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Striving to Learn Yourself (Notes from March 18 – 24, 2019) April 11, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Altucher, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, medicine, questions, social, Strategy, TV, Uncategorized.
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There’s nothing wrong with the selection of a well-traveled path. It’s paved with a full network of people who have gone ahead of you. If you’re active and curious enough, that can lead to opportunities aplenty. But some of us feel as if that can lead to a pigeon holing or limit on what we FEEL like we could achieve. For better or worse – maybe we’re curious along different lines – following a boundary, or making a new path altogether into the woods. Jump into a new space or, adjacent markets, as popularized by Peter Thiel.

It’s hard to go against what we’re generally comfortable with. Habits have been grooved into our system of processes for a reason. I believe that if something is eating at you or there’s an overarching sense of obligation toward a challenge, relishing that opportunity is vital – and should be celebrated. 25+ years ago, maybe less so – as the fallback could have been harder. But now? Nonsense – networks are as connected as we make them out to be – reach out via Twitter to someone, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Slack or the tried-and-true in-person coffee chats, conference meet-ups or otherwise. Interconnectedness has never been this high before. But you have to put in the effort.


  • Ashish Walia (@AshishW203), co-founder and COO at LawTrades (20min VC FF 019)

    • Portfolio company of 500 Startups
    • Undergrad in Queens, then law school – read through entrepreneurship opportunities, spoke to lawyers – knew he didn’t want to be full time
    • Decentralize major corporate law firms – before you’d have to go to bottom barrel legal service or stuck paying $600 an hour for routine stuff
      • Middle boutique firms could save money and they were looking for work
    • Joining law firm is like everyone wanting to get in and everyone in wants out – if he knew this already, why not do a different thing
      • He wanted to figure things out for himself and work his tail off for what he wanted to do
      • Idea for LawTrades came up in his 2nd year of law school – businesses and lawyers-directory service, terrible traction initially
      • Using all of the resources – blogs, podcasts, videos, etc… diving in
    • Gary Vaynerchuk as sales and customer experience, as he wasn’t a tech/coder
      • This Week in Startups, Jason Calicanis as well
    • Law school as encouragement for a corporate firm, not to apprentice and then start your own thing
      • More legal technology and open, incubators popping up but not traditional
    • Attorneys with big law experience that want more control over their work-life balance are their target for LawTrades
    • Had started a podcast to drive traffic to LawTrades – had a guest on as founder of Pigeon and he thought they should apply to 500
      • Applied a few days before deadline, had Brian Wang interview while in NYC the day after, then a skype with Elizabeth Yang
        • For LawTrades, they cared about 2-3 recs after learning about the business
      • 4 days after, got in and moved from NY to CA
      • Really wanted 500 Startups because they wanted to drive distribution (vs YC as product-focused)
    • Raised small seed round with the vision, no customers that were just angel investors
    • Enjoyed BrainTree founder Brian Johnson as a nontechnical founder to make it large
      • Altucher, Thiel’s Zero to One, Quora, Medium
  • Dave Sonntag, Gonzaga Associate VP / CMO (Launch Pad, Wharton XM)
    • Discussing university brand, marketing
      • Smaller school of 6000 comparatively, but large brand name
    • Funny to me that he said that the basketball brand was priceless – invaluable
      • Primarily over last 20 years
    • Only the 2nd CMO in the history of the school
    • Started as marketer at Eastern Washington before seeing opening at GU (alma mater)
      • Trying to line up brand exposure to campaigns – bracket + donation set up for the week of tourney start
      • Last year, drove about 1/4 of the site traffic – had to prioritize the home page and stories to make them compelling
      • This year, accentuating professors and their stories (named #1 university professors by US News)
  • Chris Riccobono, UnTUCKit founder (Wharton XM)

    • Had failed at multiple companies before thinking of returning to finance but landing on doing this co
    • Building a brand around shirts that aren’t to be tucked in – seasonality isn’t necessary
      • Built to have that offering as compared to types of shirts (Tommy Bahama – floral, Armani – club, etc…)
      • 50 stores now and the plan is to have them distribute clothing to better control distribution/supply
    • Increasing market in areas that they put a store – both online and in store
      • Tracking customer data as they go back & forth between online and in-store
      • Control experience of touch and customization to drive conversions
    • Doing once a month “fast fashion” with 4-6 designs that are only available for 48 hours or limited time for attention and marketing – demand driver
  • Linda Crawford (@lcrawfordsfo), CEO at HelpShift (LaunchPad, WhartonXM)

