I never understood the appeal of shooting with film rangefinders. It’s cumbersome, you have a limited number of shots per roll, and worst of all, you don’t know whether the shot came out well until you develop the film.
Kane was generous enough to equip me with a roll of Lomography film (I forget which exactly) to start off, ISO 800 I believe, so there was more leeway in light metering at the expense of grain. Off I went.
I had watched videos of manual focusing on a rangefinder, but it was definitely more difficult in practice. You can see that some of the photos I took are poorly focused.
Over time I started to do zone focusing which required me to actually understand intuitively the concept of depth of field, something that most digital cameras these days do automatically.
The benefit of this was twofold. First was an appreciation for the mechanics of what was going on behind the scenes in an autofocus camera. Second was that I could use zone focusing to take candid street photos much quicker, since I didn’t have to compose, wait for autofocus, then shoot. With zone focusing, all I had to do was compose and shoot, knowing that the subject was within the depth of field and therefore already in focus.
This was probably the most difficult adjustment for me, the setting that I most take for granted on my digital camera, because I mostly just shoot aperture priority, where it automatically determines the shutter speed based on an aperture setting.
In order to set the correct shutter speed, I used an app on my phone, and over the course of the roll of film, I found myself starting to intuitively know what shutter speed setting to shoot at, given the lighting conditions and aperture setting.
That is, until I realized halfway through the roll of film that, due to a bug on my HTC One M8, the light metering app I was using was metering using the front-facing camera rather than the back, so I was metering my face instead of the subject. I panicked (no live preview of photos, remember?!), but luckily this didn’t seem to affect the end result too much.
So why is understanding light useful? Now when I shoot with my digital camera, I find that there are scenarios where the shutter speed automatically determined by the camera is not ideal. Knowing how to quickly change the shutter speed has helped me get the shot more times than before.
Will I keep shooting film?
I will still shoot primarily with my Fuji mirrorless camera, but I started to understand why people love film so much. The Nikon S2 is a beautiful piece of machinery. The thing works like clockwork, doesn’t need batteries, and is just reliable.
In terms of shooting, I found myself slowing down, appreciating each shot more, because not only was the roll of film limited, but also I had to manually set the settings each time. In a world where you can shoot multiple gigabytes of photos, post them all on Instagram, or have them disappear on Snapchat, it’s nice to create a photo that you feel ownership of.
As soon as I dropped of this roll of film to be developed, I immediately bought a second roll, this time Kodak Porta 400, my favorite VSCO film simulation.
I’ve heard so many good things about the breathtaking beauty of Big Sur, and I finally had the chance to visit. The first thing I realized is that it’s so easy to drive down Highway 1 without knowing that you’re in Big Sur. Most of the turnoffs we made off the highway were unmarked and hard to find. A bunch of the turnoffs were closed because of a landslide, which was disappointing, so I’ll definitely be back.
I went on a photowalk on the High Line hosted by Marc Barros and some great photographers to try out the Moment Lens. The first two photos are shot with the 18mm wide and the latter three are shot with the 60mm tele, with some post-processing done in VSCO. The first photo was shot with the LongExpo app on the iPhone, set on Bulb mode.
Airbnb recently rebranded, and while the logo has gotten the most attention (criticism), I think what is more interesting is their new marketing effort called Create Airbnb, where they encourage their customers to tell the stories behind the homes they share on Airbnb. I found this interesting for a few reasons.
The human is mightier than the transaction
Keeping with the “bed & breakfast” brand, it emphasizes that you’re sharing a home with a human, not booking a hotel through a faceless transaction. As Airbnb moves closer to going head to head with the hotel industry, it becomes more important to emphasize why you would choose an Airbnb apartment over a hotel.
By getting to know the humans behind the place you’re staying, you can live like a local, and act like you’re in the know.
It created champions out of their customers
By giving Airbnb hosts tools to promote themselves and aligning their interests, Airbnb has created a way for them to advertise for Airbnb essentially for free.
When Foursquare first launched, one of their greatest assets was their army of Superusers, who would add and edit venue data for free, in exchange for prestige and status.
It created a new type of “content marketing”
The best content is the natural output of a vibrant community, of people who actually care about the cause. By providing their community with tools to express themselves, Airbnb creates content that they couldn’t have created themselves. The Create Airbnb campaign becomes a vessel for personality.
I had a chance to try out the new Moment Lens by Marc Barros. Marc has a ton of experience building hardware imaging peripherals so I was excited to see what the lenses could do.
The pitch is that, if the best camera is the one you have with you, then a set of lenses to augment the built-in camera capabilities will enable a whole new world of photography not possible before through a camera phone.
The two lenses I tried were an 18mm wide angle lens and a 60mm telephoto lens. (The iPhone camera itself is close to a 35mm focal length.)
The Best Design is Opinionated and Has Low Cognitive Load
The best software has a vision. The best software takes sides. When someone uses software, they’re not just looking for features, they’re looking for an approach. They’re looking for a vision. Decide what your vision is and run with it.
– Jason Fried, Founder of 37signals, Getting Real
It’s not a novel idea that simplicity of product is incredibly important to crafting a compelling user experience. My partner Andy talks about getting that one thing right.
However, for many products, this message seems to be lost in translation. There is a gap between the idea of simplicity and actual execution of simplicity.
I had a call with a founder last week who said all the right things:
"We think about user experience constantly… We want to make the product as simple as possible… I want to emphasize this is our minimum viable product…"
Unfortunately, the product was anything but that. It was so complex and overthought that my brain shut down, a victim of cognitive overload.
Cognitive load is how mentally taxing a task is on a finite reservoir of decision making power. John Tierney in The New York Times Magazine described the result of high cognitive load as decision fatigue.
Typically, high cognitive load happens when your brain tries to store too many things at once in its short-term memory. (Similarly, our computers also have a finite amount of memory / RAM before it crunches to a halt and starts utilizing swap space.)
What’s happening when your brain is faced with too many options is the Paradox of Choice, that when presented with too many choices actually counterintuitively creates anxiety. In fact, Hick’s Law says that the time it takes to make a decision increases logarithmically as the number of choices increases.
So, have an opinion and do one thing really well. Chances are, your opinion will be wrong. But at least you will know exactly why your opinion is wrong, because you’ve only tried one thing.1
Consider the alternative. You lack an opinion and try to do many things at once. The end result is the same, a lukewarm response. Except in this case, you have no idea why your opinion is wrong.2
Remember: more is less, and less is more.
Think Scientific Method: what you control is more important than having many independent variables. ↩
Here, you have many independent variables and few controls, so it is difficult to isolate the cause and effect relationship between your product decisions and the end result. ↩
This is not a list declaring that the only successful founders are age 34.4, predominately male (but if you are female, please pitch us!), and dropped out of their Ivy League engineering program with 1 week left to graduate.
As my colleague Andy Dunn said to me once, “When you have a list of everything, you actually have a list of nothing.”
At Red Swan, instead of having a list of checkboxes we pattern-match to, we have a framework of an iconic entrepreneur in mind, which we aspire to, both in ourselves as well as in the founders we back.
We believe that these founders correlate highly with movements that have large followings of passionate people (customers, employees, investors, advisors) who would follow them to the ends of the earth.
So without further ado, here are the four characteristics, which mnemonically and coincidentally form “MATE.”
Magnetism is the unquantifiable ability to attract people to a cause, despite endless uncertainty and high risk.
This characteristic is especially amplified in the early days of a startup where we invest, where there is the highest level of risk, and very little other signals to rely on.
This is the founder whom people seem to naturally gravitate towards, possibly because they are charismatic, but perhaps also because they are unerringly confident in their beliefs, or that there is an inevitability in their statements.
This is the founder who, prior to raising any capital, convinces two hackers and a designer to work on the startup in their spare time.
This is the founder you have a gut feeling will be successful, because they weave such fantastic yet convincing and realistic stories.
This is the founder who makes you feel empowered, infused with energy, ready to take on the world together.
This is the founder who, while talking to them, you find yourself starting your sentences with “We” rather than “You” or “I.”
In short, they bring out the best in you.
But if it were just about magnetism, we would invest in many things, including many things seen on late-night infomercials (“But wait, there’s more!”).1
Magnetism is compounded when it comes from a place of deep authenticity. This raison d’être is why the MATE founder stays up late because they are too excited about what they’re building, and then jumps out of bed early in the morning, anxious to tackle the next task at hand.
It’s always surprising to me how many entrepreneurs I meet who can’t articulate in a simple way why they do what they do, why it is impossible to think about doing anything else.
A wantrepreneur is an entrepreneur because they seek validation for the status it brings and the title’s implications. An authentic entrepreneur is an entrepreneur because there is no other rational option.2
You can’t fake authenticity. It’s not just about saying the right things. It’s the minute details of why you do what you do. You can say all the right things, but if you’re not authentic, it’s clear as day.
Most entrepreneurs I know have a unified founder-startup identity. They are their startup and their startup is them. So their emotions, whether they like it or not, are highly correlated with the startup’s successes and failures, down to the minutiae.
I’ve been there before. When someone pans the UX of a product I built, or an LP dislikes our approach to investing at Red Swan, it feels like they are directly insulting me.
