I can't help myself. News sources Wed, 05 Aug 2020 15:09:56 +0000 This is my current list of news sources:

World news

  • The Economist Paid. Global news that cover the economy, politics, sports and culture. I read perhaps 50% of the articles in full, the rest I just skim.
  • Espresso by The Economist Free. Short summary of daily news. I read it every day on my phone, in the morning.
  • Washington Post Freemium. I read most headlines, and usually deep dive on USA society topics.
  • Reuters for Apple TV Free. Up-to-date news in video format. The app auto-generates your choice of 10min, 15min or 30min of news. I love it, watch it about once per day when at home.


  • Launch Ticker Freemium. Daily short news on what's going on in Tech. I read every single email carefully.
  • Stratechery Paid. Daily analysis of important Tech news with a strategy and business angle. Written by Ben Thompson. Articles are interesting, carefully written and feature non-trivial commentary on economic, legal and political issues. I read every single email in full.
  • Dithering podcast Paid. Daily 15 min commentary on Tech, by Ben Thompson and John Gruber. I don't miss a show.
  • Daring Fireball: The Talk Show podcast Free. Weekly podcast by John Gruber, the creator of Markdown and a long-time Apple commentator. I listen to about 50% of the episodes, mostly on long trips.
  • ATP podcast Free. Fun, weekly podcast that covers tech, Apple and programming. I listen to about 25% of the episodes, mostly on long trips.

Life style

  • The Atlantic Paid. Monthly lifestyle magazine. I have started to read it just 3 issues ago.


  • Governo Sombra Free. Commentary on Portuguese and World news. It's a great form of commentary. The 3 participants (+1 host) focus a lot on who said what and how; less than the actual content, like economic or social news; but in doing that, they expose very good points. I hear the podcast only, and never miss a single show.
Investors Wed, 08 Jul 2020 16:25:36 +0000 Some thoughts on investors collected from my experience and conversations with other founders!

Most investors:

  • Are very smart people.
  • Really want to see you succeed, wether or not they invested in you.
  • Ask interesting questions when looking at your data.
  • Work very hard, have difficult schedules and travel a lot.
  • Understand the need to rest properly and to have family time.
  • Are super well connected in the tech industry.
  • Are personally relatable and have similar interests to founders.

On the slightly negative side, a majority of investors:

  • Are very busy and spread too thin. They forget things and repeat questions.
  • Overvalue plans. Plans are important, but challenges have tremendous uncertainty, variability and interdependence. That's why kanban is so popular!
  • Are insecure and suffer too much from "me too" dynamics.
  • Are mostly "about financial deals"; frequently, they don't really understand nor voice opinions on important tech trends.

The minority of Outstanding investors:

  • Always give more than they ask. They are active ambassadors, users, product team members, etc.
  • Have unique, god-view insights into your product and users.
  • Have great taste.
  • Are opinionated and useful when benchmarking your business, qualitatively and quantitatively (like metrics).
  • Get you in contact with other people who also have the traits above.

To be continued!

Online retail Wed, 29 Apr 2020 22:34:42 +0000 As people move their purchases online, people wonder what opportunities for online businesses are out there.

I believe there's 3 positions, a number of opportunities, and a few extra points worth mentioning:


  • The best in class.
    • Example: Build the next Tommi Burger and take it online. Tommi is one of the best burgers out there, and it was part of my routine in Berlin. 180g, organic beef, great French fries or sweet potatoes fries. At a certain point, Tommi was 30% of the daily number of orders of an online marketplace with hundreds of restaurants.
    • Investment: Low. It requires more experimentation and kind of being an expert in your area, but once you get it, you have a very streamlined operation and customers who think you're god. Note that investment is low for a single product. If you want to develop a line of cosmetics, you may need to multiply this low cost x 50 different products.
    • Scaling: slow. you're mono-product, so it takes a while for the word to get out and to get volume.
    • Gross margin: Big, 50-80%. You are focused and will be producing non-stop.
  • The Best assortment.
    • Example: The Spatis (Späti or Spätkauf) from Berlin. High-quality neighbourhood convenience stores. Have a selection of first-need items, foods, a couple of great wines and a nice assortment of beers and ice-creams. It's one of the big untapped opportunities.
    • Investment: Medium. You'll need stock for maybe 100-500 items. But that's it.
    • Scaling: Medium. You have a decent catalogue and people can go there every week or even twice per week.
    • Gross margin: Medium, 30-50%.
  • Marketplace.
    • Example: Amazon the shit out of your industry.
    • Investment: big. Store, product, operations, brand. Mostly, you'll need people!
    • Scaling: big. With a true marketplace, you represent all the market, so people go there more frequently.
    • Gross margin: varies. As you scale, you'll be able to hit 50%+ margins on many products. In the beginning though, pressure will mean you are price-competitive, and your gross margin will be closer to 20-30%.

Businesses where you can create something special

The following are, to me, unsolved or every-changing opportunities.

  • cosmetics
  • restaurants
  • convenience stores
  • butchers and fish shops
  • ice-creams, chocolates, etc
  • waters, wines, beers and spirits
  • toys

Other distinctive factors

  • Build the fastest delivery you can offer. This is a unique selling point for... almost any business. We went from a world where Amazon delivered in more than a week a few years ago to many items being delivered in 2 hours or less now. An ambitious delivery promise will get you stuck in operations and tie you to a restricted geography. But it also wins the hearts and minds of your customers. Keep in mind that delivery costs vary wildly per country, with hourly wages in the US, UK and Germany above $10 while in southern Europe you'll be <$5.
  • Mobile. With the Uber Eats generation, people are buying increasingly on their mobile phones. Offer an app, or at the very least a website that behaves like one. You should also be aware of new platforms, like selling on social (instagram) or via chat apps (WhatsApp).
Startup Culture Sun, 05 May 2019 00:00:00 +0000 A great startup culture is important. It's not uncommon to hear that a specific culture to was a key factor for success. Zappos, Amazon, Google, Apple, Uber, each have started and grew on the heels of powerful, sometimes bruising, cultures [1][2]. In all of them there are strong figures, outspoken people, struggles, some fights. When you love something, you fight for it!

Your business values are important, as are your principles. This is a collection of things I like to revisit.

  • be there. Show up, be on time, be there for your team, be proactive.
  • breathe startup. If you're in charge of social networks, you should be active in them. If you are in charge of ops, people should feel your energy. Make it a personal priority to show how much you love your area of work. It adds credibility and makes you an advocate for growth.
  • be a family. I consider all my colleagues to be like friends and family. (Conversely, I treat friends requests for feedback with subjective curiosity and objective skepticism that I apply in business). I am genuinely interested in everyone’s hobbies. All this adds incredible color to the workplace. Some people are gym addicts, other are part-time DJs, some are fashionistas or barbecue lovers. No one has to share but it's a hell of a better place if they do, and those things may come in handy, even if it's only at the next summer party.
  • quantity matters as much of quality. There will be good days where things go smoothly, and there will be days where you will be at odds with others. Make sure the nice days are near 99%. People should feel good.
  • lead by example. If you don't want a behavior to spread, don't do it. Often when I started showing up late for meetings, other team members did the same. The same happens with starting hours, leaving hours, having an active life outside work, checking social networks during the work day, etc. It's hard.
  • be brutally honest. If someone failed, point that out with a clear example, and as soon as it happens. Having a formal performance review is fine, but it doesn't replace doing it "there and then". If you feel something was a major screwup, tell it like that. Good people stomach criticism. Call out bad ideas, and bullshit too. Get technical on your criticisms.
  • feelings matter. Even if it isn't your intention, your words can cause other people to think you are against them, or that you don't care. Clarify if it's that's the case. You can be defensive: always re-read your emails before sending, scan for potentially misunderstandings: how may the recipient read this?
  • apologize. Maybe you didn't mean it that way, maybe the form or the substance weren't adequate, maybe you were just silly or juvenile. Apologizing is more useful than not.
  • moving along. Sometimes you need to fire people. Or you need someone to change their performance significantly. Sometimes you get really pissed at something. Or you screwed up. Talk about it, learn from it, and move along. There's nothing like a novela to bring your startup to a halt. Be actionable and quick. The team too must learn to move along.
  • no gossip. "He said she said" is not a nice way to start a conversation. I usually avoid reacting to hearsay. The counterpart of this argument is that people should be open to talking with you at all times, about anything. This prevents gossip from happening in the first place.
  • Limit cursing. Cursing is somewhat inevitable in hard environments. Calling something shit is perhaps rough and unclassy, but it's part of the lexico of IT for example. As long as it's not used to describe people, it's a behavior to avoid but which is at this moment woven into the conversations in startups

[1] The demand of Jeff Bezos

[2] Some stories on Bill Gates

Marketing messages Tue, 12 Mar 2019 18:07:17 +0000 It's easy to write a slogan, but its hard to write a great one.

To aid me in the initial exploration, I first decide what I want to communicate:
- The Product
- The Use Case
- The Brand

And also, the urgency that I want to imprint:
- solving a pain (aspirin)
- improving a situation (vitamin)
- a bare description of the facts (neutral).

If we put that in a matrix, we get the following options.

Area Aspirin Vitamin Neutral
Product Product solves Situation. Product improves Situation. How the Product Works.
Use Case Use Case is solved. Use Case is improved. Use Case description.
Brand Aspirational Life post Situation. Aspirational life with improved Situation. Aspirational life.

An Example. Let's say I'm building a website with a system that helps companies find the best recruitment candidates. Here are the different ways I could talk about it.

Area Aspirin Vitamin Neutral
Product The Linkedin bot that mines the best leads. A Linkedin bot that gets hiring leads that churn less. A bot that mines Linkedin for leads that match your colleagues.
Use Case The best hiring leads from Linkedin. Hiring leads that churn less. Leads that match your colleagues.
Brand Solving talent. The better HR fit. A company worth working for.
Books Sat, 03 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Here are my readings. Work in progress: still merging with some older lists of books read.



