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Sammy Abdullah

Sammy Abdullah

1 year ago

SaaS payback period data

More on Entrepreneurship/Creators

Maddie Wang

Maddie Wang

1 year ago

Easiest and fastest way to test your startup idea!

Here's the fastest way to validate company concepts.

I squandered a year after dropping out of Stanford designing a product nobody wanted.

But today, I’m at 100k!

Differences:

I was designing a consumer product when I dropped out.

I coded MVP, got 1k users, and got YC interview.

Nice, huh?

WRONG!

Still coding and getting users 12 months later

WOULD PEOPLE PAY FOR IT? was the riskiest assumption I hadn't tested.

When asked why I didn't verify payment, I said,

Not-ready products. Now, nobody cares. The website needs work. Include this. Increase usage…

I feared people would say no.

After 1 year of pushing it off, my team told me they were really worried about the Business Model. Then I asked my audience if they'd buy my product.

So?

No, overwhelmingly.

I felt like I wasted a year building a product no one would buy.

Founders Cafe was the opposite.

Before building anything, I requested payment.

40 founders were interviewed.

Then we emailed Stanford, YC, and other top founders, asking them to join our community.

BOOM! 10/12 paid!

Without building anything, in 1 day I validated my startup's riskiest assumption. NOT 1 year.

Asking people to pay is one of the scariest things.

I understand.

I asked Stanford queer women to pay before joining my gay sorority.

I was afraid I'd turn them off or no one would pay.

Gay women, like those founders, were in such excruciating pain that they were willing to pay me upfront to help.

You can ask for payment (before you build) to see if people have the burning pain. Then they'll pay!

Examples from Founders Cafe members:

😮 Using a fake landing page, a college dropout tested a product. Paying! He built it and made $3m!

😮 YC solo founder faked a Powerpoint demo. 5 Enterprise paid LOIs. $1.5m raised, built, and in YC!

😮 A Harvard founder can convert Figma to React. 1 day, 10 customers. Built a tool to automate Figma -> React after manually fulfilling requests. 1m+

Bad example:

😭 Stanford Dropout Spends 1 Year Building Product Without Payment Validation

Some people build for a year and then get paying customers.

What I'm sharing is my experience and what Founders Cafe members have told me about validating startup ideas.

Don't waste a year like I did.

After my first startup failed, I planned to re-enroll at Stanford/work at Facebook.

After people paid, I quit for good.

I've hit $100k!

Hope this inspires you to request upfront payment! It'll change your life

Keagan Stokoe

Keagan Stokoe

1 year ago

Generalists Create Startups; Specialists Scale Them

There’s a funny part of ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson where Jobs says that Bill Gates was more a copier than an innovator:

“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas….He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”

Gates lacked flavor. Nobody ever got excited about a Microsoft launch, despite their good products. Jobs had the world's best product taste. Apple vs. Microsoft.

A CEO's core job functions are all driven by taste: recruiting, vision, and company culture all require good taste. Depending on the type of company you want to build, know where you stand between Microsoft and Apple.

How can you improve your product judgment? How to acquire taste?

Test and refine

Product development follows two parallel paths: the ‘customer obsession’ path and the ‘taste and iterate’ path.

The customer obsession path involves solving customer problems. Lean Startup frameworks show you what to build at each step.

Taste-and-iterate doesn't involve the customer. You iterate internally and rely on product leaders' taste and judgment.

Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda explains this method. In Creative Selection, demos are iterated and presented to product leaders. Your boss presents to their boss, and so on up to Steve Jobs. If you have good product taste, you can be a panelist.

The iPhone follows this path. Before seeing an iPhone, consumers couldn't want one. Customer obsession wouldn't have gotten you far because iPhone buyers didn't know they wanted one.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz writes:

“It turns out that is exactly what product strategy is all about — figuring out the right product is the innovator’s job, not the customer’s job. The customer only knows what she thinks she wants based on her experience with the current product. The innovator can take into account everything that’s possible, but often must go against what she knows to be true. As a result, innovation requires a combination of knowledge, skill, and courage.“

One path solves a problem the customer knows they have, and the other doesn't. Instead of asking a person what they want, observe them and give them something they didn't know they needed.

