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Owolabi Judah

18 days ago

How much did YouTube pay for 10 million views?

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Muthinja

1 month ago

Why don't you relaunch my startup projects?

Open to ideas or acquisitions

Failure is an unavoidable aspect of life, yet many recoil at the word.

I've worked on unrelated startup projects. This is a list of products I developed (often as the tech lead or co-founder) and why they failed to launch.

Chess Bet (Betting)

As a chess player who plays 5 games a day and has an ELO rating of 2100, I tried to design a chess engine to rival stockfish and Houdini.

While constructing my chess engine, my cofounder asked me about building a p2p chess betting app. Chess Bet. There couldn't be a better time.

Two people in different locations could play a staked game. The winner got 90% of the bet and we got 10%. The business strategy was clear, but our mini-launch was unusual.

People started employing the same cheat engines I mentioned, causing user churn and defaming our product.

It was the first programming problem I couldn't solve after building a cheat detection system based on player move strengths and prior games. Chess.com, the most famous online chess software, still suffers from this.

We decided to pivot because we needed an expensive betting license.

We relaunched as Chess MVP after deciding to focus on chess learning. A platform for teachers to create chess puzzles and teach content. Several chess students used our product, but the target market was too tiny.

We chose to quit rather than persevere or pivot.

BodaCare (Insure Tech)

‘BodaBoda’ in Swahili means Motorcycle. My Dad approached me in 2019 (when I was working for a health tech business) about establishing an Insurtech/fintech solution for motorbike riders to pay for insurance using SNPL.

We teamed up with an underwriter to market motorcycle insurance. Once they had enough premiums, they'd get an insurance sticker in the mail. We made it better by splitting the cover in two, making it more reasonable for motorcyclists struggling with lump-sum premiums.

Lack of capital and changing customer behavior forced us to close, with 100 motorcyclists paying 0.5 USD every day. Our unit econ didn't make sense, and CAC and retention capital only dug us deeper.

Circle (Social Networking)

Having learned from both product failures, I began to understand what worked and what didn't. While reading through Instagram, an idea struck me.

Suppose social media weren't virtual.

Imagine meeting someone on your way home. Like-minded person

People were excited about social occasions after covid restrictions were eased. Anything to escape. I just built a university student-popular experiences startup. Again, there couldn't be a better time.

I started the Android app. I launched it on Google Beta and oh my! 200 people joined in two days.

It works by signaling if people are in a given place and allowing users to IM in hopes of meeting up in near real-time. Playstore couldn't deploy the app despite its success in beta for unknown reasons. I appealed unsuccessfully.

My infrastructure quickly lost users because I lacked funding.

In conclusion

This essay contains many failures, some of which might have been avoided and others not, but they were crucial learning points in my startup path.

If you liked any idea, I have the source code on Github.

Happy reading until then!

Carter Kilmann

2 days ago

I finally achieved a $100K freelance income. Here's what I wish I knew.

Source: Canva

We love round numbers, don't we? $100,000 is a frequent freelancing milestone. You feel like six figures means you're doing something properly.

You've most likely already conquered initial freelancing challenges like finding clients, setting fair pricing, coping with criticism, getting through dry spells, managing funds, etc.

You think I must be doing well. Last month, my freelance income topped $100,000.

That may not sound impressive considering I've been freelancing for 2.75 years, but I made 30% of that in the previous four months, which is crazy.

Here are the things I wish I'd known during the early days of self-employment that would have helped me hit $100,000 faster.

1. The Volatility of Freelancing Will Stabilize.

Freelancing is risky. No surprise.

Here's an example.

October 2020 was my best month, earning $7,150. Between $4,004 in September and $1,730 in November. Unsteady.

Freelancing is regrettably like that. Moving clients. Content requirements change. Allocating so much time to personal pursuits wasn't smart, but yet.

Stabilizing income takes time. Consider my rolling three-month average income since I started freelancing. My three-month average monthly income. In February, this metric topped $5,000. Now, it's in the mid-$7,000s, but it took a while to get there.

Finding freelance gigs that provide high pay, high volume, and recurring revenue is difficult. But it's not impossible.

TLDR: Don't expect a steady income increase at first. Be patient.

2. You Have More Value Than You Realize.

Writing is difficult. Assembling words, communicating a message, and provoking action are a puzzle.

People are willing to pay you for it because they can't do what you do or don't have enough time.

Keeping that in mind can have huge commercial repercussions.

When talking to clients, don't tiptoe. You can ignore ridiculous deadlines. You don't have to take unmanageable work.

You solve an issue, so make sure you get rightly paid.

TLDR: Frame services as problem-solutions. This will let you charge more and set boundaries.

