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Joseph Mavericks

Joseph Mavericks

2 months ago

5 books my CEO read to make $30M

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Nir Zicherman

Nir Zicherman

1 month 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.

Sam Hickmann

Sam Hickmann

4 months ago

Improving collaboration with the Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats was written by Dr. Edward de Bono. "Six Thinking Hats" and parallel thinking allow groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, improving collaboration.

Fundamental ideas

In order to develop strategies for thinking about specific issues, the method assumes that the human brain thinks in a variety of ways that can be intentionally challenged. De Bono identifies six brain-challenging directions. In each direction, the brain brings certain issues into conscious thought (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgement, neutral facts). Some may find wearing hats unnatural, uncomfortable, or counterproductive.

The example of "mismatch" sensitivity is compelling. In the natural world, something out of the ordinary may be dangerous. This mode causes negative judgment and critical thinking.

Colored hats represent each direction. Putting on a colored hat symbolizes changing direction, either literally or metaphorically. De Bono first used this metaphor in his 1971 book "Lateral Thinking for Management" to describe a brainstorming framework. These metaphors allow more complete and elaborate thought separation. Six thinking hats indicate ideas' problems and solutions.

Similarly, his CoRT Thinking Programme introduced "The Five Stages of Thinking" method in 1973.

HATOVERVIEWTECHNIQUE
BLUE"The Big Picture" & ManagingCAF (Consider All Factors); FIP (First Important Priorities)
WHITE"Facts & Information"Information
RED"Feelings & Emotions"Emotions and Ego
BLACK"Negative"PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting); Evaluation
YELLOW"Positive"PMI
GREEN"New Ideas"Concept Challenge; Yes, No, Po

Strategies and programs

After identifying the six thinking modes, programs can be created. These are groups of hats that encompass and structure the thinking process. Several of these are included in the materials for franchised six hats training, but they must often be adapted. Programs are often "emergent," meaning the group plans the first few hats and the facilitator decides what to do next.

The group agrees on how to think, then thinks, then evaluates the results and decides what to do next. Individuals or groups can use sequences (and indeed hats). Each hat is typically used for 2 minutes at a time, although an extended white hat session is common at the start of a process to get everyone on the same page. The red hat is recommended to be used for a very short period to get a visceral gut reaction – about 30 seconds, and in practice often takes the form of dot-voting.

ACTIVITYHAT SEQUENCE
Initial IdeasBlue, White, Green, Blue
Choosing between alternativesBlue, White, (Green), Yellow, Black, Red, Blue
Identifying SolutionsBlue, White, Black, Green, Blue
Quick FeedbackBlue, Black, Green, Blue
Strategic PlanningBlue, Yellow, Black, White, Blue, Green, Blue
Process ImprovementBlue, White, White (Other People's Views), Yellow, Black, Green, Red, Blue
Solving ProblemsBlue, White, Green, Red, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue
Performance ReviewBlue, Red, White, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue

Use

Speedo's swimsuit designers reportedly used the six thinking hats. "They used the "Six Thinking Hats" method to brainstorm, with a green hat for creative ideas and a black one for feasibility.

Typically, a project begins with extensive white hat research. Each hat is used for a few minutes at a time, except the red hat, which is limited to 30 seconds to ensure an instinctive gut reaction, not judgement. According to Malcolm Gladwell's "blink" theory, this pace improves thinking.

De Bono believed that the key to a successful Six Thinking Hats session was focusing the discussion on a particular approach. A meeting may be called to review and solve a problem. The Six Thinking Hats method can be used in sequence to explore the problem, develop a set of solutions, and choose a solution through critical examination.

Everyone may don the Blue hat to discuss the meeting's goals and objectives. The discussion may then shift to Red hat thinking to gather opinions and reactions. This phase may also be used to determine who will be affected by the problem and/or solutions. The discussion may then shift to the (Yellow then) Green hat to generate solutions and ideas. The discussion may move from White hat thinking to Black hat thinking to develop solution set criticisms.