Book Author Comments Last Read Pref
(WIP) (PT) Os dias loucos do PREC Adelino Gomes, José Pedro Castanheira Recollection of the Hot Summer of 1975 in Portugal (11 March - 25 November) that followed the revolution of April 25th 1974 that replaced the dictatorial regime "Estado Novo". The account ends in the failed Communist coup and pro-democracy counter-coup of November 25th 1975. Mostly drawn from newspapers and publications, it has little narrative and even less commentary. - 4️⃣
The Spy and the Traitor Ben Macintyre The life of Oleg Gordievsky as a Russian spy who was a double agent working for the British SIS (MI6) and who had an impact on the Cold War and particularly on the UK PM Margaret Thatcher and USA president Ronald Reagan. Terrific account. 2020 5️⃣
Architecture Without Architects Bernard Rudofsky A short introduction to non-pedigreed architecture. This is a short book with black & white pictures of examples of early and non-modern architecture. It's curated but diverse, and beautiful. 2020 5️⃣
Prisoners of Geography Tim Marshall A view of the nations strengths and weaknesses - and fears - through the lenses of geopolitics. The author merges history and clever extrapolations to explain what we can expect of the peoples and nations in light of the rivers, mountains, plains, oceans and lakes that surround them. 2020 5️⃣
Endurance Alfred Lansing The story of Ernest Schakleton. He and his crew of 27 got stranded when trying to reach and then cross Antarctica on foot, which was then uncharted. 2019 5️⃣
Permanent Record Edward Snowden Autobiographic description of the upbringing of Ed Snowden who leaked the NSA mass surveillance programs. At times the book sounds too fatalistic, as if his path was written since a long time ago in his infant hacks, teenage school defiance, etc. Overall it gives a solid personal perspective of who he is and the steps before, during and after his he revelations. 2019 4️⃣
How it was/ (PT) Foi assim Zita Seabra The book tells the political life of the author. It includes her clandestine work for the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) during the Portuguese Dictatorship all the way through her expulsion from the Political Commission of the Central Committee of PCP. Very engaging story, with clear descriptions of the Communist Party, objectives and actions. 2019 5️⃣
Nostalgia for the Absolute George Steiner Short, compelling theory on the appearance and failure of multiple absolutist philosophies and movements, from Communism to UFOs. 2014 5️⃣
Dispatches Michael Herr - - 4️⃣


Book Author Comments Pref
The Odes and Epodes of Horace Quintus Horatius Flaccus Timeless stories of human life. 5️⃣
Simplicities Oscar Mandel Compelling, smart poetry. 5️⃣


Book Author Comments Last Read Pref
Japan 1945 - A U.S. Marine's Photographs from Ground Zero Joe O'Donnell Great photographs from Japan after the Atom bomb was dropped. - 4️⃣
Maus Art Spiegelman Comic about the life of a holocaust surviver, before, during and after the WWII - 4️⃣
Up Front Bill Mauldin Comic strips about soldiers life during in World War 2 - 4️⃣
Eyewitness to World War II Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop for National Geographic - 4️⃣
My friend Dahmer Derf Backderf Terrific story about a strange teenager who would become a serial killer. - 4️⃣
The Carter Family Frank Young and David Lasky Comic about the life of A.P. Carter, the Carter family and American Country and Folk music. - 4️⃣
46750 João Pina Photography framing the 46750 deaths that happened in Rio de Janeiro during 2017-2016 while the city prepares for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. - 3️⃣
Drawing Fire: A combat artist at War Howard Brodie High quality drawings from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam. - 5️⃣
The New Nomads Gestalten Houses and spaces for a dynamic life. Some interesting creations but also lots of far-fetched concepts. 2019-05 3️⃣
The Box Sibylle Kramer Architectural solutions with Containers. Most practical stuff and some very interesting houses, told alongside useful numbers about containers and shipping. 2019-05 4️⃣



Book Author Comments Last Read Pref
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold John le Carré Superb spy story. Engaging to the last page. 2020 5️⃣
84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff - - 3️⃣
Embers Sándor Márai Beautiful story. - 4️⃣
Gretta Erskine Caldwell - - 4️⃣
Chosen Stories (PT edition "Histórias Escolhidas por um Psicopata") Edgar Allan Poe - - 4️⃣
Tender is the Night F. Scott Fitzgerald - - 4️⃣
Of Human Bondage Somerset Maugham - - 4️⃣
Doghead Morten Ramsland - - 4️⃣


Book Author Comments Last Read Pref
Mooncop Tom Gauld Short graphic novel on the melancholic deflation of aspirations. Man colonized the moon - but life wins. 2020-06 4️⃣
From Hell Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell Brilliant conjecture about the story of Jack the Ripper. 2019-05 4️⃣
Parker - The Score (Book 3) Richard Stark, adapted and illustrated by Darwin Cooke. 2017 3️⃣



Book Author Comments Pref
1984 George Orwell Compelling dystopian view of an authoritarian state. Contrasts with Brave New World from Aldous Huxley. 4️⃣
Animal Farm George Orwell - 5️⃣
The Road Cormac McCarthy - 5️⃣
The War of the Worlds H. G. Wells - 5️⃣
The Time Machine H. G. Wells - 5️⃣
Brave New World Aldous Huxley - 5️⃣
Brave New World Revisited Aldous Huxley - 4️⃣
The Picture of Dorian Grey Oscar Wilde - 5️⃣
Screwtape Letters C. S. Lewis Fun. 4️⃣
Screwtape Proposes a Toast C. S. Lewis Fun. 4️⃣
Till We Have Faces C. S. Lewis Very good myth story 5️⃣
Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie - 4️⃣
- Ringworld
- The Ringworld Engineers
- The Ringworld Throne
- Ringworld's Children
- Fate of Worlds
Larry Niven Exciting science fiction with an amazing level of detail. 4️⃣
Avogadro Corp
- Avogadro Corp
- A.I. Apocalypse
- The Last Firewall
- The Turing Exception
William Hertling Great series about AI and technology. Eye opening fiction story about how a simple use case of technology can result in an Artificial Intelligence. 4️⃣
Heart of a Dog Mikhail A. Bulgakov A metaphor for the attempt by the soviet bourgeois elite to create a new proletariat. 5️⃣


Book Author Comments Pref
Watchmen Alan Moore One of the best books I've ever read. Story with epic plot and detail. 5️⃣
V for Vendetta Alan Moore Instant, fast-paced classic. -
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Volume I
- Volume II
- Black Dossier
- Volume III: Century 1910
- Volume III: Century 1969
- Volume III: Century 2009
- Nemo: Heart of Ice
- Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
- Nemo: River of Ghosts
Alan Moore Epic rhapsody of heroes. 5️⃣
The Perry Bible Fellowship - Almanack Nicholas Gurewitch Witty, bitter, fun, sarcastic comic strip. 5️⃣

Project: Nobel prize in Literature

Reading at least one of each.

Book Author Comments Pref
Christ Legends and Other Stories Selma Lagerlöf (Sweden) NPIL 1909 4️⃣
The Wreck Rabindranath Tagore (India) NPIL 1913 3️⃣
The royal guest Henrik Pontoppidan (Denmark) NPIL 1917. Suspenseful. 5️⃣
Victoria Knut Hamsun (Norway) NPIL 1920 4️⃣
Penguin Island Anatole France (France) NPIL 1921. Humorous dystrophy. 5️⃣
The Late Mattia Pascal Luigi Pirandello (Italy) NPIL 1934. Fun fiction . 4️⃣
Demian Hermann Hesse (Germany) NPIL 1946. 4️⃣
Siddhartha Hermann Hesse (Germany) NPIL 1946. 4️⃣
Murder in the Cathedral T. S. Eliot (U.S.A.) NPIL 1948. 3️⃣
The Dwarf Pär Lagerkvist (Sweden) Fun fictional story coupled with history. NPIL 1951. 5️⃣
Thérèse Desqueryroux François Mauriac (France) NPIL 1952. 3️⃣
To a god Unkown John Steinbeck (U.S.A.) NPIL 1962. 5️⃣
The wall Jean-Paul Sartre (France) NPIL 1964 (declined). 3️⃣
Thousand Cranes Yasunari Kawabata (Japan) NPIL 1968. 3️⃣
Endgame Samuel Beckett (Ireland) NPIL 1969. 4️⃣
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (U.S.S.R.) NPIL 1970. 5️⃣
I confess that I have lived Pablo Neruda (Chile) NPIL 1971. 4️⃣
The Solid Mandala Patrick White (Australia) NPIL 1973. 4️⃣
The Magician of Lublin Isaac Bashevis Singer (Poland) NPIL 1978. Magical, fun fiction. 5️⃣
The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) NPIL 1982. 5️⃣
The Double Tongue William Golding (U.K.) NPIL 1983. Very good, enticing, story. 5️⃣
Arabian Nights and Days Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt) NPIL 1988. Magical, fun fiction. 5️⃣
A world of strangers Nadine Gordimer (South Africa). NPIL 1991. 5️⃣
Cat and mouse Günter Grass (Germany) NPIL 1999. 5️⃣
The Tin Drum Günter Grass (Germany) NPIL 1999. Cool, magical, fun, fiction in a Historical setting. 5️⃣
Slow Man J. M. Coetzee (South Africa) NPIL 2003. 5️⃣
Old times Harold Pinter (U.K.) NPIL 2005. 4️⃣



Book Author Comments Last Read Pref
A concise guide to Macro Economics David A. Moss Easy guide for Money, Inflation, interest rates, banks, international trade, for absolute beginners. - 4️⃣
A Social Strategy Mikolaj J. Piskorski Great book about social networks and strategy. - 5️⃣
Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson Critical view of Apple's founder. - 3️⃣
Becoming Steve Jobs Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli. Balanced view of the good and bad of SJ. - 3️⃣
Venture Deals Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson The A-Z of VC investment, for entrepreneurs. No pre-readings required. - 4️⃣
The Everything Store Brad Stone Great story about Amazon and Jeff Bezos. - 4️⃣
Powerful Patty McCord About Netflix culture. - 5️⃣
Creative selection Ken Kocienda Great book about the Apple darwinian process of developing products (Demo > Refine > New demo) and how it balances algorithms (instructions for an objective goal) with heuristics (instructions achieved by trial and error to complete a subjective goal). - 4️⃣
Ogilvy on advertising David Ogilvy Clear tale about one of the most successful advertisers of all times. Ogilvy explains how ad agencies, executives, creatives have and copy writers work. Many gold nuggets. - 5️⃣
The Elements Of Style W. Strunk Jr. & E.B. White Useful booklet about how to write better english. Many good do's and don'ts. 2019-03 4️⃣
The 100 Greatest Advertisements Julian W. Watkins Must read for anyone who writes about products and services. Some ads and lessons seem out of fashion (way too much copy). Favs: “Wanted: Volunteers For the South Pole”; Eastman Kodak - “You press the button, we do the rest”; Steinway - “The Instrument of the Immortals”; Ford Air Transport - “lift up your eyes”; Listerine - “often a Bridesmaid, But never a Bride”; Big Ben - “First he whispers, then he shouts”; Young & Rubicam - “Impact”; Rolls-Royce - “to a man who is afraid to let his dream come true”; Boston & Maine - “That’s a hell of a way to run a railroad”; Webb Young - “hand woven by the mountain people of New Mexico”; Merrill Lynch - “Too long?”; Bruggners - “White Elephant Sale”; Warner & Swasey - “Wonder what a Frenchman thinks about”. 2019-04 4️⃣
Portuguese Ecosystem Thu, 17 May 2018 13:09:28 +0000 The following is my personal take on the Portuguese startup ecosystem, and probably is incomplete.

Universities with great track records in Computer Science. North through South:

Companies with Series A by international investors:

Other interesting companies:

  • AirCourts: sports booking app that won the PT market (I'm an angel investor)
  • Blip: agency turned tech center for betting company Paddy Power Betfair
  • sketchapp: co-founded by Emanuel Sá
  • jscrambler: jscrambler
  • LSTS: Lab with an open-source end-to-end toolchain for Autonomous Systems
  • Mindera: agency spawn out of Blip
  • Prozis: very successful online sports nutrition company (Private)

Local funds and VCs that go deep on technology:

International funds that made early bets in PT startups before/ at Series A:

3: Team setup Sun, 06 May 2018 22:46:39 +0000 The following is a guide I follow when setting up teams. It's a permanent work in progress.

