More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
1 year ago
100-day SaaS buildout.
We're opening up Maki through a series of Medium posts. We'll describe what Maki is building and how. We'll explain how we built a SaaS in 100 days. This isn't a step-by-step guide to starting a business, but a product philosophy to help you build quickly.
Focus on end-users.
This may seem obvious, but it's important to talk to users first. When we started thinking about Maki, we interviewed 100 HR directors from SMBs, Next40 scale-ups, and major Enterprises to understand their concerns. We initially thought about the future of employment, but most of their worries centered on Recruitment. We don't have a clear recruiting process, it's time-consuming, we recruit clones, we don't support diversity, etc. And as hiring managers, we couldn't help but agree.
Co-create your product with your end-users.
We went to the drawing board, read as many books as possible (here, here, and here), and when we started getting a sense for a solution, we questioned 100 more operational HR specialists to corroborate the idea and get a feel for our potential answer. This confirmed our direction to help hire more objectively and efficiently.
Back to the drawing board, we designed our first flows and screens. We organized sessions with certain survey respondents to show them our early work and get comments. We got great input that helped us build Maki, and we met some consumers. Obsess about users and execute alongside them.
Don’t shoot for the moon, yet. Make pragmatic choices first.
Once we were convinced, we began building. To launch a SaaS in 100 days, we needed an operating principle that allowed us to accelerate while still providing a reliable, secure, scalable experience. We focused on adding value and outsourced everything else. Example:
Concentrate on adding value. Reuse existing bricks.
When determining which technology to use, we looked at our strengths and the future to see what would last. Node.js for backend, React for frontend, both with typescript. We thought this technique would scale well since it would attract more talent and the surrounding mature ecosystem would help us go quicker.
We explored for ways to bootstrap services while setting down strong foundations that might support millions of users. We built our backend services on NestJS so we could extend into microservices later. Hasura, a GraphQL APIs engine, automates Postgres data exposing through a graphQL layer. MUI's ready-to-use components powered our design-system. We used well-maintained open-source projects to speed up certain tasks.
We outsourced important components of our platform (Auth0 for authentication, Stripe for billing, SendGrid for notifications) because, let's face it, we couldn't do better. We choose to host our complete infrastructure (SQL, Cloud run, Logs, Monitoring) on GCP to simplify our work between numerous providers.
Focus on your business, use existing bricks for the rest. For the curious, we'll shortly publish articles detailing each stage.
Most importantly, empower people and step back.
We couldn't have done this without the incredible people who have supported us from the start. Since Powership is one of our key values, we provided our staff the power to make autonomous decisions from day one. Because we believe our firm is its people, we hired smart builders and let them build.
Nicolas left Spendesk to create scalable interfaces using react-router, react-queries, and MUI. JD joined Swile and chose Hasura as our GraphQL engine. Jérôme chose NestJS to build our backend services. Since then, Justin, Ben, Anas, Yann, Benoit, and others have followed suit.
If you consider your team a collective brain, you should let them make decisions instead of directing them what to do. You'll make mistakes, but you'll go faster and learn faster overall.
Invest in great talent and develop a strong culture from the start. Here's how to establish a SaaS in 100 days.
Aaron Dinin, PhD
11 months ago
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Having Investors Sign Your NDA
Startup entrepreneurs assume what risks when pitching?
Last week I signed four NDAs.
NDA stands for non-disclosure agreement. A legal document given to someone receiving confidential information. By signing, the person pledges not to share the information for a certain time. If they do, they may be in breach of contract and face legal action.
Companies use NDAs to protect trade secrets and confidential internal information from employees and contractors. Appropriate. If you manage a huge, successful firm, you don't want your employees selling their information to your competitors. To be true, business NDAs don't always prevent corporate espionage, but they usually make employees and contractors think twice before sharing.
I understand employee and contractor NDAs, but I wasn't asked to sign one. I counsel entrepreneurs, thus the NDAs I signed last week were from startups that wanted my feedback on their concepts.
I’m not a startup investor. I give startup guidance online. Despite that, four entrepreneurs thought their company ideas were so important they wanted me to sign a generically written legal form they probably acquired from a shady, spam-filled legal templates website before we could chat.
