More on Leadership
9 months ago
Understanding several Value Proposition kinds will help you create better goods.
Fixing problems isn't enough.
Numerous articles and how-to guides on value propositions focus on fixing consumer concerns.
Contrary to popular opinion, addressing customer pain rarely suffices. Win your market category too.
Core Value Statement
Value proposition usually means a product's main value.
Its how your product solves client problems. The product's core.
Answering these questions creates a relevant core value proposition:
What tasks is your customer trying to complete? (Jobs for clients)
How much discomfort do they feel while they perform this? (pains)
What would they like to see improved or changed? (gains)
After that, you create products and services that alleviate those pains and give value to clients.
Value Proposition by Category
Your product belongs to a market category and must follow its regulations, regardless of its value proposition.
Creating a new market category is challenging. Fitting into customers' product perceptions is usually better than trying to change them.
New product users simplify market categories. Products are labeled.
Your product will likely be associated with a collection of products people already use.
Example: IT experts will use your communication and management app.
If your target clients think it's an advanced mail software, they'll compare it to others and expect things like:
adequate storage space
list of contacts
If your target users view your product as a task management app, things change. You can survive without a contact list, but not status management.
Find out what your customers compare your product to and if it fits your value offer. If so, adapt your product plan to dominate this market. If not, try different value propositions and messaging to put the product in the right context.
Finished Value Proposition
A comprehensive value proposition is when your solution addresses user problems and wins its market category.
Addressing simply the primary value proposition may produce a valuable and original product, but it may struggle to cross the chasm into the mainstream market. Meeting expectations is easier than changing views.
Without a unique value proposition, you will drown in the red sea of competition.
Find out who your target consumer is and what their demands and problems are.
To meet these needs, develop and test a primary value proposition.
Speak with your most devoted customers. Recognize the alternatives they use to compare you against and the market segment they place you in.
Recognize the requirements and expectations of the market category.
To meet or surpass category standards, modify your goods.
Great products solve client problems and win their category.
8 months ago
Is it bad of me to want our portfolio companies to generate greater returns for outside investors than they did for us as venture capitalists?
Wishing for Lasting Companies, Not Penny Stocks or Goodwill Write-Downs
Get me a NASCAR-style company-logoed cremation urn (notice to the executor of my will, theres gonna be a lot of weird requests). I believe in working on projects that would be on your tombstone. As the Homebrew logo is tattooed on my shoulder, expanding the portfolio to my posthumous commemoration is easy. But this isn't an IRR victory lap; it's a hope that the firms we worked for would last beyond my lifetime.
Venture investors too often take credit or distance themselves from startups based on circumstances. Successful companies tell stories of crucial introductions, strategy conversations, and other value. Defeats Even whether our term involves Board service or systematic ethical violations, I'm just a little investment, so there's not much I can do. Since I'm guilty, I'm tossing stones from within the glass home (although we try to own our decisions through the lifecycle).
Post-exit company trajectories are usually unconfounded. Off the cap table, no longer a shareholder (or a diminishing one as you sell off/distribute), eventually leaving the Board. You can cheer for the squad or forget about it, but you've freed the corporation and it's back to portfolio work.
As I look at the downward track of most SPACs and other tarnished IPOs from the last few years, I wonder how I would feel if those were my legacy. Is my job done? Yes. When investing in a business, the odds are against it surviving, let alone thriving and being able to find sunlight. SPAC sponsors, institutional buyers, retail investments. Free trade in an open market is their right. Risking and losing capital is the system working! But
We were lead or co-lead investors in our first three funds, but as additional VCs joined the company, we were pushed down the cap table. Voting your shares rarely matters; supporting the firm when they need it does. Being valuable, consistent, and helping the company improve builds trust with the founders.
I hope every startup we sponsor becomes a successful public company before, during, and after we benefit. My perspective of American capitalism. Well, a stock ticker has a lot of garbage, and I support all types of regulation simplification (in addition to being a person investor in the Long-Term Stock Exchange). Yet being owned by a large group of investors and making actual gains for them is great. Likewise does seeing someone you met when they were just starting out become a public company CEO without losing their voice, leadership, or beliefs.
I'm just thinking about what we can do from the start to realize value from our investments and build companies with bright futures. Maybe seed venture financing shouldn't impact those outcomes, but I'm not comfortable giving up that obligation.
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!
You might also like
10 months ago
The Age of Decentralized Capitalism and DeFi
DeCap is DeFi's killer app.
“Software is eating the world.” Marc Andreesen, venture capitalist
DeFi. Imagine a blockchain-based alternative financial system that offers the same products and services as traditional finance, but with more variety, faster, more secure, lower cost, and simpler access.
Decentralised finance (DeFi) is a marketplace without gatekeepers or central authority managing the flow of money, where customers engage directly with smart contracts running on a blockchain.
DeFi grew exponentially in 2020/21, with Total Value Locked (an inadequate estimate for market size) topping at $100 billion. After that, it crashed.
