Welcome to the startupy newsletter, a laid back newsletter about very serious ideas. Trying out a a slightly different format this week. Like it? Hate it? Tell me everything!
Here are this week's 10 cool things in in our universe:
FOR WHEN SOMEONE SAYS: I’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE AND IT DIDN’T WORK
A brief post by D’arcy Coolican on what to say when someone says “I’ve seen this before and it didn’t work” in the context of startup ideas. The tl;dr: successful companies often look like previously unsuccessful ones, but with a few differences that are only obvious in retrospect.
I love this related quote by Anna Quindlen and wholeheartedly agree that the world doesn’t need the thing - it needs the thing created by you:
Once you've read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbirdand A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had. And that is herself, her own personality, her own voice.
WHY YOU CAN’T MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY 🤣
HOW SHOULD WRITERS GET PAID?
Cheryl Strayed on why we have to shift cultural norms when it comes to writers getting paid:
Writers should be paid. There’s this idea that paying a writer is optional. We must make a profound shift about that. When we click on something and can't read it, we call it a paywall. Well, there's also a paywall between you and the apple in the grocery store, or the movie that you go see in the theater, and we don't call those things a paywall. We call those the cost of buying an apple or going to see a movie. Nobody expects to get those things for free because we understand that they have value and that work went into making them, whether it be growing the apple and delivering it to the grocery store or creating the content for the movie that you're getting admission to. Writing is the same.
It’s an interesting provocation. On the other hand, do we want to live in a world where people pay for content, when the beauty of the web is that that zero marginal cost of distribution means the most valuable things should reach whomever they are relevant to?
It’s a nuanced topic. If you want to dive deeper into how ad-based business models made the psychological cost of content zero, start with this podcast.
TWO BOOKS TO UNDERSTAND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
It’s much more pleasant to read a book about AI than to keep up with the endless news and hype. Here’s two we recommend:
Melanie Mitchell’s Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans
Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence
In general, I am a big believer in the power of AI and LLMs, but I also think we tend to overestimate AI advances and underestimate the complexity of our own intelligence. General intelligence of the sort we all display daily is not an algorithm running in our heads, but calls on the entire cultural, historical, and social context within which we think and act in the world.
THE PROBLEM WITH GOAL SETTING
For more, fall down the goal setting rabbit hole.
GREAT IS JUST GOOD, REPEATEDLY
I love this line from a podcast interview with Charlie Songhurst, former head of strategy at Microsoft:
If you survive long enough, maybe greatness eventually becomes you. One of the things that is underestimated, is if you want to live forever, maybe don’t start thinking about studying centenarians, instead, work out how to not die of a DUI or drunk driving or anybody else smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
It reminds me of an excellent post by Steph Smith I keep returning to: to be great, just be good, repeatedly.
IN DEFENSE OF SCALE
I’m obsessed with the mindset of smallness (or not needing to build an empire), but here’s a great argument on why we also need the opposite, by Jeff Bezos:
At Amazon, customer obsession has made us what we are, and allowed us to do ever greater things. I know what Amazon could do when we were 10 people. I know what we could do when we were 1,000 people, and when we were 10,000 people. And I know what we can do today when we’re nearly a million. I love garage entrepreneurs—I was one. But, just like the world needs small companies, it also needs large ones. There are things small companies simply can’t do. I don’t care how good an entrepreneur you are, you’re not going to build an all-fiber Boeing 787 in your garage. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact on important societal issues. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact on important societal issues.
MARKETING IS EATING THE WORLD
I agree with Elizabeth Yin that for most software businesses in the US, the problem isn’t technical knowledge anymore. The problem is getting a wedge into distribution.
AI will make this worse, and using product levers vs. external marketing channels for growth will be the name of the game. Here’s a cool stat: more than half of $100,000-or-higher revenue Zoom customers began with a single employee’s free trial.
WHY VC INCENTIVES ARE MESSED UP
Byrne Hobart on incentives in venture capital: An investment that’s produced a 10x return and no media coverage is worse for one’s career than a 2x return from a famous company.
NO GOOD ALONE
This essay by Rayne Fisher-Quan on the dubious side of self-help is the best thing I read all week.
The process of becoming yourself is not a corporate desk job, and it is not homework, and it is not an unticked box languishing on a to-do list. You do not have to treat your flaws like action items that must be systematically targeted and eliminated in order to receive a return on investment. You have no supervisor; you should not be punished when you fail. Your job is not to lock the doors and chisel at yourself like a marble statue in the darkness until you feel quantifiably worthy of the world outside. Your job, really, is to find people who love you for reasons you hardly understand, and to love them back, and to try as hard as you can to make it all easier for each other.
Curated in personal development and post-individualism.
*BONUS: HELP A FELLOW RABBIT HOLE VOYAGER!
Startupy member Rodrigo is deep down the Underground Communication Systems rabbit hole and trying to find more examples of it.
If you have examples, email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to find us elsewhere?
☼ Search the startupy hivemind using AI
It seems as though we’ve been trying to put the “free” genie back in the bottle since the Internet was launched. For a while, everything online was free (legal or not). Why haven’t more writers taken the original iTunes Store model and charge by the article, rather than the whole “album?”
We’re all getting burned with too many paid subscriptions, it would be nice to be able to buy an article or two and not have to worry about remembering to cancel in 7, 14, 30 days.