## More on Entrepreneurship

Ben Chino

20 days ago

## 100-day SaaS buildout.

We're opening up Maki through a series of Medium posts. We'll describe what Maki is building and how. We'll explain how we built a SaaS in 100 days. This isn't a step-by-step guide to starting a business, but a product philosophy to help you build quickly.

# Focus on end-users.

This may seem obvious, but it's important to talk to users first. When we started thinking about Maki, we interviewed 100 HR directors from SMBs, Next40 scale-ups, and major Enterprises to understand their concerns. We initially thought about the future of employment, but most of their worries centered on Recruitment. We don't have a clear recruiting process, it's time-consuming, we recruit clones, we don't support diversity, etc. And as hiring managers, we couldn't help but agree.

Co-create your product with your end-users.

We went to the drawing board, read as many books as possible (here, here, and here), and when we started getting a sense for a solution, we questioned 100 more operational HR specialists to corroborate the idea and get a feel for our potential answer. This confirmed our direction to help hire more objectively and efficiently.

Back to the drawing board, we designed our first flows and screens. We organized sessions with certain survey respondents to show them our early work and get comments. We got great input that helped us build Maki, and we met some consumers. Obsess about users and execute alongside them.

**Don’t shoot for the moon, yet. Make pragmatic choices first.**

Once we were convinced, we began building. To launch a SaaS in 100 days, we needed an operating principle that allowed us to accelerate while still providing a reliable, secure, scalable experience. We focused on adding value and outsourced everything else. Example:

## Concentrate on adding value. Reuse existing bricks.

When determining which technology to use, we looked at our strengths and the future to see what would last. Node.js for backend, React for frontend, both with typescript. We thought this technique would scale well since it would attract more talent and the surrounding mature ecosystem would help us go quicker.

We explored for ways to bootstrap services while setting down strong foundations that might support millions of users. We built our backend services on NestJS so we could extend into microservices later. Hasura, a GraphQL APIs engine, automates Postgres data exposing through a graphQL layer. MUI's ready-to-use components powered our design-system. We used well-maintained open-source projects to speed up certain tasks.

We outsourced important components of our platform (Auth0 for authentication, Stripe for billing, SendGrid for notifications) because, let's face it, we couldn't do better. We choose to host our complete infrastructure (SQL, Cloud run, Logs, Monitoring) on GCP to simplify our work between numerous providers.

Focus on your business, use existing bricks for the rest. For the curious, we'll shortly publish articles detailing each stage.

# Most importantly, empower people and step back.

We couldn't have done this without the incredible people who have supported us from the start. Since Powership is one of our key values, we provided our staff the power to make autonomous decisions from day one. Because we believe our firm is its people, we hired smart builders and let them build.

Nicolas left Spendesk to create scalable interfaces using react-router, react-queries, and MUI. JD joined Swile and chose Hasura as our GraphQL engine. Jérôme chose NestJS to build our backend services. Since then, Justin, Ben, Anas, Yann, Benoit, and others have followed suit.

If you consider your team a collective brain, you should let them make decisions instead of directing them what to do. You'll make mistakes, but you'll go faster and learn faster overall.

Invest in great talent and develop a strong culture from the start. Here's how to establish a SaaS in 100 days.

Emils Uztics

17 days ago

## This billionaire created a side business that brings around $90,000 per month.

Dharmesh Shah co-founded HubSpot. WordPlay reached $90,000 per month in revenue without utilizing any of his wealth.

His method:

# Take Advantage Of An Established Trend

Remember Wordle? Dharmesh was instantly hooked. As was the tech world.

HubSpot's co-founder noted inefficiencies in a recent My First Million episode. He wanted to play daily. Dharmesh, a tinkerer and software engineer, decided to design a word game.

He's a billionaire. How could he?

Wordle had limitations in his opinion;

Dharmesh is fundamentally a developer. He desired to start something new and increase his programming knowledge;

This project may serve as an excellent illustration for his son, who had begun learning about software development.

# Better It Up

Building a new Wordle wasn't successful.

WordPlay lets you play with friends and family. You could challenge them and compare the results. It is a built-in growth tool.