False. One company tried to get me to sign their NDA a few days after our conversation. I gently rejected, but their tenacity encouraged me. I considered sending retroactive NDAs to everyone I've ever talked to about one of my startups in case they establish a successful company based on something I said.
Two of the other three NDAs were from nearly identical companies. Good thing I didn't sign an NDA for the first one, else they may have sued me for talking to the second one as though I control the firms people pitch me.
I wasn't talking to the fourth NDA company. Instead, I received an unsolicited email from someone who wanted comments on their fundraising pitch deck but required me to sign an NDA before sending it.
That's right, before I could read a random Internet stranger's unsolicited pitch deck, I had to sign his NDA, potentially limiting my ability to discuss what was in it.
You should understand. Advisors, mentors, investors, etc. talk to hundreds of businesses each year. They cannot manage all the companies they deal with, thus they cannot risk legal trouble by talking to someone. Well, if I signed NDAs for all the startups I spoke with, half of the 300+ articles I've written on Medium over the past several years could get me sued into the next century because I've undoubtedly addressed topics in my articles that I discussed with them.
The four NDAs I received last week are part of a recent trend of entrepreneurs sending out NDAs before meetings, despite the practical and legal issues. They act like asking someone to sign away their right to talk about all they see and hear in a day is as straightforward as asking for a glass of water.
Given this inflow of NDAs, I wanted to briefly remind entrepreneurs reading this blog about the merits and cons of requesting investors (or others in the startup ecosystem) to sign your NDA.
Benefits of having investors sign your NDA include:
None. Zero. Nothing.
Disadvantages of requesting investor NDAs:
You'll come off as an amateur who has no idea what it takes to launch a successful firm.
Investors won't trust you with their money since you appear to be a complete amateur.
Printing NDAs will be a waste of paper because no genuine entrepreneur will ever sign one.
I apologize for missing any cons. Please leave your remarks.
1 year ago
My 3 biggest errors as a co-founder and CEO
Reflections on the closed company Hola! Dating app
I'll discuss my fuckups as an entrepreneur and CEO. All of them refer to the dating app Hola!, which I co-founded and starred in.
Spring 2021 was when we started. Two techies and two non-techies created a dating app. Pokemon Go and Tinder were combined.
Online dating is a business, and it takes two weeks from a like to a date. We questioned online dating app users if they met anyone offline last year.
75% replied yes, 50% sometimes, 25% usually.
Offline dating is popular, yet people have concerns.
Men are reluctant to make mistakes in front of others.
Women are curious about the background of everyone who approaches them.
We designed unique mechanics that let people date after a match. No endless chitchat. Women would be safe while men felt like cowboys.
I wish to emphasize three faults that lead to founders' estrangement.
This detachment ultimately led to us shutting down the company.
The wrong technology stack
Instead of generating a faster MVP and designing an app in a universal stack for iOS and Android, I argued we should pilot the app separately for iOS and Android. Technical founders' expertise made this possible.
Mistaken strategy. We lost time and resources developing two apps at once. We chose iOS since it's more profitable. Apple took us out after the release, citing Guideline 4.3 Spam. After 4 months, we had nothing. We had a long way to go to get the app on Android and the Store.
I suggested creating a uniform platform for the company's growth. This makes parallel product development easier. The strategist's lack of experience and knowledge made it a piece of crap.
What would I have changed if I could?
We should have designed an Android universal stack. I expected Apple to have issues with a dating app.
Our approach should have been to launch something and subsequently improve it, but prejudice won.
Discuss the IT stack with your CTO. It saves time and money. Choose the easiest MVP method.
2. A tardy search for investments
Though the universe and other founders encouraged me to locate investors first, I started pitching when we almost had an app.
When angels arrived, it was time to close. The app was banned, war broke out, I left the country, and the other co-founders stayed. We had no savings.
I loved interviewing users. I'm proud of having done 1,000 interviews. I wanted to understand people's pain points and improve the product.
Interview results no longer affected the product. I was terrified to start pitching. I filled out accelerator applications and redid my presentation. You must go through that so you won't be terrified later.
What would I have changed if I could?
Get an external or internal mentor to help me with my first pitch as soon as possible. I'd be supported if criticized. He'd cheer with me if there was enthusiasm.