    • Getting over imposter syndrome, realizing she is certainly an expert
    • From Salesforce and Siebel, had ran and grown a ton – wanted to get into start-up land again
    • Building the right team immediately, making sure everyone was on the same page
      • Had been recruited by headhunter and wasn’t predicting going into CRM, again – maybe fin or healthtech
  • Denali Therapeutics, (WhartonXM)

    • Focusing on neuro degenerative diseases, isolating proteins that cause damage
  • For the Billions of Creatives Out There (a16z, 3/16/19)

    • Brian Koppelman, Marc Andreessen, Sonal Chokshi
    • Creativity of business, talking about Brian’s original script with his partner – Rounders
      • Failed initially, people turned down and it wasn’t even a box office hit – super small chance to get the repeated viewings
      • Only about doing the work themselves, the rewards would come
      • Worked as bartender / music exec – would work for 2 hours to write a script
      • Were given a chance $5k to be partner – took advice from Horowitz of Beastie Boys’ sister
        • She said “if someone would pay you money without seeing it, then you should write it and you’ll have options.”
    • Balancing the success – his state initially (creative impulse being down)
      • Toxicity that made him bitter if he let the creative impulse die, even if he had other stuff going on
      • Knew he needed to do the work even if it meant failing
      • The job that was mundane / bitter (music exec), he felt better doing because he had already put in 2+ hours of writing to try
    • In Rounders – rejected by every Hollywood agency
      • Some said overwritten, some said underwritten (he still says unsure)
      • He sold the script over a weekend and Monday to Miramax
        • By Tuesday, every agency that had passed tried to sign them – he read them their notes on why they’d passed
        • All told him that they didn’t read it (assistant, reader)
      • Wanted to overstep to make success by getting a director that they agreed on the vision/leverage
    • Up to you to manage the relationships (founder and investors)
      • Learned at a young age how to talk to powerful people – outside of having college paid for or something
      • Father would put him in position to talk to people – in meetings, in production studios, etc…
      • Don’t treat them with a sense of awe or condescending. Also, make them laugh and you’re comfortable in your own skin.
        • Be able to grow, better yourself, relax and they’re not all-knowing.
      • For shows – make it on budget, crew taken care of, make people heard and listening – take notes only on what can make show better
        • Artie from Larry Sanders (show) – network executives discussion
    • Podcast Brian is not script writing Brian – major leagues now, not getting nurturing Brian
    • New Brian and Adam wouldn’t pitch movie Rounders now, it’d be show Rounders
      • Movies were the way that they communicated from the time
      • Televisions now and visual literature as much better than movies
    • Not letting emotional response dictate your actions – how do YOU comport yourself, not the other
      • Especially in partnership types (founder / CEO or other setup)
      • Has to be more important that the other gets to make the decision than you to be right (both need it)
    • Tim Ferriss w/ interviews, 90%+ meditate (quickly Marc says never so in the minority)
      • Brian does 2x / day, 20min & reduces the physical manifestation of anxiety
      • David Lynch for Transcendental meditation (David Lynch foundation)
      • Argue about journaling for introspection vs meditation as a respite or calming of thoughts
    • Billions stuff: As Good as It Gets scene response to how he writes women so well
      • More the result of everything he’s ever read, done, watched while he sits on his couch with music blasting with his laptop
      • Wants to write the characters to all be smarter than the writers are
      • How he stumbled on Vince Staples’ Street Punks in Axe’s bachelor pad (the scene and debauchery and debased)
  • Tony Kunitz, StatsBomb (Wharton XM at SSAC)
    • In london now, paying attention to premier league
      • Progression passing and going through pressure
      • Building the data, paying people to note and augment with computer vision
    • How baseball has gone through 3 stats progressions
      • First value of players and contracts
      • Changing how to play on the field
      • Now changing training and player development (swings, angles, etc…)
    • Also have changing coaches guard – need people to be able to coach properly or the new developments
  • Maria Konnikova (@mkonnikova), The New Yorker (Wharton XM)
    Books: Confidence Game & others

    • Psychology study and approaching poker after reading John von Neumann’s work on game theory
      • Appropriate mix of human decision making – very different than Go or chess
      • Luck and imperfect knowledge of others – strategy vs luck
    • Approaching Erik Seidel to be her coach – intrigue at her book research, and figured if it succeeded or not – could build a bigger audience
      • Still gives her a tough time at not knowing how many cards in a deck (52 vs 54)
      • Using the “marshmallow test” decision-making of Walter Mischel to see if people with high levels of self-control made better risky conditions
        • Made me think of how high school students beat AI experts at Berkeley AI conference after just an hour of teaching
    • Frame of references and deviations can thrive in environments of change
    • Talked about how pros de-leverage themselves by buying in on other pros (can be up to 75-80% of each other)
      • Know that one thing can boot them from a tournament, even if the math is in their favor
  • David Blanchflower (@d_blanchflower), Prof of Econ at Dartmouth (Wharton XM)
    • Children, Unhappiness and Family Finances paper, with Andrew Clark
    • How to gather the data for unhappiness and finance – not based on income
      • Did it based on “Do you struggle to pay bills?” – always, sometimes, never
      • Found that more people with kids struggle to pay bills
        • But children make them more happy, when asked and measured
    • How to change this – other countries have tried to address child care subsidies or tax breaks
    • Younger kids were also considered to be more happy than teenagers or older ones
  • Steven Rogelberg, author of The Science of Meetings (Wharton XM)