WordPlay features:

the capacity to follow sophisticated statistics after creating an account;

continuous feedback on your performance;

Outstanding domain name (wordplay.com).

# Project Development

WordPlay has 9.5 million visitors and 45 million games played since February.

HubSpot co-founder credits tremendous growth to flywheel marketing, pushing the game through his own following.

Choosing an exploding specialty and making sharing easy also helped.

Shah enabled Google Ads on the website to test earning potential. Monthly revenue was $90,000.

That's just Google Ads. If monetization was the goal, a specialized ad network like Ezoic could double or triple the amount.

Wordle was a great buy for The New York Times at $1 million.

Raad Ahmed

4 months ago

## How We Just Raised $6M At An $80M Valuation From 100+ Investors Using A Link (Without Pitching)

Lawtrades nearly failed three years ago.

We couldn't raise Series A or enthusiasm from VCs.

We raised $6M (at a $80M valuation) from 100 customers and investors using a link and no pitching.

Step-by-step:

## We refocused our business first.

Lawtrades raised $3.7M while Atrium raised $75M. By comparison, we seemed unimportant.

We had to close the company or try something new.

As I've written previously, a pivot saved us. Our initial focus on SMBs attracted many unprofitable customers. SMBs needed one-off legal services, meaning low fees and high turnover.

Tech startups were different. Their General Councels (GCs) needed near-daily support, resulting in higher fees and lower churn than SMBs.

We stopped unprofitable customers and focused on power users. To avoid dilution, we borrowed against receivables. We scaled our revenue 10x, from $70k/mo to $700k/mo.

Then, we reconsidered fundraising (and do it differently)

This time was different. Lawtrades was cash flow positive for most of last year, so we could dictate our own terms. VCs were still wary of legaltech after Atrium's shutdown (though they were thinking about the space).

We neither wanted to rely on VCs nor dilute more than 10% equity. So we didn't compete for in-person pitch meetings.

AngelList Roll-Up Vehicle (RUV). Up to 250 accredited investors can invest in a single RUV. First, we emailed customers the RUV. Why? Because I wanted to help the platform's users.

Imagine if Uber or Airbnb let all drivers or Superhosts invest in an RUV. Humans make the platform, theirs and ours. Giving people a chance to invest increases their loyalty.

## We expanded after initial interest.

We created a Journey link, containing everything that would normally go in an investor pitch:

- Slides
- Trailer (from me)
- Testimonials
- Product demo
- Financials

We could also link to our AngelList RUV and send the pitch to an unlimited number of people. Instead of 1:1, we had 1:10,000 pitches-to-investors.

We posted Journey's link in RUV Alliance Discord. 600 accredited investors noticed it immediately. Within days, we raised $250,000 from customers-turned-investors.

Stonks, which live-streamed our pitch to thousands of viewers, was interested in our grassroots enthusiasm. We got $1.4M from people I've never met.

These updates on Pump generated more interest. Facebook, Uber, Netflix, and Robinhood executives all wanted to invest. Sahil Lavingia, who had rejected us, gave us $100k.

## We closed the round with public support.

Without a single pitch meeting, we'd raised $2.3M. It was a result of natural enthusiasm: taking care of the people who made us who we are, letting them move first, and leveraging their enthusiasm with VCs, who were interested.

We used network effects to raise $3.7M from a founder-turned-VC, bringing the total to $6M at a $80M valuation (which, by the way, I set myself).

## What flipping the fundraising script allowed us to do:

We started with private investors instead of 2–3 VCs to show VCs what we were worth. This gave Lawtrades the ability to:

- Without meetings, share our vision. Many people saw our Journey link. I ended up taking meetings with people who planned to contribute $50k+, but still, the ratio of views-to-meetings was outrageously good for us.
- Leverage ourselves. Instead of us selling ourselves to VCs, they did. Some people with large checks or late arrivals were turned away.
- Maintain voting power. No board seats were lost.
- Utilize viral network effects. People-powered.
- Preemptively halt churn by turning our users into owners. People are more loyal and respectful to things they own. Our users make us who we are — no matter how good our tech is, we need human beings to use it. They deserve to be owners.

