A thread on HN about bad code in legacy projects both makes me think how little we've learned as a discipline over the years and, honestly, how little credit we give ourselves for some pretty major
(Parallel evolution of code: I wrote a less-well-specified one at last gig.)
At risk of stating the obvious: this is a relatively novel development.
* a single, common encoding for almost all human languages
* a single, parseable, human-readable data interchange format
* a default protocol for information transport
This is very good for learners.
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Maybe more geeks need to meet someone who says “My job is teleporting value across time and space.”
Financial engineering is sort of a squishy term. I don’t primarily mean payments infrastructure or financial rails, although both of those involve substantial engineering.
I mean more “We took a thing and performed some alchemy, and now have a new thing.”
Except instead of alchemy it is generally quite a bit of math, a huge amount of contract law and due diligence, often an impressive amount of ops work, and a dusting of technology that web devs would recognize as such.
How to put this in regular finance terms...
Suppose hypothetically you have an account at a brokerage with some valuable asset in it. You take a margin loan against that asset to fund your normal spending, or pay a tax bill, or maybe buy something at another brokerage.
For reasons known only to the brokerage, they don't denominate your loan in dollars. They denominate it in shares of a money market fund, which are worth $1 +/- epsilon and basically never deviate from that.
And you think "Hmm, I have a large equity cushion against this loan."
One day, a computer system at the brokerage reports, sorta-kinda erroneously, that the value of the money market fund is actually $1.30 per share. The equity cushion is gone. Your valuable asset is sold, at timing you didn't choose, at wrong price, to pay an inflated phantom debt
And your recourse is... probably tweeting at patio11 saying he finds too much joy in this.
Which I don't; I just feel like this is why you don't trust a CPU built out of redstone to build reliable financial infrastructure on top of.
On a serious note, it's interesting to observe that you can build a decent business charging $20 - $50 per month for something that any good developer can set up. This is one of those micro-saas sweet spots between "easy for me to build" and "tedious for others to build"— Jon Yongfook (@yongfook) September 5, 2019
Every year at MicroConf I get surprised-not-surprised by the number of people I meet who are running "Does one thing reasonably well, ranks well for it, pulls down a full-time dev salary" out of a fun side project which obviates a frequent 1~5 engineer-day sprint horizontally.
"Who is the prototypical client here?"
A consulting shop delivering a $X00k engagement for an internal system, a SaaS company doing something custom for a large client or internally facing or deeply non-core to their business, etc.
(I feel like many of these businesses are good answers to the "how would you monetize OSS to make it sustainable?" fashion, since they often wrap a core OSS offering in the assorted infrastructure which makes it easily consumable.)
"But don't the customers get subscription fatigue?"
I think subscription fatigue is far more reported by people who are embarrassed to charge money for software than it is experienced by for-profit businesses, who don't seem to have gotten pay-biweekly-for-services fatigue.
APIs add new things to the toolbox. For example: Treasury, which lets an app/platform store, move, and track a business’
I've been a small business owner and can talk at length about SMB banking, and will later, but let's put on the software developer hat right now.
Lots of software talks about money, keeps records about money, does calculations about money, but can't *touch* money.
This is extremely frustrating when you're building SaaS apps for businesses, because you have total control over your UX right until your app needs to touch money... at which point all data about it lives in a silo you can't access.
So you generally push work to the operator.
For example, suppose you’re writing a business-in-a-box system for electricians, including an invoicing feature.
You need to be able to read bank transactions to reconcile. You probably can't. The owner can. So you ask the owner to do mind-numbing work a computer does better.
It sure would be great if your business customers had bank accounts you could actually introspect and operate on their behalves! You could just get the list of incoming payments and match against the invoices.
There is some software to write but it is not rocket science.
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Thanks to @chamath for laying this out in Social Capital's 2018 annual letter.
I've always appreciated his outspokenness.
2/ The hardest thing for most startups today is the path to market: first finding product-market fit & a way to reach customers, then building a ruthless machine to acquire, monetize & retain them.
3/ Because of this, when the VC industry invests capital into fast growing startups today, the plurality (if not majority) of invested capital will go into user acquisition and ad spending, for better or worse— usually worse.
4/ Todays massive venture-backed advertising, sales, and user acquisition playbook has morphed into one that champions growth at any cost.
This is creating a big bill that will soon come due...
5/ Ad impressions and click-throughs are bid up to outrageous prices by startups flush with venture money, and prospective users demand more and more subsidized products to gain their initial attention.
This limitation, which is still found in the very latest Windows 10, dates back to BEFORE STAR WARS. This bug is as old as Watergate.
When this was developed, nothing had UPC codes yet because they'd just been invented.
Back when this mistake was made, There was only one Phone Company, because they hadn't been broken up yet. Ted Bundy was still on the loose. Babe Ruth's home run record was about to fall.
When this bug was developed, Wheel of Fortune hadn't yet aired. No one had seen Rocky Horror. Steven Spielberg was still a little-known directory of TV films and one box-office disappointment. SNL hadn't aired yet. The Edmund Fitzgerald was still hauling iron ore.
WHEN THIS STUPID MISFEATURE WAS INVENTED, THE GODFATHER PART II HAD JUST OPENED IN THEATERS.