Hiring and feedback

The mindset I look for in people is "I will make an impact!".

  • hire people that can solve what others can't. They should have unique pro skills.
  • hire people that love challenges and who are courageous.
  • Hire for a great time together: avoid people that make meetings painful (interviews are meetings).
  • avoid people who talk or write in a confusing way.

Daily Work

Daily work should be lean and purposeful:

  • Be autonomous: Deliver value by autonomously completing work that impresses colleagues, users and clients. Deliver when it's done, not when it's almost done. Nobody cares about "almost".
  • Show initiative: avoid adding another brain to a mob. Adopt critical, orphan, projects.
  • Focus: Doing too many things at once means nothing will ever be perfect. Keep your WIP=1.
  • Ship small: Make deliveries as small as you can.

Interacting with others

Team work should be ... also lean and purposeful:

  • Get a calendar: time for your stuff. Time for meetings. Try to keep "meeting" days to 1, max 2 per week.
  • Collaborate asynchronously: split tasks, work, discuss, merge. Avoid chats and endless synchronization processes and meetings.

Building teams

Once your company is 10+ you should think about teams.

  • Keep teams small: Max 10 people, 5-6 is my ideal.
  • Split up for work: If your teams have more than 4 people, work in smaller units. Alone or in groups of 2 or 3. A team of 5-10 people can tackle 2-3 projects simultaneously.
  • Give teams a purpose: Each team should have a purpose that is limitless, like "make the best search engine for our product". Avoid overlapping purposes of different teams.
  • Assign leaders and expect responsibility: my teams have up to 3 leaders: Product Owner, Product Designer and Engineering Manager. Some of these are shared between 2 teams. One of these positions (PO,PD,EM) may lead.


  • At a global level, there's a list with all projects per team.
    • Prioritize them. Get each team to agree on the order of things, and everyone else to buy-in (bottoms-up or top-down).
    • Add impact-oriented status: to-do, in-progress, delivered.
    • You don't have to communicate deadlines, size estimations, or complex status... In my experience, they're a waste of time.
  • At the micro level, let the teams organize however they want
    • They can use Boards, spreadsheets, notepads. I like GOTChA charts for large projects. If teams want to do estimations within projects, let them do it.

Planning and evaluation

There's 2 key parts in planning cycle: before the quarter is over and when the next quarter starts.

  1. Deciding what to do next
    • Each quarter we reorganize list of projects per team. We do it on the last month of the quarter.
      • Team leaders talk to users, Business, designers, engineers, users, etc.
      • Product Managers organize feedback into a list of challenges (projects) including features, bugs, improvements, tech debt.
      • To me, the key is how you write the challenges. It's an art to be super clear on the problem without prescribing a technical solution.
      • Teams agree on priorities. Product Managers have a key role in this task, as it's their responsibility to make sure there's a prioritization.
      • CEO gives one pass with comments.
    • We also assess how the product is standing in terms of benefits for the user.
      • We send a survey for all the team so that they comment on each team's absolute value delivery. The CEO does a final write-up of each team's performance.
    • Finalization meeting
      • On one meeting with Product + Business, team leaders (usually Product Managers) present their roadmap plans.
      • We spend a significant time making sure there's common understanding of challenge formulation.
      • we pick up our cohort model and try to do simple forward projections. Everyone on the meeting (product + growth) submits their own model. The point is that team members understand the relationship between actions and numbers.
  2. Understand how we are doing
    • After a quarter is over, we check how we did in terms of product:
      • did each team advance in terms of features, that is, relatively to the priorities list? This is done in a survey for all the team, and the CEO (me) does a final write-up of each team's performance. Points, sizes, speed measures are not considered (pointless).
    • We also do a check on the numbers, and what happened in terms of cohorts and other metrics.

Having a long term strategy is also important:

  • Keep it simple: We commit to a strategy which is reviewed once or twice a year. The CEO generates a template, and everyone is encouraged to debate and make additions and edits.
    • it's a great source or challenges.
    • the collaboration part is a nice way to make space for intuition, taste & initiative.

Responsibility and Authority

Team decisions are a tricky subject. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for the success of the company. Teams should be self-aware and decide together, that's always preferred. But as teams and skills grow, you'll see deciders (authority) popping up here and there. It's practical and perhaps unavoidable to assign Responsibilities and Authority.

  1. Empower teams: by design, teams must self-organize to make decisions, internally & autonomously. They should weight users needs and teams views, be them Business, Design or Engineering.
  2. Responsibility: Responsibility is easy to assign. Functions prescribe some responsibilities.
    • Example: Product Managers are responsible for prioritization, so it's them who have to make sure there are priorities, that they are updated and communicated.
  3. Authority: Authority on the other hand is hard to establish. Ideally, "the best idea wins", but that's frequently code for "endless discussion of what best means". I hesitate to give authority to functions, because power is not born of a title, but experience. It's easier to just feel who has the authority, and then make it official (or not).
    • Example: In my teams, the authority over the final spec of a project may lie with a Designer, a Product Manager or an Engineer - even if the responsibility of the team arriving at a final spec is the Product Manager's responsibility.
    • Example: In my teams, the authority over the final say of a hire lies with Engineering Managers. Not even I, a founder, overrule the EMs decisions. I do give my input, but in the end, they have to manage their teams engineers.
Food Sun, 11 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000
  • In 2025, there are subscriptions for selection of dishes from restaurants. For an amount charged periodically, a user can buy from a few best dishes from the best restaurants. The subscription implies a much lower price than ordering those dishes casually. The user provides stable demand (subscription), which allows the restaurant to offer cheaper price (more volume) on the dishes chosen by the platform, which takes a cut. On each day, a few or all of the dishes of the selection can be ordered online or at the restaurant. Posted in March 2018, updated wording in May 2018.
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    Transportation Sun, 11 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000
  • Want: An indestructible and nice looking electric bicycle (Sep 2017). Found Budnitz model E. (Sep 2017).
  • 2025: Uber has either stopped developing its autonomous hardware for small cars in-house, or became a car maker (Dec 2016)
  • 2030: Car sharing and car hailing services provide 50% of more of all intercity trips in one of the largest 100 cities in the world (Dec 2016)
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    Appliances Sun, 11 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000
  • Want: A tabletop dishwasher for kitchenware (plates, cutlery) that works just like bar glass washers. Loading a dishwasher until its full, waiting for the cleaning and unloading it again frequently seems less efficient than cleaning the wares one by one, if there's a machine that makes the washing fast enough (Nov 2017).
  • Want: a gamified toothbrush, that gives me incentives to brush my teeth more often and better (Dec 2016).
  • 2025: Finally, someone produces a very light, internet-connected device for voice and text that has a battery lasting a week (Dec 2016)
  • ]]>
    Trouble ahead for SaaS Sun, 03 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000 From a user demand angle, the SaaS business model is built on a simplification advantage: A SaaS tool gives you the functionality you need to do your job, ready to use and hassle-free. In return, they charge a monthly (or yearly) fee. The per person logic is a favorite, but other tiered pricing models exist that scale with usage or features.

    From a supply angle, it seems like SaaS proliferated because of how easy and inexpensive it has become to create them:

    • Inexpensive infrastructure (IaaS and PaaS) offered by the likes of Amazon, Google, Heroku, etc.
    • Containers (VMs, containers) that offer convenient abstraction of infrastructure.
    • Automated development operations with infrastructure as code.
    • Open Source software, libraries and API integration code in abundance.

    I believe that these forces will also ultimately be the demise of SaaS as the king of B2B software models. Open source automation will evolve deep into the harder parts of software management: configuring, monitoring, updating, scaling, security. Infrastructure players will be on board because this will make more people use their services more. The big wins will be more transparent pricing, lower prices and more control.

    This will mimic the first push of automated software installs, life Wordpress, Magento and Drupal. Just this time, instead of a deploy of a single software in a single server, you'll be deploying a whole setup that is ready to scale and easy to manage and update.

    SaaS may fight back and replicate pricing models that are tuned to infrastructure usage. Like charging per actual days used or active users. They can and will keep investing in differentiating functionality that is hard to replicate under a distributed model, especially for niches. Machine learning models will also bring advantages to the players controlling most of the data when these times arrive. Services will augment it. Complex models may survive in SaaS, but the future clearly will bring a lot of hardship to this model.

    IaaS + Containers + Automation + Open Source > SaaS.

    Unmanned Vehicles Sun, 26 Feb 2017 00:00:00 +0000 In the middle of 2016, me and my partner Torben decided to study a few business spaces. The criteria was to pick the idea we loved the most out of those where our competences and resources combined could result in a differentiated offering.

    We both loved the potential to tackle the software stack fragmentation in the unmanned vehicles market. Unmanned vehicles in this context includes air, ground, surface and the underwater kind. We developed a strategic document with two main references for strategic positioning. I have included them here for your reference, click the links to download!

    Market segmentation

    In the market segmentation analysis, we explored two axis. A vertical axis for activities, in terms of the type interaction with the environment required by the application. We started with Tinkering (none required), then Playing (in an environment), then Acquiring data (sensing the environment), then Surveillance (acting on repeatedly sensed data), then Transportation (of things in the environment) and finally Actuation (changing the environment). The other axis has the medium of operation, from Air (UAV), to Ground (UGV), to Surface (USV), to Underwater (UUV). It's also split, where we found appropriate, into Public (eg. streets or a lake) or Private (eg. your house or a warehouse). For each of the opportunities created in the intersection of axis we then added examples, and assessed the potential according to a number of criteria.

    Software Stack analysis

    We also produced a preliminary analysis of different sw stacks for operating unmanned vehicles. More important than the data, which is becoming rapidly stale, is the taxonomy. It starts with 3 top-level pieces of the stack. The first is an Onboard Command & Control software, which the sw that is inside each drone or each vehicle. The second is Communication, which includes all about the protocol and application-level command support of the stack. The last one is the Remote Command & Control, usually known as the Ground station. It's the tool a human or a team use to issue missions, plans, actions to the vehicles, to observe the behaviour of the vehicles, and to handle payload.

    FYI, we ended up pursuing something else. But this space is truly great. I have to thank the lab LSTS all the inspiration and support they gave me in this data compilation and analysis. Ping me for any question you may have!

    Real Estate Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:37:38 +0000 Predictions

    • In 2030, co-living, co-owning and house time-sharing is big. People are mobile and have contracts that guarantee shelter. The population in the West excluding immigration is declining fast relative to the amount of housing available. That and technology lowers prices. These flexible rental subscriptions have more than a million active contracts. Posted in December 2016, updated wording in May 2018.


