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Jim Siwek

Jim Siwek

1 year ago

In 2022, can a lone developer be able to successfully establish a SaaS product?

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Nick Nolan

Nick Nolan

1 year ago

How to Make $1,037,100 in 4 Months with This Weird Website

One great idea might make you rich.

Author Screenshot | Source

Imagine having a million-dollar concept in college that made a million.

2005 precisely.

Alex Tew, 21, from Wiltshire, England, created The Million Dollar Homepage in August 2005. The idea is basic but beyond the ordinary, which is why it worked.

Alex built a 1,000,000-pixel webpage.

Each website pixel would cost $1. Since pixels are hard to discern, he sold 10x10 squares for $100.

He'd make a million if all the spots sold.

He may have thought about NFTs and the Metaverse decades ago.

MillionDollarHomepage.com launched in 2005.

Businesses and individuals could buy a website spot and add their logo, website link, and tagline. You bought an ad, but nobody visited the website.

If a few thousand people visited the website, it could drive traffic to your business's site.

Alex promised buyers the website would be up for 5 years, so it was a safe bet.

Alex's friend with a music website was the first to buy real estate on the site. Within two weeks, 4,700 pixels sold, and a tracker showed how many were sold and available.

Screenshot from: Source

Word-of-mouth marketing got the press's attention quickly. Everyone loves reading about new ways to make money, so it was a good news story.

By September, over 250,000 pixels had been sold, according to a BBC press release.

Alex and the website gained more media and public attention, so traffic skyrocketed. Two months after the site launched, 1,400 customers bought more than 500,000 pixels.

Businesses bought online real estate. They heard thousands visited the site, so they could get attention cheaply.

Unless you bought a few squares, I'm not sure how many people would notice your ad or click your link.

A sponge website owner emailed Alex:

“We tried Million Dollar Homepage because we were impressed at the level of ingenuity and the sheer simplicity of it. If we’re honest, we didn’t expect too much from it. Now, as a direct result, we are pitching for £18,000 GBP worth of new clients and have seen our site traffic increase over a hundred-fold. We’re even going to have to upgrade our hosting facility! It’s been exceptional.”

Web.archive.org screenshots show how the website changed.

GIF from web.archive.org

“The idea is to create something of an internet time capsule: a homepage that is unique and permanent. Everything on the internet keeps changing so fast, it will be nice to have something that stays solid and permanent for many years. You can be a part of that!” Alex Tew, 2005

The last 1,000 pixels were sold on January 1, 2006.

By then, the homepage had hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors. Alex put the last space on eBay due to high demand.

MillionDollarWeightLoss.com won the last pixels for $38,100, bringing revenue to $1,037,100 in 4 months.

Made in Canva

Many have tried to replicate this website's success. They've all failed.

This idea only worked because no one had seen this website before.

This winner won't be repeated, but it should inspire you to try something new and creative.

Still popular, you could buy one of the linked domains. You can't buy pixels, but you can buy an expired domain.

One link I clicked costs $59,888.

Screenshot from DomainMarket.com

You'd own a piece of internet history if you spent that much on a domain.

Someone bought stablesgallery.co.uk after the domain expired and restored it.

Many of the linked websites have expired or been redirected, but some still link to the original. I couldn't find sponge's website. Can you?

This is a great example of how a simple creative idea can go viral.

Comment on this amazing success story.

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

1 year ago

Your Ideal Position As a Part-Time Creator

Inspired by someone I never met

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes

Inspiration is good and bad.

Paul Jarvis inspires me. He's a web person and writer who created his own category by being himself.

Paul said no thank you when everyone else was developing, building, and assuming greater responsibilities. This isn't success. He rewrote the rules. Working for himself, expanding at his own speed, and doing what he loves were his definitions of success.

Play with a problem that you have

The biggest problem can be not recognizing a problem.

Acceptance without question is deception. When you don't push limits, you forget how. You start thinking everything must be as it is.

For example: working. Paul worked a 9-5 agency work with little autonomy. He questioned whether the 9-5 was a way to live, not the way.

Another option existed. So he chipped away at how to live in this new environment.

Don't simply jump

Internet writers tell people considering quitting 9-5 to just quit. To throw in the towel. To do what you like.

The advice is harmful, despite the good intentions. People think quitting is hard. Like courage is the issue. Like handing your boss a resignation letter.

