Startup Class Lecture 12 Notes – Aaron Levie

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These are my notes from Lecture 12 of the Startup Class taught by Sam Altman. Aaron Levie, CEO and Founder of Box gave a talk on building for the enterprise.

My notes from the previous lectures are here.

Story of Box

  • Got the idea back in 2004, before iPhone, Facebook
  • Noticed it was really hard to share files (expensive, hard to move data through corporate networks)
  • So decided to try to make it easier
  • Noticed a couple of changes:
    • cost of storage was reducing rapidly
    • more powerful browsers and networks
    • more locations and people to share with
  • Put together a quick version of Box to make it really easy to share files
  • Raised some angel funding and dropped out of college to work on it
  • Faced a problem: over-serving consumers and under-serving businesses
  • So had to make a choice between consumer and enterprise
  • Consumer looked fun; Enterprise looked very hard
  • Consumer had issues with monetization
  • Enterprise was slow (sales cycle, approvals), complex (building, selling)
  • Decided they had to go for it. Wanted to see how we could use the changes that had happened in the last decade to build a better enterprise company.
  • Now used by 99% of Fortune 500 companies

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On Job Satisfaction

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People tend to think that job satisfaction is a spectrum with dissatisfaction on one end, and satisfaction on the other. The most prevalent belief is that job satisfaction depends on a number of factors (pay, benefits, work-life balance, purpose), but the lack of one (say purpose) can be made up for by an increase in another (say pay).

In 1964, Herzberg challenged the above school of thought with a theory of motivation called the two-factor theory.

The two-factor theory basically states that there are certain factors at work that cause satisfaction (called motivators) while there are separate factors at work the lack of which cause dissatisfaction (called hygiene factors).

These sets of factors work independently of each other, and so, although improving hygiene factors can alleviate job dissatisfaction, they cannot create job satisfaction.

Hygiene factors include factors such as salary/good pay, benefits and perks (insurance, free lunches/dinners, travel), working conditions and vacation days.

Motivators include factors such as challenging work, a sense of involvement in decision making and a sense of importance to the organization.

Quite un-intuitively, this suggests that job satisfaction isn’t a spectrum, but a matrix, where things that cause job satisfaction are independent of those that cause job dissatisfaction as below:

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Self-driving cars and the Trolley problem

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Google recently announced that their self-driving car has driven more than a million miles. According to Morgan Stanley, self-driving cars will be commonplace in society by ~2025. This got me thinking about the ethics and philosophy behind these cars, which is what the piece is about.

Laws of Robotics

In 1942, Isaac Asimov introduced three laws of robotics in his short story “Runaround”.

They were as follows:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

He later added a fourth law, the zeroth law:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Though fictional, they provide a good philosophical grounding of how AI can coexist with society. If self driving cars, were to follow them, we’re in a pretty good spot right? (Let’s leave aside the argument that self-driving cars lead to loss of jobs of taxi drivers and truck drivers and so should not exist per the 0th/1st law)

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Five Thoughts on Instagram Stories

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Instagram launched Stories today, a feature very similar to Snapchat’s feature with the same name in both the premise and the execution.

Kevin Systrom was quick to acknowledge the likeness in an interview with Techcrunch, noting that “They [Snapchat] deserve all the credit.”

Likeness aside, below are some things that stood out to me in Instagram’s implementation of stories and my thoughts on what the impact of it will be.

“Hold to take video” interface

Instagram stories uses the “tap to take photo, hold to take video interface”, which Snapchat had a patent on, but was in danger of losing.

The current status of the patent is unclear, but it will be interesting to see if there’s anything more reported on this in the coming days.

Polished UI

The Instagram Stories UI is extremely polished, arguably more so than Snapchat’s stories. Three things I particularly liked (compared to Snapchat’s UI) were:

  • The brush and drawing tools, which right from the get go seem more powerful than Snapchat’s
  • The interface to show where in a user’s story you are that makes it clear how many stories the user has posted. It’s not really possible to tell how many stories a Snapchat user has posted.
  • The ability to go backward or forward through stories. Snapchat currently does not have this ability (though I expect this to change soon)

Feed still the default screen

The most notable difference to me in Instagram’s implementation of stories [1] is what screen the app defaults to when opened.

Snapchat defaults to the camera, highlighting it’s “in-the-moment” sharing nature. Instagram still defaults to the news feed, meaning that an extra click (or swipe-left is needed) to get to the camera.

This may change in future versions, but suggests that the bar/difficulty for sharing on Instagram is still slightly higher. [2] It also highlights the tricky trade-offs Instagram faces between creation of ephemeral content, permanent content, and engagement of curated photos in the feed.