The accumulation of funds by individuals with high discretionary income during the epidemic, the novelty of crypto trading, and the high yields given (5% APY for stablecoins on established platforms to 100%+ for risky assets) are among the primary elements explaining this exponential increase.
No longer your older brothers DeFi
Since transactions are anonymous, borrowers had to overcollateralize DeFi 1.0. To borrow $100 in stablecoins, you must deposit $150 in ETH. DeFi 1.0's business strategy raises two problems.
Why does DeFi offer interest rates that are higher than those of the conventional financial system?;
Why would somebody put down more cash than they intended to borrow?
Maxed out on their own resources, investors took loans to acquire more crypto; the demand for those loans raised DeFi yields, which kept crypto prices increasing; as crypto prices rose, investors made a return on their positions, allowing them to deposit more money and borrow more crypto.
This is a bull market game. DeFi 1.0's overcollateralization speculation is dead. Cryptocrash sank it.
The “speculation by overcollateralisation” world of DeFi 1.0 is dead
At a JP Morgan digital assets conference, institutional investors were more interested in DeFi than crypto or fintech. To me, that shows DeFi 2.0's institutional future.
DeFi 2.0 protocols must handle KYC/AML, tax compliance, market abuse, and cybersecurity problems to be institutional-ready.
Stablecoins gaining market share under benign regulation and more CBDCs coming online in the next couple of years could help DeFi 2.0 separate from crypto volatility.
DeFi 2.0 will have a better footing to finally decouple from crypto volatility
Then we can transition from speculation through overcollateralization to DeFi's genuine comparative advantages: cheaper transaction costs, near-instant settlement, more efficient price discovery, faster time-to-market for financial innovation, and a superior audit trail.
Akin to Amazon for financial goods
Amazon decimated brick-and-mortar shops by offering millions of things online, warehouses by keeping just-in-time inventory, and back-offices by automating invoicing and payments. Software devoured retail. DeFi will eat banking with software.
DeFi is the Amazon for financial items that will replace fintech. Even the most advanced internet brokers offer only 100 currency pairings and limited bonds, equities, and ETFs.
Old banks settlement systems and inefficient, hard-to-upgrade outdated software harm them. For advanced gamers, it's like driving an F1 vehicle on dirt.
It is like driving a F1 car on a dirt road, for the most sophisticated players
Central bankers throughout the world know how expensive and difficult it is to handle cross-border payments using the US dollar as the reserve currency, which is vulnerable to the economic cycle and geopolitical tensions.
Decentralization is the only method to deliver 24h global financial markets. DeFi 2.0 lets you buy and sell startup shares like Google or Tesla. VC funds will trade like mutual funds. Or create a bundle coverage for your car, house, and NFTs. Defi 2.0 consumes banking and creates Global Wall Street.
Defi 2.0 is how software eats banking and delivers the global Wall Street
Decentralized Capitalism is Emerging
90% of markets are digital. 10% is hardest to digitalize. That's money creation, ID, and asset tokenization.
90% of financial markets are already digital. The only problem is that the 10% left is the hardest to digitalize
Debt helped Athens construct a powerful navy that secured trade routes. Bonds financed the Renaissance's wars and supply chains. Equity fueled industrial growth. FX drove globalization's payments system. DeFi's plans:
If the 20th century was a conflict between governments and markets over economic drivers, the 21st century will be between centralized and decentralized corporate structures.
Offices vs. telecommuting. China vs. onshoring/friendshoring. Oil & gas vs. diverse energy matrix. National vs. multilateral policymaking. DAOs vs. corporations Fiat vs. crypto. TradFi vs.
An age where the network effects of the sharing economy will overtake the gains of scale of the monopolistic competition economy
This is the dawn of Decentralized Capitalism (or DeCap), an age where the network effects of the sharing economy will reach a tipping point and surpass the scale gains of the monopolistic competition economy, further eliminating inefficiencies and creating a more robust economy through better data and automation. DeFi 2.0 enables this.
DeFi needs to pay the piper now.
DeCap won't be Web3.0's Shangri-La, though. That's too much for an ailing Atlas. When push comes to shove, DeFi folks want to survive and fight another day for the revolution. If feasible, make a tidy profit.
Decentralization wasn't meant to circumvent regulation. It circumvents censorship. On-ramp, off-ramp measures (control DeFi's entry and exit points, not what happens in between) sound like a good compromise for DeFi 2.0.
The sooner authorities realize that DeFi regulation is made ex-ante by writing code and constructing smart contracts with rules, the faster DeFi 2.0 will become the more efficient and safe financial marketplace.
More crucially, we must boost system liquidity. DeFi's financial stability risks are downplayed. DeFi must improve its liquidity management if it's to become mainstream, just as banks rely on capital constraints.
This reveals the complex and, frankly, inadequate governance arrangements for DeFi protocols. They redistribute control from tokenholders to developers, which is bad governance regardless of the economic model.
But crypto can only ride the existing banking system for so long before forming its own economy. DeFi will upgrade web2.0's financial rails till then.
1 year 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
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.
1 year 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:
- An investment of money
- n a common enterprise
- With the expectation of profit
- 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."
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
Read original post.