Because everyone is focused on one approach at a time, the group is more collaborative than if one person is reacting emotionally (Red hat), another is trying to be objective (White hat), and another is critical of the points which emerge from the discussion (Black hat). The hats help people approach problems from different angles and highlight problem-solving flaws.

Sammy Abdullah

Sammy Abdullah

1 month ago

Payouts to founders at IPO

How much do startup founders make after an IPO? We looked at 2018's major tech IPOs. Paydays aren't what founders took home at the IPO (shares are normally locked up for 6 months), but what they were worth at the IPO price on the day the firm went public. It's not cash, but it's nice. Here's the data.

Several points are noteworthy.

Huge payoffs. Median and average pay were $399m and $918m. Average and median homeownership were 9% and 12%.

Coinbase, Uber, UI Path. Uber, Zoom, Spotify, UI Path, and Coinbase founders raised billions. Zoom's founder owned 19% and Spotify's 28% and 13%. Brian Armstrong controlled 20% of Coinbase at IPO and was worth $15bn. Preserving as much equity as possible by staying cash-efficient or raising at high valuations also helps.

The smallest was Ping. Ping's compensation was the smallest. Andre Duand owned 2% but was worth $20m at IPO. That's less than some billion-dollar paydays, but still good.

IPOs can be lucrative, as you can see. Preserving equity could be the difference between a $20mm and $15bln payday (Coinbase).

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Jenn Leach

Jenn Leach

1 month ago

This clever Instagram marketing technique increased my sales to $30,000 per month.

No Paid Ads Required

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

I had an online store. After a year of running the company alongside my 9-to-5, I made enough to resign.

That day was amazing.

This Instagram marketing plan helped the store succeed.

How did I increase my sales to five figures a month without using any paid advertising?

I used customer event marketing.

I'm not sure this term exists. I invented it to describe what I was doing.

Instagram word-of-mouth, fan engagement, and interaction drove sales.

If a customer liked or disliked a product, the buzz would drive attention to the store.

I used customer-based events to increase engagement and store sales.

Success!

Here are the weekly Instagram customer events I coordinated while running my business:

  • Be the Buyer Days

  • Flash sales

  • Mystery boxes

Be the Buyer Days: How do they work?

Be the Buyer Days are exactly that.

You choose a day to share stock selections with social media followers.

This is an easy approach to engaging customers and getting fans enthusiastic about new releases.

First, pick a handful of items you’re considering ordering. I’d usually pick around 3 for Be the Buyer Day.

Then I'd poll the crowd on Instagram to vote on their favorites.

This was before Instagram stories, polls, and all the other cool features Instagram offers today. I think using these tools now would make this event even better.

I'd ask customers their favorite back then.

The growing comments excited customers.

Then I'd declare the winner, acquire the products, and start selling it.

How do flash sales work?

I mostly ran flash sales.

You choose a limited number of itemsdd for a few-hour sale.

We wanted most sales to result in sold-out items.

When an item sells out, it contributes to the sensation of scarcity and can inspire customers to visit your store to buy a comparable product, join your email list, become a fan, etc.

We hoped they'd act quickly.

I'd hold flash deals twice a week, which generated scarcity and boosted sales.

The store had a few thousand Instagram followers when I started flash deals.

Each flash sale item would make $400 to $600.

$400 x 3= $1,200

That's $1,200 on social media!

Twice a week, you'll make roughly $10K a month from Instagram.

$1,200/day x 8 events/month=$9,600

Flash sales did great.

We held weekly flash deals and sent social media and email reminders. That’s about it!

How are mystery boxes put together?

All you do is package a box of store products and sell it as a mystery box on TikTok or retail websites.

A $100 mystery box would cost $30.

You're discounting high-value boxes.

This is a clever approach to get rid of excess inventory and makes customers happy.