3. Increase Your Prices.

I studied hard before freelancing. I read articles and watched videos about writing businesses.

I didn't want to work for pennies. Despite this clarity, I had no real strategy to raise my rates.

I then luckily stumbled into higher-paying work. We discussed fees and hours with a friend who launched a consulting business. It's subjective and speculative because value isn't standardized. One company may laugh at your charges. If your solution helps them create a solid ROI, another client may pay $200 per hour.

When he told me he charged his first client $125 per hour, I thought, Why not?

A new-ish client wanted to discuss a huge forthcoming project, so I raised my rates. They knew my worth, so they didn't blink when I handed them my new number.

TLDR: Increase rates periodically (e.g., every 6 or 12 months). Writing skill develops with practice. You'll gain value over time.

4. Remember Your Limits.

If you can squeeze additional time into a day, let me know. I can't manipulate time yet.

We all have time and economic limits. You could theoretically keep boosting rates, but your prospect pool diminishes. Outsourcing and establishing extra revenue sources might boost monthly revenues.

I've devoted a lot of time to side projects (hopefully extra cash sources), but I've only just started outsourcing. I wish I'd tried this earlier.

If you can discover good freelancers, you can grow your firm without sacrificing time.

TLDR: Expand your writing network immediately. You'll meet freelancers who understand your daily grind and locate reference sources.

5. Every Action You Take Involves an Investment. Be Certain to Select Correctly.

Investing in stocks or crypto requires paying money, right?

In business, time is your currency (and maybe money too). Your daily habits define your future. If you spend time collecting software customers and compiling content in the space, you'll end up with both. So be sure.

I only spend around 50% of my time on client work, therefore it's taken me nearly three years to earn $100,000. I spend the remainder of my time on personal projects including a freelance book, an investment newsletter, and this blog.

Why? I don't want to rely on client work forever. So, I'm working on projects that could pay off later and help me live a more fulfilling life.

TLDR: Consider the long-term impact of your time commitments, and don't overextend. You can only make so many "investments" in a given time.

6. LinkedIn Is an Endless Mine of Gold. Use It.

Why didn't I use LinkedIn earlier?

I designed a LinkedIn inbound lead strategy that generates 12 leads a month and a few high-quality offers. As a result, I've turned down good gigs. Wish I'd begun earlier.

If you want to create a freelance business, prioritize LinkedIn. Too many freelancers ignore this site, missing out on high-paying clients. Build your profile, post often, and interact.

TLDR: Study LinkedIn's top creators. Once you understand their audiences, start posting and participating daily.

For 99% of People, Freelancing is Not a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme.

Here's a list of things I wish I'd known when I started freelancing.

  1. Although it is erratic, freelancing eventually becomes stable.

  2. You deserve respect and discretion over how you conduct business because you have solved an issue.

  3. Increase your charges rather than undervaluing yourself. If necessary, add a reminder to your calendar. Your worth grows with time.

  4. In order to grow your firm, outsource jobs. After that, you can work on the things that are most important to you.

  5. Take into account how your present time commitments may affect the future. It will assist in putting things into perspective and determining whether what you are doing is indeed worthwhile.

  6. Participate on LinkedIn. You'll get better jobs as a result.

If I could give my old self (and other freelancers) one bit of advice, it's this:

Despite appearances, you're making progress.

Each job. Tweets. Newsletters. Progress. It's simpler to see retroactively than in the moment.

Consistent, intentional work pays off. No good comes from doing nothing. You must set goals, divide them into time-based targets, and then optimize your calendar.

Then you'll understand you're doing well.

Want to learn more? I’ll teach you.

Antonio Neto

1 month ago

What's up with tech?

Massive Layoffs, record low VC investment, debate over crash... why is it happening and what’s the endgame?

This article generalizes a diverse industry. For objectivity, specific tech company challenges like growing competition within named segments won't be considered. Please comment on the posts.

According to Layoffs.fyi, nearly 120.000 people have been fired from startups since March 2020. More than 700 startups have fired 1% to 100% of their workforce. "The tech market is crashing"

Venture capital investment dropped 19% QoQ in the first four months of 2022, a 2018 low. Since January 2022, Nasdaq has dropped 27%. Some believe the tech market is collapsing.

It's bad, but nothing has crashed yet. We're about to get super technical, so buckle up!

I've written a follow-up article about what's next. For a more optimistic view of the crisis' aftermath, see: Tech Diaspora and Silicon Valley crisis

What happened?

Insanity reigned. Last decade, everyone became a unicorn. Seed investments can be made without a product or team. While the "real world" economy suffered from the pandemic for three years, tech companies enjoyed the "new normal."

