1.5m ARR in the last 12-24 months.
According to Point 9, $0.5m-4m in ARR is needed to raise a $5–12m Series A round.
Target at least what you raised in Pre-Seed/Seed. If you've raised $1.5m since launch, don't raise before $1.5m ARR.
Capital efficiency has returned since Covid19. After raising $2m since inception, it's harder to raise $1m in ARR.
P9's 2016-2021 SaaS Funding Napkin
In summary, less than 1% of companies VCs meet get funded. These metrics can help you win.
If there’s demand for it, I’ll do one on direct-to-consumer.
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8 months ago
The Dogecoin millionaire mysteriously disappeared.
The American who bought a meme cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency is the financial underground.
I love it. But there’s one thing I hate: scams. Over the last few years the Dogecoin cryptocurrency saw massive gains.
Glauber Contessoto overreacted. He shared his rags-to-riches cryptocurrency with the media.
He's only wealthy on paper. No longer Dogecoin millionaire.
Here's what he's doing now. It'll make you rethink cryptocurrency investing.
Glauber once had a $36,000-a-year job.
He grew up poor and wanted to make his mother proud. Tesla was his first investment. He bought GameStop stock after Reddit boosted it.
He bought whatever was hot.
He was a young investor. Memes, not research, influenced his decisions.
Elon Musk (aka Papa Elon) began tweeting about Dogecoin.
Doge is a 2013 cryptocurrency. One founder is Australian. He insists it's funny.
He was shocked anyone bought it LOL.
Doge is a Shiba Inu-themed meme. Now whenever I see a Shiba Inu, I think of Doge.
Elon helped drive up the price of Doge by talking about it in 2020 and 2021 (don't take investment advice from Elon; he's joking and gaslighting you).
Glauber caved. He invested everything in Doge. He borrowed from family and friends. He maxed out his credit card to buy more Doge. Yuck.
Internet dubbed him a genius. Slumdog millionaire and The Dogefather were nicknames. Elon pumped Doge on social media.
From $180,000 to $1,000,000+
TikTok skyrocketed Doge's price.
Reddit fueled up. Influencers recommended buying Doge because of its popularity. Glauber's motto:
Scared money doesn't earn.
Glauber was no broke ass anymore.
His $180,000 Dogecoin investment became $1M. He championed investing. He quit his dumb job like a rebellious millennial.
A puppy dog meme captivated the internet.
Rise and fall
Whenever I invest in anything I ask myself “what utility does this have?”
Dogecoin is useless.
You buy it for the cute puppy face and hope others will too, driving up the price. All cryptocurrencies fell in 2021's second half.
Central banks raised interest rates, and inflation became a pain.
Dogecoin fell more than others. 90% decline.
Glauber’s Dogecoin is now worth $323K. Still no sales. His dog god is unshakeable. Confidence rocks. Dogecoin millionaire recently said...
“I should have sold some.”
He now avoids speculative cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin and focuses on Bitcoin and Ethereum.
I've long said this. Starbucks is building on Ethereum.
It's useful. Useful. Developers use Ethereum daily. Investing makes you wiser over time, like the Dogecoin millionaire.
When risk b*tch slaps you, humility follows, as it did for me when I lost money.
You have to lose money to make money. Few understand.
You might be thinking Dogecoin is crap.
I'll take a contrarian stance. Dogecoin does nothing, but it has a strong community. Dogecoin dominates internet memes.
Not quite. The message of crypto that many people forget is that it’s a change in business model.
Businesses create products and services, then advertise to find customers. Crypto Web3 works backwards. A company builds a fanbase but sells them nothing.
Once the community reaches MVC (minimum viable community), a business can be formed.
Community members are relational versus transactional. They're invested in a cause and care about it (typically ownership in the business via crypto).
In this new world, Dogecoin has the most important feature.
While Dogecoin does have a community I still dislike it.
It's all shady. Anything Elon Musk recommends is a bad investment (except SpaceX & Tesla are great companies).
Dogecoin Millionaire has wised up and isn't YOLOing into more dog memes.
Don't follow the crowd or the hype. Investing is a long-term sport based on fundamentals and research.
Since Ethereum's inception, I've spent 10,000 hours researching.
Dogecoin will be the foundation of something new, like Pets.com at the start of the dot-com revolution. But I doubt Doge will boom.
1 year ago
What The Hell Is A Crypto Punk?
We are Crypto Punks, and we are changing your world.
A “Crypto Punk” is a new generation of entrepreneurs who value individual liberty and collective value creation and co-creation through decentralization. While many Crypto Punks were born and raised in a digital world, some of the early pioneers in the crypto space are from the Oregon Trail generation. They were born to an analog world, but grew up simultaneously alongside the birth of home computing, the Internet, and mobile computing.
A Crypto Punk’s world view is not the same as previous generations. By the time most Crypto Punks were born everything from fiat currency, the stock market, pharmaceuticals, the Internet, to advanced operating systems and microprocessing were already present or emerging. Crypto Punks were born into pre-existing conditions and systems of control, not governed by logic or reason but by greed, corporatism, subversion, bureaucracy, censorship, and inefficiency.