It worked!

Be the Buyer Days, flash deals, and mystery boxes helped build my company without paid advertisements.

All companies can use customer event marketing. Involving customers and providing an engaging environment can boost sales.

Try it!

Pat Vieljeux

Pat Vieljeux

3 months ago

In 5 minutes, you can tell if a startup will succeed.

Or the “lie to me” method.

I can predict a startup's success in minutes.

Just interview its founder.

Ask "why?"

I question "why" till I sense him.

I need to feel the person I have in front of me. I need to know if he or she can deliver. Startups aren't easy. Without abilities, a brilliant idea will fail.

Good entrepreneurs have these qualities: He's a leader, determined, and resilient.

For me, they can be split in two categories.

The first entrepreneur aspires to live meaningfully. The second wants to get rich. The second is communicative. He wants to wow the crowd. He's motivated by the thought of one day sailing a boat past palm trees and sunny beaches.

What drives the first entrepreneur is evident in his speech, face, and voice. He will not speak about his product. He's (nearly) uninterested. He's not selling anything. He's not a salesman. He wants to succeed. The product is his fuel.

He'll explain his decision. He'll share his motivations. His desire. And he'll use meaningful words.

Paul Ekman has shown that face expressions aren't cultural. His study influenced the American TV series "lie to me" about body language and speech.

Passionate entrepreneurs are obvious. It's palpable. Faking passion is tough. Someone who wants your favor and money will expose his actual motives through his expressions and language.

The good liar will be able to fool you for a while, but not for long if you pay attention to his body language and how he expresses himself.

And also, if you look at his business plan.

His business plan reveals his goals. Read between the lines.

Entrepreneur 1 will focus on his "why", whereas Entrepreneur 2 will focus on the "how".

Entrepreneur 1 will develop a vision-driven culture.

The second, on the other hand, will focus on his EBITDA.

Why is the culture so critical? Because it will allow entrepreneur 1 to develop a solid team that can tackle his problems and trials. His team's "why" will keep them together in tough times.

"Give me a terrific start-up team with a mediocre idea over a weak one any day." Because a great team knows when to pivot and trusts each other. Weak teams fail.” — Bernhard Schroeder

Closings thoughts

Every VC must ask Why. Entrepreneur's motivations. This "why" will create the team's culture. This culture will help the team adjust to any setback.

Theresa W. Carey

Theresa W. Carey

3 months ago

How Payment for Order Flow (PFOF) Works

What is PFOF?

PFOF is a brokerage firm's compensation for directing orders to different parties for trade execution. The brokerage firm receives fractions of a penny per share for directing the order to a market maker.

Each optionable stock could have thousands of contracts, so market makers dominate options trades. Order flow payments average less than $0.50 per option contract.

Order Flow Payments (PFOF) Explained

The proliferation of exchanges and electronic communication networks has complicated equity and options trading (ECNs) Ironically, Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi schemer, pioneered pay-for-order-flow.

In a December 2000 study on PFOF, the SEC said, "Payment for order flow is a method of transferring trading profits from market making to brokers who route customer orders to specialists for execution."

Given the complexity of trading thousands of stocks on multiple exchanges, market making has grown. Market makers are large firms that specialize in a set of stocks and options, maintaining an inventory of shares and contracts for buyers and sellers. Market makers are paid the bid-ask spread. Spreads have narrowed since 2001, when exchanges switched to decimals. A market maker's ability to play both sides of trades is key to profitability.

Benefits, requirements

A broker receives fees from a third party for order flow, sometimes without a client's knowledge. This invites conflicts of interest and criticism. Regulation NMS from 2005 requires brokers to disclose their policies and financial relationships with market makers.

Your broker must tell you if it's paid to send your orders to specific parties. This must be done at account opening and annually. The firm must disclose whether it participates in payment-for-order-flow and, upon request, every paid order. Brokerage clients can request payment data on specific transactions, but the response takes weeks.

