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.

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.

Startup Challenge, Week 8 – The End (of the Beginning)

 

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We developed our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We decided to launch the week of 10/8 – 10/14

Now, for the newest updates:

 

Post Analysis

The work that we’ve been building up to for eight weeks is finally done! On Tuesday, October 9th at approximately 10:30am, the first official season of BOYS DON’T CRY LLC launched. At the end of the day I’m glad it got done – and I’m also glad that the shirts actually turned out relatively good. Anyway, since this is a pretty small launch, there’s not a lot of analysis to go over, but I did promise it and so we are going to go through a few points.

Sales and Traction

Our total number of sales for the first week of the launch is an epic, phenomenal, whopping… zero. Which, if you’ve ever launched something for the first time (like I have) more than not that’s what’s to be expected. Unless you’ve gotten previous traction (or have a budget, like I did not), more often than not you’re in it for the long game. I knew this going in, so there’s very little disappointment here – overall my prediction for December 31st is to have at least 2-3 sales.

What’s really impressive here is how much traction the BDC twitter got in such a short time. Using some simple growth strategies, BDC broke 100 followers about twice as fast as the Astukagaming twitter did. In terms of other statistics, we got about 2.4k impressions over the month (pretty standard from what I can tell) and got about a 6.6% engagement rate which is actually really nice. And yet, I still see something to be desired…

Throughout the process of BDC, I felt a little confused as to who my target audience should specifically be. I started off targeting people who were followers of Redbubble and other related shops, but these tended to be other creators and thus had much more trepidation in following and sharing BDC. So instead, I decided to go for luxury brands… people who were interested in things such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. etc. And while this gave us our current stats, I do wonder how willing these people would be to buy Redbubble designs. So… who should be the target audience of BDC?

Lessons Learned

This takes us into lessons for the next season. First of all, I think experimentation with finding perfect product fit is key here, and I don’t think anyone would disagree. Luxury brands somewhat work, because the buyers are willing and designs are relatively similar, but many members of this audience buy luxury brands solely due to prestige, not design. What I’d like to target is individuals who are love good designs but at the same time wish to go cheap.

I also think doing some tests on performing discounts in the future would be interesting – the “limited time” methodology tends to have high success in fashion and so I’d like to test it for the shop. Finally, I think continuing to build traction is also very important. Staying consistent with promotion and growth is definitely something I want to do going forward.

Looking Forward

And so while Season 2 probably won’t come any time soon (I have a heaping of other projects I have to get on), I’ll continue with passively marketing BDC as well as experimenting with the things that I had mentioned. I think overall there was a lot to get out of this project even though it wasn’t tech specific, and so I’m glad it happened.

Anyway, that’s really it for now. As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter, which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.

Startup Challenge, Week 7 – The Launch

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Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

 

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We continued to develop our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We struggled to find some time to work on the project

Now, for the newest updates:

 

It’s all done

So this is probably two weeks overdue, but the most important part is that we finally got to the point where all shirts are now finalized! Will they look good on a person? No idea, the designs are only simulated – but they appear that they’d look good, so I think it’s now time to get passed the product stage and on to our final stage: launch.

It’s clear that my window for launch is either this week or next week. I know that, personally, I won’t be available from Friday Oct. 5 to Tuesday Oct. 9. Now the question is whether I should do it before the break or after the break…

Benefits of before: I get it out fast and wake up to the results on Tuesday. Benefits of after: I can spend even more time refining and answer any questions that might arise as soon as I get them. It seems like my natural (though limited) entrepreneurial experience is telling me to go for the latter; it might be more time to wait for a launch, but at this point I think the only person who is anxious about it is me, so the further delay shouldn’t affect anything.

As you could probably tell by the dates which I won’t be available, there will be no blog post next week. Instead, the week after that, we’ll do a post-launch roundup as well as some key takeaways and next steps for the launch.

Anyway, that’s really it for now. As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter , which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.

Startup Challenge, Week 6 – Slow Gains

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Photo by Joel Magenta Mathey on Unsplash. A tortoise, because tortoises are slow (also, what’s the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? Is there one?)

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We began to develop our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We began to prep for the Season 1 launch

Now, for the newest updates:

Slow… but Steady?