You have to have thick skin. In fact, some might say that the more naysayers you have, the more likely you are to be on the right track. The most disruptive ideas comes from non-consensus beliefs. Be the mad scientist.
This goes back to the authenticity of the founder; if the founder is only doing it for the money, or because they are more interested in the idea of a startup rather than having an authentic purpose for doing what they are doing, these founders usually lack tenacity. The instant there is risk of losing money, the non-tenacious entrepreneur runs for the safety of BigCo. I still find it incredible (the story goes) that Elon Musk reinvested all of his earnings from PayPal into SpaceX and Tesla.
And back to Andy, he raised his first $750,000 from over 40 investors, for a total of $8M over four angel rounds from over one hundred angel investors. What a slog. If it were about money for him, he would be long gone.
Tenacity is the combination of a high level of authenticity with what I think most people mean when they say that someone has conviction.
Finally, the last characteristic, the ability to evolve, seems diametrically opposed to tenacity. How can someone be tenacious, yet have the humility to evolve?
Entrepreneurship is a seeming paradox, the balance between the arrogance of believing the world should be the way that you envision, and the humility of admitting when you are wrong.
While tenacity and conviction are critical to the visionary entrepreneur, it’s important to know when to step down from your strongly held beliefs.
Easier said than done. But I think there are a few ways of doing this.
One is by knowing what you know and, knowing what you don’t know.
Two is to not let your ego get in the way. This is the idea of strong opinions weakly held.
Three is that “good judgment comes from experience, which comes from bad judgment” (Bill Gurley).
The MATE founder knows when to stand strong, but also knows when to admit they are wrong, evolve, and become stronger from that.
To summarize, it is the confluence of these four character traits that we believe define the founders who are at the center of iconic movements.
No single checkbox of algorithmic pattern-matching can be a 100% predictor of success. So instead, we believe this heuristic is the best way to be in the right place at the right time.
When M, A, T, and E all come together in one founder, the rest takes care of itself.
In fact, some founders, particularly those who are coached through an accelerator program, have become so good at pitching, it is hard to tell the difference between a startup pitch and an infomercial. ↩
Recently, I’ve seen an increasing percentage of people on Tinder putting their Instagram usernames into their profile. This is surprising because the username is not deep-linked to the Instagram app or browser, so the viewer has to switch apps and manually search the username.
So despite this hassle, why do they do it? They must feel that their Instagram profile is an excellent representation of who they are. The Instagram product has adopted their personality to the level that it’s worth the effort.1
In fact, the same Instagram product (everyone uses the same app) can take on multiple different personalities depending on who is using the app.
In a sense, the Instagram product is a “vessel” for each individual user’s personality.
Instagram and Tinder aren’t the only examples of products that are vessels for personality. We are what we buy, both with money and time.
Apparel vessels: Warby Parker; Bonobos; Supreme
Tom Ford likened putting a suit on to putting on a suit of armor. The best apparel brands make us feel better when we put their clothes on because we aspirationally fit ourselves into the ideals that brand represents.
The product in these cases is largely nondescript, not flashy, and gets out of the way. Notice how each of these products’ UI design is generally sparse and fades into the background.2
Messaging vessels: Snapchat
Even though it is ephemeral and therefore there is a way to see the user’s personality at a glance, the ephemerality enables a different type of personality, liberating an unrestrained expression of the user’s personality.
This has become a recurring theme:
What makes a product magnetic to a user, in a world where it seems so many products are at functional feature parity?
What makes one product have a stronger brand, a stronger gravitational pull, than another?
The best products are a frictionless experience to make the product’s personality your own.
This is an indication to me that there is a latent reason for this; I believe that the best products amplify existing human behaviors, despite really crappy user experience. ↩
There was an unsolicited redesign of Facebook sometime last year posted on Behance, and it was widely panned by the design community, mainly because of its focus on visual aesthetics over what is most important to Facebook: user experience, information architecture, and I would argue the need to serve its purpose as a vessel for its users’ personalities. ↩
Why does it seem unexpected, or fail to fit in our neat boxes of how things “should be done”?
What does creativity look like and where does it come from?
Howard Marks famously said that the most interesting ideas come from non-consensus ideas that eventually become consensus and correct.
I think these non-consensus correct ideas can be found in the mad scientists who redefine the rules of what we believe are possible.
By definition, someone who is mad is not mentally sound – they are insane.
This means that they are not “normal,” based on the system’s definition of what the majority of people behave or think. Being mad is being non-consensus.
It may seem from the outside that those who are mad prefer a high level of risk. However, what is actually true is that they have a different viewpoint on risk – it is more risky if they don’t stand up for what they believe is true. This is their norm.
Those who are not mad wilt under the pressure of being non-consensus because they derive a sense of value from what others think of them. Doing what has already been done many times over, even if it is wrong, is the source of validation for the non-mad person.
Studies have shown that, while society portrays creatives as heroes, people are actually biased against creative thinking, that when people say they like creativity, what they are actually saying is that they like success stories. People are biased towards things they understand, and therefore are less able to recognize creativity when they see it early on. In fact, unremarkable ideas are more likely to be accepted than truly creative ones.
Hobbyists work on what Peter Thiel calls "secrets," an important truth very few people agree with you on (at least at first).
If a secret is well-known, the problem becomes not as interesting to the scientist because there are better uses of their time. Scientists (and entrepreneurs) thrive on pushing, and hopefully redefining, the boundaries of what is possible.
A mad person is just insane. A mad person with a secret is a mad scientist.
Mad scientists are the source of disruptive creativity.
At some point, the the mad scientist’s ideas switch from non-consensus to consensus, and this is when the most disruptive, industry-creating movement happen.
Hobbyists do what they do in their spare time because they are driven by an innate human desire: aspiration, fun, intellectual stimulation, disgust of the status quo, etc. If enough hobbyists share the same desire, a movement coalesces around an iconic brand, a product and company that is the standard-bearer for the collective mad scientists.
This was Ev Williams’ approach in hindsight for the creation of Twitter: “Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar Internet company… Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time… identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”
Are you a mad scientist? If you believe strongly in something, then why work for the system? Why seek validation from the system?
The brilliant military strategist John Boyd spent his entire career developing and proselytizing his ideas without regard for the rank of the most hierarchical of organizations that is the United States military.
He had a speech that he would tell his “Acolytes” at critical moments of judgment when the system threatened to suppress their creativity:
"To be somebody or to do something. In life, there’s often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision.
To be or to do? Which way will you go?”
― John Boyd
If the mad scientist doesn’t go after what they believe in, who will?
Branded Pricing Differentiation (Cheaper Is Not Always Better)
My partner Andy Dunn wrote in his definitive e-commerce Medium post, "E-Commerce is a Bear," that proprietary pricing is a powerful way to motivate e-commerce sales.
I think there’s an important nuance to effective pricing differentiation – proprietary pricing without strong brand association is a race towards the bottom. If the only reason a customer would choose one product over a competitor’s is that it’s cheaper, the market price equilibrium would be close to cost.
There are certainly big companies that offer proprietary pricing at scale, but their margins aren’t that good. Personally, these businesses aren’t as interesting to me, since low margins create a high scale threshold for success. This limits the probability of success to a narrow band of outcomes, only when the company reaches massive scale.
The brands I admire most are those that implement proprietary pricing as a genuine part of their differentiated brand.
Warby Parker offers incredible proprietary pricing: $95 for the frame and the prescription lens is a steal. However, if it were as simple as selling a cheaper pair of eyeglasses, there would be 10+ Warby Parkers today, all selling glasses at close to cost.
Neil Blumenthal once told me that, when they were first setting their pricing for their eyeglasses, they contemplated pricing their glasses at a much lower price; their incredible cost structure certainly allowed them to. However, they ultimately decided that if they priced their glasses at too low of a price, it would have contradicted the brand value of perceived high quality.
With the $95 price point, they were able to achieve that rare balance of a perceived high quality product at a lower price point. (Typically, it’s either high quality, high price; low quality, low price.)
Another example of proprietary pricing as it relates to brand is related to shipping. Traditionally, one of the most important e-commerce metrics is return/loss rate; you want to minimize the amount of product that people return because it’s very expensive to process them.
However, brands like Bonobos and Warby Parker1 introduced free shipping both ways against this belief. Instead of getting destroyed by returns (of course, there are probably a few customers who exploit this to an extreme, but this number is small), it actually increased conversion rates to purchases and increased brand loyalty.
Also, the paradox of choice dictates that adding an additional shipping option feels like a chore to the customer. Even if they were excited about the product they were about to purchase, most checkouts out there still have a terrible user experience and are a bucket of cold water on otherwise great brand experiences.
Amazon Prime is a great example of shipping done well – by pricing the free two-day shipping into their model, and reducing the cognitive overload of picking the shipping option, they actually create delight for their top tier customers.
In fact, in addition to creating that perceived premium quality brand, by pricing free shipping and returns into your pricing model, the economic effect is likely net positive.