Order flow payments save money. Smaller brokerage firms can benefit from routing orders through market makers and getting paid. This allows brokerage firms to send their orders to another firm to be executed with other orders, reducing costs. The market maker or exchange benefits from additional share volume, so it pays brokerage firms to direct traffic.

Retail investors, who lack bargaining power, may benefit from order-filling competition. Arrangements to steer the business in one direction invite wrongdoing, which can erode investor confidence in financial markets and their players.

Pay-for-order-flow criticism

It has always been controversial. Several firms offering zero-commission trades in the late 1990s routed orders to untrustworthy market makers. During the end of fractional pricing, the smallest stock spread was $0.125. Options spreads widened. Traders found that some of their "free" trades cost them a lot because they weren't getting the best price.

The SEC then studied the issue, focusing on options trades, and nearly decided to ban PFOF. The proliferation of options exchanges narrowed spreads because there was more competition for executing orders. Options market makers said their services provided liquidity. In its conclusion, the report said, "While increased multiple-listing produced immediate economic benefits to investors in the form of narrower quotes and effective spreads, these improvements have been muted with the spread of payment for order flow and internalization." 

The SEC allowed payment for order flow to continue to prevent exchanges from gaining monopoly power. What would happen to trades if the practice was outlawed was also unclear. SEC requires brokers to disclose financial arrangements with market makers. Since then, the SEC has watched closely.

2020 Order Flow Payment

Rule 605 and Rule 606 show execution quality and order flow payment statistics on a broker's website. Despite being required by the SEC, these reports can be hard to find. The SEC mandated these reports in 2005, but the format and reporting requirements have changed over the years, most recently in 2018.

Brokers and market makers formed a working group with the Financial Information Forum (FIF) to standardize order execution quality reporting. Only one retail brokerage (Fidelity) and one market maker remain (Two Sigma Securities). FIF notes that the 605/606 reports "do not provide the level of information that allows a retail investor to gauge how well a broker-dealer fills a retail order compared to the NBBO (national best bid or offer’) at the time the order was received by the executing broker-dealer."

In the first quarter of 2020, Rule 606 reporting changed to require brokers to report net payments from market makers for S&P 500 and non-S&P 500 equity trades and options trades. Brokers must disclose payment rates per 100 shares by order type (market orders, marketable limit orders, non-marketable limit orders, and other orders).

Richard Repetto, Managing Director of New York-based Piper Sandler & Co., publishes a report on Rule 606 broker reports. Repetto focused on Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E-TRADE, and Robinhood in Q2 2020. Repetto reported that payment for order flow was higher in the second quarter than the first due to increased trading activity, and that options paid more than equities.

Repetto says PFOF contributions rose overall. Schwab has the lowest options rates, while TD Ameritrade and Robinhood have the highest. Robinhood had the highest equity rating. Repetto assumes Robinhood's ability to charge higher PFOF reflects their order flow profitability and that they receive a fixed rate per spread (vs. a fixed rate per share by the other brokers).

Robinhood's PFOF in equities and options grew the most quarter-over-quarter of the four brokers Piper Sandler analyzed, as did their implied volumes. All four brokers saw higher PFOF rates.

TD Ameritrade took the biggest income hit when cutting trading commissions in fall 2019, and this report shows they're trying to make up the shortfall by routing orders for additional PFOF. Robinhood refuses to disclose trading statistics using the same metrics as the rest of the industry, offering only a vague explanation on their website.

Summary

Payment for order flow has become a major source of revenue as brokers offer no-commission equity (stock and ETF) orders. For retail investors, payment for order flow poses a problem because the brokerage may route orders to a market maker for its own benefit, not the investor's.

Infrequent or small-volume traders may not notice their broker's PFOF practices. Frequent traders and those who trade larger quantities should learn about their broker's order routing system to ensure they're not losing out on price improvement due to a broker prioritizing payment for order flow.


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