An evening of insights with the Hutters

The idea route for a startup is to deploy a small skeleton crew to focus on mining for the insights on human behavior with cheap experiments that will support a viable business model before raising money and scaling up the operations.

Big organizations tend to forget the insights that original lead to the founding of the company

If there is a company out there that is solving a problem you are trying to find a solution for but you cannot think of it off the top of your head, they might as well have been dead.

What you think might work usually is not so. It is only when you land up in a promising domain and start mining for insights in that domain do you start finding ones that are useful for building a company from.

Screenwriting is probably the only occupation where you can envision how all the moving pieces fits together while you are lying in bed. Writing a business plan is a very useless undertaking because unless you have tested your business model to get actual market response, you will not know if it would work or not work. This is much of other inductive processes where much of the building blocks required to work are out there in the environment yet know and to be discovered.

Humans are motivated beyond pain and pleasure

No one has considered hyperlinks themselves as important data elements.

It is usually the simplest actions backed by the most fundamental insights that drives the largest consumer adoption.

People feel that sense of accomplishment when they gather stuff thanks to our hunter gathering roots . They might not even need it at the end of the day.

Social book marking just died when most of their operators pivoted away from the central idea in 2005

  • Stumble upon
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Pintrest
  • Trello

The mass adoption of Slack and Quip might be a great channel for growing such an idea again but for the enterprise space.

The success of YouTube can be speculated to be due to:

  • In baked flash media code into browsers
  • Increase in bandwidth
  • Delaying the payment of royalty fees and taking down of copyrighted contents
  • They got sold for 1.2billion but paid of 750million in terms of royalties

Mark Cuban is a fake billionaire for selling Real networks to AOL which eventually got shut down after six months. Reason for Real Network being empty is because while it looking really impressive on the outside, it did not capture any of the user behaviors.

Related readings

  • Tory Higgins, “Beyond Pleasure and Pain: How Motivation Works”
  • Tory Higgins, “Shared Reality”

Paid acquisition strategy review

The way MasterClass, Apple and SquareSpace execute their paid acquisition strategy is just a cut above the rest. The advertisement are inherent viral.

SquareSpace – John Malkovich Super Bowl 2016
https://youtu.be/LgQB9cIa0DE
SquareSpace – Jeff Bridges super bowl 2015

Apple: Think different 2013
https://youtu.be/5sMBhDv4sik

Apple: 1984 big brother
https://youtu.be/VtvjbmoDx-I

MasterClass – Hans Zimmer
https://youtu.be/yCX1Ze3OcKo

Advise from Casey Winters on SEO metric tracking for startups

For startups utilizing SEO as a acquisition model to focus on the following:

  • Utilize this formula to track performance: for all keywords ranked ( Ranking of site for keyword + Monthly Search volume of keyword )
  • User perceived wait time
  • Conversion rates from visits to registration

In a nutshell, to rank for more keywords via pages created instead of trying to optimize for specific keywords.

Analysis of MeetUp.com’s penetration into Japan and relevant mobile behavior on crowded trains

MeetUp.com observed to have significantly penetrated Japan.

A quick study shows significant levels of liquidity on both the supply and demand side for this two sided market place in major cities of Japan.

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka

Acquisition model attributes

  • Primary acquisition channel: SEO
  • Primary use case: interest groups as an excuse to practice English.
  • Retention pattern: Weekly recurring usage

Other noteworthy mobile user behavior

Primary data observed glancing over the shoulders of mobile users in crowded trains

recurring use cases

  • Reading comic
  • playing mobile games
  • reading up news on Google News
  • social media (Facebook)
  • No significant usage of music listening via ear phones on trains.

 

 

Examples of various networks failing at scale

Most solutions will inevitably break when used at scale. These are two recent examples.