It's much harder. Apple is the world's most valuable company because it's more valuable. It changes industries permanently.

If you want to build superior products, use the iPhone of your industry.

How to Improve Your Taste

I. Work for a company that has taste.

People with the best taste in products, markets, and people are rewarded for building great companies. Tasteful people know quality even when they can't describe it. Taste isn't writable. It's feel-based.

Moving into a community that's already doing what you want to do may be the best way to develop entrepreneurial taste. Most company-building knowledge is tacit.

Joining a company you want to emulate allows you to learn its inner workings. It reveals internal patterns intuitively. Many successful founders come from successful companies.

Consumption determines taste. Excellence will refine you. This is why restauranteurs visit the world's best restaurants and serious painters visit Paris or New York. Joining a company with good taste is beneficial.

2. Possess a wide range of interests

“Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the intersection of the humanities and science. I like that intersection. There’s something magical about that place… The reason Apple resonates with people is that there’s a deep current of humanity in our innovation. I think great artists and great engineers are similar, in that they both have a desire to express themselves.” — Steve Jobs

I recently discovered Edwin Land. Jobs modeled much of his career after Land's. It makes sense that Apple was inspired by Land.

A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War notes:

“Land was introverted in person, but supremely confident when he came to his ideas… Alongside his scientific passions, lay knowledge of art, music, and literature. He was a cultured person growing even more so as he got older, and his interests filtered into the ethos of Polaroid.”

Founders' philosophies shape companies. Jobs and Land were invested. It showed in the products their companies made. Different. His obsession was spreading Microsoft software worldwide. Microsoft's success is why their products are bland and boring.

Experience is important. It's probably why startups are built by generalists and scaled by specialists.

Jobs combined design, typography, storytelling, and product taste at Apple. Some of the best original Mac developers were poets and musicians. Edwin Land liked broad-minded people, according to his biography. Physicist-musicians or physicist-photographers.

Da Vinci was a master of art, engineering, architecture, anatomy, and more. He wrote and drew at the same desk. His genius is remembered centuries after his death. Da Vinci's statue would stand at the intersection of humanities and science.

We find incredibly creative people here. Superhumans. Designers, creators, and world-improvers. These are the people we need to navigate technology and lead world-changing companies. Generalists lead.

Rachel Greenberg

Rachel Greenberg

1 year ago

The Unsettling Fact VC-Backed Entrepreneurs Don't Want You to Know

What they'll do is scarier.

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

My acquaintance recently joined a VC-funded startup. Money, equity, and upside possibilities were nice, but he had a nagging dread.

They just secured a $40M round and are hiring like crazy to prepare for their IPO in two years. All signals pointed to this startup's (a B2B IT business in a stable industry) success, and its equity-holding workers wouldn't pass that up.

Five months after starting the work, my friend struggled with leaving. We might overlook the awful culture and long hours at the proper price. This price plus the company's fate and survival abilities sent my friend departing in an unpleasant unplanned resignation before jumping on yet another sinking ship.

This affects founders. This affects VC-backed companies (and all businesses). This affects anyone starting, buying, or running a business.

Here's the under-the-table approach that's draining VC capital, leaving staff terrified (or jobless), founders rattled, and investors upset. How to recognize, solve, and avoid it

The unsettling reality behind door #1

You can't raise money off just your looks, right? If "looks" means your founding team's expertise, then maybe. In my friend's case, the founding team's strong qualifications and track records won over investors before talking figures.

They're hardly the only startup to raise money without a profitable customer acquisition strategy. Another firm raised money for an expensive sleep product because it's eco-friendly. They were off to the races with a few keywords and key players.

Both companies, along with numerous others, elected to invest on product development first. Company A employed all the tech, then courted half their market (they’re a tech marketplace that connects two parties). Company B spent millions on R&D to create a palatable product, then flooded the world with marketing.