Alright, this is probably going to be a super short blogpost. Reason being is that, well… I didn’t actually get anything done this week. And I don’t mean I didn’t get anything done in general (trust me, I got a LOT done) it’s just that when it came to simple priority, the startup wasn’t high on my list… take that as you will. My reasoning for it is that right now separating attention from the startup isn’t really going to kill it; the twitter account is still gaining followers, and we don’t really have any customers or product yet to manage. Whereas when it comes to other things on my calendar, they have a much greater make or break capacity. So even though there will be a point where I’ll have to put in much longer and more consistent hours into the startup, right now it appears totally fine to keep it on the backburner for at least a little bit.

There is good news out of this, however, and it is that my schedule is finally normalized! Yup; no weird, out of place 8pm meetings anymore. Everything set on my calendar now should be like that til at least the end of the semester, which means that I can more easily devote time to BDC. Which means that (and this is TENTATIVE) hopefully the launch will be at the end of this week! Pretty much everything product wise is exactly how I left it last week; there’s just three minor edits I need to make, and then we’re ready for launch. Let’s hope things go smoothly from there.

Anyway, that’s really it for now. As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter, which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.

Startup Challenge, Week 5 – A Bit of a Break

pete-bellis-434725-unsplash

Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash. I don’t make sunglasses but I’m running out of pictures so here we are.

 

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We began to develop our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We decided that we would delay our launch from Week 4 to Weeks 5-6.

Now, for the newest updates:


Some Leeway

 I’ve made quite a few products on Redbubble in the past, and there’s always one constant; whatever you make, no matter how much you follow the steps, still doesn’t look good. A decal is always cut off on a shirt, or a line of text is way too small no matter how much you try to fix it.

However, with the launch of BDC, it looks like Life (just this once) wanted to give me a solid. For the first time in my entire history of using this site, all of the shirts in rough draft form look totally fine on the shirt, which is kind of crazy. The only real final draft edits that need to be made is in re-aligning the image to look best on the shirt, which is something that pretty much always happens, and is pretty easy to fix.

Overall, I’m thinking things look positive for a launch sometime next week. All I really need to do now is find some time to make those small adjustments. As for marketing, things are beginning to speed up, which I’m happy about; the one good thing about the constant delays is that, since we’re getting new followers on the Twitter page every day, we have just a bit more traction for launch.

Right before launch, I also just want to do a pre-test of sorts where I predict our total amount of interest and sales from the launch and see if it matches up to what is reality. I’ve done quite a few creative-based launches in the past (some much bigger than this) so I do wonder if I’ve actually learned anything by this point.

Anyway, that’s really it for now. As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter, which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.

30DayStartup, Week 3 — The Ramp-up

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This is an Unsplash image by rawpixel. For some reason, it won’t let me copy the source this time.

Previously on the 30DayStartup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We decided that our marketing would be through a new twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc) and through my own instagram account.
  • We decided that we would launch at the end of the fourth week, which is now getting uncomfortably close.

Now, for the newest updates:

Design: Things are Rough

Things aren’t rough literally speaking (well, not yet at least); they’re rough as in the first few rough drafts of season 1 t-shirts are now finished! These designs still need to be optimized for Redbubble prints, but they’re successful translations from the concept art. As of now I have 3 shirts still in concept stage, 3 rough drafts, and 0 final drafts. This may or may not be good progress for launch (which is coming up now in two weeks), but I guess we’ll find out.

This has also made me wonder about how the season 1 launch should go in general. Should it be incremental, with say a new shirt arriving every week til the end of the season, or released all at once? Things to think about…

Marketing: A Slow but Steady Climb

As for Twitter, things are going… smoothly. I guess. It’s been awhile since I got my AG twitter (@astukagaming) up from 10 to 370+ followers. As far as I know, I’m following the same strategy and so we should be seeing some major boosts coming in soon. Will the boosts come in time for launch? Probably not… but I don’t think that matters. Besides, we still need to do the work of converting followers into buyers, which will be a challenge all its own.

 

So that’s about all my progress for this past week, and it’s what I’m focusing on. This next week will likely be dedicated to getting everything into rough draft form and beginning to convert to final, as well as keeping up the twitter work. As always, feel free to follow this blog if you wish to see more, or follow me on twitter (@astukari) for more updates on progress.