    • A real estate marketplace where properties are always on the market. Objective: register properties of owners who want to sell (regular marketplace) and also those who may sell. Assumption: the majority of the owners will sell for a price that is high enough, and there's at least a few buyers who are willing to pay extra for particular properties. Currently, finding the price that makes an owner sell means displaying listing the house for the market to see, which is undesirable. Make a marketplace where all properties are anonymous, revealing only broad info like location, highlights, year of construction, state of conservation, decor style and/ or floor-plan. Interested parties have to make a commitment in order to see more info, like paying a fee (lets say $25), or registering their own property; if they don't make an offer for the property (or another property) within a period, the fee goes to the property owner. Posted Jan 2019.
    Media Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:32:51 +0000
  • In 2025, verifiable video and photos are a reality. A service exist that verifies when and where a video or photo was taken. Such service is used by a top newspaper of the world (WaPost, Times, NYT, etc). It’s composed by an app which records video or pictures, and that guarantees that the media comes from the camera hardware and that location is from the GPS chip, and not some SW hack. The app then calls a service that stores the media and meta data or a hash of the media and metadata. The service can be a blockchain based service. Separate apps and services allow verifying any video posted anywhere on the internet. Posted in Dec 2017.
  • In 2025, region lock for content has faded way. Platforms like Netflix, Spotify and iTunes have grown, and international trade deals have helped trigger catalogues that are 90% equal for access in different regions. Has to include at least US and EU. Posted in Dec 2016.
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    Money Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:25:48 +0000
  • 2020: ICOs didn't kill the VC business. VCs still exist and they're still how startups get funded. They still deploy the same kind of money they were deploying in 2016, or more. If ICOs and smart contracts have equity-like legal power then VCs invest through them. There are a few ICOs per ecosystem (storage, computing, services), #ICOs << #Startups using ICOs. (Nov 2017)
  • 2025: Bitcoin (BTC) reaches USD 50.000, Ethereum (ETH) reaches USD 5.000. They don't need to be at those values by 2025, just reach it before 2025. (Jan 2018)
  • 2025: Digital debt is a thing. There is at least one pure-digital debt issuer and one online-first credit worthiness scoring agency. Online identities track your score throughout the internet. They are available for contracting to the majority of clients of a major player with eCommerce or services operations. Can be Amazon, Apple, Google, AliBaba (Dec 2016)
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    Robots Sat, 31 Dec 2016 20:02:05 +0000
  • 2020: Rovers for last mile deliveries are rolled out in the whole of one city for all customers by at least one big brand. The city has more than 1 million inhabitants covered by this service. The service can be something like pizza hut, 7 eleven or amazon (Dec 2016)
  • 2020: Air delivery drones are still not a thing for last mile delivery in the conditions defined for rovers above (Dec 2016)
  • 2030: General purpose AI is still not a thing. Machines can’t take care of themselves autonomously. Machines and algorithms can still only learn what we tell them to learn. Even when they can perform generalization, they can only do it in types of problems we tell them to generalize (Dec 2016)
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    Communications Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:57:52 +0000
  • 2025: Software SIMs are commonplace in smartphones, or whatever replaces them. The pressure of millions of connected devices, MVNOs and other hardware makers and software platforms resulted in that situation (Dec 2016)
  • 2030: There is a working mesh network that is governed by an open protocol spanning millions of nodes that are built into mobile devices like phones or watches. Coverage doesn’t reach the whole US, but some personal devices in cities effectively run critical services (like personal communication) on them (Dec 2016)
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    Human Interfaces Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:55:31 +0000
  • 2017: VR and AR are not a thing. No single player sells 10m units to consumers (excludes industry) (Dec 2016)
  • 2020: VR and AR are still not a thing. No single player sells 10m units to consumers (excludes industry) (Dec 2016)
  • 2025: Machines can understand 95%+ speakers of a language better than humans with little or no custom training for that user, even in street talk (Dec 2016)
  • 2030: Computer-brain interface implant debates have been on the front page of the major media outlets. There’s at least a thousand people using them outside pure medical applications (Dec 2016)
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    Government Sat, 31 Dec 2016 19:52:08 +0000
  • 2030: AB Testing of governments is now possible. At least one country has 2 duplicated and parallel governments that compete with each other for at least one service. An Example is 2 competing tax authorities, polices, health systems, school systems. Citizens can subscribe to either, with duties rights according to their choice. Likely there is some lock-in when choosing. (Dec 2016) Update: It is required that the services are 100% public, that is, they are ran by the government and not by private companies regulated by the state. It is also required that the funding of the services, that include public workers, depends on the peoples choice. (Dec 2017)
  • 2030: Democracy is strengthened in several countries that now have a 4 "independent" power: Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and Informational. The Information body includes the statistics bureaus, labelling norms and data verification. It overall manages consent in society, including actions of the 3 remaining powers (Jan 2017)
  • 2035: In the years between Brexit announcement (year 2016) and 2035, per-capita GDP (PPP) in the UK will have grown as much or more than EU average (exc. UK) and of DE, FR, IT. (Jan2018).
  • Want: A Transaction Tax that replaces all taxes. This TT is collected by the bank whenever a transaction takes place. Its made of 2 sub-taxes collected at once TT=ST+RT. ST is the Sender Tax and is determined by the Country of the sender of the money; RT is the Receiver Tax and is determined by the Country of where the receiver provides the service; In case the Service isn't rendered in the same country where the receiver actually is, then the Receiver Tax can be compounded by a factor that reflects this. If the Sender is a company and the Receiver a person, then TT is the income tax. If the Sender and Receiver are the same person, we're just moving money around (no tax). But if Sender and Receiver is the same corporation, then TT is a tax for an intra-group transaction. If Sender is a person and Receiver a company, TT is a consumer Sale Tax. If Sender and Receiver are companies, TT is a B2B Sale Tax. Etc. To avoid money flowing to the parallel economy, TT for cash withdrawals is big. TT and ST and RT can vary per activity of Sender and Receiver and by the type of product or service rendered.
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    Software Sat, 31 Dec 2016 00:00:00 +0000
  • Want: iOS print as PDF for the share functionality. Sep 2017. Released in iOS 11. Nov 2017.
  • Want: A setting that would make my browser accept and persist cookies only for sites for which I have a password. That is, I don’t mind that a website stores cookies to make my life easier, but I don’t want to help others track me. Sep 2017.
  • Want: Smart App updates. An option for iOS that updates the apps that I use the most more frequently, and the ones that I use infrequently it updates only ~1x month. Apr 2018.
  • 2020: There is a way for non-techies to program connected applications. More than 1 million users create their custom automated workflows apps in a platform. Dec 2016.
  • 2030: In several verticals, SaaS no longer dominates. Ex: accounting, corporate communication, etc. Subscriptions lost to Software that is automatically deployed from a open-source/ private repository to the users infrastructure, which is being managed in a consumption/ subscription model. Recipes automate updating and security, scaling etc (the devops). Nov 2017.
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    Business models Fri, 30 Dec 2016 00:00:00 +0000
  • 2017: Apple continues to hold >90% of the profit of the smartphone industry (Dec 2016). Happened.
  • 2017: Apple becomes the number 1 watch maker in the world by revenue (Dec 2016). Tim Cook announced it on 2017-09-12 (September 2017)
  • 2018: Apple crosses the 1 trillion market capitalisation (Nov 2017). Apple crossed the $1t in market cap on 2018-08-02 (August 2018).
  • 2020: There is at least one worker digital union (syndicate) valued at 1b. These digital unions startups are online aggregators that tilt the bargaining power of individuals vs. big platforms. (Dec 2016). Update: in big platforms I include non-digital companies, it can be a big company. (Set 2017)
  • 2020: There is at least one consumer digital union (cooperative) valued at 1b. These digital unions startups are online aggregators that tilt the bargaining power of individuals vs. big platforms. (Dec 2016)
  • 2025: CV on the blockchain. A decentralised social network for CVs has been launched and attracted more than 10m users. Users are incentivised to join by awarding them tokens of the network. They also get more tokens if they remain on the network, potentially tiered by network size, age, or network value. Miners also get tokens. Tokens are used to access the CV data, via API or via the app. The more data of a person or persons you need to access, the more you pay. Users can block certain info, and maybe get less tokens awards. (Feb 2018)
  • 2025: Finally, your digital ID now stores passwords for most things, including websites, apps, services, banks, etc. You need only a handful (5), at most. Maybe it depends on a hardware device (Dec 2016)
  • 2025: Open-work on Open-source. At least one company worth >$1b opens their code and pays developers across the world by reputation of their commits within their open source software trunk, which can cover all or part of the company. Incentives exist for great contributors, paying them an on-going allowance for some months after their relevant contribution. At least 20% of dev budget is paid out this way. (Oct 2017)
  • 2030: Amazon, Facebook or Google's market value shows a downwards trend until 2030. The fact that their market value is very dependent on a dominant position will attract growing government oversight. Amazon is complex and produces little profit, which makes investment dependent on the market believing on continued growth and market domination - hard to maintain conditions. Google and Facebook make the majority of money from a single service (advertising), and the online ads industry can be changed overnight by governments action or tech disruption. (Dec 2017)
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    Marketing campaigns Thu, 28 Apr 2016 00:00:00 +0000 If you want to do campaigns in marketing, you have a lot to choose from. Online, offline, new customers, repeat customers, there’s thousands of different campaign types. You will only know what’s best after you’ve tested them, optimised them. So there will be a lot of trial and error involved. And even after you nail it, things may change in time, so you’ll want to revise results.

    However, you should have a strong initial hypothesis about what should work and what shouldn’t. This will make your search more targeted and easy. I’ve made a small survey of the different types of marketing campaigns, and some of the qualities of each, to help you with that.

    You can find the whole survey, including the classification here. If you want to play with it and customise the attributes for your industry, you should download the file as an Excel doc, or duplicate the sheet into your drive.

    Below I explain the file, which I simplified for this example.

    Channels and their campaigns
    1. CRM. All campaigns targeting customers who have purchased at least once in all platform. So all converts coming from here are for repurchases. As a corollary, all other remainder channels and campaign types are for Customer Acquisition and converts are new purchases.
    2. Online Marketing. All performance customer acquisition campaigns done online. That is, scalable online channels with a pure intent to convert new customers.
    3. Offline B2B. All offline campaigns targeted at acquiring new customers in a business setting.
    4. Offline B2C. All offline campaigns targeted at acquiring new customers in a consumer setting.
    5. PR. All campaigns, online or offline, whose intent is to educate and engage new customers through a channel with a big authority (magazines, famous people), most likely without incentives or discounts.
    6. CONTENT. All online campaigns that focus on the information itself, and not the medium or person, as the means to convert new customers.

    1. Demo: the exposure of the target to the product
    2. Target relevance: who are we reaching
    3. Push / Pull: If we are being pushy, of if the customer was already looking for us
    4. Management: How easy is this?
    5. Direct / Indirect: Are we going to the customer as ourselves, or through a partner?
    6. Viral potential: is this sharable?
    7. Reach: How many people will this reach?
    8. CVR: How much will this convert, per person?
    9. CAC: What’s the cost of each conversion?
    10. Your competitor: Are you competitors doing these things? (An indication, not necessarily a confirmation of this being good)
    11. Your segment (several): How do you expect each of your segments to respond to this?
    12. Average: The attributes above are not perfectly MECE, especially Reach, CVR, CAC vs. all the others. This is because we want a nice overview of the campaigns, not a perfect score. The score is really just a fetish.
    13. Priority: This is your priority. What you want to do now, what you don’t want to do, and what you may want to try.