My friend is on Company B's financial team, and he's seen where they've gone wrong. It's terrible.

Company A (tech market): Growing? Not quite. To achieve the ambitious expansion they (and their investors) demand, they've poured much of their little capital into salespeople: Cold-calling commission and salary salesmen. Is it working? Considering attrition and companies' dwindling capital, I don't think so.

Company B (green sleep) has been hiring, digital marketing, and opening new stores like crazy. Growing expenses should result in growing revenues and a favorable return on investment; if you grow too rapidly, you may neglect to check that ROI.

Once Company A cut headcount and Company B declared “going concerned”, my friend realized both startups had the same ailment and didn't recognize it.

I shouldn't have to ask a friend to verify a company's cash reserves and profitability to spot a financial problem. It happened anyhow.

The frightening part isn't that investors were willing to invest millions without product-market fit, CAC, or LTV estimates. That's alarming, but not as scary as the fact that startups aren't understanding the problem until VC rounds have dried up.

When they question consultants if their company will be around in 6 months. It’s a red flag. How will they stretch $20M through a 2-year recession with a $3M/month burn rate and no profitability? Alarms go off.

Who's in danger?

In a word, everyone who raised money without a profitable client acquisition strategy or enough resources to ride out dry spells.

Money mismanagement and poor priorities affect every industry (like sinking all your capital into your product, team, or tech, at the expense of probing what customer acquisition really takes and looks like).

This isn't about tech, real estate, or recession-proof luxury products. Fast, cheap, easy money flows into flashy-looking teams with buzzwords, trending industries, and attractive credentials.

If these companies can't show progress or get a profitable CAC, they can't raise more money. They die if they can't raise more money (or slash headcount and find shoestring budget solutions until they solve the real problem).

The kiss of death (and how to avoid it)

If you're running a startup and think raising VC is the answer, pause and evaluate. Do you need the money now?

I'm not saying VC is terrible or has no role. Founders have used it as a Band-Aid for larger, pervasive problems. Venture cash isn't a crutch for recruiting consumers profitably; it's rocket fuel to get you what and who you need.

Pay-to-play isn't a way to throw money at the wall and hope for a return. Pay-to-play works until you run out of money, and if you haven't mastered client acquisition, your cash will diminish quickly.

How can you avoid this bottomless pit? Tips:

  • Understand your burn rate

  • Keep an eye on your growth or profitability.

  • Analyze each and every marketing channel and initiative.

  • Make lucrative customer acquisition strategies and satisfied customers your top two priorities. not brand-new products. not stellar hires. avoid the fundraising rollercoaster to save time. If you succeed in these two tasks, investors will approach you with their thirsty offers rather than the other way around, and your cash reserves won't diminish as a result.

Not as much as your grandfather

My family friend always justified expensive, impractical expenditures by saying it was only monopoly money. In business, startups, and especially with money from investors expecting a return, that's not true.

More founders could understand that there isn't always another round if they viewed VC money as their own limited pool. When the well runs dry, you must refill it or save the day.

Venture financing isn't your grandpa's money. A discerning investor has entrusted you with dry powder in the hope that you'll use it wisely, strategically, and thoughtfully. Use it well.

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Ellane W

Ellane W

1 year ago

The Last To-Do List Template I'll Ever Need, Years in the Making

The holy grail of plain text task management is finally within reach

Walking away from productivity civilization to my house in the plain text jungle. Image used under licence from jumpstory.

Plain text task management? Are you serious?? Dedicated task managers exist for a reason, you know. Sheesh.

—Oh, I know. Believe me, I know! But hear me out.

I've managed projects and tasks in plain text for more than four years. Since reorganizing my to-do list, plain text task management is within reach.

Data completely yours? One billion percent. Beef it up with coding? Be my guest.

Enter: The List

The answer? A list. That’s it!

Write down tasks. Obsidian, Notenik, Drafts, or iA Writer are good plain text note-taking apps.

List too long? Of course, it is! A large list tells you what to do. Feel the itch and friction. Then fix it.

