Stephen Wiltshire

British Artist Stephen Wiltshire can draw a huge landscape completely from memory. Wiltshire, who recently drew a detailed sketch of New York after a 45-minute helicopter ride over the city, has a photographic memory and autism, which he was diagnosed with when he was 3.

Josh Wolfe at FirstMark

Pretty mind-blowing talk with Josh Wolfe from Lux Capital about ideas, opportunities, ventures, founding teams and Tesla. The topics discussed go beyond what I can understand or apply in my day-to-day but there's certainly a thing or two to learn from a person who invests in emerging science and technology fields such satellites; neurostimulation; nuclear energy; 3D audio, printing and scanning; metamaterials; synthetic biology; self-driving cars; etc.

Strategy Ressources

Julian Cole is a quite famous advertising strategist (BBDO) and he recently shared a nice list of free resources for planners/strategists. The kind of stuff you want to bookmark and want to save for a rainy (non-productive) day.

1. 50 Free Data Tools For Planners - https://lnkd.in/dmM2B2n

2. 150+ Innovative Advertising Examples - https://lnkd.in/gy5B8dF

3. 10 Best Strategy Papers - https://lnkd.in/gEa-Ycb

4. Day 1 Advice for New Planners - https://lnkd.in/ga2JWpa

5. Strategy Mate - https://lnkd.in/g59rJus

Say thanks to Julian here.

Listening

Listening is THE ultimate underrated skill. I will always remember what my manager at l'Oréal told us when asked about strengths and weaknesses of millennials at work. He said something like: « you have everything you need to succeed in the workplace but you lose all your credibility when people talk to you and they realize you're not listening – you're just thinking about what you'll reply with. » It stuck with me since. Here's a great tweet about this:

Certainty

I work in a field (marketing/tech) where everyone is 100% sure of their opinion. THIS is the strategy to take. THIS is a good idea. THIS is a how to execute it. But not everything is black and white. And it would help a lot of discussions to add a bit of color to these opinions.

It's a stark contrast with finance and investing (and even things like poker for cards players out there) where all moves are weighted for their probability of success. THIS strategy has a 35% chance of working but the upside is X. THIS idea is a good one, under these 3 assumptions. THIS is how it's being executed, 50% of the times it works.

Here's a great thought by Shane Parrish about certainty and how to express it to foster better conversations:

The Entrepreneurial Strategy Compass

I like frameworks. They're usually not good to solve problems. But they're good to help you think differently about problems. In this article by HBR (Do Entrepreneurs Need A Strategy?), the authors offer a quite simple quadrant to help you think about you strategic orientation as a new company. Basically, the questions are: 1) do you collaborate or compete? and 2) do you build a moat or storm a hill?

Strategic opportunities for new ventures can be categorized along two dimensions: attitude toward incumbents (collaborate or compete?) and attitude toward the innovation (build a moat or storm a hill?). This produces four distinct strategies that will guide a venture’s decisions regarding customers, technologies, identity, and competitive space. The emergency-services provider RapidSOS used the compass to explore its strategic options.
R1803B_SPOT_STRATEGYCOMPASS-850x646.png

The Moonlight Club X The Emerald

A few weeks ago, The Moonlight Club played an intimate acoustic show at famous « secret bar » The Emerald in Montréal. It was the last of a series of events to promote the launch of our eponymous album in February. It felt good to finish this marathon that has been writing, recording, producing, distributing and promoting an independent music album. Here's a video recap of the night:

Some people ask me why we do all of this – since we have jobs, bla, bla bla. Well, I realize that I learn much more creative/marketing-wise from our music endeavors that I learn from reading any publication online or work itself. It's good to be out there doing and creating.

Founder-product fit

In startup land, there's a lot of talk about product-market fit. There's this idea that you should spend all your time finding a good product-market fit (i.e. something people LOVE and would be really sad if it went away, think Netflix) before doing anything else. It's the glue behind everything.

One thing less talked about is founder-product fit (info here and here). It's the idea that as a founder you should be working on something that literally keeps you up at night. Something you would work on even if there was very little chance it would make you money in the long run. I believe founder-product fit is the true glue behind everything.

Because it's really hard to do anything hard within truly being into it. Even your body (not just your mind) has to believe in the idea you're working on. Otherwise, you'll never make it through the difficult times. 

I tweeted this little rant yesterday after reading this Inc.com story about all the hype digital-first CPG brands are getting. It's a really hot space. Money and MBAs are flowing into it. They all want to be the next Warby Parker.

I do believe it's crazy to work on something that has no meaning for you. I didn't think about it when I tweeted this but this reflexion comes from first-hand experience.

