The Cofounder Advantage

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Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

When running a startup, it traditionally isn’t recommended that you go it alone. A lot of work is required — typically too much for any one person — and a lot of different skill-sets are needed that is more likely to be dispersed across a large team rather than in one person’s hands (See: You Can’t Do It All Alone). However, there’s another key, non-obvious advantage to having a cofounder that I wanted to go over in this blogpost.

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You Can’t Do It All Alone

We talk a lot about both diversification and diversity, yet describe them as if they’re fundamentally different concepts. However, I don’t think the diversification we might talk about over investing is all too different from the diversity we talk about in the corporate field. Both come with the same major advantage; an advantage that follows around the fact that you can’t do it all alone.

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The Most Important Indicator on Why a Company Succeeds

 

 

I’ve been spending a lot of time as of late trying to determine patterns within successful products that I’ve seen, and I think I’ve finally found one that summarizes each of them pretty well. It’s quite simple, but I think there’s a lot of nuance to be developed here that would set this up to be a sophisticated theory. In this blog post, I want to lay down the fundamentals on how each new successful product brings the world towards convenience.

The baseline thesis for this is actually quite an obvious statement: every successful product/invention made the world just a little bit easier. No one should make products to enforce the status quo — and especially not to make things worse — and yet, there is a difference between having things be somewhat better versus fully better. In order to truly be successful, products must develop ease of access on all fronts, i.e. they must be convenient for the users, and the producers, and anyone who would be interacting with it on a daily occasion. For example, Uber has two main consumers: the actual users/riders, and the producers/drivers. In order for Uber to have been a successful product, it had to improve convenience for the user by making the ride ordering process easy, as well as improve it for the producer by making the ability to connect to new riders easily. If you only get one part of this equation right, then there’s going to be problems later down the line; especially if someone else ends up perfecting the equation before you.

So, in order to get the tech right and nail down the convenience factor, optimally two things need to happen: the tech needs to be mature, and it needs to be handled by people inside and out. Optimally, you would want a good team to come in just right before the tech is mature enough to get the largest amount of market share, but timing this can be quite difficult. “Maturity” is also a pretty esoteric concept that would have different definitions for each type of tech, though I believe it could be simply summarized as the point where the positives deeply outweight the negatives. For example, I would say VR tech hasn’t reached the point of maturity; there’s still a lot of problems with price point, mobility, and long-term use that need to be solved in order for it to start breaking through to a larger market. Smartphones, however, would be considered a mature technology, since it has gotten to the point where you can easily say that smartphones are on almost all fronts more convenient than the flip phones and landlines of yore. This follows as to why the team behind the product is so important; they were the early adopters and would know exactly what the tech needs in order for it to be successfully maturized. Tech can only be convenient when it is mature.

I also think that developing additions to already mature tech is silly. A new camera on a phone isn’t going to get me enough of a convenience factor to justify buying it over the phone I’m already using. In order to make big leaps in profit, you have to make big leaps in innovation (and hence, big leaps in convenience), otherwise you’re essentially fighting over the scraps.

I also don’t think the profit model has to necessarily be connected to the tech. Google is a great example of this; their convenience factor is obviously Search, allowing the access to the internet to be more convenient by making its pages easy to access. But Google doesn’t make money on Search; they make money on Search Ads, which really isn’t that much bigger of a leap. Same thing can be said with Facebook; selling data doesn’t provide an insane convenience factor, but allowing for an easier way for people across the world to communicate and share with each other is.

Speaking of selling data, there’s also a lot of problems that come alongside developing towards convenience, things such as privacy and socialization. I believe that these problems will likely be solved by convenience tech down the line (for example, a maturized blockchain could be an answer to the data problem) but I also think we need to be careful not to step back and lose convenience by trying to solve these problems; the only way to get people to pay attention is by moving forward, not moving back.

 

Examples

Since I personally believe a lot of what I’m saying is pretty esoteric without concrete examples, I wanted to add an appendix to this post that goes over some of the biggest companies in the world as of now and why they would suit this hypothesis.