Nope. The tough part comes after. It’s easy to jump. Landing is difficult.

The landing

Paul didn't quit. Intelligent individuals don't. Smart folks focus on landing. They imagine life after 9-5.

Paul had been a web developer for a long time, had solid clients, and was respected. Hence if he pushed the limits and discovered another route, he had the potential to execute.

Working on the side

Society loves polarization. It’s left or right. Either way. Or chaos. It's 9-5 or entrepreneurship.

But like Paul, you can stretch polarization's limits. In-between exists.

You can work a 9-5 and side jobs (as I do). A mix of your favorites. The 9-5's stability and creativity. Fire and routine.

Remember you can't have everything but anything. You can create and work part-time.

My hybrid lifestyle

Not selling books doesn't destroy my world. My globe keeps spinning if my new business fails or if people don't like my Tweets. Unhappy algorithm? Cool. I'm not bothered (okay maybe a little).

The mix gives me the best of both worlds. To create, hone my skill, and grasp big-business basics. I like routine, but I also appreciate spending 4 hours on Saturdays writing.

Some days I adore leaving work at 5 pm and disconnecting. Other days, I adore having a place to write if inspiration strikes during a run or a discussion.

I’m a part-time creator

I’m a part-time creator. No, I'm not trying to quit. I don't work 5 pm - 2 am on the side. No, I'm not at $10,000 MRR.

I work part-time but enjoy my 9-5. My 9-5 has goodies. My side job as well.

It combines both to meet my lifestyle. I'm satisfied.

Join the Part-time Creators Club for free here. I’ll send you tips to enhance your creative game.

Navdeep Yadav

Navdeep Yadav

1 year ago

31 startup company models (with examples)

Many people find the internet's various business models bewildering.

This article summarizes 31 startup e-books.

Types of Startup

1. Using the freemium business model (free plus premium),

The freemium business model offers basic software, games, or services for free and charges for enhancements.

Examples include Slack, iCloud, and Google Drive

Provide a rudimentary, free version of your product or service to users.

Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Google Drive and Dropbox offer 15GB and 2GB of free space but charge for more.

Freemium business model details (Click here)

2. The Business Model of Subscription

Subscription business models sell a product or service for recurring monthly or yearly revenue.

Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Examples: Tinder, Netflix, Shopify, etc

It's the next step to Freemium if a customer wants to pay monthly for premium features.

Types of Subscription Business Models

Subscription Business Model (Click here)

3. A market-based business strategy

It's an e-commerce site or app where third-party sellers sell products or services.

Examples are Amazon and Fiverr.

Marketplace Business Model
  • On Amazon's marketplace, a third-party vendor sells a product.

  • Freelancers on Fiverr offer specialized skills like graphic design.

Marketplace's business concept is explained.

4. Business plans using aggregates

In the aggregator business model, the service is branded.

Uber, Airbnb, and other examples

Airbnb Aggregator Business Model

Marketplace and Aggregator business models differ.

Aggregators Vs Market Place

Amazon and Fiverr link merchants and customers and take a 10-20% revenue split.

Uber and Airbnb-style aggregator Join these businesses and provide their products.

5. The pay-as-you-go concept of business

This is a consumption-based pricing system. Cloud companies use it.

Example: Amazon Web Service and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) (AWS)

Pay-as-you-go pricing in AWS

AWS, an Amazon subsidiary, offers over 200 pay-as-you-go cloud services.

“In short, the more you use the more you pay”

Types of Pay-as-you-plan

When it's difficult to divide clients into pricing levels, pay-as-you is employed.

6. The business model known as fee-for-service (FFS)

FFS charges fixed and variable fees for each successful payment.

For instance, PayU, Paypal, and Stripe

Stripe charges 2.9% + 30 per payment.

Fee-for-service (FFS) business model

These firms offer a payment gateway to take consumer payments and deposit them to a business account.

Fintech business model

7. EdTech business strategy

In edtech, you generate money by selling material or teaching as a service.

Most popular revenue model in EdTech

edtech business models

Freemium When course content is free but certification isn't, e.g. Coursera

FREE TRIAL SkillShare offers free trials followed by monthly or annual subscriptions.

Self-serving marketplace approach where you pick what to learn.

Ad-revenue model The company makes money by showing adverts to its huge user base.

Lock-in business strategy

Lock in prevents customers from switching to a competitor's brand or offering.

It uses switching costs or effort to transmit (soft lock-in), improved brand experience, or incentives.