AirBnB’s network scales to extend it starts disrupting entire neighborhoods

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-06/miami-beach-airbnbs-top-market-in-u-s-as-charlotte-grows-rapidly

Political campaigning on social media gets way out of control after politicians attempt to scale up the method which got President Obama elected to office 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-07/google-considers-changing-its-political-advertising-policy

Technology eco-system scales up operations in California thereby triggering the housing crisis.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-california-housing-crisis/

Moderation and self restrain is not common when caught up in a winner takes all situation

 

Crypto-currency exchanges

Business model

  • Pricing model
    • USD 80K initial listing fee
    • fees on each transaction
  • Enterprise sales acquisition approach
    • acquisition channels
      • LinkedIn
      • Crypto-conferences
    • Cost
      • USD2500/month for sales staff
      • USD4000/month for engineers

Landscape

  • Over supply of exchanges versus crypto projects
    • Crypto-currencies have tanked in 2019
    • There are more than 2000 exchanges right now
    • 20 new currencies are minted each month
    • There is a lack of differentiation between exchanges
  • crypto projects are reporting an exceeding high level of failure rates
    • due diligence traditionally handled by VCs for traditional startups are left to end consumers for crypto projects
    • most projects do not have a sound use case
    • teams tend to be poorly managed
  • Uneven playing field
    • US media’s extensive distribution network is the primary advantage of US based exchanges
      • Binance is the largest exchange
      • Binance ability to tap into engineering talent in US has allowed it to be the trail blazer helping it garner constant media attention
    • Chinese crypto-currency companies are attempting to penetrate US and Europe by hiring talents with fluent in English

Complementary assets for Biki

  • Parent company’s crypto news portal
  • Parent company’s engineering knowledge in building exchange software

Microsoft university penetration strategy

Tools of the trade

  • content marketing like documentation and tutorials on how to use tools
  • Speaking at events as first point of contact for lecturers and TAs
  • Sponsorship through hackathons
  • direct outreach to educational TAs
  • support for student mentorship programs

Acquisition

  • Reach to TAs to try out tools for free
  • Setup booths at hackathons and conducting workshops
  • Train student on the use of MS tools so that they can become successful mentors – GitHub strategy
  • Provide budget for student groups who want to organize learning sessions involving how to use the tools

Feedback mechanism /

  • track the conversion rate of documentations visit to corresponding sign up levels
  • track time on documentation
  • listen for feedbacks when interacting with students during hackathons to figure out portions of the documentation that are confusing

Metrics

  • track YoY student traffic usage during lull periods to determine if baseline is improving.

Growth Leaders Cocktail Hour & Modern CMO Panel

Panelist

  • Todd Wilms, Fractional
  • Lauren Vaccarello, Talend
  • Matt McAllister, Mobile Tech RX
  • Carilu Dietrich, Classy

Key take aways of being a CMO

  • Counter-intuitively – the higher you are in the hierarchy the more silo-ed you become
    • average tenure 18 months
  • Alignment is the most important thing
    • your primary team is the executive team
    • Always figure out what the CEO is reading
    • Start thinking about needs of board, investors and C-Suit
  • strategic mindset:
    • start thinking in terms of framework
      • step away from the minute details
      • it is the job of the VP of marketing to fill in the details within the framework
    • look across various functions for solutions
    • move beyond your own functional area when required
    • as opposed to marketing which is
      • minding the day to day activities
      • moving the levers to drive conversion rates
  • Growth mindset
    • be ready to go where the business needs you
    • Be hypothesis driven
  • market focus
    • actively monitor the markets
      • define a new category
      • size of market
      • competitors
      • disruptors
    • read earnings report of company and competitors
    • read more Wall Street Journal
    • Understand the P&L so as to understand how money is flowing through the company
  • Important allies
    • Someone on the sales team
    • Someone on the finance team
      • they know where money comes from and where money is spent
  • Brand values
    • clarify the narrative for your team to do their job
    • quite similar to core values
    • the personality that will dictate how interaction occurs at all touch points
  • Creating the customer communications play book
  • Analytics
    • on users
    • secondary data from researchers
    • to gain influence to own the P&L
  • Perpetual learner
    • The new paradigm
    • AI disruption: Department of defense using AI to parse through PHD thesis to figure out new technology to defend against
    • start utilizing the services of coaches for private help as the stakes are high
  • Marketing
    • demand generation
    • digital marketing
  • On hiring
    • ask about topics not related to their area of interest
    • see if they crumble under pressue
    • how did they turn a crisis into an opportunity.