    • Employees suffering by tons of meetings that don’t return as much
    • What type of meetings would be preferred? – Remote. What type of meetings are the least productive? – Remote.
      • Have to dial in how to make meetings more productive, especially when remote.
      • Shorter, planned meetings are better – Remote < 30min, for instance.
  • Caring Capitalism, Miriam Schoning author (Wharton XM)

Betaworks, Kamal Pt 2 and Automation Innovation (Notes Jan 28 – Feb 3, ’19) February 19, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Altucher, Automation, education, experience, Founders, global, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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After the short post and notes from the prior week, this one was chock full of Strictly VC episodes. I also caught a bunch of Wharton XM on innovation in automation and various questions as to its applications in novel ways (and old industries).

The first up was a fascinating innovation in agriculture discussion with a professor working at UC Davis. Oenology has so many levels to it, from climatology, viticulture to how and when to harvest along with the chemistry. Innovation using automation and AI should be able to capture a lot of value in the whole chain, all the way to the distribution and end consumers. Reduction of variability was the big takeaway here. I do wish there were more weekend days to explore wine to fully immerse, but alas, we have 2 or 3.

Kamal finished his talk with Harry Stebbings on 20min VC to discuss the future of VC and how he sees the best business done. Hands-on, smaller funds believed to be better and to work on solving the problems that keep founders up at night. Those are most exciting.

James Bell, Kia Motors’ Director of Corp. Communication and Social Media, discussed his takes on autonomous vehicles over the next 5+ years and how they’re likely to be constrained to cities. Probably reduced speeds ~25-40mph and that even if they show up, it’ll be a challenge to get adaptation on the vehicle side as well as humans adjusting. Complete network of autonomous would be easy – humans add the variability that throws wrenches into the equation.

Then, we had Chad Fowler and Matt Hartman (Director of Betaworks). Peruse the notes below to see how those went

  • Innovation in Agriculture (UC Davis professor) – Work of Tomorrow

    • Talked about automation on acreage for vineyards
    • 33% variability in vines across many acres, AI can reduce variability which allows for better management
      • Migrant patterns changed of laborers, pricing for pickers up to $42+/hr avg
      • Tough to get teams of 32+1 team lead consistently
    • Automation / machine pickers are ~5 year break-even, $18k in cost initially per acre and can drop after
  • Kamal Ravikant Part 2 (20min VC 078)
    • Future of VC
      • Competing for talent, entrepreneurs – AngelList, etc
      • Value add more in the recent time – they didn’t do anything before
      • Give the entrepreneur the power – not just another company of the portfolio
      • Smaller funds that will do better: Vast VC in NY, Kent Goldman (board observer at his old co), Syndicates, Ferriss, Jason Calacanis, one-off funds over bigger VC’s, Rick Morini
    • Shares deals with many of his friends that he’s talked to and approached (entrepreneurship)
      • Questions include understanding the product, team, burn rate, distribution
    • Fundamentally solving a problem (keeps you up at night)
    • Book of the biggest influence – The Alchemist, The Little Prince, Hemingway, Great Work of Your Life – Cope
    • He’d play more because he spends too much time writing / working
      • Altucher as the Oprah of the internet – (Told Stebbings to avoid college and build one in Guam)
    • Inspiring leader – Elon Musk (putting his own money on the line), Naval (his brother) and putting steps to build it – power, AngelList
    • Most recent investment – Bolt – uncapped, Dan Sharp founder, payments (something he wanted to solve)
      • Interviewing each other – did it to guarantee value add
      • Can’t invest into social good or impact because it doesn’t return all the time (to pitch to his LPs)
    • Lost a lot of his money in the old company after he burned it all
      • Level of responsibility for his LPs – not wasting, has a fiduciary responsibility for building the company
  • Chad Fowler, CTO at Wunderlist (20min VC FF016)