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling online: clothing, electronics, software as a service, hardware, publications, iPhone apps, virtual goods; the same rules apply, because they are in many cases the same people buying these things. The main constant is that understanding the psychology and emotions of your customers is paramount to building an optimal, authentic, branded pricing strategy. What matters is that your customer feels they are getting a good value for their money.
Everyday, people make decisions based on how they feel. As Simon Sinek would say, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is the core of what a brand is.
Brand is emotional. Brand is not logical. “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.”1
Brand is the reason for existing.
People buy things everyday that may not make the most logical sense, yet they do it because it makes them feel good about themselves: happy, cool, motivated, comfortable, appreciated, admired.
How do you explain this? There is a concept popularized by Marty Neumeier called the "Brand Gap," which is the space between perception and reality in a product. In a world where many products are at feature and tech parity, the brand is the differentiator:
"Differentiation has evolved from a focus on ‘what it is,’ to ‘what it does,’ to ‘how you’ll feel,’ to ‘who you are.’ While features, benefits, and price are still important to people, experiences and personal identity are even more important."
The genius of Warby Parker is that they introduced a perceived higher quality product at a lower price point than competitive eyewear.
Similarly, with Bonobos, many companies make pants. But people love Bonobos because of what it stands for: Fit, Fun, and Service. When people put Bonobos pants on, they feel good about themselves. They buy Bonobos pants because of how it makes them feel. As Tom Ford eloquently said in this documentary on him, when he puts on a suit, it makes him feel invincible because to him it is a suit of armor.2
The idea of the Brand Gap is a perfect explanation of the startup problem: despite high risk, endless uncertainty, and an imperfect product, the founder’s goal is to convince people to follow their vision. They younger the startup is, the bigger the Brand Gap is.
The founder’s magnetism and brand help their followers take a leap of faith in the face of high risk.
If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.
Venture capital is both highly emotional and highly analytical. It is easy to get caught up by hype, and it is also easy to get jaded, hate everything you see, and overthink your way into analysis paralysis.
Therefore it’s important to have a consistent and objective benchmark process for making decisions.
At the core of venture capital decision making is pattern matching. But the paradox of venture capital is that the same pattern matching that helps you identify winners can also pigeonhole your decision making into unoriginal, non-power law groupthink.
Pattern matching as a decision making process needs a corollary as a more satisfactory explanation for pattern matching.
I think part of the key is in understanding the difference between algorithmic vs. heuristic decision making.
Algorithmic decision making is narrow-minded, and heuristic decision making is the key to flexible, calculated risk-taking.
An algorithm is a set of defined instructions for solving a problem.
I think algorithmic decision making is the pitfall of “pattern matching.” Algorithmic decision making forces you to look for the symptoms rather than the causes, leading you to decisions driven by correlation rather than causation.
Snapchat is a great example of this. People perhaps thought Snapchat wasn’t going to be successful because the perceived market trend was towards permanence of content and communication. We have infinite storage, so why not keep everything?
However, this analysis focuses too much on the symptom of storage rather than the key underlying behavior that there is an unmet demand for impermanence and fleeting, unjudgmental communication.
Those who automatically dismissed Snapchat as a toy missed out big.
Algorithms exist as a first pass filter for the deluge of companies VCs see; it is only natural to look to signals to narrow the focus. Algorithmic decision making is very useful for 90% of the companies that I see where it is an obvious pass, but for the remaining 10% of companies that are debatable, there needs to be a more flexible framework for making decisions.
A heuristic is a process that helps you arrive at an answer.
Rather than asserting that you definitively know the answer, you go through an educated process that will help you arrive at an answer.
I think this is why theses like USV’s networks thesis are so powerful.
"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." (Mark Twain)
The trick is figuring out where it rhymes.
Here are some ways that I’ve found that “reset” my judgment to be more heuristic than algorithmic:
Force yourself to imagine a world where this thing is ubiquitous.
Rather than automatically saying “I wouldn’t use this and my friends wouldn’t either,” suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine a different future than the one of today.
Forcing yourself to figure out the non-consensus decisions is important, because that is where you generate outsized power law returns. (This is even more important in the seed stage than the growth stage.)
I think Cap Watkins wrote one of the most important posts in decision making. Looking at decisions through the lens of table stakes many times leads to the slap on the head, “Of course, why would I try to do something so incremental?”
“Design everything on the assumption that people are not heartless or stupid but marvelously capable, given the chance.”
– The Internet and Everyone, John Chris Jones
For the longest time, I thought design was about assuming that people are “stupid” machines who don’t know what they want, and therefore need to be told how to use your product, and that those few who aren’t stupid are too busy to care.
This could be an appealing approach because it is an easy explanation of a design’s failure. People have limited attention, so you have a limited time to force something upon them they didn’t know they want.
But the more I thought about it, the more I felt this “push” approach was incredibly condescending, and actually in most cases ineffective.
The opposite approach is that of humanistic design, when you assume that people actually do know what they want, and your job is to reveal that to them in an elegant way.
This approach reminds me of Michelangelo’s approach to the statue of David.
"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it."
Rather than pushing something on someone, you are pulling the best parts of that person out. You are finding the fundamental human behaviors that already exist in an analog form and building around them.
I think the best designers have the greatest empathy for the people they connect with.
When you think about design in this way, the design becomes much more appealingly human and naturally engaging. Perhaps this is what people mean when they talk about “delight.”
There is a herd mentality shift that “consumer is dead” and “enterprise is in.” I believe that this mentality is an overreaction, oversimplification, and a lagging indicator of the real important trends.
There is some merit to the argument that “consumer is dead.” I believe that there are too many me-too startups trying to raise venture funding that aim to build products that solve incremental problems. This is normal because I believe that we are at the end of a cycle of diffusion of innovation; therefore, many consumer products these days have a marginal improvement over what exists. I just don’t think they can generate the venture-magnitude returns to need investment from large VC funds.
Also, the next big thing in consumer is not going to look like anything that already exists, and it is not going to look like a breakout success when it first arrives. We will be confused by it because we lack the appropriate mindset and metrics to define the success of the next big thing. As Chris Dixon said, the next big thing will start out looking like a toy.
Similarly, I’m skeptical that enterprise should be as hot as it is today. Investing in enterprise because it is the hot space to invest in is the wrong approach, because you will be in a rude awakening in the near-term future when the temperamental market shifts again. If you invest only based on what is hot, you will always be a follower.
Instead, it is important to focus on the fundamentals of the business. An enterprise business has longer sales cycles, a different target customer profile, a different set of valuation metrics and multiples, etc. Invest in enterprise because you like the pros and cons of what an enterprise business brings, not because of what other people think.
So, what to do in the face of a schizophrenic market?
I believe it’s always about the product. Build something radical that a lot of people want, regardless of whether it’s consumer or enterprise.
I see enterprise startup founders who get a whiff of traction of BigCo’s test budget, and they’re off to the races like a horse with blinders, getting sucked into the sales cycle, only to come up for air 12 months in, realizing that they actually haven’t hit their targets for their next fundraising round.
I’m biased because of my product background, but I believe enterprise startups are still all about the quality of the product. The reason why BigCo was interested in your product in the first place was because you had a good product.
Sales without a good product is useless. So as a CEO, ramp up your sales process to a good point, hire someone to delegate to manage it, and then focus on what you’re good at, building a great product.
As an investor or entrepreneur, it is important to be cognizant of the hype cycles; if you can’t fight the sentiment, you have to play the game.
But at the end of the day, all that matters is that you build an awesome product that people want.
Technology Platforms Emerge from Information Floods
The arrival of a new technology brings with it a rising tide of benefits. These picks and shovels create step functions of platforms that enable new innovations:
Google indexed the vast majority of information on the internet so that it is always easily accessible.
Facebook organized the people we know in a graph that enables a new level of interpersonal interaction.
Twitter enables a new delivery mechanism of information in real-time and on a mass scale.
Amazon Web Services commoditized access to scalable tech infrastructure that enabled a whole generation of internet businesses.
Applications are built on top of these platforms with decreasing marginal innovation, until a new disruptive platform arrives and creates a new innovation curve.
However, there is always a concern that new technologies create more harm than good. For example, the “Slow Web” Movement is a reaction to the claim that the flood of information1 inundates us with transient, fleeting, and ultimately meaningless information.
This concern has parallels with the rise of the alphabet and writing, that we would become so reliant on this sudden new availability of information that we would ultimately lose the ability to remember things.
Plato, on writing:
For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory… You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom.
This sounds to me a lot like the criticism that we’re no longer “smart” anymore because we can Google everything.
We are dealing with a flood of information both on the creation and consumption standpoint. From a 40,000 foot perspective, writing created a flood of information from the creation side, as a medium for documenting information, and digitalization + the internet created a flood of information from the consumption side as a medium for the distribution of that information.