I don't blame founders for being hesitant about this approach. Pump and RUVs are new and scary. But it won’t be that way for long. Our approach redistributed some of the power that normally lies entirely with VCs, putting it into our hands and our network’s hands.

This is the future — another way power is shifting from centralized to decentralized.

## You might also like

Vitalik

8 months ago

## An approximate introduction to how zk-SNARKs are possible (part 2)

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? But it turns out that there is a clever solution.

## Polynomials

Polynomials are a special class of algebraic expressions of the form:

- x+5
- x^4
- x^3+3x^2+3x+1
- 628x^{271}+318x^{270}+530x^{269}+…+69x+381

i.e. they are a sum of any (finite!) number of terms of the form cx^k

There are many things that are fascinating about polynomials. But here we are going to zoom in on a particular one: **polynomials are a single mathematical object that can contain an unbounded amount of information** (think of them as a list of integers and this is obvious). The fourth example above contained 816 digits of tau, and one can easily imagine a polynomial that contains far more.

Furthermore, **a single equation between polynomials can represent an unbounded number of equations between numbers**. For example, consider the equation A(x)+ B(x) = C(x). If this equation is true, then it's also true that:

- A(0)+B(0)=C(0)
- A(1)+B(1)=C(1)
- A(2)+B(2)=C(2)
- A(3)+B(3)=C(3)

And so on for every possible coordinate. You can even construct polynomials to deliberately represent sets of numbers so you can check many equations all at once. For example, suppose that you wanted to check:

- 12+1=13
- 10+8=18
- 15+8=23
- 15+13=28

You can use a procedure called Lagrange interpolation to construct polynomials A(x) that give (12,10,15,15) as outputs at some specific set of coordinates (eg. (0,1,2,3)), B(x) the outputs (1,8,8,13) on thos same coordinates, and so forth. In fact, here are the polynomials:

- A(x)=-2x^3+\frac{19}{2}x^2-\frac{19}{2}x+12
- B(x)=2x^3-\frac{19}{2}x^2+\frac{29}{2}x+1
- C(x)=5x+13

Checking the equation A(x)+B(x)=C(x) with these polynomials checks all four above equations at the same time.

## Comparing a polynomial to itself

You can even check relationships between a large number of adjacent evaluations of the same polynomial using a simple polynomial equation. This is slightly more advanced. Suppose that you want to check that, for a given polynomial F, F(x+2)=F(x)+F(x+1) with the integer range {0,1…89} (so if you *also* check F(0)=F(1)=1, then F(100) would be the 100th Fibonacci number)

As polynomials, F(x+2)-F(x+1)-F(x) would not be exactly zero, as it could give arbitrary answers outside the range x={0,1…98}. But we can do something clever. In general, there is a rule that if a polynomial P is zero across some set S=\{x_1,x_2…x_n\} then it can be expressed as P(x)=Z(x)*H(x), where Z(x)=(x-x_1)*(x-x_2)*…*(x-x_n) and H(x) is also a polynomial. In other words, **any polynomial that equals zero across some set is a (polynomial) multiple of the simplest (lowest-degree) polynomial that equals zero across that same set.**

Why is this the case? It is a nice corollary of polynomial long division: the factor theorem. We know that, when dividing P(x) by Z(x), we will get a quotient Q(x) and a remainder R(x) is strictly less than that of Z(x). Since we know that P is zero on all of S, it means that R has to be zero on all of S as well. So we can simply compute R(x) via polynomial interpolation, since it's a polynomial of degree at most n-1 and we know n values (the zeros at S). Interpolating a polynomial with all zeroes gives the zero polynomial, thus R(x)=0 and H(x)=Q(x).

Going back to our example, if we have a polynomial F that encodes Fibonacci numbers (so F(x+2)=F(x)+F(x+1) across x=\{0,1…98\}), then I can convince you that F *actually satisfies this condition* by proving that the polynomial P(x)=F(x+2)-F(x+1)-F(x) is zero over that range, by giving you the quotient:

H(x)=\frac{F(x+2)-F(x+1)-F(x)}{Z(x)}

Where Z(x) = (x-0)*(x-1)*…*(x-98).