COVID sped up technology adoption on several fronts, but this "new normal" wasn't so new after many restrictions were lifted. Worse, it lived with disrupted logistics chains, high oil prices, and WW3. The consumer market has felt the industry's boom for almost 3 years. Inflation, unemployment, mental distress...what looked like a fast economic recovery now looks like unfulfilled promises.

People rethink everything they eat. Paying a Netflix subscription instead of buying beef is moronic if you can watch it for free on your cousin’s account. No matter how great your real estate app's UI is, buying a house can wait until mortgage rates drop. PLGProduct Led Growth (PLG) isn't the go-to strategy when consumers have more basic expense priorities.

Exponential growth and investment

Until recently, tech companies believed that non-exponential revenue growth was fatal. Exponential growth entails doing more with less. From Salim Ismail words:

An Exponential Organization (ExO) has 10x the impact of its peers.

Many tech companies' theories are far from reality.

Investors have funded (sometimes non-exponential) growth. Scale-driven companies throw people at problems until they're solved. Need an entire closing team because you’ve just bought a TV prime time add? Sure. Want gold-weight engineers to colorize buttons? Why not?

Tech companies don't need cash flow to do it; they can just show revenue growth and get funding. Even though it's hard to get funding, this was the market's momentum until recently.

The graph at the beginning of this section shows how industry heavyweights burned money until 2020, despite being far from their market-share seed stage. Being big and being sturdy are different things, and a lot of the tech startups out there are paper tigers. Without investor money, they have no foundation.

A little bit about interest rates

Inflation-driven high interest rates are said to be causing tough times. Investors would rather leave money in the bank than spend it (I myself said it some days ago). It’s not wrong, but it’s also not that simple.

The USA central bank (FED) is a good proxy of global economics. Dollar treasury bonds are the safest investment in the world. Buying U.S. debt, the only country that can print dollars, guarantees payment.

The graph above shows that FED interest rates are low and 10+ year bond yields are near 2018 levels. Nobody was firing at 2018. What’s with that then?

Full explanation is too technical for this article, so I'll just summarize: Bond yields rise due to lack of demand or market expectations of longer-lasting inflation. Safe assets aren't a "easy money" tactic for investors. If that were true, we'd have seen the current scenario before.

Long-term investors are protecting their capital from inflation.

Not a crash, a landing

I bombarded you with info... Let's review:

  • Consumption is down, hurting revenue.

  • Tech companies of all ages have been hiring to grow revenue at the expense of profit.

  • Investors expect inflation to last longer, reducing future investment gains.

Inflation puts pressure on a wheel that was rolling full speed not long ago. Investment spurs hiring, growth, and more investment. Worried investors and consumers reduce the cycle, and hiring follows.

Long-term investors back startups. When the invested company goes public or is sold, it's ok to burn money. What happens when the payoff gets further away? What if all that money sinks? Investors want immediate returns.

Why isn't the market crashing? Technology is not losing capital. It’s expecting change. The market realizes it threw moderation out the window and is reversing course. Profitability is back on the menu.

People solve problems and make money, but they also cost money. Huge cost for the tech industry. Engineers, Product Managers, and Designers earn up to 100% more than similar roles. Businesses must be careful about who they keep and in what positions to avoid wasting money.

What the future holds

From here on, it's all speculation. I found many great articles while researching this piece. Some are cited, others aren't (like this and this). We're in an adjustment period that may or may not last long.

Big companies aren't laying off many workers. Netflix firing 100 people makes headlines, but it's only 1% of their workforce. The biggest seem to prefer not hiring over firing.

Smaller startups beyond the seeding stage may be hardest hit. Without structure or product maturity, many will die.

I expect layoffs to continue for some time, even at Meta or Amazon. I don't see any industry names falling like they did during the .com crisis, but the market will shrink.

If you are currently employed, think twice before moving out and where to.
If you've been fired, hurry, there are still many opportunities.
If you're considering a tech career, wait.
If you're starting a business, I respect you. Good luck.

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Yogesh Rawal

6 months ago

Blockchain to solve growing privacy challenges

Most online activity is now public. Businesses collect, store, and use our personal data to improve sales and services.

In 2014, Uber executives and employees were accused of spying on customers using tools like maps. Another incident raised concerns about the use of ‘FaceApp'. The app was created by a small Russian company, and the photos can be used in unexpected ways. The Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed serious privacy issues. The whole incident raised questions about how governments and businesses should handle data. Modern technologies and practices also make it easier to link data to people.

As a result, governments and regulators have taken steps to protect user data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced by the EU to address data privacy issues. The law governs how businesses collect and process user data. The Data Protection Bill in India and the General Data Protection Law in Brazil are similar.
Despite the impact these regulations have made on data practices, a lot of distance is yet to cover.