  • Apple: Building maturity on products to increase convenience factor is pretty much in Apple’s DNA, whether it be from PARC -> Apple II or early models of smart phones -> iPhone.
  • Soylent: Making meals more convenient. I would say Soylent is not mature yet, simply because the shakes themselves are lacking in a key concept: flavor. If I want to fully switch over to liquid meals, those liquid meals better taste good.
  • Tesla: Making electric cars more convenient than gas cars. There’s still a couple of problems I have with this however; I don’t think the team is right, and I also don’t think that the jump from gas -> electric is a major innovation in terms of cars (a major innovation in convenience would probably be closer to self-driving, which to be fair Tesla is also working on). Electric charger stations are also going to be a maturity issue.
  • Ebay: Making the C2C marketplace more convenient.
  • Amazon: Making the B2C marketplace more convenient. You could also give Amazon Marketplace credit for C2C, but I don’t think this counts; one of the major reasons AM is so big is probably more due to the size of Amazon itself.
  • Netflix: Making TV more convenient.
  • Spotify: Making music more convenient. Good to note that Apple was the previous company to make music more convenient with the invention of iTunes, but Spotify’s streaming capabilities was great enough to innovate the tech to the next level of convenience.
  • Nike: I think Nike is a bit more of a targeted case for convenience; it didn’t make everyone’s life more convenient, just that of the runner. From there, others followed. Proves that it’s still worth it to have a niche!
  • Walmart: Making grab-n-go shopping more convenient by having everything you’d want at the lowest possible price.
  • Coca-Cola: This one was a hard one for me to figure out, primarily because Coca-Cola was invented to long ago that it’s harder to tell how things were before it. However, I think Coke’s main strength was that it made beverages more convenient by adding multiple different features of beverages (caffeinated, carbonated, refreshing, tastes good) into one single product. I’m not sure if I’m entirely satisfied with that answer, however. It could’ve also simply been the carbonation factor, which would have pulled it ahead of something like tea (which has all of the other 3 traits).
  • McDonalds: Making food more convenient. Does this mean that McDonalds is in direct competition with Soylent? 🤔

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do higher quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

State of the Union 2018

Well, since it’s about the holiday season and I don’t know anyone who’s going to be out reading blogposts, I’ve decided to make one that is more for myself than anything else. A long time ago, I used to write these “State of the Union” posts at the beginning of each year that would go over what I planned to do for that year, as well as going over last year’s goals for what did/didn’t work. Not sure why I stopped; in my opinion, it’s still a pretty good idea. That is exactly why I’m going to try to bring it back with this post. Since I don’t have any goals to go over for last year, I’ll start this fresh by giving some new goals for 2019.

The Blog/Website

I definitely want to get back to writing on a weekly basis, and I’ve already started it back up a bit as of recently. I think the most important thing content wise for the blog is just to keep the posting consistent for all 52 weeks of next year; a feat I’ve never been able to accomplish, but would love to finally hit.

In terms of actual data on views and followers, it looks like the website has around 18 followers with 137 views for the year (and 76 unique visitors). As I began posting weekly only in September, I’d like to see an approximately 4x increase in these numbers for next year (correlating with the other 3-month periods). So, let’s go for ~550 views, ~300 visitors, and ~70 followers added on for next year. For the Medium blog, we currently have 370 views, 203 reads, and 7 fans. So, let’s apply the same logic as last time, and go for 1,480 views, ~820 reads, and ~30 fans.

Astukari & Friends

For the podcast, I think qualitatively I’d like to pin a solid structure for the show down and start consistently getting ~1 hour episodes in every week. When it comes to collecting data, this is a bit harder to pin down; there’s about 172 views in total for the new series for far, with 26 episodes (that’s an average 6.6 views per YT podcast). In contrast, the original AstukaGaming podcast had about 808 views with 36 episodes, bringing it at 22.4 average views per podcast. This increase can be seen due to a couple of more popular videos in the bunch as well as (I believe) the fact that the podcast was a YT exclusive compared to Astukari & Friends which is not just on YT but also on Twitch and Podbean. Incorporating Podbean views, we have 341 additional plays for a total of 513, bringing the average up to 19.7.