Apple, SAP, and other examples

Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Apple offers an iPhone and then locks you in with extra hardware (Watch, Airpod) and platform services (Apple Store, Apple Music, cloud, etc.).

9. Business Model for API Licensing

APIs let third-party apps communicate with your service.

How do APIs work?

Uber and Airbnb use Google Maps APIs for app navigation.

Examples are Google Map APIs (Map), Sendgrid (Email), and Twilio (SMS).

Types of APIs business model

Business models for APIs

  1. Free: The simplest API-driven business model that enables unrestricted API access for app developers. Google Translate and Facebook are two examples.

  2. Developer Pays: Under this arrangement, service providers such as AWS, Twilio, Github, Stripe, and others must be paid by application developers.

  3. The developer receives payment: These are the compensated content producers or developers who distribute the APIs utilizing their work. For example, Amazon affiliate programs

10. Open-source enterprise

Open-source software can be inspected, modified, and improved by anybody.

For instance, use Firefox, Java, or Android.

Product with Open source business model

Google paid Mozilla $435,702 million to be their primary search engine in 2018.

Open-source software profits in six ways.

  1. Paid assistance The Project Manager can charge for customization because he is quite knowledgeable about the codebase.

  2. A full database solution is available as a Software as a Service (MongoDB Atlas), but there is a fee for the monitoring tool.

  3. Open-core design R studio is a better GUI substitute for open-source applications.

  4. sponsors of GitHub Sponsorships benefit the developers in full.

  5. demands for paid features Earn Money By Developing Open Source Add-Ons for Current Products

Open-source business model

11. The business model for data

If the software or algorithm collects client data to improve or monetize the system.

Open AI GPT3 gets smarter with use.

Graphic Credit: Business Model toolbox

Foursquare allows users to exchange check-in locations.

Later, they compiled large datasets to enable retailers like Starbucks launch new outlets.

12. Business Model Using Blockchain

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that allows firms to deploy smart contracts without a central authority.

Examples include Alchemy, Solana, and Ethereum.

blockchain business model

Business models using blockchain

  1. Economy of tokens or utility When a business uses a token business model, it issues some kind of token as one of the ways to compensate token holders or miners. For instance, Solana and Ethereum

  2. Bitcoin Cash P2P Business Model Peer-to-peer (P2P) blockchain technology permits direct communication between end users. as in IPFS

  3. Enterprise Blockchain as a Service (Baas) BaaS focuses on offering ecosystem services similar to those offered by Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft (Azure) in the web 3 sector. Example: Ethereum Blockchain as a Service with Bitcoin (EBaaS).

  4. Blockchain-Based Aggregators With AWS for blockchain, you can use that service by making an API call to your preferred blockchain. As an illustration, Alchemy offers nodes for many blockchains.

13. The free-enterprise model

In the freeterprise business model, free professional accounts are led into the funnel by the free product and later become B2B/enterprise accounts.

For instance, Slack and Zoom

Freeterprise business model

Freeterprise companies flourish through collaboration.

Loom wants you to join your workspace for an enterprise account.

Start with a free professional account to build an enterprise.

14. Business plan for razor blades

It's employed in hardware where one piece is sold at a loss and profits are made through refills or add-ons.

Gillet razor & blades, coffee machine & beans, HP printer & cartridge, etc.

Razor blade/Bait and hook business model

Sony sells the Playstation console at a loss but makes up for it by selling games and charging for online services.

Advantages of the Razor-Razorblade Method

  1. lowers the risk a customer will try a product. enables buyers to test the goods and services without having to pay a high initial investment.

  2. The product's ongoing revenue stream has the potential to generate sales that much outweigh the original investments.

Razor blade business model

15. The business model of direct-to-consumer (D2C)

In D2C, the company sells directly to the end consumer through its website using a third-party logistic partner.

Examples include GymShark and Kylie Cosmetics.

Direct-to-consumer business Model

D2C brands can only expand via websites, marketplaces (Amazon, eBay), etc.

Traditional Retailer vs D2C business model

D2C benefits

  • Lower reliance on middlemen = greater profitability

  • You now have access to more precise demographic and geographic customer data.

  • Additional space for product testing

  • Increased customisation throughout your entire product line-Inventory Less

16. Business model: White Label vs. Private Label

Private label/White label products are made by a contract or third-party manufacturer.