Because we now have unparalleled 1) access, 2) portability, and 3) persistence of data, I think the next level of innovation is being built on the parsing of that flood of information - what are the different ways you can slice and dice that information to be more valuable? This could be what people call “big data,” but I believe this is actually a higher level macro trend of how we organize the information to be more useful to us. This could be:
size/selection-based: what are ways we can organize and segment the people we are connected to by limiting the number of people to a carefully selected group of people? (Twitter, Facebook (broadcast) vs. Path, App.net, Diaspora (narrowcast))
vertical interest based: what are ways that we can organize based on our interests? (Pinterest, Fancy, Houzz, etc.)
time-based: what are ways we can affect the delivery time of information (synchronous vs. asynchronous) as well as the duration of information availability? (SMS, Snapchat, etc.)
context-based: what is going on at a certain point in time? examples are mobile and quantified self (Foursquare, Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up, Fitbit, etc.)
digitizing analog data (“smart dust”): how can we capture all the data thrown off by the world around us? where does the digital world intrude the analog world? (FuelBand, Up, FitBit, Hue Lightbulb, Nest, Sonos, mobile payments, etc.)
Where I’m looking for the next big disruption is in the emergence of new information floods, and the opportunity is in the parsing and application of that new data in interesting ways.
I believe that these new ways of parsing the flood of information will become the new platforms on which we understand the information available to us, and that will enable us to do things that we can’t yet imagine today.
The Design Stack: A Framework for Effective Design
“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
– Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs had an innate instinct for creating and identifying effective design. One of the most common reasons why Apple users love their Apple products is because of the “design,” that “fundamental soul” of the product that makes them “just work.”
However, “effective design” is not just design that is visually appealing.
Effective design can be pretty, but a pretty design does not guarantee that it is effective design.
If you were to deconstruct what Steve Jobs meant when he referred to the “fundamental soul” of the product, I think qualities of effective design, these “successive outer layers of the product or service,” would follow what I call the “Design Stack.”
Much like how there is a tech stack that has layers of components that power an app, there is an analogous “Design Stack” with individual components that powers the way someone experiences your product.
I believe that the structure of a Design Stack will give you clarity around your goals for why something in the design should be the case, rather than just designing something because that’s the way it’s always been done before, or that your “gut” tells you to.
Here is a high level outline of the successive layers of the Design Stack:
User Goals and Psychology
These components are all tied to each other - they drive decisions in each of the other components.
1) Business Goals
Define what you want to accomplish as a business and the success metrics associated with success. This could be something like:
x% market share
$y revenue per month
25% DAU/MAU (engagement)
5% conversion rate from a landing page (acquisition)
It is important to keep your business goals in mind as you design so that all of your design decisions help accomplish your business goals.
This might not seem like “design,” but it is an important part of design thinking.
2) User Goals and Psychology
We are all psychologists when designing.
In addition to the business goals (#1), it’s important to understand the mindset of your target user. What are the different personas of your users, and what do they want to accomplish with your product?
What are their goals?
What is the status quo to accomplish those goals?
What gestures or use cases are they used to?
What is the frame of mind or context of when they will be using your product?
How do they feel when they use this? utility, happiness, nostalgia, aspirational, etc.
When forming these user goals, draw from your own personal experience, but also do user studies on the problem you are trying to solve to form a full picture of how people will interact with your product.
Understanding the psychology of your users is at the core of user experience design.
3) User Flows
Next, based on the user goals and psychology (#2), what decisions and steps do the users take in your product?
Map out these user flows like a tree with branches.
It is very important to start here before going to the wireframes because you can visualize the context in which each view exists.
You can answer questions like:
Are there too many steps to sign up?
Is there information overload on a view?
Is the first time user experience clear?
Does this view drive natural viral engagement?
Are there user flows that a user is most likely to abandon your product?
There are many tools out there, but recently I’ve been excited about this new tool called POP. It lets you wireframe on paper, take photos of them with your iPhone, and simulate user flows without actually building the product.
Also, UX Archive is a good resource for a collection of popular iPhone apps’ user flows.
Now we’re getting somewhere. The wireframe is what is often seen as the natural starting point for a “design.”
A wireframe is a schematic or other low-fidelity rendering of a computer interface, intended to primarily demonstrate functionality, features, content, and user flow without explicitly specifying the visual design of a product.
Finally, after accomplishing the previous layers of the Design Stack, we are ready to tackle the mockup, which focuses on the visual design of your product, how it looks, how visually appealing it is it is.
Whether something is visually appealing is highly subjective, so I won’t go into great detail on what this looks like.
The general guideline that I would recommend here is to keep with the theme of this post: make sure that your visual design accomplishes your goals in all of the previous steps of the Design Stack: your business goals (#1), user goals (#2), user flows (#3), and wireframes (#4).
I’ll add on to the Design Stack the prototype of your product because the translation of a product’s essence from a static mockup to a functional product is just as important to the user experience design.
Here are some examples of how building a prototype can add more nuance to your product’s user experience. These are all design decisions that you need to take into account.
For an iPhone app, should tapping a button swipe left-to-right or bottom-to-top?
How important is speed when loading new content? Should you have a loading indicator for a particular view? Making your users wait too long can cause low engagement, which can affect your business goals (#1).
Should you reload the entire page or refresh only an element of the page?
Depending on the situation, some designers like to skip the mockup stage directly to the prototyping stage and come back to the visual design later.
Throughout this whole stack, you should be measuring and (in)validating your assumptions. I’ll cover this in a separate post.
The Design Stack creates valuable dialogue around design decisions that without this framework can many times seem superficial or not concrete.
By framing your design decisions this way, you can not only be a better holistic designer, but also help convince non-designers (and even other designers) of the value of your design and process.
I’m fascinated by Nassim Taleb's concept of “antifragility,” that the opposite of “fragile,” something that breaks easily under stress, isn't something that is strong; rather, it is something that heals and learns quickly in response to stress.
Ever since I learned about this concept, the more I see it in everyday life and the more I believe that it is a fundamental part of success and happiness.
For example, in entrepreneurship, this is the idea behind the trial-by-fire, learn-by-doing approach of entrepreneurship. The prototypical entrepreneur is highly risk-seeking to the point of irrationality. A simple cost-benefit analysis would dissuade most people from traveling down this path; yet, the entrepreneur is an entrepreneur because of the risk involved.
The entrepreneur runs through walls they don’t know exist. The same unknown unknowns that can doom the entrepreneur to failure are the same unknown unknowns that create the outsized successes of the entrepreneur.
When you look at the decision tree from that perspective, it seems not so bad: failure is always the same, a zero, while the return (however you define it: monetary, happiness, utility, etc.) is astronomical, and worth it.
"The Entitlement Generation" is Fragile
My generation is an obnoxious one. The author Ron Alsop calls us the Entitlement Generation. We are a generation of Millennials, trophy kids of doting parents who went through immense sacrifice to ensure our success, praising our accomplishments and padding our failures to avoid hurting our self-esteem. The losing team of a soccer game gets ice cream, too. They get an E for Effort.
I’ve met people in my generation who are surprised when they don’t have things laid out in front of them. And they perpetuate the problem because they expect something to be done for them. Many times they’ll wait for a long time for something that won’t come. It is this idea of entitlement that prohibits them from being antifragile. Rather than learn from the roadblock, they stagnate. “Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules and the order that they crave…” Because everything was given to them, “those basics aren’t necessarily apparent to many millennials.”
I think entrepreneurship is the greatest equalizer. Everyone is treated the same. If you don’t perform, you don’t succeed. You alone are responsible for your success.
You don’t have to come from a rich family to be subject to antifragility of entitlement. I come from a middle class family. My dad is an environmental engineer who designs landfills and makes sure that the runoff from the landfill when it rains doesn’t get into our drinking water. My mom stays at home to take care of now 6 (six!) kids, the equivalent of 6 most important jobs in the world. Arguably more important than anything that I’ll do in my lifetime.
Dad immigrated alone to the USA from Taiwan, leaving his wife and 2 kids, ages 1 and 3, to pursue his dream of getting a masters in engineering from a top school, and ultimately of building a solid foundation for his family and his children to stand on the shoulders of giants.
So they did (and still do) everything in their power to make sure that my siblings and I are in the best position to succeed. It is the greatest luxury of all to not have to worry where your next meal is coming from, whether your life is going to be in mortal danger from exogenous forces. We can concentrate all of our efforts towards our own self-gain. This is the greatest gift that my parents gave me.
And it takes all of my power of self-awareness to remember that. I will not squander this opportunity. It takes all of my power to remember that I am not entitled to anything. While my parents did everything in their power to make sure that everything was lined up for me and that I got a good education and went to a good college, they made sure to instill values in me of appreciation. This is the intangible that cannot be recorded in grades that I will forever be grateful for.
Expect nothing. Earn everything.
Happiness and Shocks
The eternal cliche of all cliches is to enjoy the journey, not the destination. But I believe that cliches are cliches because they are true. And the biggest cliches are the most difficult to internalize. I believe this King of Cliches is core to antifragile happiness.
There are two main types of mindsets that separate the fragile and antifragile. Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck categorizes them as “fixed” and “growth,” respectively.1
Those with a fixed mindset believe that abilities are innate, a given, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that abilities are learned.
When those with a fixed mindset are faced with a system shock, they stand in place. They are too focused on the end result, and shocks to the system seem daunting and maybe even annoying. “Why can’t we just get along with the show?” They constantly look for the shortcut to success because that’s what they’re used to; they believe that success and happiness is innate. They look upon the goal with longing, but aren’t willing to put in the effort to get there:
"If only I were rich."