    Output KPIs. These are the lagging indicators which I frequently use for all my campaigns everywhere. They are MECE and well studied: number of Converts, Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
    Performance KPIs. These are the leading indicators which can be used to control larger teams and how each campaign is doing to contribute towards the output KPIs.

    Remember this is a particular survey of channels and campaigns. You should always re-interpret and discuss within your team what is the impact of each campaign in all of those attributes I picked, or others you find more relevant.

    Pricing Sat, 23 Apr 2016 22:45:28 +0000 You built a product. Now its time to make some money. You want a healthy margin, but you don’t want to over charge and ruin the business long term. How to price properly?

    One way to do it is to build your pricing thermometer. The price thermometer is the following:

    || True Value
    || Perceived Value
    ||       |
    || buyer incentive
    ||       |
    || Price
    ||       |
    || seller incentive
    ||       |
    || Cost

    True value is the value that your product generates.
    * If you are selling an accounting software that allows a company to save $1.000 in tax, then your true value is $1.000. This value is, frequently, hard to determine. Many segments of the market have different uses for a product, which unlocks various different True Values for each of them.
    Perceived value is the value that the customer understands.
    * It takes into account the marketing you do, but also the competitors and replacements available. Let’s say that your accounting software has 3 packages: HR, Procurement and Sales. Let’s say the software will save a customer $500 in HR, $490 in Procurement, and only $10 in Sales taxes. Because the software is quite complex, you don’t advertise the Sales taxes savings prominently, and you don’t know if a regular customer will be able to use more than 50% of the Procurement features. Therefore the perceived value is actually only $500+50%$490 = $745. Finally, if there is a direct competitor selling a similar software for $695, then obviously this will be the perceived value of your product as well. If their software is not exactly similar, you should compare each individual feature and its value.
    Buyer Incentive = Perceived value - Price
    Price. The price you are selling the product.
    Seller Incentive = Price - Cost
    * Cost of Product. This is the cost of goods or services sold.

    Basic stuff
    If Price = Cost, you make no money at all. If Price = Perceived Value, the customer is getting no benefit: he is paying as much for the product as he’ll benefit from it.
    You should place price in between cost and the perceived value. The higher the price, the more margin you will make. Your incentive to sell equals Price minus Cost. The lower the price, the more benefit a user will extract. The customers incentive to buy equals Perceived Value minus Price.
    * Generically, the higher the margin between perceived value and cost, the most likely an industry is likely to develop. Because Seller Incentive + Buyer Incentive = Perceived Value - Cost.

    More. This notion of pricing using the thermometer is quite static. It’s very important when you want to build a strong brand and product, and a long term relationship with the client. In a dynamic market, it takes time to educate your customers on how to extract the true value of your product or service. Profit is what truly matters, but if you want to maximise the revenue you get at each moment, you may need to do a bit of tinkering in Pricing.

    A quite simple and quick way to determine optimal price in a multi-customer setting is to start up and slowly go down. So, you start with a price near the maximum perceived value, say 100, and you get to sell 20 units. Then you drop to 90 and maybe you get 25 customers. You keep going down, and calculating Revenue = Price x Quantity.. At some point you reach a maximum, and that’s your optimal price to maximize revenue. You can do the same with margin of course, what you need to maximize instead is Margin = Quantity x (Price - Cost). Note that in digital software and many online services the marginal cost of serving another customer is zero, therefore maximising Revenue is similar to maximising margin.

    4: Project Management Sun, 17 Apr 2016 00:00:00 +0000 People use to-do lists, calendar plans and more to organize projects.

    In 2006 and 2007 I took part as a junior researcher in a project led by Richard Murray, a professor of the CDS department at Caltech. He used GOTChA charts as the main project management tool.

    A GOTChA is a 2x2 matrix with:

    • Goals. A high level description of what you want to accomplish, in plain English. The goal(s) should be a clear description of what you hope to accomplish in the overall timeframe of a project. A sample mission is “Increase sales and profitability of the company in the current year”.
    • Objectives. A concrete specification of what you want to accomplish, with numbers and dates. It must be simple to assess whether or not each objective has been completed. They should support the overall goals, but should be much more specific. A sample objective is “Reach an average rate of 50 new customers per day by the end of December, for the whole month of December.”.
    • Challenges. This is a list of the hard things of accomplishing your goals and objectives. The list should be fairly short (~5 items) and focus on those parts of the problem that are the true showstoppers. A sample technical challenge is “Currently, customers acquired through offline channels (eg. Flyers) don’t come back often enough, making each customer acquired a pain on profitability”.
    • Approach. A list of activities or strategies that you plan to implement to overcome the technical challenges. These activities should provide the justification for why you think you can achieve your goals and objectives in the face of the technical challenges you have described. An example would be “Do offline campaigns only at locations where we are fairly certain that our target customer is willing to interact with us”.

    You can present a GOTCahA chart as a table:

    • Sub-goal 1
    • Sub-goal 2
    • Challenge 1
    • Challenge 2
    • Objective 1
    • Objective 2
    • Approach 1
    • Approach 2

    You can also present it as a tree:

    • Goal 1
    • Objective 1
      • Challenge 1
        • Approach 1
      • Challenge 2
        • Approach 1
        • Approach 2
    • Objective 2
      • Challenge 1
        • Approach 1
    • Goal 2
    • Objective 1
      • Challenge 1
        • Approach 1
        • Approach 2
    2: Thinking (MECE) Sat, 16 Apr 2016 19:08:38 +0000 There are many ways to organize your thoughts. My favorite go-to framework is MECE.

    What is MECEness

    MECE is a framework to help you think! To be MECE, you try to make all of your descriptions mutually exclusive and collective exhaustive (M.E.C.E).

    • M.E. is mutual exclusivity, and it means that you avoid overlapping elements in a description.
    • C.E. is collective exhaustiveness, and it means that your description includes all possible elements.

    You usually learn MECEness in consulting.

    Where to use MECE?

    Everywhere! A big part of my value as a founder and CEO is to be structured. And the biggest part of it is the M.E.C.E. effort. You can use MECE to:

    • describe products and group them into categories in a way that is clear.
    • write clean emails that are easy to follow.
    • structure spreadsheet variables.
    • break down a problem and arrive at possible solutions. (create issue trees!).

    Proper MECE usage

    For a correct usage of MECEness, there are critical 2 tasks:

    1. Picking relevant attributes. There's endless attributes to use, but you likely don't want o I'll offer a few that I placed on the following 6 groups.
      • What makes X. In the tree example, we’re talking about the morphology: roots, trunk, branches, etc. We could also pick a more detailed level, like the types of chemical compounds that exist on a tree.
      • What does X look like. In the tree example, we can use attributes like color, but also different ones like height, or smell and texture.
      • What are the needs of X. In this example, it can be the sun, water, nutrients in the soil, or the wind to carry the seeds.
      • The evolution of X. For a tree, we’d be talking about the seed stage, sprout, full tree formation, or different seasons.
      • The products of X. In the example, it could be ashes, another tree, fertiliser, food, carbon. This one is tricky, ok. You get the picture.
      • The challenges with handling X. In the example, it could be proper nutrition for trees, pest control.
    2. Layering. The sequence of the attributes and what tree you build with them is very important.
      • To describe a tree, it makes more sense to do morphology first and then color than the reverse.
        • The following is a bit strange: "A tree is partly green, brown and possibly other colors. Leaves are mostly green, and branches can be green toon. Brown is only shown on the trunk and branches. Etc."
        • The following is better: "A tree has roots, a trunk, branches, leaves and fruits and flowers. The roots are typically whiteish, the trunk is ..."

    Example: Improper usage

    Let's look at an example: Describing a tree. When describing a tree, one answer can be “A tree is made of wood, a trunk, branches and green leaves. Branches also have bright and colorful flowers and fruits.”

    We can see that there are at least two problems with this description.

    • A trunk is made of wood. This violates mutual exclusivity (M.E.) and happens when we mix different classes of attributes in a sequence tree. In my example I mixed a material (wood) and morphology (trunk).
    • There is no mention of roots. This violates collective exhaustiveness (C.E.) and happens when you forget elements that should be together (roots, trunk, branches, etc..).

    Example: Issue trees

    Issue Trees are a pretty good way to use MECEness to find the solution to a challenge. In a issue tree, you progressively break down you main problem into smaller problems to be solved.

    For example, when you are starting a company, you can approach your business plan with an issue tree. In this case, the issue tree will touch a few basic points which the investors will want covered.

    1. What will we offer?
      • What customer problem are we trying to solve?
        • What is the specific pain we are trying to solve?
        • What potential customer base has this pain?
        • What are the differences in serving different types of customers?
        • What is the makeup of the segment to explore first?
      • What breadth of offerings should there be?
        • In a world without any constraints, which are the ideal solutions?
        • In the real-world, what can we offer to solve the existing pain?
        • What are the friction points between our vs. ideal solution?
        • How simply can we convey the value of our solution?
    2. Is this an attractive market?
      • Who is the competition and alternatives?
        • What is currently available in the market?
        • How fully do they solve the customer pain?
        • How do they sell it?
      • What are the key success factors in this market?
        • Which people and skills are essential?
        • Which processes and tools are essential?
        • What is the ideal position in the ecosystem?
      • What are the risks with our approach?
        • What risks are born from suppliers, partners and clients?
        • What legal or other risks and concerns are there?
        • How will conditions evolve and how will we monitor them to stay ahead?
    3. Is this a potential profitable market?
      • What are the expected startup, fixed, and variable costs?
        • What are the costs of starting?
        • What are the fixed costs?
        • What are the variable costs?
      • What is the expected pricing?
        • What is the pricing of current options?
        • How do different pricing approaches compare?
        • What margin can we extract from expected price and costs?
    The must-have complex Mon, 31 Aug 2015 00:00:00 +0000 In a startup, at times you'll feel more confident about your product, at times less confident. Don't let that create a must-have complex in you. What is this complex? It's when you receive advice from a VC, a colleague, someone in the industry or an employee on things your business is missing to conquer the world, a task list to success. There is generally the wishful thinking that a combination of this or that trick or tool will solve your problems.

    I've heard plenty of this before, in a variety of arguments.

    The missed opportunities

    • "you need to do more SEO: more pages, link building, full indexing. You'll get many more customers"
    • "we really need a loyalty scheme for our best customers, it makes them buy more"
    • "we received a proposal from company X, they are interested in cross-promoting. Why not do it?"

    Not all good things can be implemented. There's a cost in everything, time and opportunity. But when you're doing something new, you're not improving what you were already doing. Most of the so called "miss opportunities" are things you should explore when you have a big team and lots of money. You want proven, scalable, money-for-value channels of growth. Avoid distractions and things that hurt your product image or brand.