In 99% of cases, I'm comfortable jumping into the unknown, but there are exceptions. The mentor's encouragement would have prompted me to act sooner.
Begin fundraising immediately. Months may pass. Show investors your pre-MVP project. Draw inferences from feedback.
3. Role ambiguity
My technical co-founders were also part-time lead developers, which produced communication issues. As co-founders, we communicated well and recognized the problems. Stakes, vesting, target markets, and approach were agreed upon.
We were behind schedule. Technical debt and strategic gap grew.
Bi-daily and weekly reviews didn't help. Each time, there were explanations. Inside, I was freaking out.
I am a fairly easy person to talk to. I always try to stick to agreements; otherwise, my head gets stuffed with unnecessary information, interpretations, and emotions.
Sit down -> talk -> decide -> do -> evaluate the results. Repeat it.
If I don't get detailed comments, I start ruining everyone's mood. If there's a systematic violation of agreements without a good justification, I won't join the project or I'll end the collaboration.
What would I have done otherwise?
This is where it’s scariest to draw conclusions. Probably the most logical thing would have been not to start the project as we started it. But that was already a completely different project. So I would not have done anything differently and would have failed again.
But I drew conclusions for the future.
First-time founders should find an adviser or team coach for a strategic session. It helps split the roles and responsibilities.
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9 months ago
Soon, a Starship Will Transform Humanity
Launched last week.
Four minutes in:
SpaceX will succeed. When it does, its massiveness will matter.
Its payload will revolutionize space economics.
Civilization will shift.
We don't yet understand how this will affect space and Earth culture. Grab it.
The Cost of Space Transportation Has Decreased Exponentially
Space launches have increased dramatically in recent years.
We mostly send items to LEO, the green area below:
SpaceX's reusable rockets can send these things to LEO. Each may launch dozens of payloads into space.
With all these launches, we're sending more than simply things to space. Volume and mass. Since the 1980s, launching a kilogram of payload to LEO has become cheaper:
One kilogram in a large rocket cost over $75,000 in the 1980s. Carrying one astronaut cost nearly $5M! Falcon Heavy's $1,500/kg price is 50 times lower. SpaceX's larger, reusable rockets are amazing.
SpaceX's Starship rocket will continue. It can carry over 100 tons to LEO, 50% more than the current Falcon heavy. Thousands of launches per year. Elon Musk predicts Falcon Heavy's $1,500/kg cost will plummet to $100 in 23 years.
People underestimate this.
2. The Benefits of Affordable Transportation
Compare Earth's transportation costs:
It's no surprise that the US and Northern Europe are the wealthiest and have the most navigable interior waterways.
So what? since sea transportation is cheaper than land. Inland waterways are even better than sea transportation since weather is less of an issue, currents can be controlled, and rivers serve two banks instead of one for coastal transportation.
In France, because population density follows river systems, rivers are valuable. Cheap transportation brought people and money to rivers, especially their confluences.
How come? Why were humans surrounding rivers?
Imagine selling meat for $10 per kilogram. Transporting one kg one kilometer costs $1. Your margin decreases $1 each kilometer. You can only ship 10 kilometers. For example, you can only trade with four cities:
If instead, your cost of transportation is half, what happens? It costs you $0.5 per km. You now have higher margins with each city you traded with. More importantly, you can reach 20-km markets.
However, 2x distance 4x surface! You can now trade with sixteen cities instead of four! Metcalfe's law states that a network's value increases with its nodes squared. Since now sixteen cities can connect to yours. Each city now has sixteen connections! They get affluent and can afford more meat.
Rivers lower travel costs, connecting many cities, which can trade more, get wealthy, and buy more.
The right network is worth at least an order of magnitude more than the left! The cheaper the transport, the more trade at a lower cost, the more income generated, the more that wealth can be reinvested in better canals, bridges, and roads, and the wealth grows even more.
Throughout history. Rome was established around cheap Mediterranean transit and preoccupied with cutting overland transportation costs with their famous roadways. Communications restricted their empire.
The Egyptians lived around the Nile, the Vikings around the North Sea, early Japan around the Seto Inland Sea, and China started canals in the 5th century BC.
Transportation costs shaped empires.Starship is lowering new-world transit expenses. What's possible?