"If only I knew how to code."
"If only I had the perfect girlfriend."
On the other hand, those with a growth mindset embrace the inevitability of these shocks. Rather than try to account for every possible outcome, they embrace the immutability of unknown unknowns. For example, the most successful people I know are skeptical in shockingly great outcomes and optimistic in shockingly bad ones. And when a shock occurs, they know that they alone are responsible for their own change and their own happiness.
This is the core idea behind antifragility, shocks, and happiness. These shocks are inevitable, and they don’t matter as much as you think. They’re just part of the process.
If you’re interested in learning more about this idea of resilience, this Quora post is a good start. ↩
Decisiveness, Trusting Your Gut, and Hacking Experience
I believe a key trait of a good entrepreneur or investor is the ability to make quick decisions in the face of unknown uncertainty, acting with decisiveness and conviction, trusting your gut.
So, then, developing your gut is the work you can invest in beforehand, and experience is the thing that trains and calibrates your gut to be better.
If you don’t have much experience, you need to hack it by creating as much action as possible. If you double the actions you take in a year, you double your experience. If you’re afraid, fake it till you make it. Doing things decisively is the only way to learn, get feedback and data, and calibrate your gut.
Decisiveness also works the other way. When something goes wrong, a good entrepreneur stops the problem from traveling too far downstream and compounding on itself. For example, this is the idea behind “hire fast, fire fast.”
I believe the most successful entrepreneurs are those who are both decisive and nimble within the context of a overarching goal. They ghetto test their hypotheses and gather as much data as possible so that they know that they’re heading in the right direction before allocating a ton of time and resources. They are decisive and nimble, proactive rather than reactive.
In my experience as both an operator and an investor, I’ve found that there are 5 common rules of thumb to land your dream startup job.
This isn’t a step-by-step guide to finding a startup job because you will find from talking to people that there is no standard path to get a startup job. However, these rules of thumb are a strategic framework that you can use to determine the tactics by which you can find your dream job.
1. The Best Jobs Aren’t Posted
In my entire career, I’ve never had a job that I got through a job posting. This is probably an extreme case, but my main point is that you should be thinking about what you would want in an ideal situation first, rather than be confined by what jobs are posted. In many cases, jobs are filled without any posting because many entrepreneurs tend to hire opportunistically. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
In my experience, job descriptions are general guidelines to narrow the flood of applicants they get. Go above and beyond the job description to demonstrate your vision of what you can do for the company.
2. Quality, not Quantity
Pick 5 startups. Only 5. If you’re not passionate about the startup you’re talking to, it will be very obvious. Don’t be “that guy” who desperately wants to “work in startups” but has no passion for the people who run the startups you want to work for, or what the specific startup does. Do your homework.
Share the same vision and passion for the startup you want to work for. The onus is on you to show that you and the startup “coincidentally” have the same vision for the future. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to authentically achieve this.
3. Verify Your Authenticity
There are two ways to do this: externally and internally. External authenticity is how other people vouch for you. Internal authenticity is what you can do yourself to demonstrate your skills to your potential employer.
Examples of external authenticity are: getting a warm introduction from someone they trust; and building your “personal brand” by building thought leadership around a blog and Twitter interactions. For example, I got an interview at RRE Ventures because I had gotten to know Jim Robinson IV over Twitter.
Internal authenticity is about being the thought leader in a space that the startup is lacking in. This brings us to the fourth point:
4. Do the Job You Want and the Job Will Come to You
Once you’ve identified what your dream job is, don’t wait for that job to appear. Start doing that job and prove that you can do it, not only to your future employer, but also to yourself. Once you focus on just doing, you’ll find that opportunities will come to you.
This advice is applicable regardless of skill set.
If you are an engineer, hack on your favorite startup’s API, regardless of whether they host a hackathon.
If you’re a designer, do an unsolicited redesign of your favorite startup’s iPhone app UX. Be thoughtful about your thought process for the redesign.
5. People are Afraid of Micromanagement
One of the biggest fears of a startup CEO is that their new hire creates more work and micromanagement than they are supposed to solve. Everyone knows and expects that there will be some time needed to onboard and train a new employee, but because startups have such few employees, the marginal effect (both positive AND negative) of an employee is amplified. If you are 1 of only 7 employees in an early stage startup, everything you do has a strong effect on the startup’s trajectory. Contrast this with a big company, where, if a single employee slacks, the marginal effect on the momentum of that company is less easily noticed.
This point is related to the previous point. If you can demonstrate to your desired employer that you are not only capable of doing the job, but also that you are already doing the job that you are being hired for, they will feel much less anxiety because they have de-risked that aspect of potential micromanagement.
The act of hiring you should be a formality. You should make it obvious to a startup that, in order to achieve their vision, they need to hire you.
Note: This post also appeared in Edition 19 of Startup Edition, a curated gathering of bloggers in the startup community, sharing their wisdom and response to a single question each week.
Each of these cycles are iterative processes with inputs and outputs, and the outputs tell you whether you’re on the right track — whether you should commit more time and resources to the effort.
The most risky cycles are those with binary outcomes because they are “all-or-nothing” results. They can screw you over because they can zero out after a large time investment on your part. Your goal is to derisk these binary outcomes as much as possible to avoid wasted time allocated. Don’t build past what you need to build to answer your questions. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger call this the Sink or Swim School of Engineering.
The way you prevent this is by subdividing the big binary outcome into smaller outcomes to make sure you’re directionally correct. Use iteration to prove out your hypotheses.
Examples of Binary Outcomes
How many times have you heard or told yourself something like the following?
Development: “We just need to launch our iPhone app and we’ll achieve instant viral growth.”
Sales: “We just need to sign Nike and we’ll be golden.”
Marketing: “We just need 100,000 users before we can launch.”
These are all hypotheses with uncertain results. The reason you commit cycles to them is to try to prove or disprove these hypotheses.
The problem with all of these hypotheses is that they are binary outcomes — they are all-or-nothing. In many cases, they are Catch-22’s. They 1) are vaguely defined, and 2) have long cycle times before you get any information back confirming or disproving the hypothesis.
Here’s a way to visually understand this:
Let’s take for example the development cycle binary outcome: “We just need to launch our iPhone app and we’ll get viral growth. There is a huge market need for this app.” The two possible outcomes here are:
True. Expected Value: There will be viral growth when we launch our iPhone app.
False. Expected Value: There is little to no traction.
Each of the two outcomes have a probability and expected value. The first outcome, “True,” is the confirmation you’d like to see, and the second outcome, “False,” has an expected value of 0.
Cycle Time: 3 months: Let’s say that you want to “stay in stealth mode” and not get any feedback except from your closest friends until you launch. It will take 3 months to develop the product and launch it.
The main problem here is that it’s a binary outcome. If after the 3 months, you realize that there is little to no traction for the iPhone app, you will have wasted 3 months of dev cycles building something for which there is a low probability of success.
It would be optimal to realize that there is no light at the end of the tunnel before allocating 3 months worth of dev cycles to an outcome with an probable expected value of 0.
Solution: Interim Proof Points
The solution is to introduce interim proof points with short cycle times so that you get the information faster. Break down the binary decision tree into smaller interim proofpoints that can give you conviction that you should be allocating dev cycles.
In this example, let’s say that you introduce 3 week dev cycles to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
Now the decision tree begins to look like this, subdivided:
Before you commit to a dev cycle, make sure it matters. Make sure you have conviction. When you get information in quicker time intervals, you get a better sense of whether you are allocating your cycles in the right way. You want to get quick feedback about whether it is worth your time to pursue it.
Examples of Interim Proof Points
User Acquisition: “A user will convert through the sign up funnel and download our app.”
User Retention: “A user will return at least once a week to use our app.”
Viral Loops Potential: “There will be a viral coefficient greater than 1.”
Now say for example that you find Interim Proof Point #2 to be incorrect:
You can make sure you don’t waste dev cycles trying to get to proof point #3 if it’s iterative and dependent on proof point #2 being true.
Splitting up the long binary cycles into shorter iteration cycles can help a lot to make sure you’re allocating your time optimally.
Here’s an example: foursquare. I don’t have any specific metrics around foursquare’s decision to shift their focus from check-ins to Explore. However, I imagine the decision was difficult for the foursquare team because their check-in metrics were still good, just not growing as fast as their Explore metrics. They made the decision to focus on the higher growth opportunity rather than stick with the safer option that might have resulted in an outside competitor snatching up the Explore opportunity from them.
Here’s another example: Zynga. Back when Myspace was still dominant and Facebook was still the emerging contender, developers committed most of their resources to building on the Myspace platform. Zynga did the same, but the difference was that they tested relentlessly, and discovered that Facebook provided massive virality opportunities. The Zynga team therefore decided to reallocate their cycles to building on Facebook.
This was a radical decision, since the Facebook opportunity was still small. However, much like the pattern in the Innovator’s Dilemma (Clay Christensen), Zynga jumped to a separate value curve with an exponential growth rate rather than stayed on the larger, but slow growth Myspace market. By the time others realized the potential of Facebook, Zynga had already entrenched themselves.
