Hello from Munich! I’m writing this while en route to Athens for a quick visit.
#1 Writing effective headlines
Last spring, I participated in the first iteration of Y Combinator’s Startup School, an open online course on startups and entrepreneurship. One of the most useful take-aways I got was some really great practical advice from our working group mentor on writing effective headlines. I keep referring to it again and again, so I thought I’d share it here.
An effective headline should have one or more of the following traits:
(i) appeal to self-interest of the reader
(ii) pique curiosity
(iii) appear newsworthy
(iv) come across as quick and easy
#2 The case against exponential growth
I’ve been following Basecamp for quite a long while, coming to know them from their fantastic Signal vs Noise blog and later from the excellent Small Giants book. They’re somewhat of an inspiration to me on how to build a successful company by focusing on a stellar product and customer happiness, as well as on healthy, steady revenue instead of obsessing about growth. An interesting fact about them is that instead of paying for ads on platforms like Facebook and Google, they choose to spend the same money as user referral bonus. A happy user will refer another happy user. And happy users tend to stick around. Which is the #1 thing any SaaS company cares about. If you ask me, I’ll take steady, linear growth over the slight chance of a hockey stick growth chart. Just build an awesome product that people love to use (and pay for it) and will tell their friends about it, too.
#3 Maximizing positive metrics
In a recent interview on the a16z podcast, Stripe’s co-founder touched upon many interesting topics, such as it’s far better to build boring (in the best sense of the word) infrastructure pieces than marginal value-add products. They have surely found their niche with online payments as an API. But what struck me most in this discussion was the notion that it’s far better to maximize a positive metric (e.g. increase revenue) than minimize a negative one (e.g. reduce cost), since customers are far more likely to be happy to pay you as you’re now participating (and enabling) their upside.
#4 Decentralized future
Despite the insane hype of the online casino that cryptocurrencies brought to the Christmas dinner table this past year, the underlying technology of it all (blockchain) may have some legitimate use cases. As Fred Wilson points out in this great overview video that Upfront produced as part of their annual summit, there hasn’t been any innovation since the mid 90’s. I’m really excited to see what new ways of interacting we will come up with as we’re layering new kinds of applications based on these new protocols. A Y Combinator blog post also has some interesting points on the same topic.
#5 Stupid Hackathon
I love a good parody. Combine it with hacks, and boom! The motherload:
Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon
Monetizing the glass ceiling Monetizing voter registration Privatizing eyebrows Privatizing criminal justice more…