I had an awful experience of working for a startup founder who was 'in to make a quick buck'. He saw a growing space and a business opportunity. He thought it was really cool to do a certain type of business model. He thought it would make him rich and successful like the case studies he was reading on Business Insider.

I ended up losing lots of money, lots of time and it even cost me an important relationship. It was a bitter experience and I learned a ton from it. It was only a few years later that I realized that all of this would have been different if the founder truly believed in the mission of its company (and cared less about making a quick buck or fame).

Founder-product fit is simply a fancy expression to say do the stuff that truly matters to you / don't waste anyone's time.

Humans are underrated

If you want to read about Tesla and how it's burning lots of cash these days, I suggest you read this: Tesla Doesn’t Burn Fuel, It Burns Cash. The article presents a pessimist outlook on Elon Musk's auto company and criticizes how quickly it raises and spends money. It's a good read, whether you're long or short Tesla.

The interesting part, in my opinion, is this quote from Elon Musk about excessive automation. Musk's had mentioned in the past that the company would be able to automate most of its production. 

Musk recently admitted that “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake” and said that “humans are underrated,” an indication that the costly legions of employees won’t be shrinking as quickly as he once imagined. In that email, he vowed to hire hundreds of additional factory workers. Tesla lists nearly 3,000 current job openings.

Well, it appears even with millions of dollars of investments in equipment and machine learning, humans are still required to make stuff. Humans are underrated.

Andy Rachleff's Wisdom

This interview of @arachleff by @Jason is:

  • a crash course on personal investment
  • a history class on Venture Capital
  • a guide for consumer insights
  • a guide for product strategy
  • a collection of precious dad jokes and fatal one-liners
Andy Rachleff shares insights from co-founding Benchmark & building Wealthfront to manage $10b+ assets, announces 50% fee cut for Risk Parity, talks stock market, financial literacy & the wisdom of investing against human instinct

Seamus Heaney on condescension

con·de·scen·sion: an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain.

This is what Seamus Heany, poet, playwright, translator and noble prize winner, had to say about it.

Everything flows, an old Greek said.
Nothing’s secure. Gold’s only lead
When you stop to think.
On your way up, show consideration
To the ones you meet on their way down.
The Latin root of condescension
Means we all sink.

Podcast: Moonshot Investing, with Nikhil Kalghatgi

I said I would be posting more of the podcasts I listen to. Here's a mindblowing conversation between Patrick Oshaugnessy and Nikhil Kalghatgi about investing (and a lot of other things). 

INVEST LIKE THE BEST Nikhil Kalghatgi – Moonshot Investing - [Invest Like the Best, EP.82] 30 00:00:00 30

Nikhil is the CEO of CoVenture Crypto, but he ended up there because of an overarching investing style that he calls moonshot investing, which we explore right from the start and in great detail.

He is obsessed with productivity and happiness, and we spend a long time on those topics. One of the most interesting experiments I’ve heard about on the podcast is his Happiness project, for which he interviewed more than 100 of the wealthiest people in the world. The lessons he gleaned from those conversations are very helpful, and I won’t soon forget the lesson related to sacrifice.

We also discuss asteroid mining, networking, shared experience, and philosophy. Oh and crypto currencies. Nikhil’s take on crypto has always been refreshing to me. In fact the first time I met him he was throwing cold water on a room full of enthusiastic crypto investors. Within crypto we discuss business opportunities, mining, and how new retail and institutional capital will affect the asset class.

(Source: Investor Field Guide's Podcast, Invest like the best)

Patrick Pichette on Planning

Patrick Pichette, former chief financial officer of Google and new VC at iNovia, talks about product planning and evaluating projects inside a growing company in this McKinsey interview from 2011. It seems as relevant as it was 7 years ago.

The challenge is in the planning. How do I feed the winners and hold back on the ones who aren’t performing the way they should?

We have a quarterly review process that examines every core product area and every core engineering area against three beacons.

First, what did it do in the last 90 days and what will it do in the next 90 days.

Because in those 180 days, there’s a lot to deliver—for example, in the amount of code that has to ship out and the number of users and whether it’s going viral or not. We track these things continuously, but it’s worth taking a look at—in some cases weekly, in some cases monthly, but at least every 90 days, given where we are.

The second beacon is what’s your trajectory?

Do the financial models and operating metrics for a couple of years out suggest a trajectory that is gaining or losing momentum? In some cases, are you going to need more capital expenditures because you’ll need more data? If you have a fantastic success, then you need more capacity—Google Instant, for example, sometimes generates answers to user queries before they’ve finished typing. That requires a lot of computing power.