The key point here is that Zynga: 1) tested relentlessly, and 2) had extremely short dev cycles to be able to realize the disruptive opportunity in Facebook. If they had long dev cycles, it’s quite possible they would miss those early signs.
Shorten Your Iteration Cycles!
So the goal is to continue to create shorter and shorter iteration cycles to make decisions faster and more optimally. You should be getting feedback and confirmation you’re moving in the right direction on the order of days, or even hours.
Don’t Leave Your Fate Up To Randomness
To summarize, your goal is to make random binary outcomes deterministic rather than random. When you have a binary decision tree, it is hard to break down the specific ways that you can control your fate. Instead of having one big probability, you should break out a single binary decision tree into multiple branches.
Don’t get stuck wandering the forest. This framework helps you avoid the sunk cost problem. It’s not productive to work on the small things.
Subdivide the big binary outcome into smaller outcomes to make sure you’re directionally correct.
One of the biggest challenges in building a product is prioritization.
When you have 1,000 things bombarding you and demanding your attention, it’s hard to figure out what is most important. You have your customers telling you one thing (vocal minority), your team and investors telling you another (selection bias), and your data telling you another (confirmation bias).
The result is that I see a lot of products that do way too many things poorly. Many times this is the result of multiple undeliberate pivots in a short period of time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-pivot — I think the general idea encourages fast iteration. However, I think sometimes entrepreneurs pivot poorly. They are so stuck on the product they’ve built (sunk cost fallacy) that they fail to extricate themselves from the trenches of building a product to reevaluate the overall problem they are trying to solve.
They end up with a Frankenstein of a product that does nothing well, a jack of all trades, master of nothing. The product “pivot” ends up being a hammer in search of a nail, rather than the other way around. Because they’ve spent so much time building out the product, the mental bias is that there has to be some value to the product they’ve built; it is easy to mistakenly correlate time spent building the product with market need.
Phin Barnesput it well — that the best entrepreneurs have a sense of their True North. In all of their product pivots, they are able to make decisions that move them closer to their True North.
The entrepreneur’s job is to synthesize all of this feedback and test your assumptions in a methodical and deliberate manner.
Building successful consumer apps in The Age of the Humblebrag
We live in a creator economy.
Facebook has 900 million users with 125 billion friend connections, uploading more than 300 million photos and liking and commenting on 3.2 billion things in a single day.
Meanwhile, Instagram has 30 million registered users, 1 billion photos uploaded (5 million photos per day), 575 likes per second, and 81 comments per second.
We all contribute to this firehose of content. When posting content, we all consciously or unconsciously apply a filter on what types of things we post about. You don’t want to post something that is boring or makes you look bad. In this sense, posting something on social media is inherently self-promotional. But you don’t want to be so blatantly self-promotional that you turn off your followers.
Enter the humblebrag.
Subtly letting others now about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or “woe is me” gloss.
“Uggggh just ate about fifteen piece of chocolate gotta learn to control myself when flying first class or they’ll cancel my modeling contract LOL”
Humblebrag via Urban Dictionary: When you, usually consciously, try to get away with bragging about yourself by couching it in a phony show of humility.
This desire to humblebrag and be humblebragged to drives the viral content creation and consumption cycles of popular consumer internet app, which is why the most successful consumer Internet apps are simply ways for us to humblebrag and be humblebragged to.
1. Inherent human nature / behavior / psychology
Ego – who are you trying to impress? Why do we humblebrag?
Validation. We feel good when people compliment us. We feel good when we mean something to someone. We feel good when we create something of meaning and people appreciate it, and we feel bad when others criticize us. It is an innate human desire to be validated by others.
That said, there is a negative social stigma to coming right out and proclaiming that you are awesome. This usually comes across as self-serving, egotistical, and arrogant.
In fact, scientific studies have shown an inverse correlation between likeability and competence. Researchers have shown that the more modestly you portray yourself, the more likeable but less competent you’ll appear to others. While, the more competent you seem, the less likeable you are to others.
Therefore the humblebrag is an attempt to “accidentally” show that you’re competent while trying to maintain likeability. By trying to hide a brag behind false modesty, we hope to portray ourselves as awesome people with amazing lives while avoiding the social stigma of overtly bragging.
2. Driving interaction in an app
How is this related to building a successful consumer app? The goal is to build an app that allows the target user to make their life look effortlessly cool.
Underlying the humblebrag is an egocentric view to product design and user behavior. Where we choose to spend our time both online and offline defines our identities. Just like how our favorite bar represents the type of person we are, our favorite app allows the best of our personality to shine through. When the app does this effortlessly, we begin to believe that our lives are actually that awesome, because we selectively choose what parts of our lives to project to the world and onto ourselves.
Reality vs. Image – maximize the intersection
This ties into the idea of the aspirational self, where we all have this ideal in our minds of who we want to be. By putting our best foot forward, and sometimes faking it till you make it, you hope to one day achieve that ideal. The goal is that you hope to maximize the intersection between perception and reality.
Bidirectional nature of humblebrags
Humblebragging goes both ways. Because we humblebrag to get validation from others, it’s natural that we want to keep tabs on our friends’ lives through their humblebrags to see how our lives stack up.
So the best apps build this into a cycle: seeing other people’s cool lives makes us want to one-up them with our own humblebrags.
But the caveat is that you can’t build an app around a limited skill/commodity that you exclude the majority of people from the outset. Your product can’t be elitist by default. Rather, your goal is to turn the banal in people’s lives into great stories. People love stories.
3. Productizing around the behavior – actionable
What is the main form of content in your product?
Needs to be something that everyone has common in their lives
Standard representation of something we do in our day to day, quotidian lives
Then, make that thing much more interesting than it really is somehow
Make it known that you are doing something or there is something about you that you wouldn’t normally come right out and yell to the world
Pinterest is an interesting case study that demonstrates these points. Scrapbooking is an expression of the your identity. These are pieces of our lives that we find exciting, inspiring, beautiful, and interesting, and bundling them together in one place is a great way to showcase who they are. They embody our personal style, the products we like. We want to share them with other people, and it feels good when other people appreciate and like the collections we’ve made, because we feel validated.
Who is creating the content?
The most successful consumer apps have a personality. But that personality doesn’t come from the product itself; that personality is defined by the users who gravitate to that app to humblebrag.
Foursquare began in urban cities, and still has its greatest value in cities. The company went after the young urban professional who wants to try new places, restaurants, venues, and share that with their friends. Founder Dennis Crowley is often quoted saying that he wanted to make a game out of the city.
By tracking the places the user has gone, they not only have fun exploring their worlds like a video game, but also start to map out the type of person that they are. We are defined by the places we visit, and the places we visit are the best way to humblebrag about the cool person we are.
Understanding the psychology and motivations behind your target user is important to understand how to productize around that behavior.
Who is consuming the content?
Also important is understanding the type of user who is being humblebragged to, the user who is consuming the content. When building your product, you have to tap into that jealously derived from seeing how great the user’s friends’ lives are. The goal is that you drive engagement in 1) page views, and 2) viral growth in posting their own content to try to one-up their friends.
Facebook is famous for starting out as a way for students on college campuses to stalk photos of hot girls. This was crudely depicted in the movie The Social Network, but it demonstrated a key point that now anyone could see how amazing the lives of the attractive girls are.
Over time, this became the cornerstone on which Facebook’s engagement was driven by. The Photos product became a virtuous cycle where people would share and post photos to humblebrag and be humblebragged to.
What is the feedback loop?
How are you measuring the performance of the humblebrag?: The new type of “vanity” metrics
number of likes: low commitment
number of friends: Facebook is infamous for being a social network where you’re Facebook friends with people you barely know or don’t know at all. But people collect Facebook friends as a vanity metric of their popularity. There has been some backlash to this, but there is no question that in the short term, this drove huge engagement on Facebook.
Foursquare – Feltron Report style
mayorship: status symbol of being a “regular” at the coolest spots
points, tips done, places you’ve been: an indicator of how social and outgoing you are
who you’re there with: “I have so many cool friends.”
number of followers, retweets, etc.
number of likes, followers
The same principles of humblebrag underly the motivations behind gamification. In a single-player mode, giving positive feedback to reward specific behaviors makes the user feel good. In a multi-player mode, exposing the achievements that make the user’s life look effortlessly amazing increase that person’s social status in the minds of their friends and peers.
Rather than blindly apply points and badges to your product because a popular app has them, I’d encourage you to think about how your specific implementation of gamification helps your target user feel good about themself.
Examples – putting it all together
Instagram – “Putting a filter on any photo I take makes my life look like it’s straight out of a movie.”
Foursquare – “I just checked in to [new hot restaurant with month long wait list / an amazing foreign country / McDonald’s (ironically)].”
Twitter – The entire thing. There is even a Twitter account dedicated to retweeting our humblebrags.
Network Effects in Humblebragging Products
The most powerful humblebrags involve combinations of multiple humblebragging products. These are also known as network effects. If you post an amazing photo on Instagram, check in to Foursquare by geotagging that amazing photo, and also push that to Twitter and Facebook, the effect compounds many times over.