    The customer asked for it

    • "customer X wants to pre-order/ more delivery options/ custom wrapping/ x. We should do it"
    • "we should provide bulk services for B2B, customers asked if we also have a corporate plan"
    • "customer X won't buy if we don't adjust pricing. They're big. Big customers will convert only if we give them a big discount. Let's do it"

    Customers want everything. If you ask them, they'll want the world for a dime. But if your product is good, they'll pay fair value for a problem-solving tool. Separate nice to haves from things that affect every customer from a value perspective. Build and price your product for a customer segment, not 100.

    The deal maker

    • "if only we can make the first order a magical experience! the first order should include a gift and a personal note, that will make a world of difference"
    • "when we launch the new website, customers will flock. This old thing is what's getting in the way of customers purchasing"
    • "they didn't invest, but they will for sure once we launch another city/ release mobile apps/ get featured on TechCrunch"

    Some big leaps are possible and necessary, but all that's shinny and new quickly falls out of style. Both customers and investors can see through it. A great service always treats customers well. Invest equally in old and new customers, and in an ongoing improvement of your product. Focus on user activity, satisfaction, purchase patterns.

    The magic software

    • "can we install that latest analytics thing - GoogleAnalytics, KissMetrics, Adjust, MixPanel, Facebook Pixel, Facebook API? Without it, we won't be capable of measuring x! We'll be in the dark"
    • "we must have a chat for customers to talk with us, it's much more efficient than calls"
    • "software X is a bargain. It does all we need and even provides an API"

    My general feeling is that ~80% of the software I tried and integrated in a startup, we ended up not using. Most likely a 3rd party tool will evolve to match the bulk of their customers needs, which are not always your needs, therefore diverging from your platform. Also, in general, tools don't solve problems, people and processes do. Before embarking on a new software integration, check if it matches your development plan, if it improves any of the major customer pains. Also ask your team if you really, really need it. Finally before you invest time in customizing the so called "easy tool", try to replicate the process manually and check if it's really worth it.

    We can't do it in house

    • "without hiring a PR agency, your business won't get off the ground"
    • "we need a professional photographer"
    • "we need someone with a hardcore CV to get investors in"

    If businesses became successful because of seasoned, experienced professionals, there would be no startups like we know them. Starting a business means you have enough passion to try and solve a problem, independently of the resources (technical, financial) you possess. Of course, having professional help is great and welcome. But it's not absolutely necessary to get your business off the ground!

    Overall, advice that fits this must-haves criteria will invariably focus on doing something new, additionally, like installing a new tool or adding a new feature or doing some marketing thing. More, more, more. Generally, what improves your business is focusing on doing what you already do, but better.

    Growth through complexity is not the best strategy. You don't need to do more tricks or have more tools to succeed, you need to do better of fewer things. Better, better, better.

    Surveys Sun, 26 Jul 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Surveys are a great tool to gauge interest or intention. 

    The best surveys I've seen are easy to answer, yet they provide answers through inference, not explicit intention.

    When launching our online restaurant service at EatFirst, we wanted to understand the failure of current online food ordering services. On one side, there were the vertically integrated pizza delivery services, on the other you have huge marketplaces where you buy from any type of restaurant. None of them is able to deliver perfect food which tastes and looks as nice as when you go to a restaurant. 

    So our objective for a survey was to find if our assumption was correct: that people love restaurants, but it's not always convenient to go out; and that a service that delivers the true restaurant experience anywhere is a great value proposition. Of course, we could just ask those two questions:

    • "do you love restaurants, but somehow it's not always convenient to go out?"
    • "would you be a customer of a service that delivers the true restaurant experience anywhere?"

    But that's making it too obvious to the surveyed people, who may project their wishes too much and end up agreeing with you, and you get little additional information.

    So the team broke down the first assumption in several parts:

    • why do you go to a restaurant?
    • what are your favorite restaurants?
    • which restaurants do you most frequently go to?
    • why, if it happened, are the answers to the previous two questions different?

    With this information you can perfectly validate our first assumption, with details to spare. Eg, you'll end up knowing the reasons why people don't find it convenient to always go to their favorite restaurants (money, distance, time, availability?).

    The same was done for the second assumption:

    • how did you find your favorite restaurants?
    • do you order food online? Which?
    • if it's the case, why aren't your favorite restaurants among the food you order online?

    Now, in this second part, our replacement questions are not directly validating the question. Why? First, a pure, online restaurant, is not something people can instantly think of. It's kind of a novelty, and we don't want interviewed people to get confused. And generally people always say that they're interested in good things, so asking them would just bring very uniform answers and directional, with no measurement of strength. So our objective was to get the appraisal between existing online offerings and the perfect restaurant options and perhaps hint at how to convert them to this new concept.

    Then we built the whole survey, which you can find below. 

    Now, executing the survey is another challenge. In this case the whole marketing team participated, me as a founder and head of marketing included. I first wandered in the streets of Berlin at lunch time looking for our target. Almost no one wanted to speak to me, and found only two willing people who seemed to be it (Busy affluent). They weren't. After more than an hour I changed strategy and headed to the subway. I stayed near the track, under the clock with the ETA to the next train. Then I waited for the platform to fill up, and screened for the best candidates. Not only was I able to nail the selection much better, as only one person refused to talk. The fact that I could tell them "it seems like the next train is in 6 minutes, can I use 3 minutes of your time for a super short survey?" really does it. Conclusion: look for relaxed targets in times of idleness. Subway stations are awesome!

    The Actual Survey was the following:

    Greet and explain: 

    • this is a survey for a new amazing restaurant
    • its 10 questions, takes 3-4 minutes


    1. What’s your age?
    2. What’s your profession?
    3. Are you single, a couple, a family?
    4. 3 reasons why you go to a restaurant?
    5. Which are your 3 favorite restaurants!
    6. Which 3 restaurants do you go to the most?
    7. If they 5 and 6 are different, why is that?
    8. How did you find your 3 favourite restaurants? (If needed, provide 3 options: personal recommendation, media/ public recommendation, curiosity when passing by)
    9. Do you order food online, from which service and restaurants?
    10. If it's the case, tell me 3 reasons why online food is not among your 3 favorite restaurants?

    Final: Would you like to know about a true restaurant that will let you order online?

    Engineering manager Sun, 19 Jul 2015 00:00:00 +0000 This topic was previously about CTOs. For smaller structures with great developers, an EM should be enough. Its also more practical if the founder team isn't very technical, as the EM will devote lots of time to the dev related issues and careers and yet not code, having more time to liaison with product and he business.

    The responsibilities and some questions for an EM position are:

    1. Lead the team of engineers
      • Build a team.
        • how do you hire a great technical developer? How many developers have you hired in the past? Can you name a few great ones? How much does a great developer, engineer X, cost?
        • when and how do you fire a great technical developer? How many have you let go?
      • Help the team self-organize.
        • What is your vision for a tech team? How much freedom do you give devs? Are they responsible for quality? Describe your ideal development cycle, from end to end, including owners and participants.
        • which tools do you use to organize your team? How do you keep communication flowing?
        • what is your preferred policy on X (e.g. remote work, remote engineers, etc.)?
      • Help the team be efficient.
        • What will your day be like? How will you impact the team?
        • What do you think of the velocity of product development? How do you increase velocity and predictability in the team?
        • Which principles of Agile are more sacred to you?
        • Scrum - What to enforce, what to offer, what to suggest?
      • Manage the career development of the team.
        • How do you want to design the careers of the team? How to motivate them and compensate them?
        • How would you react if X?
    2. Own the technical product.
      • Contribute and align on the product vision.
      • Collaborate on planning activities (e.g. roadmaps) with PMs, Tech Leads.
      • Establish SLAs for uptime, availability and performance.
      • Ensure value is continously delivered to users.
        • Do you want to code too?
      • Operate, monitor and maintain product.
      • Establish on-call duty processes.
      • Create appropriate reporting.
      • Manage the teams budget.
    3. Establish yourself as an ambassador.
      • Act as an ambassador to the product, inside and outside organization.
      • Act as an ambassador to the tech team, inside and outside organization.
        • which technologies do you follow more closely? how well known are you in their communities? How close are you to the leader? What are your major software / hardware contributions?
        • how many people follow you? How many people do you follow? Who? Why? How many would try to follow you to our company?
        • which companies and organizations are you affiliated with? What's your relationship with them? Who do you know at Apple/ Google/ Amazon/ X?
    4. Values
      • Act according to the company values. (Depends on the organization).

    Remember it's extremely important to triple check all recommendations, and you should get a bunch.

    Marketing managers Sun, 12 Jul 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Marketing manager is a position that includes everyone from a CMO to a sales operator. All should have extensive sales experience and should be in permanent contact with your target customer. After all, they are the first contact with the costumer. They bring home the bacon. Whomever wants to be in marketing must love a product and be ruthless and objectives oriented.

    Again, I check them for their 3 responsibilities:

    1. Sales, sales, sales

    • how much do you think we're selling? How much do you think we could sell? If I hire you, how much will sales grow in 1, 3 and 12 months?
    • what was your biggest sale ever? Tell me all about it
    • how many potential customers do you know? How many can you convert within 1 week? How would you find more?
    • what are the 4 Ps of marketing? what's important about them?
    • what do you think of our product/ service? what are our products' key selling points? How do you assess it versus the competition?
    • talk to me about our pricing strategy
    • how well are we placed? Do you know these channels well? How would you characterize them? Tell me about performance and non-performance channels. Online and offline. What is the reach, the key influencers, the customer education needed for each?
    • what do we need to do to get a customer on board? What is the sales funnel? How much incentive? How do you keep them?

    2. Create quality campaigns

    • how do you design a campaign? What's the starting point?
    • tell me all about CTAs
    • how do you measure campaigns? What are the best KPIs to track marketing performance for our company?
    • what are leading and lagging indicators?
    • how do you make campaigns better? Does AB testing really work?
    • design a process to track a whole team of sales people - for marketing, for a particular channel, or campaign

    3. Keep customers excited

    • create a few variations of the X CTA
    • why do customers stop buying?
    • what qualifies as "customer amazement"?
    • what is the prettiest thing you've ever done?

    At the end ask for the relevant references and cross check them with the story which formed on your head!

    Business Intelligence Sun, 12 Jul 2015 00:00:00 +0000 The BI manager is an extremely special role. Generally people who support decision making are necessarily part of the operation. They are very connected, on the ground. They have daily ownership. But not the BI manager. The BI manager raises the bar of intelligence throughout the company, wherever she or he is called.

    To me, a BI manager has 3 main responsibilities, and these are the questions that trigger my understanding of him.