Most amazon electronics are made in china and white-labeled.

Amazon supplements and electronics.

White-label business model

Contract manufacturers handle everything after brands select product quantities on design labels.

17. The franchise model

The franchisee uses the franchisor's trademark, branding, and business strategy (company).

For instance, KFC, Domino's, etc.

Master Franchise business model

Subway, Domino, Burger King, etc. use this business strategy.

Opening your restaurant vs Frenchies

Many people pick a franchise because opening a restaurant is risky.

18. Ad-based business model

Social media and search engine giants exploit search and interest data to deliver adverts.

Google, Meta, TikTok, and Snapchat are some examples.

Ad-based business model

Users don't pay for the service or product given, e.g. Google users don't pay for searches.

In exchange, they collected data and hyper-personalized adverts to maximize revenue.

19. Business plan for octopuses

Each business unit functions separately but is connected to the main body.

Instance: Oyo

OYO’s Octopus business model

OYO is Asia's Airbnb, operating hotels, co-working, co-living, and vacation houses.

20, Transactional business model, number

Sales to customers produce revenue.

E-commerce sites and online purchases employ SSL.

Goli is an ex-GymShark.

Transactional business model

21. The peer-to-peer (P2P) business model

In P2P, two people buy and sell goods and services without a third party or platform.

Consider OLX.

OLX Business Model

22. P2P lending as a manner of operation

In P2P lending, one private individual (P2P Lender) lends/invests or borrows money from another (P2P Borrower).

Instance: Kabbage

P2P Lending as a business model

Social lending lets people lend and borrow money directly from each other without an intermediary financial institution.

23. A business model for brokers

Brokerages charge a commission or fee for their services.

Examples include eBay, Coinbase, and Robinhood.

Brokerage business model

Brokerage businesses are common in Real estate, finance, and online and operate on this model.

Types of brokerage business model
  1. Buy/sell similar models Examples include financial brokers, insurance brokers, and others who match purchase and sell transactions and charge a commission.

  2. These brokers charge an advertiser a fee based on the date, place, size, or type of an advertisement. This is known as the classified-advertiser model. For instance, Craiglist

24. Drop shipping as an industry

Dropshipping allows stores to sell things without holding physical inventories.

Drop shipping Business model

When a customer orders, use a third-party supplier and logistic partners.

Retailer product portfolio and customer experience Fulfiller The consumer places the order.

Dropshipping advantages

  • Less money is needed (Low overhead-No Inventory or warehousing)

  • Simple to start (costs under $100)

  • flexible work environment

  • New product testing is simpler

25. Business Model for Space as a Service

It's centered on a shared economy that lets millennials live or work in communal areas without ownership or lease.

Consider WeWork and Airbnb.

WeWork business model

WeWork helps businesses with real estate, legal compliance, maintenance, and repair.

Space as a Service Business Model

26. The business model for third-party logistics (3PL)

In 3PL, a business outsources product delivery, warehousing, and fulfillment to an external logistics company.

Examples include Ship Bob, Amazon Fulfillment, and more.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

3PL partners warehouse, fulfill, and return inbound and outbound items for a charge.

Inbound logistics involves bringing products from suppliers to your warehouse.

Outbound logistics refers to a company's production line, warehouse, and customer.

Inbound and outbound in 3PL

27. The last-mile delivery paradigm as a commercial strategy

Last-mile delivery is the collection of supply chain actions that reach the end client.

Examples include Rappi, Gojek, and Postmates.

gojek business model

Last-mile is tied to on-demand and has a nighttime peak.

28. The use of affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing involves promoting other companies' products and charging commissions.

Examples include Hubspot, Amazon, and Skillshare.

Affiliate business model

Your favorite youtube channel probably uses these short amazon links to get 5% of sales.

affiliate link from a youtube video.

Affiliate marketing's benefits

  • In exchange for a success fee or commission, it enables numerous independent marketers to promote on its behalf.

  • Ensure system transparency by giving the influencers a specific tracking link and an online dashboard to view their profits.

  • Learn about the newest bargains and have access to promotional materials.

29. The business model for virtual goods

This is an in-app purchase for an intangible product.

Examples include PubG, Roblox, Candy Crush, etc.

virtual goods business model

Consumables are like gaming cash that runs out. Non-consumable products provide a permanent advantage without repeated purchases.

30. Business Models for Cloud Kitchens

Ghost, Dark, Black Box, etc.