  • But I want to be able to distinguish between work and personal life! List two things.

  • However, I need to know what should be completed first. Put those items at the top.

  • However, some things keep coming up, and I need to be reminded of them! Put those in your calendar and make an alarm for them.

  • But since individual X hasn't completed task Y, I can't proceed with this. Create a Waiting section on your list by dividing it.

  • But I must know what I'm supposed to be doing right now! Read your list(s). Check your calendar. Think critically.

Before I begin a new one, I remind myself that "Listory Never Repeats."

There’s no such thing as too many lists if all are needed. There is such a thing as too many lists if you make them before they’re needed. Before they complain that their previous room was small or too crowded or needed a new light.

A list that feels too long has a voice; it’s telling you what to do next.

I use one Master List. It's a control panel that tells me what to focus on short-term. If something doesn't need semi-immediate attention, it goes on my Backlog list.

Todd Lewandowski's DWTS (Done, Waiting, Top 3, Soon) performance deserves praise. His DWTS to-do list structure has transformed my plain-text task management. I didn't realize it was upside down.

This is my take on it:

D = Done

Move finished items here. If they pile up, clear them out every week or month. I have a Done Archive folder.

W = Waiting

Things seething in the background, awaiting action. Stir them occasionally so they don't burn.

T = Top 3

Three priorities. Personal comes first, then work. There will always be a top 3 (no more than 5) in every category. Projects, not chores, usually.

S = Soon

This part is action-oriented. It's for anything you can accomplish to finish one of the Top 3. This collection includes thoughts and project lists. The sole requirement is that they should be short-term goals.

Some of you have probably concluded this isn't for you. Please read Todd's piece before throwing out the baby. Often. You shouldn't miss a newborn.

As much as Dancing With The Stars helps me recall this method, I may try switching their order. TSWD; Drilling Tunnel Seismic? Serenity After Task?

Master List Showcase

To Do list screenshot by Author

My Master List lives alone in its own file, but sometimes appears in other places.  It's included in my Weekly List template. Here's a (soon-to-be-updated) demo vault of my Obsidian planning setup to download for free.

Here's the code behind my weekly screenshot:

## [[Master List - 2022|✓]]  TO DO

![[Master List - 2022]]

FYI, I use the Minimal Theme in Obsidian, with a few tweaks.

You may note I'm utilizing a checkmark as a link. For me, that's easier than locating the proper spot to click on the embed.

Blue headings for Done and Waiting are links. Done links to the Done Archive page and Waiting to a general waiting page.

Read my full article here.

Sukhad Anand

Sukhad Anand

1 year ago

How Do Discord's Trillions Of Messages Get Indexed?

They depend heavily on open source..

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Discord users send billions of messages daily. Users wish to search these messages. How do we index these to search by message keywords?

Let’s find out.

  1. Discord utilizes Elasticsearch. Elasticsearch is a free, open search engine for textual, numerical, geographical, structured, and unstructured data. Apache Lucene powers Elasticsearch.

  2. How does elastic search store data? It stores it as numerous key-value pairs in JSON documents.

  3. How does elastic search index? Elastic search's index is inverted. An inverted index lists every unique word in every page and where it appears.

4. Elasticsearch indexes documents and generates an inverted index to make data searchable in near real-time. The index API adds or updates JSON documents in a given index.

  1. Let's examine how discord uses Elastic Search. Elasticsearch prefers bulk indexing. Discord couldn't index real-time messages. You can't search posted messages. You want outdated messages.

6. Let's check what bulk indexing requires.
1. A temporary queue for incoming communications.
2. Indexer workers that index messages into elastic search.

  1. Discord's queue is Celery. The queue is open-source. Elastic search won't run on a single server. It's clustered. Where should a message go? Where?

8. A shard allocator decides where to put the message. Nevertheless. Shattered? A shard combines elastic search and index on. So, these two form a shard which is used as a unit by discord. The elastic search itself has some shards. But this is different, so don’t get confused.