So, why does this happen? So Unix (which was only 5 years old at this point) had the good idea of "everything is a file" which mean you could do things like write to sockets, pipes, the console, etc with the same commands and instructions.
I've been finding myself coming back to this framework often when talking to founders about growth.
1/ As a startup, it's essential that you, and your team, have a clear understanding of how your business is likely to grow. We call this building a Growth Model. With this, you'll know which growth investments to make right away, which to avoid, and which to double-down on.
2/ Our advice is to think about your business like a high-performance race car. The same four components that help a car drive faster also help your business grow:
1. ⚙️ The (Growth) Engine: Self-sustaining growth loops that drive most of your growth (e.g. virality, perf marketing, content, sales)
2. 💥 Turbo boosts: One-off events that accelerate growth temporarily but don’t last (e.g. PR, events, Super Bowl ads)
3. 💧 Lubricants: Optimizations that make the growth engine run more efficiently (e.g. improved conversion, a stronger brand, higher customer retention).
4. ⛽ Fuel: The input that your engine requires to run (e.g. capital, content, users).
It's a lot on Channels (the new video function in WeChat).
Here are my notes & comments in parentheses:
WeChat daily usage looks like this:
1.09 Bn users log in, 330mm use video chat
780mm users view Moments feed (like FB feed), 120mm users post to Moments
360mm read articles, 400mm use mini programs
Why're we going after video?
In last 5 years, users are sending 33x more video msgs in chat, 10x more videos into their Moments feed.
Not everyone can write long content, but doing video requires new acct system (current public acct system is subscription based), we tried in 2017
but didn't get too far. But since video SO obviously the big thing in next 10 yrs, we began working on it for real in 2019. (Very late, if you ask me).
Channels is NOT like your WeChat ID, which is for PRIVATE comms. It's WeChat's foray into public content.
So now, you need a new Channel ID to make content, but not view content (use your existing WeChat ID & leverage social network / relationships).
WeChat tried 3 separate internal algo teams. Found that algo rec was much worse than people rec content performance.
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Here is why 👇
Startups fixed the problem of innovation, that corporations lack.
In big, slow corporations, innovation is a RISK and distraction from the core $$$ profitable business.
Agile startups could launch, iterate fast and eventually stumble upon new growing market opportunities.
When a startup reaches product-market-fit, it has to 🚀 "grow at all costs" and reach market dominance before some giant corporation can replicate their new product and distribute it to their existing giant customer base.
Startup's "growth at all costs" often means growth at the expense of charging customers $$$ money.
Hence, to be sustainable, startups have to constantly chase investor money.
Startup teams spend more time finding and pleasing investors, than finding and pleasing customers.
95% of startups die because they run out of (investor) money + no business model + crazy investor expectations.
Same way corporations die, when unable to adjust to new technology and market shifts.
We're basically fucked.
The tech world has gotten so huge, self-reinforcing, and insulated from reality they can no longer even vaguely look at themselves (and their actions) as others do. They just live on a different planet than most people.
Conversely, the average tech consumer doesn't understand the technology that has slowly taken over their lives, and their designated emissaries to figure it out--politicians, pundits, regulators, journalists--understand it barely better than they do, and have their own agendas.
To say more than generalities for a moment, here's what I think is likely the core problem.
Techies take weird, improbable visions, and make them realities: some BS pitch deck to a VC, mixed with money and people, really does turn into some novel thing.
Most people work inside a legacy industry that's evolved that way over time (usually for good reasons), and they think about the future via some analogy with their present (which is a function of a long-ago past). The interruption that tech will introduce is often hard to grasp.
"If only someone would tell me how I can get a startup to notice me."
"I guess it's impossible and I'll never break into the industry."
Courtesy of @edbrisson's wonderful thread on breaking into comics – https://t.co/TgNblNSCBj – here is why the same applies to Product Management, too.
"I really want to break into comics"— Ed Brisson (@edbrisson) December 4, 2018
"If only someone would tell me how I can get an editor to notice me."
"I guess it's impossible and I'll never break into the industry."
There is no better way of learning the craft of product, or proving your potential to employers, than just doing it.
You do not need anybody's permission. We don't have diplomas, nor doctorates. We can barely agree on a single standard of what a Product Manager is supposed to do.
But – there is at least one blindingly obvious industry consensus – a Product Manager makes Products.
And they don't need to be kept at the exact right temperature, given endless resource, or carefully protected in order to do this.
They find their own way.
Published a new essay: The red flags and magic numbers that investors look for in your startup’s metrics – 80 slide deck included!
This was a deck that I created on my (longish) interview process with @a16z. It was a long path, starting with meeting folks at the firm 10 years ago. But the purpose of the deck was to explain how I would use my superpower in an investing context
Here's what I explain in the deck. As investors (whether angel or VC) we're often confronted with an up-and-to-the-right graph. Is it going to go up? Or down?
One solution to forecast these growth curves is the Growth Accounting Framework, where you add up New+Reactivated and subtract churned users. In each time period that gives you the difference in monthly actives.
The problem with this is that it's a lagging metric, not a leading one. We need to go one level deeper and look at the underlying loops that drive these numbers, to understand the quality.