Delivery-only restaurant.

These restaurants don't provide dine-in, only delivery.

For instance, NextBite and Faasos

Cloud kitchen business model

31. Crowdsourcing as a Business Model

Crowdsourcing = Using the crowd as a platform's source.

In crowdsourcing, you get support from people around the world without hiring them.

Crowdsourcing Business model

Crowdsourcing sites

  1. Open-Source Software gives access to the software's source code so that developers can edit or enhance it. Examples include Firefox browsers and Linux operating systems.

  2. Crowdfunding The oculus headgear would be an example of crowdfunding in essence, with no expectations.

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Michael Salim

Michael Salim

1 year ago

300 Signups, 1 Landing Page, 0 Products

I placed a link on HackerNews and got 300 signups in a week. This post explains what happened.

Product Concept

The product is DbSchemaLibrary. A library of Database Schema.

I'm not sure where this idea originated from. Very fast. Build fast, fail fast, test many ideas, and one will be a hit. I tried it. Let's try it anyway, even though it'll probably fail. I finished The Lean Startup book and wanted to use it.

Database job bores me. Important! I get drowsy working on it. Someone must do it. I remember this happening once. I needed examples at the time. Something similar to Recall (my other project) that I can copy — or at least use as a reference.

Frequently googled. Many tabs open. The results were useless. I raised my hand and agreed to construct the database myself.

It resurfaced. I decided to do something.

Due Diligence

Lean Startup emphasizes validated learning. Everything the startup does should result in learning. I may build something nobody wants otherwise. That's what happened to Recall.

So, I wrote a business plan document. This happens before I code. What am I solving? What is my proposed solution? What is the leap of faith between the problem and solution? Who would be my target audience?

My note:

Note of the exact problem and solutions I’m trying to solve

In my previous project, I did the opposite!

I wrote my expectations after reading the book's advice.

“Failure is a prerequisite to learning. The problem with the notion of shipping a product and then seeing what happens is that you are guaranteed to succeed — at seeing what happens.” — The Lean Startup book

These are successful metrics. If I don't reach them, I'll drop the idea and try another. I didn't understand numbers then. Below are guesses. But it’s a start!

Metrics I set before starting anything

I then wrote the project's What and Why. I'll use this everywhere. Before, I wrote a different pitch each time. I thought certain words would be better. I felt the audience might want something unusual.

Occasionally, this works. I'm unsure if it's a good idea. No stats, just my writing-time opinion. Writing every time is time-consuming and sometimes hazardous. Having a copy saved me duplication.

I can measure and learn from performance.

Copy of the product’s What and Why’s

Last, I identified communities that might demand the product. This became an exercise in creativity.

List of potential marketing channels

The MVP

So now it’s time to build.

A MVP can test my assumptions. Business may learn from it. Not low-quality. We should learn from the tiniest thing.

I like the example of how Dropbox did theirs. They assumed that if the product works, people will utilize it. How can this be tested without a quality product? They made a movie demonstrating the software's functionality. Who knows how much functionality existed?

So I tested my biggest assumption. Users want schema references. How can I test if users want to reference another schema? I'd love this. Recall taught me that wanting something doesn't mean others do.

I made an email-collection landing page. Describe it briefly. Reference library. Each email sender wants a reference. They're interested in the product. Few other reasons exist.

Header and footer were skipped. No name or logo. DbSchemaLibrary is a name I thought of after the fact. 5-minute logo. I expected a flop. Recall has no users after months of labor. What could happen to a 2-day project?

I didn't compromise learning validation. How many visitors sign up? To draw a conclusion, I must track these results.

Landing page

Posting Time

Now that the job is done, gauge interest. The next morning, I posted on all my channels. I didn't want to be spammy, therefore it required more time.

I made sure each channel had at least one fan of this product. I also answer people's inquiries in the channel.

My list stinks. Several channels wouldn't work. The product's target market isn't there. Posting there would waste our time. This taught me to create marketing channels depending on my persona.

Statistics! What actually happened

My favorite part! 23 channels received the link.

Results across the marketing channels

I stopped posting to Discord despite its high conversion rate. I eliminated some channels because they didn't fit. According to the numbers, some users like it. Most users think it's spam.

I was skeptical. And 12 people viewed it.

I didn't expect much attention on a startup subreddit. I'll likely examine Reddit further in the future. As I have enough info, I didn't post much. Time for the next validated learning

No comment. The post had few views, therefore the numbers are low.