  1. Now, the final part is service discovery — to discover the elastic search clusters and the hosts within that cluster. This, they do with the help of etcd another open source tool.

A great thing to notice here is that discord relies heavily on open source systems and their base implementations which is very different from a lot of other products.

Nathan Reiff

Nathan Reiff

2 years ago

Howey Test and Cryptocurrencies: 'Every ICO Is a Security'

What Is the Howey Test?

To determine whether a transaction qualifies as a "investment contract" and thus qualifies as a security, the Howey Test refers to the U.S. Supreme Court cass: the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. According to the Howey Test, an investment contract exists when "money is invested in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits from others' efforts." 

The test applies to any contract, scheme, or transaction. The Howey Test helps investors and project backers understand blockchain and digital currency projects. ICOs and certain cryptocurrencies may be found to be "investment contracts" under the test.

Understanding the Howey Test

The Howey Test comes from the 1946 Supreme Court case SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. The Howey Company sold citrus groves to Florida buyers who leased them back to Howey. The company would maintain the groves and sell the fruit for the owners. Both parties benefited. Most buyers had no farming experience and were not required to farm the land. 

The SEC intervened because Howey failed to register the transactions. The court ruled that the leaseback agreements were investment contracts.

This established four criteria for determining an investment contract. Investing contract:

  1. An investment of money
  2. n a common enterprise
  3. With the expectation of profit
  4. To be derived from the efforts of others

In the case of Howey, the buyers saw the transactions as valuable because others provided the labor and expertise. An income stream was obtained by only investing capital. As a result of the Howey Test, the transaction had to be registered with the SEC.

Howey Test and Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is notoriously difficult to categorize. Decentralized, they evade regulation in many ways. Regardless, the SEC is looking into digital assets and determining when their sale qualifies as an investment contract.

The SEC claims that selling digital assets meets the "investment of money" test because fiat money or other digital assets are being exchanged. Like the "common enterprise" test. 

Whether a digital asset qualifies as an investment contract depends on whether there is a "expectation of profit from others' efforts."

For example, buyers of digital assets may be relying on others' efforts if they expect the project's backers to build and maintain the digital network, rather than a dispersed community of unaffiliated users. Also, if the project's backers create scarcity by burning tokens, the test is met. Another way the "efforts of others" test is met is if the project's backers continue to act in a managerial role.

These are just a few examples given by the SEC. If a project's success is dependent on ongoing support from backers, the buyer of the digital asset is likely relying on "others' efforts."

Special Considerations

If the SEC determines a cryptocurrency token is a security, many issues arise. It means the SEC can decide whether a token can be sold to US investors and forces the project to register. 

In 2017, the SEC ruled that selling DAO tokens for Ether violated federal securities laws. Instead of enforcing securities laws, the SEC issued a warning to the cryptocurrency industry. 

Due to the Howey Test, most ICOs today are likely inaccessible to US investors. After a year of ICOs, then-SEC Chair Jay Clayton declared them all securities. 

SEC Chairman Gensler Agrees With Predecessor: 'Every ICO Is a Security'

Howey Test FAQs

How Do You Determine If Something Is a Security?

The Howey Test determines whether certain transactions are "investment contracts." Securities are transactions that qualify as "investment contracts" under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The Howey Test looks for a "investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits from others' efforts." If so, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 require disclosure and registration.

Why Is Bitcoin Not a Security?

Former SEC Chair Jay Clayton clarified in June 2018 that bitcoin is not a security: "Cryptocurrencies: Replace the dollar, euro, and yen with bitcoin. That type of currency is not a security," said Clayton.

Bitcoin, which has never sought public funding to develop its technology, fails the SEC's Howey Test. However, according to Clayton, ICO tokens are securities. 

A Security Defined by the SEC

In the public and private markets, securities are fungible and tradeable financial instruments. The SEC regulates public securities sales.

The Supreme Court defined a security offering in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. In its judgment, the court defines a security using four criteria:

  • An investment contract's existence
  • The formation of a common enterprise
  • The issuer's profit promise
  • Third-party promotion of the offering

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