You can calculate Z(x) yourself (ideally you would have it precomputed), check the equation, and if the check passes then F(x) satisfies the condition!

Now, step back and notice what we did here. We converted a 100-step-long computation into a single equation with polynomials. Of course, proving the N'th Fibonacci number is not an especially useful task, especially since Fibonacci numbers have a closed form. But you can use exactly the same basic technique, just with some extra polynomials and some more complicated equations, to encode arbitrary computations with an arbitrarily large number of steps.

see part 3

The woman

1 month ago

## I received a $2k bribe to replace another developer in an interview

I can't believe they’d even think it works!

Developers are usually interviewed before being hired, right? Every organization wants candidates who meet their needs. But they also want to avoid fraud.

There are cheaters in every field. Only two come to mind for the hiring process:

Lying on a resume.

Cheating on an online test.

Recently, I observed another one. One of my coworkers invited me to replace another developer during an online interview! I was astonished, but it’s not new.

# The specifics

My ex-colleague recently texted me. No one from your former office will ever approach you after a year unless they need something.

Which was the case. My coworker said his wife needed help as a programmer. I was glad someone asked for my help, but I'm still a junior programmer.

Then he informed me his wife was selected for a fantastic job interview. He said he could help her with the online test, but he needed someone to help with the online interview.

Okay, I guess. Preparing for an online interview is beneficial. But then he said she didn't need to be ready. She needed someone to take her place.

I told him it wouldn't work. Every remote online interview I've ever seen required an open camera.

What followed surprised me. She'd ask to turn off the camera, he said.

I asked why.

He told me if an applicant is unwell, the interviewer may consider an off-camera interview. His wife will say she's sick and prefers no camera.

The plan left me speechless. I declined politely. He insisted and promised $2k if she got the job.

I felt insulted and told him if he persisted, I'd inform his office. I was furious. Later, I apologized and told him to stop.

## I'm not sure what they did after that

I'm not sure if they found someone or listened to me. They probably didn't. How would she do the job if she even got it?

It's an internship, he said. With great pay, though. What should an intern do?

I suggested she do the interview alone. Even if she failed, she'd gain confidence and valuable experience.

# Conclusion

Many interviewees cheat. My profession is vital to me, thus I'd rather improve my abilities and apply honestly. It's part of my identity.

Am I truthful? Most professionals are not. They fabricate their CVs. Often.

When you support interview cheating, you encourage more cheating! When someone cheats, another qualified candidate may not obtain the job.

One day, that could be you or me.

Alison Randel

11 days ago

## Raising the Bar on Your 1:1s

Managers spend much time in 1:1s. Most team members meet with supervisors regularly. 1:1s can help create relationships and tackle tough topics. Few appreciate the 1:1 format's potential. Most of the time, that potential is spent on small talk, surface-level updates, and ranting (Ugh, the marketing team isn’t stepping up the way I want them to).

What if you used that time to have deeper conversations and important insights? What if change was easy?

This post introduces a new 1:1 format to help you dive deeper, faster, and develop genuine relationships without losing impact.

A 1:1 is a chat, you would assume. Why use structure to talk to a coworker? Go! I know how to talk to people. I can write. I've always written. Also, This article was edited by Zoe.

Before you discard something, ask yourself if there's a good reason not to try anything new. Is the 1:1 only a talk, or do you want extra benefits? Try the steps below to discover more.

# I. Reflection (5 minutes)

Context-free, broad comments waste time and are useless. Instead, give team members 5 minutes to write these 3 prompts.

What's effective?

What is decent but could be improved?

What is broken or missing?

Why these? They encourage people to be honest about all their experiences. Answering these questions helps people realize something isn't working. These prompts let people consider what's working.

Why take notes? Because you get more in less time. Will you feel awkward sitting quietly while your coworker writes? Probably. Persevere. Multi-task. Take a break from your afternoon meeting marathon. Any awkwardness will pay off.

What happens? After a few minutes of light conversation, create a template like the one given here and have team members fill in their replies. You can pre-share the template (with the caveat that this isn’t meant to take much prep time). Do this with your coworker: Answer the prompts. Everyone can benefit from pondering and obtaining guidance.