The targeted people come next.

I'm a Toptal freelancer. There's a member-only Slack channel. Most people can't use this marketing channel, but you should! It's not as spectacular as discord's 27% conversion rate. But I think the users here are better.

I don’t really have a following anywhere so this isn’t something I can leverage.

The best yet. 10% is converted. With more data, I expect to attain a 10% conversion rate from other channels. Stable number.

This number required some work. Did you know that people use many different clients to read HN?

Unknowns

Untrackable views and signups abound. 1136 views and 135 signups are untraceable. It's 11%. I bet much of that came from Hackernews.

Overall Statistics

The 7-day signup-to-visit ratio was 17%. (Hourly data points)

Signup to Views percentageSignup to Views count

First-day percentages were lower, which is noteworthy. Initially, it was little above 10%. The HN post started getting views then.

Percentage of signups to views for the first 2 days

When traffic drops, the number reaches just around 20%. More individuals are interested in the connection. hn.algolia.com sent 2 visitors. This means people are searching and finding my post.

Percentage of signups after the initial traffic

Interesting discoveries

1. HN post struggled till the US woke up.

11am UTC. After an hour, it lost popularity. It seemed over. 7 signups converted 13%. Not amazing, but I would've thought ahead.

After 4pm UTC, traffic grew again. 4pm UTC is 9am PDT. US awakened. 10am PDT saw 512 views.

Signup to views count during the first few hours

2. The product was highlighted in a newsletter.

I found Revue references when gathering data. Newsletter platform. Someone posted the newsletter link. 37 views and 3 registrations.

3. HN numbers are extremely reliable

I don't have a time-lapse graph (yet). The statistics were constant all day.

  • 2717 views later 272 new users, or 10.1%

  • With 293 signups at 2856 views, 10.25%

  • At 306 signups at 2965 views, 10.32%

Learnings

1. My initial estimations were wildly inaccurate

I wrote 30% conversion. Reading some articles, looks like 10% is a good number to aim for.

2. Paying attention to what matters rather than vain metrics

The Lean Startup discourages vanity metrics. Feel-good metrics that don't measure growth or traction. Considering the proportion instead of the total visitors made me realize there was something here.

What’s next?

There are lots of work to do. Data aggregation, display, website development, marketing, legal issues. Fun! It's satisfying to solve an issue rather than investigate its cause.

In the meantime, I’ve already written the first project update in another post. Continue reading it if you’d like to know more about the project itself! Shifting from Quantity to Quality — DbSchemaLibrary

Trevor Stark

Trevor Stark

1 year ago

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

Peter Thiel studied philosophy as an undergraduate.

Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, Co-Founders of PayPal

Peter Thiel has $7.36 billion.

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

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

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

You may be wondering…

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

One amazing investment?

Facebook.

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

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

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

What was the investment thesis of Peter?

This investment appeared ridiculous. Facebook was an innovative startup.

Thiel's $500,000 contribution transformed Facebook.

Screenshot of Facebook in 2004 (Source)

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

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

Facebook is a mimetic desire machine.

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

Peter Thiel studied under French thinker Rene Girard at Stanford.

Mimetic Desire explains social media's success.

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

If nobody wanted it, would you?

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

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

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

The idea explains why social media influencers are so powerful.

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

Humanity is fundamentally motivated by social comparison.

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

It aggregates photographs and updates from millions of individuals.

Facebook mobile allows 24/7 social comparison.

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

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

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

Waleed Rikab, PhD

Waleed Rikab, PhD

1 year ago

The Enablement of Fraud and Misinformation by Generative AI What You Should Understand

Recent investigations have shown that generative AI can boost hackers and misinformation spreaders.

Generated through Stable Diffusion with a prompt by the author

Since its inception in late November 2022, OpenAI's ChatGPT has entertained and assisted many online users in writing, coding, task automation, and linguistic translation. Given this versatility, it is maybe unsurprising but nonetheless regrettable that fraudsters and mis-, dis-, and malinformation (MDM) spreaders are also considering ChatGPT and related AI models to streamline and improve their operations.

Malign actors may benefit from ChatGPT, according to a WithSecure research. ChatGPT promises to elevate unlawful operations across many attack channels. ChatGPT can automate spear phishing attacks that deceive corporate victims into reading emails from trusted parties. Malware, extortion, and illicit fund transfers can result from such access.