For next year, I’d like to see this average increase to go beyond the average views per podcast of the original. I feel like this is definitely possible – AG was around for two years with minimal advertising, vs. A&F which has only been around for a few months with some more focus on tagging – and I’ll try to keep best practices forward when it comes to the podcast and hopefully due to this we’ll see an average increase.

Social Media

There’s a few major focuses on the social media front: We have LinkedIn, my personal Twitter, the AG + BDC Twitters, and my Instagram. Honestly, not too sure what I want to do with the AstukaGaming twitter anymore, but it does have around 330 followers so I figure I might as well use it to retweet some of my other content. I feel like advertising LinkedIn content has been pretty helpful so far, so I’m not really interested in cutting it off either; though I don’t really have any defined goals set in place for it. That leaves the personal Twitter, BDC Twitter, and Instagram.

For the Instagram, my follower count has been levitating right over the 190 – 200 range for a few months now, and I’d love to break that sometime soon. To be fair I haven’t been posting as regularly recently, and that has caused it to fall into the 180s, but at the same time I feel like if I have to post on there every single day I’m going to go crazy, so I’m going to at least one post every week or so. For the BDC twitter, I’m not quite sure what I want; it’s been a few months since Season 1, and so I’ve mostly been advertising my podcast and blog content on there. However, as I prep for Season 2 (which I’ll go more in detail about in the “Other Projects” section) I’ll try to post specifically BDC content. Finally, for the personal Twitter, my main goal is focused on getting the follower count up to 200. It seems to have been increasing pretty nicely by itself, so I plan on adding a bit more advertising of it to content as well as using it more actively.

New Book

In terms of big projects, another book is on the way. This will not be a compilation piece like the one released a few years back, but rather a brand new full-length piece. I don’t have much to share about this just yet since I only just finished the first round draft of planning (not writing), but I’ll put out a tentative release date of summer 2020. More information on this can be expected soon.

BDC LLC

As I mentioned before, BDC Season 2 will be coming at some point; likely around November 2019, which will match up to about a year after Season 1. In the meantime, I plan on throwing on a few sales (or perhaps inter-Season shirts) and advertising them on the BDC twitter to try to get some more sales in. No specific milestones for this one either – just want to see what ends up cookin’.

Well, that’s all for now. As always, check out my personal Twitter for more content in the future!

Analysis of “Hustler Culture”

 

 

It’s true; the key to success is, for the most part, hard work. But there’s a difference between working hard and doing hard work. Just because you devote a lot of time to something doesn’t inherently mean that you’re going to perform well in that category. And yet, it seems that a lot of what the modern “hustle culture” values are long hours and back-breaking work above all.

If you’ve followed any startup community for long enough you’ve definitely come across the hustlers; individuals who are convinced that caffeinated 100-hour work weeks, constant social media blitzes, and product rushing are the keys to success in the modern business world. And while I can see that their heart comes from the right place and that this somewhat holds to be true, what we end up getting is a bunch of people walking around who are much more obnoxious than they are motivational. This is primarily because many of these so-called hustlers go around spewing the virtues of hustling while not really understanding anything that they’re saying.

This, I believe, comes from the commodification of “the hustle” based on individuals such as Gary Vaynerchuk and company. Now, I don’t actually have anything against GaryVee, and I do understand the motivational importance of his videos, but when describing the same five “hustling principles” over and over again without elaborating too much, I believe it can easily confuse people who only take those principles at their surface level without actually looking at all into “Hey, do I really need to spend 100 hours a week working on this project?” or “Hey, is answering five Quora posts a day really helping my business?”.

The problem with this I believe comes from a more intrinsic issue with people themselves. It is easier for people to just have an answer given to them rather than for them to have to say “Well, it’s more complicated than that”. People thrive on simplicity, and so if you tell them “just work a really long and stressful amount of time and you’ll reach your goals”, they’ll believe it regardless of how dumb it sounds. Now, is this innately the “hustler”’s fault? I don’t think so. But something all founders should keep in mind is that there’s no shortcut to success.