Then the third beacon is what’s your strategic positioning in the context of a fast-changing landscape?

If a competitor buys another company, what does that mean? Or if we ourselves decide to move on something this quarter, what does that mean for everything else that we have? 

These beacons are very tactical and short term, with financial and operational metrics always running, and always viewed in the context of a shifting strategic landscape. For example, if we thought product growth would be X but now it’s three-quarters of X, we retune our resources accordingly. So if we had planned to hire a sales force of 200 in the expectation that a product would be ready to ship, we might delay hiring them for an additional 90 days to give engineering time to run through all the testing. And we have those kinds of conversations in most areas of the company every quarter. It takes about a week, a week and a half—and if we need to, we shift resources.

(Source: McKinsey, 2011)

A Crack In Everything

In conjunction with A Crack in Everything, the Leonard Cohen exhibit at Montreal's Musée d'art Contemporain that ends its run on April 12, CBC co-produced five music videos, directed by Kaveh Nabatian. Each one is a cover of a Cohen song by an artist or group for whom Cohen was a major influence: Barr Brothers, Basia Bulat, Half Moon Run, Leif Vollebekk and Little Scream.

This is Suzanne by Half Moon Run.

Two sides of the Facebook coin

I just finished reading the full transcript of Mark Zuckerberg's testimony concerning the 'trust breach' that happened earlier this year. It is a lesson on how to write a memo. It's clear and concise. And let's be honest, it's well written. We can almost « feel » empathy for the visibly shaken CEO. Anyways, it's a convincing and charming statement.

I paraphrase what I think is an important lesson:

Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring. It’s not enough to just connect people, we have to make sure those connections are positive. It’s not enough to just give people a voice, we have to make sure people aren’t using it to hurt people or spread misinformation. It’s not enough to give people control of their information, we have to make sure developers they’ve given it to are protecting it too. Across the board, we have a responsibility to not just build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good.

As a growing company, you must be taking a broad enough view of your responsibility. When you start, you can avoid thinking about that because you need to survive, grow and get to the next step. But as you grow bigger and your responsibility extends, you realize there are often two sides of a coin. What makes you great can make you weak. What makes you smart can make you dumb. What makes people love you can make people hate you.

I started Facebook when I was in college. We’ve come a long way since then.

Yes, we've come a long way since then.

 

 

Trusted brands

This is a summary of Union Square Venture's thesis for investing in companies:

USV backs trusted brands that broaden access to knowledge, capital, and well-being by leveraging networks, platforms, and protocols.

Trust has never been more of a competitive advantage. That's one thing investors and marketers/advertisers agree on. We know how marketers/advertisers think about trust and the solution to build trust usually include a pretty big media budget. But why and how do you build trust according to the investors?

The goal of these businesses is to build trusted brands—products and services that not only serve a purpose, but integrate into the hearts and minds of their customer in a way that is durable and important. Trust comes from true alignment and convincing the customer that their values and priorities are shared. The bar for this is higher than ever but the best businesses will continually meet it.

Long-term alignment of values. Integration in the hearts and minds of people. In a way that is durable and important. Shared priorities. I think a lot of that is NOT a communications problem. Communications might be the tip of the iceberg. I think a lot of that is an acting challenge. You need to prove yourselves through your actions over a long period of time (read: more than a quarter / more than a 4-week media flight).

So when you think about building trusted brands, think about what you'll do first, and how you'll communicate it second. Not the other way around. Because the most successful investors are currently betting on companies that are committed to building trust the right way. Truly trusted brands will be the standard 5-10 years from now. How you do measure against that?

Thinking independently

Independent thinking is making sense of the world based on your personal observations and experiences rather than just going along with the thoughts of others.This tweet is a great reminder of the importance of thinking independently and obsessing over learning / not winning an argument or comforting old thoughts.

Time, Money & Anxiety

A good re-read from The Economist, Why is everyone so busy?

The relationship between time, money and anxiety is something Gary S. Becker noticed in America’s post-war boom years. He found that when people are paid more to work, they tend to work longer hours, because working becomes a more profitable use of time. So the rising value of work time puts pressure on all time. Leisure time starts to seem more stressful, as people feel compelled to use it wisely or not at all.
The more cash-rich working Americans are, the more time-poor they feel. So being busy can make you rich, but being rich makes you feel busier still.
E-mail etiquette often necessitates a response within 24 hours, with the general understanding that sooner is better. Managing this constant and mounting demand often involves switching tasks or multi-tasking, and the job never quite feels don