3. Change Organizations, Change Companies, Change the World
Starship is a conveyor belt to LEO. A new world of opportunity opens up as transportation prices drop 100x in a decade.
Satellite engineers have spent decades shedding milligrams. Weight influenced every decision: pricing structure, volumes to be sent, material selections, power sources, thermal protection, guiding, navigation, and control software. Weight was everything in the mission. To pack as much science into every millimeter, NASA missions had to be miniaturized. Engineers were indoctrinated against mass.
Starship is not constrained by any space mission, robotic or crewed.
Starship obliterates the mass constraint and every last vestige of cultural baggage it has gouged into the minds of spacecraft designers. A dollar spent on mass optimization no longer buys a dollar saved on launch cost. It buys nothing. It is time to raise the scope of our ambition and think much bigger. — Casey Handmer, Starship is still not understood
A Tesla Roadster in space makes more sense.
It went beyond bad PR. It told the industry: Did you care about every microgram? No more. My rockets are big enough to send a Tesla without noticing. Industry watchers should have noticed.
Most didn’t. Artemis is a global mission to send astronauts to the Moon and build a base. Artemis uses disposable Space Launch System rockets. Instead of sending two or three dinky 10-ton crew habitats over the next decade, Starship might deliver 100x as much cargo and create a base for 1,000 astronauts in a year or two. Why not? Because Artemis remains in a pre-Starship paradigm where each kilogram costs a million dollars and we must aggressively descope our objective.
Space agencies can deliver 100x more payload to space for the same budget with 100x lower costs and 100x higher transportation volumes. How can space economy saturate this new supply?
Before Starship, NASA supplied heavy equipment for Moon base construction. After Starship, Caterpillar and Deere may space-qualify their products with little alterations. Instead than waiting decades for NASA engineers to catch up, we could send people to build a space outpost with John Deere equipment in a few years.
History is littered with the wreckage of former industrial titans that underestimated the impact of new technology and overestimated their ability to adapt: Blockbuster, Motorola, Kodak, Nokia, RIM, Xerox, Yahoo, IBM, Atari, Sears, Hitachi, Polaroid, Toshiba, HP, Palm, Sony, PanAm, Sega, Netscape, Compaq, GM… — Casey Handmer, Starship is still not understood
Everyone saw it coming, but senior management failed to realize that adaption would involve moving beyond their established business practice. Others will if they don't.
4. The Starship Possibilities
SpaceX invented affordable cargo space and grasped its implications first. How can we use all this inexpensive cargo nobody knows how to use?
Satellite communications seemed like the best way to capitalize on it. They tried. Starlink, designed by SpaceX, provides fast, dependable Internet worldwide. Beaming information down is often cheaper than cable. Already profitable.
Starlink is one use for all this cheap cargo space. Many more. The longer firms ignore the opportunity, the more SpaceX will acquire.
What are these chances?
Satellite imagery is outdated and lacks detail. We can improve greatly. Synthetic aperture radar can take beautiful shots like this:
Have you ever used Google Maps and thought, "I want to see this in more detail"? What if I could view Earth live? What if we could livestream an infrared image of Earth?
We could launch hundreds of satellites with such mind-blowing visual precision of the Earth that we would dramatically improve the accuracy of our meteorological models; our agriculture; where crime is happening; where poachers are operating in the savannah; climate change; and who is moving military personnel where. Is that useful?
What if we could see Earth in real time? That affects businesses? That changes society?
1 year ago Draft
This is a draft
1 year ago
Even In a Crazy Market, Hire the Best People: The "First Ten" Rules
Hiring is difficult, but you shouldn't compromise on team members. Or it may suggest you need to look beyond years in a similar role/function.
Every hire should be someone we'd want as one of our first ten employees.
If you hire such people, your team will adapt, initiate, and problem-solve, and your company will grow. You'll stay nimble even as you scale, and you'll learn from your colleagues.
If you only hire for a specific role or someone who can execute the job, you'll become a cluster of optimizers, and talent will depart for a more fascinating company. A startup is continually changing, therefore you want individuals that embrace it.
As a leader, establishing ideal conditions for talent and having a real ideology should be high on your agenda. You can't eliminate attrition, nor would you want to, but you can hire people who will become your company's leaders.