Related readings

  • The hard thing about hard things, Ben Horrowitz
  • Beyond Product, Todd Wilms

An unchanging constant as the source of trust

Trust is the ultimate source of wealth in any society. The level of manifested physical wealth correlates positively with the level of perceived trust members of society have for an entity.

When an entity, be it a phenomena or a behavior, is observed to be consistent across time without much falter, it soon becomes accepted as the norm. Overtime this norm gets deeply embedded within a society and becomes an integral part of its culture. It thus becomes trusted and a source of credibility.

Societal commerce is built on trust. Trust accumulated through consistency overtime can be converted to other forms of tangible currency. These currencies can then be used to direct resources within the society towards the achievement of very material goals.

When comparing between two entities that are embedded within the cultural fabric of society, the one that exhibits a higher level of consistency inevitably gains more trust. This explains why while fiat currencies comes and goes, the value of gold remains consistent across time.

While it might be tempting to equate trust with value, there is a subtle difference. While trust elicits value, value need not necessarily elicit trust.

Expressing the entire civilization’s undertaking at any point in time as an linear equation, any essential variable that happens to be the most restrictive in supply at that point inevitably becomes the most valued. However wide fluctuations in value does not elicit trust in the long run.

Sources of trust

  • the rotation of seasons and our subsequent practice of agriculture
  • the constant speed of light and it’s use in Einstein’s theory of relativity
  • gold with its scarcity and it’s persist use as a store of wealth
  • well run institutions with well defined constitutions
  • fiat currencies with under sound government regimes
  • individuals who exhibit consistent behavior overtime

Qualities of viable currencies

  • Ability to be divisible
  • Ability to be moved
  • Ability as a store of wealth overtime
    • consistent levels of supply
    • scarcity

Functions of currencies

  • a means to facilitate transactions
  • a store of wealth

Examples of trust erosion

Example 1: Michigan Pulls $600 Million From Ken Fisher an individual After Lewd Remarks

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-12/michigan-pulls-600-million-from-ken-fisher-after-lewd-remarks

Example 2: 1918 Germany as an institution, towards the tail end of WWI.

When it became evident that the country will loss the war, it experienced increased inability to raise debt to in domestic currency denomination to continue financing its war efforts. It’s currency soon lost it’s reserve currency status and it was increasingly forced to denominate debt in foreign reserve currencies.

Post WWI debts denominated in domestic currency where inflated away through printing of cash by the  German government to pay of debts denominated in foreign currencies.

Example 3: Africa use of glass beads as a failed form of currency

Europe was able to cheaply produce this in abundance . Europeans for a period were able to exploit this asymmetry by exchanging cheap glass beads for valuable natural resources. When value within the African society became depleted,  Europeans were eventually able to subjugate the entire African population and exploit them through the slave trade.

Example 4: Wall Street crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Bankers increasingly became concern of easy credit driving share prices to stratospheric valuations. An eventual tightening of credit lead to rapid deleveraging within the system. The lack of trust within the system prevented the circulation of money and credit. The central bank ultimately had to step in to restore trust.

It did so by first preventing the flight to value. This was achieved through the banning of conversion of USD dollar to gold.

Example 5: An ongoing slow erosion of fiat money

With the deliberate pursuit of constant 2% yearly inflation by central banks around the world current fiat money are failed stores of wealth .

The currency of the Roman Empire is a perfect example of where we will be headed. Overtime less gold per coin is used. Their currency was ultimately replaced by paper which allowed rampant printing by the government during times of war. The effects of inflation eroded the Roman empires currency as a long term store of wealth.

Examples of persistent sources of trust

  • The institution of the Catholic Church
  • The consistent adherence to a set of sound principles by Berkshire Hathaway’s reinsurance business over multiple decades. 
  • Federal reserves consistent adherence to the dual mandate of 2% inflation and low unemployment rates

Conclusion

To build trust is to build wealth. The key to doing so is to adhere and operate on a consistent set of sound principles over across time and in all environments. Being slow and steady is a pre-requisite of this process.

Related readings