ChatGPT's ability to simulate a desired writing style makes spear phishing emails look more genuine, especially for international actors who don't speak English (or other languages like Spanish and French).

This technique could let Russian, North Korean, and Iranian state-backed hackers conduct more convincing social engineering and election intervention in the US. ChatGPT can also create several campaigns and various phony online personas to promote them, making such attacks successful through volume or variation. Additionally, image-generating AI algorithms and other developing techniques can help these efforts deceive potential victims.

Hackers are discussing using ChatGPT to install malware and steal data, according to a Check Point research. Though ChatGPT's scripts are well-known in the cyber security business, they can assist amateur actors with little technical understanding into the field and possibly develop their hacking and social engineering skills through repeated use.

Additionally, ChatGPT's hacking suggestions may change. As a writer recently indicated, ChatGPT's ability to blend textual and code-based writing might be a game-changer, allowing the injection of innocent content that would subsequently turn out to be a malicious script into targeted systems. These new AI-powered writing- and code-generation abilities allow for unique cyber attacks, regardless of viability.

OpenAI fears ChatGPT usage. OpenAI, Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology, and Stanford's Internet Observatory wrote a paper on how AI language models could enhance nation state-backed influence operations. As a last resort, the authors consider polluting the internet with radioactive or misleading data to ensure that AI language models produce outputs that other language models can identify as AI-generated. However, the authors of this paper seem unaware that their "solution" might cause much worse MDM difficulties.

Literally False News

The public argument about ChatGPTs content-generation has focused on originality, bias, and academic honesty, but broader global issues are at stake. ChatGPT can influence public opinion, troll individuals, and interfere in local and national elections by creating and automating enormous amounts of social media material for specified audiences.

ChatGPT's capacity to generate textual and code output is crucial. ChatGPT can write Python scripts for social media bots and give diverse content for repeated posts. The tool's sophistication makes it irrelevant to one's language skills, especially English, when writing MDM propaganda.

I ordered ChatGPT to write a news piece in the style of big US publications declaring that Ukraine is on the verge of defeat in its fight against Russia due to corruption, desertion, and exhaustion in its army. I also gave it a fake reporter's byline and an unidentified NATO source's remark. The outcome appears convincing:

Worse, terrible performers can modify this piece to make it more credible. They can edit the general's name or add facts about current wars. Furthermore, such actors can create many versions of this report in different forms and distribute them separately, boosting its impact.

In this example, ChatGPT produced a news story regarding (fictional) greater moviegoer fatality rates:

Editing this example makes it more plausible. Dr. Jane Smith, the putative author of the medical report, might be replaced with a real-life medical person or a real victim of this supposed medical hazard.

Can deceptive texts be found? Detecting AI text is behind AI advancements. Minor AI-generated text alterations can upset these technologies.

Some OpenAI individuals have proposed covert methods to watermark AI-generated literature to prevent its abuse. AI models would create information that appears normal to humans but would follow a cryptographic formula that would warn other machines that it was AI-made. However, security experts are cautious since manually altering the content interrupts machine and human detection of AI-generated material.

How to Prepare

Cyber security and IT workers can research and use generative AI models to fight spear fishing and extortion. Governments may also launch MDM-defence projects.

In election cycles and global crises, regular people may be the most vulnerable to AI-produced deceit. Until regulation or subsequent technical advances, individuals must recognize exposure to AI-generated fraud, dating scams, other MDM activities.

A three-step verification method of new material in suspicious emails or social media posts can help identify AI content and manipulation. This three-step approach asks about the information's distribution platform (is it reliable? ), author (is the reader familiar with them? ), and plausibility given one's prior knowledge of the topic.

Consider a report by a trusted journalist that makes shocking statements in their typical manner. AI-powered fake news may be released on an unexpected platform, such as a newly created Facebook profile. However, if it links to a known media source, it is more likely to be real.

Though hard and subjective, this verification method may be the only barrier against manipulation for now.

AI language models:

How to Recognize an AI-Generated Article ChatGPT, the popular AI-powered chatbot, can and likely does generate medium.com-style articles.

AI-Generated Text Detectors Fail. Do This. Online tools claim to detect ChatGPT output. Even with superior programming, I tested some of these tools. pub

Why Original Writers Matter Despite AI Language Models Creative writers may never be threatened by AI language models.