No bad habits, no gold stars

We know nothing about venture capital!

“Correct, we have no bad habits. We were total outsiders. And, we weren’t kids that went to ivy league schools and worked at Goldman Sachs, so we weren’t accustomed to getting gold stars for painting in the lines. We were accustomed to doing things creatively outside the lines.” – David Fialkow, September 2021

People enter situations with a culture which can influence how they act. In society, and wearing a mask. In conversation, as debate structure. In politics, or anytime there is leadership.

People enter situations with incentives which can influence how they act. In music, ship platinum, receive gold. In football, three star recruits. In startups, what OKR? In horse racing, to race or to sell?

One of the tricky parts of life that covid revealed is the heterogeneity in life. Like, A LOT of variation. This same effect exists in the more mundane world of organizations. There’s no set of incentives or culture that always works. But there is a culture and there are incentives and each matter.

Have a nice day.

The ‘Job’ of what is said

“I thought hard about what other people are trying to accomplish and I tried to shape my language in a way they could hear it. That’s half of what I talk to founders about. It’s just that, how to build the API to the other person’s brain. It doesn’t matter what you say. It matters what they hear, and it matters how they feel.”

Sam Hinkie, ILTB

That expression has a real JTBD-ness to it. It’s not the how something is done but the what, and if it’s the right what.

Tracking Tom. After a monster of a game, Tom Brady is 162 yards ahead of pace, his largest difference of the year. If Brady plays the rest of the games he’ll likely hit the over and our speculation will be wrong but our reasoning continues to hold, though maybe less than we should have suspected. One question comes to mind:

Did we think about base rates wrong? The key to base rates is to choose the right reference class. Brady seems fanatical about his health, and maybe we should have taken a page from Morey and made a cross-class comparison to Lebron James.

There’s still more ‘zero’ outcomes than not. Tampa could clinch a playoff spot, or be eliminated. Brady could be injured or rest before the playoffs.

We speculated at the start of the season there were a lot more zero to 200-yard games (injury, rest, offense, etc.) than 400+-yard games. That’s held in the data, Brady’s median yards per game is 11 yards less than his average. It feels incredibly odds, but we’ll be wrong for the right reasons.

Sarah Tavel

Sarah Tavel spoke with Patrick O’Shaughnessy and in their discussion included five good questions. Perspectives from differing industries make these questions especially helpful, a change in point-of-view is worth forty IQ.

What weaknesses accompany competitor’s strengths? Ebay is a behemoth. They sell everything. So Tavel points to Goat, “and one of the founders had ordered a pair of sneakers off of eBay, opened the box up, and they were counterfeit.” That was their founding insight, eBay has all the supply, which includes fake products.

What business serves too many people? New companies arise to serve new needs. One helpful framing is to read is books from the late-90s an early 00s about technology and the remarkable respect for Microsoft. Everyone worried about them but large size brings weaknesses too. Why does TikTok work in a YouTube world? Why does Snapchat when there’s Facebook? Why Zoom with Skype?

Does this exist elsewhere? Tavel said, “It doesn’t really make much sense if you’re a real estate broker to be on LinkedIn. It’s not your network.” What if there were a network where brokers could share leads then share commissions? Poker does this when one player stakes another. “Real estate brokers do share leads with each other and if one of them converts they get a share of the commission, but there is no formal system.” There’s no such thing as new problems.

What job—and this may be different from what customers say they want—do customers really want? At Pinterest the power users wanted to rearrange pins on their board. This was a difficult engineering challenge and only requested by .1% of users—but that was still a lot of people so the Pinterest team built the feature. “It was a symptom of something else not working in the product, which was an inability to search your boards,” Tavel explained. They didn’t know the JTBD.

What choices reinforce our advantages? “Anytime a user clicks or taps they are using energy and you want to direct that energy in a way that creates the most value for the system that you have. Usually there’s a core action in your system that is most correlated with a user retaining, and creates accruing benefit for your product.” Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy Bad Strategy is summed up by a different phrasing of the same question; what collection of choices is the most synergistic?


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