All Systems Are Human Made
Crypto Punks understand that all systems were created by people and that previous generations did not have access to information technologies that we have today. This is why Crypto Punks have different values than their parents, and value liberty, decentralization, equality, social justice, and freedom over wealth, money, and power. They understand that the only path forward is to work together to build new and better systems that make the old world order obsolete.
Unlike the original cypher punks and cyber punks, Crypto Punks are a new iteration or evolution of these previous cultures influenced by cryptography, blockchain technology, crypto economics, libertarianism, holographics, democratic socialism, and artificial intelligence. They are tasked with not only undoing the mistakes of previous generations, but also innovating and creating new ways of solving complex problems with advanced technology and solutions.
Where Crypto Punks truly differ is in their understanding that computer systems can exist for more than just engagement and entertainment, but actually improve the human condition by automating bureaucracy and inefficiency by creating more efficient economic incentives and systems.
Crypto Punks Value Transparency and Do Not Trust Flawed, Unequal, and Corrupt Systems
Crypto Punks have a strong distrust for inherently flawed and corrupt systems. This why Crypto Punks value transparency, free speech, privacy, and decentralization. As well as arguably computer systems over human powered systems.
Crypto Punks are the children of the Great Recession, and will never forget the economic corruption that still enslaves younger generations.
Crypto Punks were born to think different, and raised by computers to view reality through an LED looking glass. They will not surrender to the flawed systems of economic wage slavery, inequality, censorship, and subjection. They will literally engineer their own unstoppable financial systems and trade in cryptography over fiat currency merely to prove that belief systems are more powerful than corruption.
Crypto Punks are here to help achieve freedom from world governments, corporations and bankers who monetizine our data to control our lives.
Crypto Punks Decentralize
Despite all the evils of the world today, Crypto Punks know they have the power to create change. This is why Crypto Punks are optimistic about the future despite all the indicators that humanity is destined for failure.
Crypto Punks believe in systems that prioritize people and the planet above profit. Even so, Crypto Punks still believe in capitalistic systems, but only capitalistic systems that incentivize good behaviors that do not violate the common good for the sake of profit.
Cyber Punks Are Co-Creators
We are Crypto Punks, and we will build a better world for all of us. For the true price of creation is not in US dollars, but through working together as equals to replace the unequal and corrupt greedy systems of previous generations.
Where they have failed, Crypto Punks will succeed. Not because we want to, but because we have to. The world we were born into is so corrupt and its systems so flawed and unequal we were never given a choice.
We have to be the change we seek.
We are Crypto Punks.
Either help us, or get out of our way.
Are you a Crypto Punk?
9 months ago
Before 6 AM, read these 6 quotations.
These quotes will change your perspective.
I try to reflect on these quotes daily. Reading it in the morning can affect your day, decisions, and priorities. Let's start.
1. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."
What's your life goal?
80% of people don't know why they live or what they want to accomplish in life if you ask them randomly.
Even those with answers may not pursue their why. Without a purpose, life can be dull.
Your why can guide you through difficult times.
Create a life goal. Growing may change your goal. Having a purpose in life prevents feeling lost.
2. Seneca said, "He who fears death will never do anything fit for a man in life."
FAILURE STINKS Yes.
This quote is great if you're afraid to try because of failure. What if I'm not made for it? What will they think if I fail?
This wastes most of our lives. Many people prefer not failing over trying something with a better chance of success, according to studies.
Failure stinks in the short term, but it can transform our lives over time.
3. Two men peered through the bars of their cell windows; one saw mud, the other saw stars. — Dale Carnegie
It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.
The glass-full-or-empty meme is everywhere. It's hard to be positive when facing adversity.
This is a skill. Positive thinking can change our future.
We should stop complaining about our life and how easy success is for others.
Seductive pessimism. Realize this and start from first principles.
4. “Smart people learn from everything and everyone, average people from their experiences, and stupid people already have all the answers.” — Socrates.
Knowing we're ignorant can be helpful.
Every person and situation teaches you something. You can learn from others' experiences so you don't have to. Analyzing your and others' actions and applying what you learn can be beneficial.
Reading (especially non-fiction or biographies) is a good use of time. Walter Issacson wrote Benjamin Franklin's biography. Ben Franklin's early mistakes and successes helped me in some ways.
Knowing everything leads to disaster. Every incident offers lessons.
5. “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.“ — James Rohn
My favorite Jim Rohn quote.
Exercise hurts. Healthy eating can be painful. But they're needed to get in shape. Avoiding pain can ruin our lives.
Always choose progress over hopelessness. Myth: overnight success Everyone who has mastered a craft knows that mastery comes from overcoming laziness.
Turn off your inner critic and start working. Try Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins.
6. “A champion is defined not by their wins, but by how they can recover when they fail.“ — Serena Williams
Have you heard of Traf-o-Data?
Gates and Allen founded Traf-O-Data. After some success, it failed. Traf-o-Data's failure led to Microsoft.
Allen said Traf-O-Data's setback was important for Microsoft's first product a few years later. Traf-O-Data was a business failure, but it helped them understand microprocessors, he wrote in 2017.
“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” — Ryan Holiday.
More helpful quotes:
“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” — George Bernard Shaw.
“Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” — Mark Twain.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” — Earl Nightingale.
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw.
Words are powerful. Utilize it. Reading these inspirational quotes will help you.