The humblebrag is a psychological framework to understand viral loops. It’s the seed to the viral growth, and the resulting effect is the viral feedback loop. With each additional network that you allow your user to share content to, you’re increasing distribution and viral nodes. The better you tap into this innate human behavior, this desire to showcase our personal identities and be validated for it, the more likely you are to achieve viral and explosive growth in your product.
One of the prevalent trends in startups recently is the bundling of products into one, with a combined value greater than the sum of its parts.
This is not a new concept; product bundling is a strategy that has historically been effective in selling products and maximizing economic value.
Product bundling is most effective when bundling high volume, high margin products, commoditizing the individual products and increasing the value of the bundle as a whole. This means that bundling is particularly effective with information and digital products.
In some cases, bundling of inferior products can actually be more compelling than individual, unbundled superior products.
Here are 6 examples of bundling and the value bundling adds:
Example 1: Pokémon Cards
Value: Randomness and Potential Expected Value
This is where I expose my nerd card. Pokémon cards were a big fad when I was a kid. We would buy booster packs of Pokémon cards, which included a random unknown selection of 10 cards.
In the case of Pokémon cards, the randomness of the unknown selection of cards within the booster pack drove large sales of the booster packs. My friends and I would buy 10 booster packs and hope to get 1 holographic Charizard card. As a business, it would be difficult to sell the more common cards individually, so by bundling them with the potential of the rare card, you increase the value of the booster pack and drive huge sales of the booster packs. The booster pack’s value was greater than the sum of its parts.
The value of the “rare” cards was driven by scarcity of and demand for the rare physical product rather than any real value itself. And the potential (read: expected value) of that booster pack was driven up by the fact that those rare cards were bundled with the common cards.
Example 2: Subscription Services: Birchbox, Quarterly, Craft Coffee, Trunk Club, Foodzie, etc.
Value: Discovery; Convenience; Curation
Subscriptions services bundle individual products into a recurring box of unknown products. The idea is that you receive products that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about or bought for the following reasons:
Discovery: You find products that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
Convenience: You can try out the products without having to leave the comfort of your home. Then, the hope is that you will buy the full sized product (conversion to purchase) or become a loyal customer (customer acquisition to lifetime value).
Curation: You get advice for which products are better, or a better fit for you. This is especially powerful when products are commoditized and the market is saturated to the point where it is difficult to choose which one is better.
Example 3: Information: NYTimes, Twitter, News.me, Summify, Social Weekend
Another type of bundling is the bundling of information and content.
One of the reasons people read the NYTimes is because they trust the NYT editors and writers to give them the perfect balance of information and news, both the must-know breaking news as well as the interesting reports on stuff off the beaten path.
I personally get all of my news through Twitter. Others might get that information through News.me as a filter on top of Twitter. We all choose our own filter bubbles and arbiters of information. We trust those arbiters to bundle information together. In some cases, we value it so much that we even pay for it in the form of a subscription.
Example 4: Products/Interest Graph: Pinterest, The Fancy
Startups like Pinterest and The Fancy let people create digital bundles of products and images. The analogy that Pinterest uses is the digital scrapbook. The value proposition here is that I am interested in what products people with similar tastes like.
The startup that can successfully convert this bundling to purchasing behavior will be well-positioned to win. The Fancy is getting good early traction around converting curated digital bundles into single purchases.
Ultimately, I think the opportunity is to convert curated digital bundles into buying whole bundles of products.
Example 5: Media: Music (CDs, Napster, BitTorrent, iTunes, Spotify/Rdio)
There were two major shifts of bundling in the music industry.
The first was the shift from the physical to digital medium, from CDs to MP3s. The critical effect here was the idea that consumers could suddenly get songs a la carte, and buy individual songs separate from the bundled album. There was more value in debundling the songs from the CDs, because the consumer didn’t get much value out of the predetermined album bundle. They wanted to create their own mixtapes, burning MP3s on CD-R’s.
The second major shift was from MP3s to streaming services like Spotify and Rdio. Here, the idea of owning any form of content is completely removed. People now listen to playlists of songs they don’t own, curated by other people they many times don’t now in real life.
Example 6: Financial Products: CDOs
Value: Hedging Risk
Finally, an example in the financial services space. Not to oversimplify the financial crisis in 2008, but collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) gained instant notoriety in 2008 for being the financial instrument that caused the financial crisis. CDOs were originally intended to hedge risk; specifically, mortgage-backed securities of varying risks of default were bundled together into a larger financial product.
Ultimately, however, rather than hedge risk, CDOs incorrectly masked risk. The models behind the CDOs did a bad job of predicting how risky the underlying securities were, and the ratings agencies did a bad job of realizing this.
Conclusion: Bundling and the Commoditization of Complements
As a parting thought, the overarching idea of bundling is the idea of the commoditization of complements. By bundling products, you commoditize the individual products. This in turn increases the value of the bundled product you are selling.
The classic example is the hot dog stand. Take a hypothetical situation with two competing hot dog stands. One of them charges for the hot dogs, ketchup, and soda individually. The other hot dog stand bundles them all together into a “happy meal.” The value of the bundled product is much higher if the customer would have bought all three items anyway.
In fact, bundling may actually be a good antidote against “race-to-the-bottom” pricing, where the only competitive advantage among commoditized products is price.
Bundling is an incredibly effective tool to increase the value to your product offering.
Fooled By Randomness in Product Design and Investing
You hear this all the time. In entrepreneurship, there is a big emphasis on the mantra of “failing fast” and learning from your mistakes. It’s important to understand why you failed, but I think it’s even more important to understand why you’re successful.
You almost always know why you failed because you’re forced to confront it head on. When you fail, you are naturally driven to understand what went wrong so you can prevent it from happening again in the future.
It takes a much greater conscious effort to understand why you’re successful.
False certainty about the factors that contribute to success can lead you down the wrong path. Believing that one set of learnings applies directly to another scenario without concrete logic to support the belief is dangerous.
Fooled by Randomness in Product Design
In product design, I’ve seen entrepreneurs decide they “must” gamify their product by putting in “mayorships” and “points” because “everyone” is doing it. Gamification is not a panacea that will make your user growth and engagement magically skyrocket. Without understanding the specific ways in which game mechanics drive behavioral change, and then relentlessly A/B testing those hypotheses, you cannot definitively say that game mechanics are relevant to driving user growth and engagement.
In product analytics, it’s extremely easy to find patterns where they don’t actually exist.
I cannot emphasize this point enough: Your data can lie to you.
That spike that happened on November 25, 2011? You didn’t cause it. It was Black Friday. Unless you can manipulate national holidays, I wouldn’t call that a pattern.
This is different from being aware of the fact that it is Black Friday, understanding the consumer behavior behind the event, and structuring your product, marketing, biz dev strategies to take full advantage of that exogenous event.
Trying to find a pattern amidst chaos is backwards; rather, you should form a theory and test it through an experiment, with hypothesis, independent variable, dependent variable, control, and result.
Test relentlessly to isolate a cause-and-effect relationship.
Fooled by Randomness in Investing
On the investment side, I’ve seen investors see nice exits based mostly on luck, and convince themselves that they are amazing investors, that they’ve cracked the secret sauce for all investing. But a single data point does not make a pattern.
Chris Dixon touched on this topic in a thought-provoking post, that investing based on pattern recognition can bias our decision making to miss good investments and overweight bad investments. There are a select few investors who have made consistently high returns over their lifetimes; these investors have definitely cracked the code.
A group of people was instructed to flip a coin and predict which side it would land on. If they predicted correctly, they would advance to the next round. After a few rounds, the group had been whittled down to a small number of people. The researchers brought in reporters to interview the remaining contestants, asking them how they were so good at flipping coins. Fooled into thinking they had mastered the art of coin flipping, the remaining contestants came up with reasons how their technique was better than others’.
This example is a surprising encapsulation of the hindsight bias. These people were essentially claiming that they had discovered a way to manipulate the most classic example of pure randomness — the probability and conditional probability of a coin flip is always 50%.
Data is an imperfect proxy to the causes of success or failure. Data indicates the evidence of, not the reasons for success or failure.
Understanding the real reasons behind a pattern is much more important than being able to see the pattern itself.
"Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans."
— John Lennon
I have a tendency to be a micromanager. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are. One of the biggest challenges as an entrepreneur is to be able to delegate. But this post isn’t about delegating; it’s about luck and happiness.
One of the greatest advantages as an entrepreneur is that you have no boss. You can make your own decisions. We can directly effect change on the things we build, and that’s why entrepreneurship is so wonderful.
The downside is that when you try to create so much structure in your work and lives and things you build, you miss out on the opportunities jumping out in front of us. The problem is that when you want so desperately for something to happen a certain way because it’s “supposed” to happen that way or it seems like the “right story,” it ends up fake and forced, and you miss even better opportunities.
When I was in college, all of my friends wanted to go into investment banking, management consulting, or hedge funds. So of course, I was supposed to work at those firms by default.