This step's output.

# Part II: Talk (10-20 minutes)

Most individuals can explain what they see but not what's behind an answer. You don't like a meeting. Why not? Marketing partnership is difficult. What makes working with them difficult? I don't recommend slandering coworkers. Consider how your meetings, decisions, and priorities make work harder. The excellent stuff too. You want to know what's humming so you can reproduce the magic.

First, recognize some facts.

**Real power dynamics exist**. To encourage individuals to be honest, you must provide a safe environment and extend clear invites. Even then, it may take a few 1:1s for someone to feel secure enough to go there in person. It is part of your responsibility to admit that it is normal.**Curiosity and self-disclosure are crucial.**Most leaders have received training to present themselves as the authorities. However, you will both benefit more from the dialogue if you can be open and honest about your personal experience, ask questions out of real curiosity, and acknowledge the pertinent sacrifices you're making as a leader.**Honesty without bias is difficult and important.**Due to concern for the feelings of others, people frequently hold back. Or if they do point anything out, they do so in a critical manner. The key is to be open and unapologetic about what you observe while not presuming that your viewpoint is correct and that of the other person is incorrect.

Let's go into some prompts (based on genuine conversations):

“What do you notice across your answers?”

“What about the way you/we/they do X, Y, or Z is working well?”

“ Will you say more about item X in ‘What’s not working?’”

“I’m surprised there isn’t anything about Z. Why is that?”

“All of us tend to play some role in maintaining certain patterns. How

*might*you/we be playing a role in this pattern persisting?”“How might the way we meet, make decisions, or collaborate play a role in what’s currently happening?”

Consider the preceding example. What about the Monday meeting isn't working? Why? or What about the way we work with marketing makes collaboration harder? Remember to share your honest observations!

# Third section: observe patterns (10-15 minutes)

Leaders desire to empower their people but don't know how. We also have many preconceptions about what empowerment means to us and how it works. The next phase in this 1:1 format will assist you and your team member comprehend team power and empowerment. This understanding can help you support and shift your team member's behavior, especially where you disagree.

How to? After discussing the stated responses, ask each team member what they can control, influence, and not control. Mark their replies. You can do the same, adding colors where you disagree.

This step's output.

Next, consider the color constellation. Discuss these questions:

Is one color much more prevalent than the other? Why, if so?

Are the colors for the "what's working," "what's fine," and "what's not working" categories clearly distinct? Why, if so?

Do you have any disagreements? If yes, specifically where does your viewpoint differ? What activities do you object to? (Remember, there is no right or wrong in this. Give explicit details and ask questions with curiosity.)

Example: Based on the colors, you can ask, Is the marketing meeting's quality beyond your control? Were our marketing partners consulted? Are there any parts of team decisions we can control? We can't control people, but have we explored another decision-making method? How can we collaborate and generate governance-related information to reduce work, even if the requirement for prep can't be eliminated?

Consider the top one or two topics for this conversation. No 1:1 can cover everything, and that's OK. Focus on the present.

# Part IV: Determine the next step (5 minutes)

Last, examine what this conversation means for you and your team member. It's easy to think we know the next moves when we don't.

Like what? You and your teammate answer these questions.

What does this signify moving ahead for me? What can I do to change this? Make requests, for instance, and see how people respond before thinking they won't be responsive.

What demands do I have on other people or my partners? What should I do first? E.g. Make a suggestion to marketing that we hold a monthly retrospective so we can address problems and exchange input more frequently. Include it on the meeting's agenda for next Monday.

Close the 1:1 by sharing what you noticed about the chat. Observations? Learn anything?

# Yourself, you, and the 1:1

As a leader, you either reinforce or disrupt habits. Try this template if you desire greater ownership, empowerment, or creativity. Consider how you affect surrounding dynamics. How can you expect others to try something new in high-stakes scenarios, like meetings with cross-functional partners or senior stakeholders, if you won't? How can you expect deep thought and relationship if you don't encourage it in 1:1s? What pattern could this new format disrupt or reinforce?

Fight reluctance. First attempts won't be ideal, and that's OK. You'll only learn by trying.