    • App of the year, writer
      • From the founder – ‘simplicity, design’
      • Removed everything that they could, what else could they take out
      • Why business software is broken? – self-defeating, fear-based negotiation tactics that they need it
        • Ask for everything you could possibly ever want (and if the vendor can’t say yes, then you drive down price)
    • Tech (into video games) from music (forming and writing – ‘on hold’ for 20 yrs)
      • Same mindset for tech as music – we don’t enter music for a job – you do it because you want to bring something special
    • At LivingSocial in DC, InfoEther (his co) was a talent acquisition, became a VP of Eng and took over role of CTO
      • Approached by friends in Berlin shortly after that
    • Living in Berlin / Europe – completely disconnected in the 90s but no longer in 2010s
      • Still cultural issues that may be disadvantaged – bit more behind, conservative
      • He mentions he loves the cultural and international aspect of Berlin (US, as well) but cheaper
    • He believed that the piece of software is done – the client product is done – simplicity guardians
      • Wonderlist should be the glue that recognizes or allows input for everything across your life
    • Most requested features: folders
    • Same general operations once acquired by Microsoft – operating in Berlin still, staying with the teams, etc…
    • Fav book: E-myth Revisited – why small businesses fail, strategic/systems from own career thru running company
    • At GE, started a development center in Bengalore – new, cultural uncomfortable place taught him a ton
  • James Bell, Director, Corp Comm & Social Media at Kia Motors America (Launch Pad, WhartonXM)
    • If he had to put a number on autonomous – caveat: cities or districts, maybe 5-6 years
      • Slower, 25-40 mph congestion reduced but autonomous allowed – no humans
    • Humans add the element of randomness & variability that change autonomous cars 
      • How’s a car going to treat the randomness of a human in the road or other humans
      • How will people react to cars without drivers (videos of seat-outfitted drivers at crosswalks)
    • Talked about buying the first hybrid early on and how many questions he got in general
      • Likened that feeling to what it may have been like after cars showed up post-horse/buggy
      • Inflection points of becoming ubiquitous
  • Matt Hartman, Betaworks Weeks, Director of Seed Investments (20min VC 078)

    • Prior to Betaworks, he was co-founder of ReferBoost
    • Went to b-school, worked at Hot Potato, consumer social network acquired by Facebook
      • Went back to school and started a real estate platform
    • Betaworks – consumer internet companies with Bitly, Dots, giphy
      • 100+ people on 10 different companies, outside financing and get a bigger space if they’re building
      • Employee is under Betaworks until companies – can do seed stage, as well
    • Why seed investment side? Building, shaping and figuring out the network approach
      • Loves working on different things for different companies in the day-to-day
      • Twitter becomes much more about news vs Facebook for friends – iterations and bilateral
      • Snapchat is 1:1 but 1:many, lower friction vs Instagram that keeps it there (not 1 hour or 24 hours)
      • Habit forming activity
    • Conversations on ProductHunt were normal conversations among product designers – network structure enabled community growth
    • Meercat – one of the best product launches he’d seen (though they didn’t invest)
      • Product was well done and more tightly integrated than Periscope, really good time
      • Meercat is not great in real-time – comments / questions won’t work great for video compared to others
    • Instapaper – Betaworks co – was going through articles in audio form
      • Was consuming 6 hours of reading just in his day-to-day with lunch, walks, commute
        • Found time in listening channel
      • Native audio ads already has straightforward monetization structure
      • Multitasking can be pretty useful for being conversions in listening
    • For deal-sourcing, he gets them through coworkers’ network (people at Betaworks)
      • ProductHunt has been one that initiates deals
    • Productivity tool Drafts? – input box for notes (opens API to do add anything macro-related)
    • DigDeeper (Instapaper) – notes from twitter compiled
    • Ryan Leslie’s Disruptive Multimedia (always available via twitter/phone)

Thoughts of the Day – GenY finance, Daily fantasy ‘expert’-testing, other questions September 17, 2015

Posted by Anthony in Altucher, DFS, experience, finance, gym, PGA, questions, Scutify, social, training.
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Every day I receive a post from James Altucher @jaltucher – he’s an author of one of USA Today’s “12 Best Business Books of All-Time” Choose Yourself, which describes at length the power of one’s self, as well as a successful (and that does not mean he hasn’t failed) entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, asset manager, columnist, as well as podcast producer. His valuable insights, podcasts and publications enlighten us to choose yourself and your passions to create revenue streams aplenty. He simply asks a lot of questions of many people to see what has driven them, and in turn, learn for himself.

In my recent conversations, I have noticed that this is a skill that is falling out of favor very easily of many people – and more so, whether they’re just more of who I come into contact with, but Gen Y and Millennials. So, in light of my observations, I would like to go over what I observed/questioned today.


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