    1. Create impact through BI
      • What are we doing in this company?
      • What's the objective of this company?
      • How would you measure this success?
      • How do you classify different indicators? Tell to me about leading and lagging indicators.
      • What is performance? What is productivity? What is output?
      • How do you track performance? How do you predict performance?
      • Tell me about the biggest impact you've created in a company. How do you know it was you who caused it?
    2. Develop informed recommendations
      • how do you organize yourself?
      • how should people ask for a new study from you?
      • what are your favourite tools for analysis?
      • what are cohorts? Build a cohort model
      • what is SQL? Create a simple query for X
      • how do you project an operation into the future?
      • (provide file) what's going on in our business?
      • Tell me the last time you screwed up some data. Why did that happen?
      • What is an attribution model?
    3. Hold a standard of Experimentation & Truth
      • How do you build appropriate AB testing?
      • Dali didn't have BI. Coca-cola and Hermes didn't have BI when they started. Is BI really that important? How?
      • How do you vote?
      • Tell me about astrology
      • How should I evaluate and compensate you?

    Don't forget to cross check his or her answers with external references.

    Product manager Sun, 05 Jul 2015 00:00:00 +0000 A good product manager or product owner carriers the idea of the company product forward. A PM owns the roadmap and works on lining ideas, challenges and problems. PMs balance the questions: customer purported needs, UX explorations and tech teams potential solutions. They provide a personal view but draw mostly from others. They spec and draw and speak the tech language.

    Apart from specific company fit, my questions to candidates are about the 3 responsibilities of a Product Manager:

    • Understand the business and the product opportunities to improve it

      • What do you know about our company? What are we doing here, what's our potential?
      • Where is the industry going? 
      • What's impact to you? List the 5 most important ways in which a product improves. How would you define success in your job? Tell me about your biggest impact in a product management role you've had. How did you measure that?
      • In 60 seconds, make an accurate picture of X? Do you know what MECE is?
      • What do you hate about our product/ another product? Why? How would you make it better?
      • What features would you kill in our product/ product X? Prioritize them for killing until there is no product left. Where would you draw the line of what gets killed and not? Why's that?
    • Manage the product project. Adequately balance scope, time, cost and quality.

      • What's the impact of our business model in designing a Product? What are the critical challenges? Do you have the skills and experience when dealing with similar problems? Explain.
      • Do you have experience in working with a team like ours? What do you think about X as a technology?
      • What is an effective project management? What are the variables to optimize?
      • How do you organize yourself? How do you communicate with people? How do you detail an issue?
      • Talk to me about Agile, Kanban, Scrum, X. Which do you like the most?
    • The "one more thing"
      • Fo you think our product is beautiful? What's magic about it?
      • Tell me about the most incredible experience you've created
      • How do you systematically create those?

    And that's all! Now, people aren't required to nail all of the questions? I wouldn't nail all of them, for sure. Between Values and these Technical questions, a good interview will take you perhaps some 2 hours. Some fare better in some questions, some in others. Cross check the most obvious answers with their past managers. Some questions don't have a right answer. What matters is that you get a good feeling about who you're about to hire!


    [1] Deconstructing hiring through values

    About Tue, 05 May 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Humberto Bento Ayres Pereira.

    Operational experience

    — 2016-xxxx: Founder and Product person of, the connected spreadsheet.
    — 2014-2016: Founder and Co-CEO at, an online restaurant.
    — 2012-2014: Founder and CEO at, a Health & Beauty business.
    — 2009-2011: MBA at Harvard Business School.
    — 2008-2009: Consultant at McKinsey in strategy & tech projects.
    — 2006-2007: Research intern at Caltech, building road vision software for the DARPA race.
    — 2002-2007: EE+CS Engineering at the University of Porto.

    Advisor & Investment experience
    — 2021-xxxx: Scout for investments at Accel Starter program (
    — 2020-xxxx: Angel investor (pre-seed) at XXXXXXXXXXXX.
    — 2020-xxxx: Independent Board Member at SalesLayer.
    — 2020-xxxx: Advisor and Angel Investor (Seed) at
    — 2014-xxxx: Board Member, pre-seed Angel Investor and minor Co-Founder of, a sports booking service.

    I cycle (casually) and run.

    Law and contracts Sun, 19 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Whenever you are about to enter in a contract, hire a lawyer.

    • Ask all the questions, both stupid and smart, about the contract.
      • Try to keep in mind that the words on the contract are just half of the story.
      • The other half is the law, wether its encoded in code or case (case-law).
      • Good lawyers add value in the intersection of the 2 items above: they can determine how the combination of Laws and particular contract terms can be under different scenarios, for you or against you.
    • Suggest that your counter-party hires a lawyer too.
      • A contract that is better aligned limits the pressure in a potential argument, by reducing misinterpretations.
      • This is why it's better to discuss scenarios while they are hypothetical. Later on, when situations materialize, scenarios turn into real money and power.

    I am quite impulsive, and historically I did not care enough about the legal side of things. As a result, I have lost real money in a few situations.

    Trust and optimism is fundamental, but it's smart to exercise your right for protection. When you're at the negotiation table, save a seat for the Law.

    5: Analytics (Cohorts) Wed, 08 Apr 2015 00:00:00 +0000 Whenever you launch a new marketing campaign, or a new product line, or get some good old PR, you want to see what’s the effect of that action. Cause and effect. The easiest way of doing it is to track cohorts.

    Cohorts are just groups of people that share a common characteristic. As your business progresses with time, the easiest and broader cohorts to track are time cohorts. In this case, a cohort would be defined as the group of people who first bought during a certain period: day or week or month. How many customers did we acquire this week vs. last week? How good of a customer is a customer who bought on christmas vs. one which bought on valentines? All these questions are answered if you track your cohorts.

    The simplest time cohort has two axis. On one axis you have the date of FIRST purchase of the customer. On the other, you have the date of ANY order. Just like in the picture above, you see that the diagonal is the first time a customer purchased — customers who first purchased in march who also purchase in march are first time customers. Also, for each group of customers who FIRST bought on a specific date, ANY purchase with date bigger than REAL date is a return purchase. Simple.

    How to build such cohorts?

    1. you start with a list of all orders. The minimum information is a customer id and date of purchase. Believe me, with that you can already build something super powerful. If you want to do other things, you can include spend, number of items on the basket and other information.
    2. then you need to mark, for each order, the date of that customers’ first purchase on a new column. For first purchases, the date of that order and the date of customer’s first purchase will be the same. All you need is a vlookup.
    3. then you can build a model yourself (eheheh) or just throw it all under a pivot to crunch.

    You can check and download the following file with the individual steps here: my first cohort table. You won’t have permissions to change anything, but you can download the model by going File/ Download/ Excel.

    On this particular example, if you look at step 3, we can see that the first month had a lot of activity (27 purchases) and that on the following months we some mild activity (between 3 and 6 purchases). The next 3 months cohorts only had 1 person each, and this three people (1 per cohort) came back actually quite a lot comparatively (between 0 and 3 times on each successive months). So these cohorts of people show a better behaviour relative to their initial month of purchase than the first cohort, which was big (27) but didn't have a lot of returning action.

    With a cohort like this, you can:

    • understand if you are acquiring more or less customers per period
    • understand if each new cohort of people is returning more or less often
    • extrapolate a natural timely behaviour of people and do projections
    • compare all this with real world actions (campaigns, product changes) and understand the impact of your actions

    So, what other types of cohorts are there?

    • time cohorts. The ones i described above
    • campaign cohorts. Instead of grouping customers by date or period, you group them by the campaign which acquired them, independently of when they were acquired (or in addition to)
    • behavioural cohorts. Really, any trait can be used and analysed. How do female customers behave in the months following a purchase vs. male customers?

    The data plotted in a cohorts analysis can be varied as well:

    • orders. How many orders each cohort created on their first and subsequent months/ period
    • revenue. How much revenue each cohort brought on their first and subsequent purchases
    • items per order. Yep
    • fancy something kinky? Really, anything related to the orders can be crunched

    Finally, there’s an interesting twist I like to give to cohort analysis, which is if you do your analysis orthogonally. Orthogonal means things are independent from each other. So, in a way, instead of doing a big cohort which tracks revenue, you can build several cohorts that track users, orders per user and revenue per order. Each of these sub-cohorts can be affected by different events:

    • boosting your customer acquisition campaigns will affect mostly the amount of users
    • opening on weekend probably affect the amount of new customers and orders per user
    • launching a companion product will most likely affect revenue per order more than anything

    Hands-on time! Check out this cohort model that you can explore. It tracks several orthogonal variables across the real data you input. It tracks their evolution and their projects the growth of current and future cohorts from those variables. Finally it uses a convolution of all the cohorts to project revenue.

    In order for anyone to access it, I put it on Google Drive Orthogonal cohort model. You won’t have permissions to change anything, but you can download the model by going File/ Download/ Excel.

    Have fun!

    Be your own boss Tue, 24 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000 I have heard many times from colleagues and friends that "life's just about enough". I've never truly believed in this. Everyone feels special. Everyone is special. And very likely everyone wants to continue special.

    And so in my view there's not one person who is not ambitious, it just happens that there are many kinds of ambition. Some want to be artists, other politicians, some want to be great lovers, others rock stars.

    Some want to build something for the world. Yet it's hard to start at the top. Many get impatient at their stepping-stone jobs. They want to be at the top from the start. They want to be the boss. Fast.

    Well, it's easier than you may think. All you need is to start by being your own boss.

    How to achieve this even when you're not in fact a boss?
    A boss has objectives. Ask your manager for yours, challenge them and push yourself. Always make yourselve chase goals that make you uncomfortable. Start by your own personal goals, like how soon you want to wake up everyday. Try to wake up very early. You'll never be a great leader until you can control yourself, so start there.
    A boss has a budget. Managing money is essential. Talk to your manager and ask for yours. How much money can you spend on your function? If it's not money, how many hours? How many people can you manage? How much stock can you spend for your purposes? How much revenue is expected of you? Or what part of the revenue target is attributable to you? Operate your day like it was a profit center, managing revenue and cost. Good value is always expected from investing in you and your tools, the more you make this evident, the stronger you will push and the faster you will see recognition.
    * A boss closes the loop. Customers behave in a cycle, you can't just acquire and sit still; chase them and learn from them. Don't consider a few competitors, track and learn from all substitutes. Don't be narrow minded, your metrics should cover performance all the way up to outcomes. Don't create to-dos of things you won't follow through. Study the past, act on the present and look out for what's coming. In other words, simplify but never forget the whole picture. Be MECE. Close the loop.

    If your plan is to one day be a leader, you have to avoid at all costs being isolated. If you are not on top of all aspects of your trade - directly or indirectly thinking about strategic, organizational and operational - someone else will have to be. And you'll miss out on the opportunity to grow.

    Improve on all areas. The most important thing is to not give yourself some slack. Act like your area is your own mini-company. Be ambitious like it's your life. Spend like it's your money and time. Don't miss out on detail.

    Be your own boss.

    Leading from the bottom Sun, 22 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000 HR-wise, the place of a great leader is at the bottom of an org-chart. A corner stone on top of which a team can be built.

    A great leader at the bottom:

    • recognizes that employees are the front line of the business and gives them corresponding responsibilities and credit.
    • hires people better than himself or herself to lead each value-add function.
    • maintains a super high level of motivation and performance by providing objectives and feedback that make each person in the company the frontier of growth.
    • recognizes that a job fit depends on the person, the function and the specific present objectives of the company. It is not personal, but sometimes certain employees need to go.
    • acts as an internal champion who is not vested in any scared cows but rather only wants to help making better decisions. A leader fights for structure, not for a particular solution.