Blockchain's solution

Blockchain may be able to address growing data privacy concerns. The technology protects our personal data by providing security and anonymity. The blockchain uses random strings of numbers called public and private keys to maintain privacy. These keys allow a person to be identified without revealing their identity. Blockchain may be able to ensure data privacy and security in this way. Let's dig deeper.

Financial transactions

Online payments require third-party services like PayPal or Google Pay. Using blockchain can eliminate the need to trust third parties. Users can send payments between peers using their public and private keys without providing personal information to a third-party application. Blockchain will also secure financial data.

Healthcare data

Blockchain technology can give patients more control over their data. There are benefits to doing so. Once the data is recorded on the ledger, patients can keep it secure and only allow authorized access. They can also only give the healthcare provider part of the information needed.

The major challenge

We tried to figure out how blockchain could help solve the growing data privacy issues. However, using blockchain to address privacy concerns has significant drawbacks. Blockchain is not designed for data privacy. A ‘distributed' ledger will be used to store the data. Another issue is the immutability of blockchain. Data entered into the ledger cannot be changed or deleted. It will be impossible to remove personal data from the ledger even if desired.

MIT's Enigma Project aims to solve this. Enigma's ‘Secret Network' allows nodes to process data without seeing it. Decentralized applications can use Secret Network to use encrypted data without revealing it.

Another startup, Oasis Labs, uses blockchain to address data privacy issues. They are working on a system that will allow businesses to protect their customers' data. 

Conclusion

Blockchain technology is already being used. Several governments use blockchain to eliminate centralized servers and improve data security. In this information age, it is vital to safeguard our data. How blockchain can help us in this matter is still unknown as the world explores the technology.

Bob Service

2 months ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joyce shen

6 months ago

Framework to Evaluate Metaverse and Web3

Everywhere we turn, there's a new metaverse or Web3 debut. Microsoft recently announced a $68.7 BILLION cash purchase of Activision.

Like AI in 2013 and blockchain in 2014, NFT growth in 2021 feels like this year's metaverse and Web3 growth. We are all bombarded with information, conflicting signals, and a sensation of FOMO.

How can we evaluate the metaverse and Web3 in a noisy, new world? My framework for evaluating upcoming technologies and themes is shown below. I hope you will also find them helpful.

Understand the “pipes” in a new space. 

Whatever people say, Metaverse and Web3 will have to coexist with the current Internet. Companies who host, move, and store data over the Internet have a lot of intriguing use cases in Metaverse and Web3, whether in infrastructure, data analytics, or compliance. Hence the following point.

## Understand the apps layer and their infrastructure.

Gaming, crypto exchanges, and NFT marketplaces would not exist today if not for technology that enables rapid app creation. Yes, according to Chainalysis and other research, 30–40% of Ethereum is self-hosted, with the rest hosted by large cloud providers. For Microsoft to acquire Activision makes strategic sense. It's not only about the games, but also the infrastructure that supports them.

Follow the money

Understanding how money and wealth flow in a complex and dynamic environment helps build clarity. Unless you are exceedingly wealthy, you have limited ability to significantly engage in the Web3 economy today. Few can just buy 10 ETH and spend it in one day. You must comprehend who benefits from the process, and how that 10 ETH circulates now and possibly tomorrow. Major holders and players control supply and liquidity in any market. Today, most Web3 apps are designed to increase capital inflow so existing significant holders can utilize it to create a nascent Web3 economy. When you see a new Metaverse or Web3 application, remember how money flows.

What is the use case? 

What does the app do? If there is no clear use case with clear makers and consumers solving a real problem, then the euphoria soon fades, and the only stakeholders who remain enthused are those who have too much to lose.

Time is a major competition that is often overlooked.

We're only busier, but each day is still 24 hours. Using new apps may mean that time is lost doing other things. The user must be eager to learn. Metaverse and Web3 vs. our time?  I don't think we know the answer yet (at least for working adults whose cost of time is higher).
I don't think we know the answer yet (at least for working adults whose cost of time is higher).

People and organizations need security and transparency.

For new technologies or apps to be widely used, they must be safe, transparent, and trustworthy. What does secure Metaverse and Web3 mean? This is an intriguing subject for both the business and public sectors. Cloud adoption grew in part due to improved security and data protection regulations.

 The following frameworks can help analyze and understand new technologies and emerging technological topics, unless you are a significant investment fund with the financial ability to gamble on numerous initiatives and essentially form your own “index fund”.

I write on VC, startups, and leadership.

More on https://www.linkedin.com/in/joycejshen/ and https://joyceshen.substack.com/

This writing is my own opinion and does not represent investment advice.