In my last four jobs I was employee 2, 5, 3, and 5. So while this is all a bit self serving, you’re the one reading my writing — and I have some experience with who works out in the first ten!
First, we'll examine what they do well (and why they're beneficial for startups), then what they don't, and how to hire them.
First 10 are:
Business partners: Because it's their company, they take care of whatever has to be done and have ideas about how to do it. You can rely on them to always put the success of the firm first because it is their top priority (company success is strongly connected with success for early workers). This approach will eventually take someone to leadership positions.
High Speed Learners: They process knowledge quickly and can reach 80%+ competency in a new subject matter rather quickly. A growing business that is successful tries new things frequently. We have all lost a lot of money and time on employees who follow the wrong playbook or who wait for someone else within the company to take care of them.
Autodidacts learn by trial and error, osmosis, networking with others, applying first principles, and reading voraciously (articles, newsletters, books, and even social media). Although teaching is wonderful, you won't have time.
Self-scaling: They figure out a means to deal with issues and avoid doing the grunt labor over the long haul, increasing their leverage. Great people don't keep doing the same thing forever; as they expand, they use automation and delegation to fill in their lower branches. This is a crucial one; even though you'll still adore them, you'll have to manage their scope or help them learn how to scale on their own.
Free Range: You can direct them toward objectives rather than specific chores. Check-ins can be used to keep them generally on course without stifling invention instead of giving them precise instructions because doing so will obscure their light.
When people are inspired, they bring their own ideas about what a firm can be and become animated during discussions about how to get there.
Novelty Seeking: They look for business and personal growth chances. Give them fresh assignments and new directions to follow around once every three months.
Here’s what the First Ten types may not be:
Domain specialists. When you look at their resumes, you'll almost certainly think they're unqualified. Fortunately, a few strategically positioned experts may empower a number of First Ten types by serving on a leadership team or in advising capacities.
Balanced. These people become very invested, and they may be vulnerable to many types of stress. You may need to assist them in managing their own stress and coaching them through obstacles. If you are reading this and work at Banza, I apologize for not doing a better job of supporting this. I need to be better at it.
Able to handle micromanagement with ease. People who like to be in charge will suppress these people. Good decision-making should be delegated to competent individuals. Generally speaking, if you wish to scale.
Great startup team members have versatility, learning, innovation, and energy. When we hire for the function, not the person, we become dull and staid. Could this person go to another department if needed? Could they expand two levels in a few years?
First Ten qualities and experience level may have a weak inverse association. People with 20+ years of experience who had worked at larger organizations wanted to try something new and had a growth mentality. College graduates may want to be told what to do and how to accomplish it so they can stay in their lane and do what their management asks.
Does the First Ten archetype sound right for your org? Cool, let’s go hiring. How will you know when you’ve found one?
They exhibit adaptive excellence, excelling at a variety of unrelated tasks. It could be hobbies or professional talents. This suggests that they will succeed in the next several endeavors they pursue.
Successful risk-taking is doing something that wasn't certain to succeed, sometimes more than once, and making it do so. It's an attitude.
Rapid Rise: They regularly change roles and get promoted. However, they don't leave companies when the going gets tough. Look for promotions at every stop and at least one position with three or more years of experience.
You can ask them:
Tell me about a time when you started from scratch or achieved success. What occurred en route? You might request a variety of tales from various occupations or even aspects of life. They ought to be energized by this.
What new skills have you just acquired? It is not required to be work-related. They must be able to describe it and unintentionally become enthusiastic about it.
Tell me about a moment when you encountered a challenge and had to alter your strategy. The core of a startup is reinventing itself when faced with obstacles.
Tell me about a moment when you eliminated yourself from a position at work. They've demonstrated they can permanently solve one issue and develop into a new one, as stated above.
Why do you want to leave X position or Y duty? These people ought to be moving forward, not backward, all the time. Instead, they will discuss what they are looking forward to visiting your location.
Any questions? Due to their inherent curiosity and desire to learn new things, they should practically never run out of questions. You can really tell if they are sufficiently curious at this point.
People who see their success as being the same as the success of the organization are the best-case team members, in any market. They’ll grow and change with the company, and always try to prioritize what matters. You’ll find yourself more energized by your work because you’re surrounded by others who are as well. Happy teambuilding!