    I personally have a hard time not jumping into every discussion and Leading from the bottom. I tend to micromanage at the slightest doubt that someone may not be on top of his or her game. It's a work in progress for me.

    Make yourself the bottom of the organization.

    Pivoting Thu, 19 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000 The opportunity and risk of changing something in your startup is a daily matter on the head of every manager. It's hard to decide what to do and what not to do. Especially when you've already invested a bit in the status quo. Product, system, processes, team, brand. These past decisions created company elements that provide some flexibility, but maybe not all you need.

    Any decision can be the best thing or a catastrophe. But you should look at pivots, big and small, in a positive light. Opportunity and risk should indeed scare the shit out of you - but it was your decision to join the startup world in the first place. The biggest risk was joining and that's already past! So be happy about the flexibility.

    My general rule of thumb is to implement all ideas that improve whatever the customer is already a happy buyer of. Everything which you are currently NOT providing him and that you think that the customer wishes is dangerous. More often than not, you should not do it.

    I consider worthwhile exceptions the cases when you're currently not doing something but there is significant overlap between this new thing and your current thing in all categories:

    • Who. Same Decider, Payer, User, Consumer?
    • What. Same product category, brand, price points?
    • When. Same Time of sale, Repurchase pattern and Sales funnel?
    • Where. Same Target location?
    • How. Same operations for sourcing, production, marketing, sale, delivery and customer service?
    • Why. Same pain solved?

    If all or many of these 18 items in the 6 categories are the same, then it's probably just an extension, not a true pivot. If you're changing most of them significantly, then you may as well close the company and setup a new one.

    Another aspect to consider is wether the current offering is performing well or not. If it is, you're considering adding features or a new business line which may improve business; risk is small if you are responsive and scale the changes smartly. If the current offering is not good and your cohorts are miserable, your pivot can be a life boat; or pivoting can be just running away from one problem and looking for another one.

    In any case, you should consider the complexities of the iteration. Will you end up with 2 teams or one. Is investment big or small. How much cash do you have and how the team will take it.

    One clear example is the move from B2C to B2B or the reverse. While the product may be similar, or technically the same, it’s not an easy pivot. Its tough because you change many things in Who (Decider, Payer at least), Why, a bit of When (Sales Cycle) and How (Marketing, Sale, Customer Service) and possibly What, Where.

    Directions change. But keep in mind that there are plenty more roads to doom than to success, and sellers of those strategies are plenty and close to the heart. Follow your own vision, informed by the needs of the customers, the direction of the industry, data and optimism. It is the best proposition. The important thing is to have an objective discussion around what it takes to pivot. It will still be harder as there are many unknowns, but at least you can chart the effort.

    And in the end, follow your will.

    Leading & lagging indicators Sun, 08 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000 The first part of being smart is to be aware. Aware of what's going well and what's wrong, and how you are evolving. I'll try to go over the most basic element of indicators, and how you can structure them.

    Take a car manufacturer. For the business person, it's important to know sales numbers, revenue, and overall customer loyalty. But those numbers can be meaningless and even counterproductive for a factory worker who is actually building the car. Yes, the quality of the cars affects the satisfaction of a customer, and thus impacts sales and consequently revenue. However, tracking that for the worker has little value in daily operations. Each car will take at least a few days to be finished and sold, and at least a month to show up on sales reports. Also, there are many other people involved in selling a car and providing assistance besides the worker. It will be hard, then, for the factory worker to know how he's doing based on customer loyalty - also because there are many more variables at play. It's much more important to know how fast he finished his tasks, or how many faults his work contained.

    So how should one approach indicators for a given role? As in the example above, we see that faults in the car production is a very immediate indicator of the performance of the company, whereas loyalty takes some time to be affected. We say that the number of production faults is a leading indicator and that loyalty ratings are a lagging indicator.

    Dividing indicators into leading and lagging for each function to be analyzed is to me a crucial task of Business Intelligence.

    Leading Indicators characteristics

    • They measure Performance. They are about controllable actions that will impact the Future.
    • They are inspectable. Leading indicators can be compared against a baseline or a standard performance.
    • They are individual. This means that they are individually actionable, making them fair and less political to act on.
    • They are instantaneous. This makes them easily observable and quick to diagnose and correct.
    • They are immersive. They reflect the whole of the responsibility of a function or person in some detail.
    • They are independent. Each leading indicator should be as much as possible unaffected by other indicators. People should in principle be able to optimize each of them separately.

    Example of leading indicators for the performance of our car factory: speed at which the worker picks his screws to be bolted on to the car. Speed at which which he bolts each of them. Number of retries due to error. Number of screws needing fixing due to low quality work. Number of break pauses and time spent in break pauses. Again, these should be relative to a standard measure. Leading indicators mean that they improve before the system as a whole improves.

    Lagging Indicators have the opposite set of characteristics

    • They measure Outcome (Output). These types of indicators follow past events.
    • They are objectives-based, aggregate, cumulative, high-level and complex.

    Example of lagging indicators in our car factory are number of cars produced, average total cost per car, customer satisfaction with cars, revenue for the factory (in case it's tracked). Lagging indicators change after the company has internally improved.

    We can establish finer levels between Leading and Lagging. Which means that between Performance and Outcome we can have other measures, like Productivity. Examples for the factory workers could be cars per hour, accidents per month, and throughput.

    Both types of indicators are very important. Leading indicators are good to establish the root causes for improvement, and lagging indicators are generally about the outcome of all actions, and what investors want to hear. The most frequent mistake is to evaluate workers by their productivity (pieces produced per hour), when many times this process is not entirely under his control. Maybe the worker has to wait for parts to arrive, or part feeding varies greatly according to personel available and hour of the day.

    It takes time to build a fair Indicator system that can motivate people into doing a better job, but it's absolutely necessary if you want to consistently improve your business. Keep your leading and lagging indicators in check for an optimal and fair process.

    1: Communicating Wed, 04 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000 The first necessary skill for being in business is communicating well.

    Key topics in good communication

    1. In plain English
      • Avoid expensive words. Plain English works best.
    2. The magic number 7
      • Avoid bullshit. Long emails, long speeches, long excuses. I have been guilty of this.
      • How short is short enough? Apparently, sentences, paragraphs, list should include a maximum of 7 chunks of information at a time.
    3. Communicate conviction
      • I have started the habit of verbalizing how Convinced I am of my opinion. This makes discussions shorter by transmitting judgement in a clear way.
      • The path of a conversation should be Challenge → Approaches → *CONVICTION* → Discussion → Decision → Implementation
        • As an example, if my team presents a plan for a new layout for spreadsheet tables, I will frequently say:
          • "I like what I see and am 99% convinced"; or alternatively
          • "It's growing on me but I'm only like 51% convinced"; or even
          • "I don't like that because of X, and I am 99% convinced that it's wrong".
          • Notes: In the first case, as a manager I have given the team a nudge that this is a go, whereas in the second I would probably ask the team to discuss the proposal in depth.
        • When everyone in a meeting adds this extra detail over their opinions, it's easier to move forward with decisions that everyone is comfortable with, and focus on decisions that may be contentious need a better solution.
        • Applying this concept to this very text, I can say that I am 99% convinced that adding Convictions is a good discussion strategy.
    4. Encourage
      • Use speech and writing to encourage. Those who read you may be far away and not share your understanding of things. The more positive you are in the style, even when delivering bad news, the better the message is received.

    Evaluating Communication skills of candidates and team members

    The following are red flags 🚩.

    • people who don't answer your questions, but answer something else.
    • people whose answer takes far longer than needed.
    • people who are lazy:
      • being very binary instead of accurately describing their conviction.
      • using wrong terms to describe what is going on ("the project is done" when it's still in QA).
    • people who are demotivated or demotivating in their language: when you constantly avoid talking to someone, 9 times out of 10 this is what is going on.
    Ephemeral vs. Persistent Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000 We can draw a line that goes from Ephemeral to Persistent, and in this line we can place the internet services according to what they give users.

    • Ephemeral platforms favor instant nuggets of information, like News. Facebook is the best example. Slack, Skype, Gmail, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin too. The main characteristics of these platforms are: providing exclusive, recent data; being faster; favouring the subjective; wanting as many opinions as possible; acting as the rule maker for filtering and sorting information.
    • Persistent platforms favor Knowledge. Wikipedia is a great example. Google Drive is another. Their main characteristics are: providing consensual information; keeping all data accessible, including past edits; providing structured exploration through content taxonomies; they are open; the rules of what happens to data are clear;

    Most online businesses lie near the most natural fit of the product, and stay there. Regrettably, most products that achieved scale are Ephemeral by nature, like communications. So we are stuck with a toilet paper internet.

    My theory is that platforms should and will bet on the Persistent and the interplay between it and the Ephemeral. An over abundance of news just confuses people, we need some to sediment knowledge from this big flow of information. At the same time, knowledge can be enriched with the data and commentary that improves it. Better yet, knowledge can be created from lots of ephemeral data.

    I want to see a dashboard of interesting data from my connections on twitter, gmail, facebook. I want to have a better visualisation of edits and talk on wikipedia pages! And more.

    One cell to rule them all Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000 I'm fascinated* with the potential of spreadsheets cells as the building blocks of programs. They could open General Purpose Computing to the next 1 billion application builders.


    Spreadsheets have outgrown their humble beginnings. They started as an accounting tool. Now they power just about any task and department:

    • lead generation
    • planning marketing campaigns
    • building dashboards
    • converting, cleaning, exporting data
    • managing HR processes (recruitment)
    • tracking inventory
    • creating complex data models

    Why? Because they are very simple to use*:

    • They are 2D. It's quite intuitive to use table rows and cols to define program relationships.
    • They are progressive. You can start small and grow data and logic. They are also forgiving, allowing parts of the program to work even when others are unfinished or broken.
    • They're visual. You can add cues about the meaning of cells, like colors and typefaces.
    • They're powerful. Their functions effortlessly perform operations on data, like min, max, etc.
    • They are ops-free. No need to compile or deploy them. They can also be shared with others.

    This makes them great to build custom tools that are easy to maintain. Non-techies find programming hard; maintaining applications is even harder. Spreadsheets provide the benefits without those problems.

    In fact, if we abstract them, they are already close to a generic program or a computer.
    Precedents/ dependentsTriggers/ side-effectsI/O
    Values (displayed)UII/O
    Values (stored)Database/ persistenceStorage

    Classic spreadsheets are still behind on things like UI, automation or APIs. They are needlessly ugly and static for today's day and age.

    I have started a company to do fix this with others who feel the same pains. We a are building dashdash, an app creator with a spreadsheet interface!

    • we empower end-users as creators, giving them access to modern computation like data & APIs in a spreadsheet;
    • we generate slick shareable web apps giving creators a wider audience for their spreadsheets;
    • we connect creators to catalyze and expand a community of a billion strong spreadsheet users.

    Follow us on twitter!