I don’t think there was one specific moment that I can point to as a turning point when I realized I didn’t want to sell my soul to the banks.
In hindsight, I could claim that I knew exactly what I was doing; but in fact I was just following my gut. I woke up one day in the Spring of my Junior year in college and realized my offer letters at the banks had exploded. In a sense, I had made a decision by indecision.
And then, like what seems like every single soul-searching college student, I decided that I wanted to work in venture capital, with very little idea then of what it was. I was lucky enough to get a job that summer, but it was a series of accidents and extraordinary luck that got me where I wanted to be. Of course, I recognized the opportunities and jumped on them, but my point is that there was so much that was out of my control, that if I had tried to control it, I would have gone crazy.
In hindsight, teaching myself how to design and code through a startup in college was the best thing that I could have ever done. But I didn’t know that at the time. And I will always wonder what would have happened if I had decided to go work at Facebook twice, first after Hot Potato was acquired, and then after drop.io was acquired.
A mentor of mine once told me that if I drive down the highway of life constantly looking at the rear view mirror, I’ll miss what’s going on in the front windshield. I would miss the opportunities staring at me in the face (and maybe even crash!).
Life isn’t always a picture perfect story. I love my job. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes, I feel like unplugging to catch a breather. If I gave up because of that feeling, I would never make it. But I love what I do, and recognizing and utilizing that feeling in productive ways is what keeps me going.
The best things that have happened to me have happened when I’ve gone with the flow.
Pick a path and go all in, and know that the only certainty is uncertainty, that the end result will have taken you on a different path that you originally intended. In hindsight, you’ll find that the best route is the scenic route.
The luxury of scale is a double-edged sword. While scale can bring huge network effects you can leverage for fast user growth of new products, it can also mislead a big company to go after the wrong opportunities and paralyze a small company.
So when developing a new product, make sure you build a compelling first time user experience (FTUE) that does not rely on the benefits of network effects. The FTUE is important to get a push out of the gate, but iteration and designed-in network effects are what will win the game in the long run.
When Big Companies Assume the Luxury of Scale
Big companies that have achieved scale and take scale for granted are many times trapped into slow moving and myopic decisions that optimize on a local maximum.1 This is a topic that’s covered extensively in The Innovator’s Dilemma.
Big company that did this poorly: Google
Google Wave and Google Buzz both failed because they assumed the luxury of scale. They assumed that the large user base of Gmail and Google Search would transfer directly to a social product. Google mysteriously assumed that, just because it was a Google product, people would automatically sign up and use it regularly. It made no effort at integrating with email or any particular effort to ensure engagement other than sticking “Google” in front of the product name.
The FTUE was bad because Google neglected the core user behavior for both of those products: both are inherently controlled private experiences. Yes, Gmail is “social” in the sense that you are emailing other people, but they are private in the sense that the user expects data generated by Gmail to be private.
Big company that did this well: Zynga
Zynga was able to turn effectively a non-scalable game studio business into a massively scalable company with huge network effects and metrics-driven best practices. They understood the core value proposition and the first time user experience to make sure the user is hooked with each new game. Every single time Zynga launches a new game, they know:
Why the game is addicting,
How to optimize the FTUE to convert the user into a paying user, and
How to effectively transfer all of the previous Zynga games’ user bases into new games.
And most importantly, the folks at Zynga understood that you have to design to scale by designing in network effects. If they had designed assuming scale, they would have failed much like Google Buzz and Wave did.
When Small Companies Assume the Luxury of Scale
Small companies that have not achieved scale, yet assume massive distribution without understanding the core value proposition of the product, often end up with a product that has a bad first time user experience (FTUE) and fails to convert users into highly engaged users.
I’m a big believer in the KISS school of design. Test single hypotheses and control for every other variable to isolate a cause-and-effect relationship.
Small company that did this well: Foursquare
Foursquare’s first iteration of their app was solely focused on getting people to check in to a venue. No other bells and whistles in the feature set. They tested that core use case / value proposition and found that it is a hugely viral action that taps into our need to humblebrag (more on this in a separate blog post).
They assumed no scale or network effects. I still remember the key complaint about Foursquare when they first launched — that you need a certain number of friends for the product to be really interesting. I think the threshold number of users that Facebook found that users became engaged users was around 15 friends. So Foursquare used Twitter’s existing scale and pushed a lot of actions to Twitter by default. Also, Foursquare’s badges and mayorships features helped improve the single-player experience.
Small company that did this poorly: Hot Potato v1
In the first version of our Hot Potato app,2 we fell into the trap of assuming scale for the FTUE. As a result, we failed to pinpoint the main reason why a product feature is compelling from the first time the user loads the app. The single-player experience was bad. When users landed inside an event conversation stream, they saw an empty feed the majority of the time. The app worked well for large scale events like WWDC and SXSW, but failed for the long tail of event feeds on the app.
So when developing an app, make sure the FTUE is compelling. Users have limited attention spans. Without a core focus, everything looks like the most important thing to focus on. The edge cases begin to look like the core focus.
Make the product useful for your first users and understand its reliance on network effects before designing for scale.3
One of the more fascinating patterns in online communities is the emergence of highly engaged communities and behavioral patterns built on old, and many times, bad technology.
The classic example is Craigslist. Despite the old and sub-optimal design, people continue to use Craigslist and have created behaviors of their own to meet their needs. Check out this excellent diagram by Andrew Parker that shows all of the startups that have been built around each section of Craiglist.
The existence of these highly engaged communities and the fact that the crowd coalesces around a common cause despite technological hurdles is a strong indicator for the market need.
Also fascinating are the patterns of behaviors that emerge within those communities. For example, Style Forum is a highly engaged community of people passionate about mens’ fashion. Within this community, some behavioral patterns have emerged:
Buy and sell marketplace
WAYWT (“What are you wearing today”)
Things I didn’t know existed but now desperately need
Only recently have the forum administrators added new features based on that user feedback, but the new features are big hits. There have also been startups launched to build very focused products around those specific behaviors.
This means that you should have just the right amount of structure in your product to define the core action, but have enough slack to enable serendipity.
An example of this is Twitter. Early Twitter users created the @ reply, retweet, and #hashtag.1 When the Twitter product team recognized these behavioral patterns, they productized these behaviors and made them part of the core product to own that behavior.
Another example of this is what my friend Joe did at The Fancy. His product did one thing very well (posting pictures of objects), and then he closely observed what his users wanted. He found that his users were scouring the internet to find a place to buy the product and posting the link in the comments.
So not only did he build a product that captured that serendipitous behavior, he recognized the behavioral patterns and productized around that. The result is the new e-commerce offering you see on pages like this one.
Maximize structure around your single core behavior and minimize structure around edge cases to maximize serendipity.
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.
– Anton Ego, Ratatouille
It’s funny in hindsight which memories we remember most clearly.
One of those memories is from my first day at Hot Potato. Just the day before, I was a VC at RRE Ventures, and I naively thought I knew everything there was to building a product. I sat on the couch next to Justin Shaffer, and proceeded to list every single reason why I thought the iPhone app needed improvement.
As quickly as I had started, Justin stopped me and said, “Will, you can’t just complain without offering a solution.”
And he was right. It’s easy to be a critic. It’s easy to be an armchair product designer. It’s hard to actually build great products. People have become too focused on the hype, romanticizing running a startup.
I think part of why this has happened is because we are attracted to drama. People assume incorrectly that what we read on TechCrunch is a microcosm of what it’s like to work on a startup. Too many entrepreneurs are concerned with the hype and not enough entrepreneurs are concerned about building something, the unsexy work that goes into a great product. When I read that a startup is the new breakout success and people wonder how they came out of nowhere, if you look closely in the past, you’ll see brilliance and hard work combined with humbleness.
The entrepreneurs I respect the most are those who work tirelessly to make a difference rather than to appear on the front page of a widely-read tech blog or be invited to the most extravagant parties. These are entrepreneurs who do what they do because they want to solve a problem rather than try to achieve status.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt
It’s amazing how half a century later, this is still relevant.
Is innovative - Rams states that possibilities for innovation in design are unlikely to be exhausted since technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. He also highlights that innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology and can never be an end in and of itself.
Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
Is aesthetic - Only well-executed objects can be beautiful. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products used every day have an effect on people and their well-being.
Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
Is unobtrusive - Products and their design should be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools and are neither decorative objects nor works of art.
Is honest - Honest design should not attempt to make a product seem more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It should not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
Is long-lasting - It should avoid being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even when the trend may be in favor for disposable products.
Is thorough down to the last detail - Dieter Rams states that nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance in the design of a product since care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
Is environmentally friendly - Good design should make an important contribution to the preservation of the environment by conserving resources and minimizing physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
Is as little design as possible - Dieter Rams makes the distinction between the common “Less is more” and his strongly advised “Less, but better” highlighting the fact that this approach focuses on the essential aspects thus, the products are not burdened with non-essentials. The desirable result would then be purer and simpler.
It’s been an exciting year at Hot Potato. Since going live last November, we’ve been inspired and energized by your reaction to the service and people’s appetite for socializing around activities and live events.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that some of the features and thinking behind Hot…
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”—