Looking into the Future of Tesla

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This is in fact not from Unsplash.

 
Ah, Tesla. Without a doubt the most controversial company I have seen in my young career. For each person who I’ve seen who is against Tesla, there is another that is for it. For this blog post, I wanted to go over Tesla in detail, discussing both sides of the argument and then coming to conclusions as to which endpoint seems more probable. If you’ve seen my podcast , you know that I’ve already discussed this very much in depth; however, I felt it was appropriate to sit down and compile all the pieces together.
 

The For Side

There’s no questioning that Tesla is in the hearts of a lot of people as a bastion not only for the automotive industry but for business in general. There is definitely a lot of clamors for Tesla to pull through as a company, and although that can equate to sales, it doesn’t necessarily equate to sales. That said, Tesla has recently pulled through into profitability, with their most recent fiscal report showcasing that the production of cars has finally caught up with demand. This is massive; most companies that move from the negative cash flow stage to the positive cash flow stage tend to go on to be in it for the long run. While one quarter of positive net income doesn’t mean sustainable positive cash flow, it still is definitely something to celebrate.
 
Another pro-Tesla argument I’ve been hearing has been the comparison of Tesla to early Amazon, where investors and other business-types were bearish on the company ended up being extraordinarily wrong. To be honest, I’m a bit skeptical of this argument. I have a hard time equating an electric car company with an internet e-commerce service. Certainly, both used unorthodox methods of growth, but I don’t know if that’s enough to equate the two. Still, time has yet to tell on this one, and it could easily end up becoming true.
 

The Against Side

One particularly interesting thing I’ve noticed about the demographics of the two sides of this argument is that the people who are against Tesla tend to have much more experience in finance and business. Does this make them more credible? Perhaps, but before we conclude that we should first consider what they’re saying in the first place.
The first big argument against Tesla is in its lofty goals. Tesla’s overall mission statement and process isn’t really something anyone has ever been able to accomplish before, and so far (with the exception of that recent report) it doesn’t really seem like they’re getting anywhere close to accomplishing it. If anything, its just created a lot of stress for Tesla employees, who are desperately trying to create a market while industry heavyweights like GM and Nissan can easily scoop in with their resources. Sure electric cars are a new market, but it’s not that outwardly of a new market, and veteran players won’t have much trouble in adapting to it.
The second argument is probably the biggest one that Tesla is currently facing; it’s the investigations. A few months ago the SEC began a civil probe into Tesla after Elon Musk claimed that funding was secured to take the company private at $420. This probe ended up being cut off short, as Musk took a generous civil settlement which lobbed both him and Tesla with a mild fine and kicked him off the Board of Directors for three years. This seems like the razing of a bullet if anything; depending on the board’s current disposition for Musk, they are likely just to put a stand-in in his place. Shortly after this occurred, however, an FBI criminal investigation was started which appears to have been heating up recently. As of last week, this investigation expanded past the take-private case and into the scrutiny of the production goals and numbers given in earnings reports in the past. From this, numerous former Tesla employees were questioned, as well as appear to still be being questioned. The fate of the FBI case remains uncertain.
 

Conclusions

Naturally, I hedge on the side of caution. I do believe that there is more fundamental evidence on the side opposing Tesla, but at the same time, I do find it hard to believe that such a large company could collapse solely due to missing a few production quotas. However, that belief only stays assuming that the investigations go nowhere, as there are plenty of large companies that have fallen overnight due to criminal investigations. So, I think as of now it’s a relatively 50/50 shot that changes based on that very investigation. It is one hundred percent true, I believe, that Tesla right now is at a crossroads that will decide its fate as a company; if it could make it past this then it can make it past anything, but if it can’t, then its likely that we aren’t going to be hearing too much from it anymore in a few years.
 
Have your own Tesla argument that wasn’t mentioned in this post? Feel free to post it in the comments below. Like this post? Then I encourage you to follow the blog as well as my Twitter, where you can keep up to date on all my new stuff.