Scale

Yes, Snapchat is growing very quickly, but Instagram still operates at a much bigger scale (estimated 300M DAU for Instagram vs 150M DAU for Snapchat) [3]

This means that over half of Instagram’s users likely don’t use Snapchat, and so to them, this feature a novelty and will likely increase both the content they create and consume in the app (and may deter them from ever downloading snapchat — more on this one below)

Increased influencer stickiness

Instagram has created and become the go-to for thousands of influencers in food, style, travel and brands. Gradually, as Snapchat took off, a lot of these influencers have been promoting their Snapchat on their Instagram to gain a following on Snapchat, where they can post more frequent and “behind the scenes” content (they have still remained active on Instagram posting their “best”/”curated” content on it).

Instagram stories removes the need for them to use another platform, and they can double down on growing their Instagram following, which now lets them post both curated permanent content, and more frequent “low touch” ephemeral content.


How will it play out?

Instagram has clearly taken the majority of the Stories feature from Snapchat, with some differences. However, even the same feature when applied to different platforms can have different use cases.

To most, Instagram Stories will appear like a direct attack on Snapchat’s turf of in-the-moment sharing. However, I think more than that, it’s a move to ensure that Instagram continues to be the darling for brands and influencers.

I believe this influencer audience with large Instagram followings is the customer segment Instagram Stories will take off most with, and Instagram will replace Snapchat as (or beat Snapchat to becoming) the go-to for influencer’s stories. [4]

I still think that Snapchat will remain the go-to for in-the-moment sharing between friends due to:

  • first-mover advantage and habit which will be difficult to break
  • lenses and geofilters which allow for more expressability
  • Instagram’s more public/social nature (anecdotally most Instagram accounts are public and often have strangers as followers while most Snapchat accounts are private and only have in-real-life friends/acquaintances as friends)

[1] The absence of lenses and geofilters is the other, though that likely has more to do with this being the first version of Stories. I expect them to be added in later updates assuming Stories does well.

[2] Another thing that makes the bar higher is that sizes of audiences on Instagram tend to be larger than those on Snapchat

[3] Snapchat: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/snapchat-reaches-150-million-daily-active-users-surpassing-twitter; Instagram: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2016-06-21/instagram-now-has-300m-daily-active-users

[4] In some sense, it was almost a case of, would Instagram take advantage of it’s network and allow for low touch sharing or would Snapchat take advantage of it’s low touch sharing and add discoverability first, to woo the influencer crowd (or help create a new set of influencers). I believe a way to discover influencers will be high up on Snapchat’s product roadmap (they did launch a suggest users to friends feature a few months ago)

The unbundling of commercial banks

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In a post on the state of consumer fintech, I took a look at how retail banks are beginning to “unbundle” as tech tries to reinvent finance. I now look at how the same is beginning to happen for commercial banks.

Like it did for retail banking, I think technology is impacting commercial banking in three main ways:

  1. Increasing access to information thereby allowing businesses (businesses here refers broadly to small, medium and large businesses which would be the clients of commercial banks) to make better decisions
  2. Reducing the friction/offering better experiences for businesses in conducting common activities
  3. Lowering the fees on transactions for businesses by serving as a cheaper middle man

To show how the above unbundling is beginning to happen, I’m going to start with the key activities performed by a commercial bank to see how startups have emerged to serve as a better platform or help perform them more efficiently:

  1. Checking and account management services
  2. Loans and financing
  3. Merchant services

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Startup Class Lecture 18 Notes – Legal and Accounting Basics

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These are my notes from Lecture 18 of the Startup Class taught by Sam Altman. Kirsty Nathoo and Carolynn Levy of YC gave a talk on the mechanics of starting a startup.

My notes from the previous lectures are here.

Formation

  • Means to create a separate legal entity to protect yourself from personal liability
  • Where do you form one: have 50 choices but Delaware is the standard
    • standard and familiar: investors know about it
    • just fax two pieces of paper to Delaware which creates a shell corporation
    • then need to complete documents regarding board, CEO, etc
  • Online services to help get set up: Clerky
  • Keep the signed documents in a safe place

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Startup Class Lecture 18 Notes – Legal and Accounting Basics

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These are my notes from Lecture 18 of the Startup Class taught by Sam Altman. Kirsty Nathoo and Carolynn Levy of YC gave a talk on the mechanics of starting a startup.

My notes from the previous lectures are here.

Formation

  • Means to create a separate legal entity to protect yourself from personal liability
  • Where do you form one: have 50 choices but Delaware is the standard
    • standard and familiar: investors know about it
    • just fax two pieces of paper to Delaware which creates a shell corporation
    • then need to complete documents regarding board, CEO, etc
  • Online services to help get set up: Clerky
  • Keep the signed documents in a safe place

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Startup Class Lecture 16 Notes – Emmett Shear

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These are my notes from Lecture 16 of the Startup Class taught by Sam Altman. Emmett Shear, gave a talk on how to run a user interview.

My notes from the previous lectures are here.

Background

  • Started Kiko Calendar with Justin Kan
  • Sold it on eBay
  • Didn't talk to users and didn't know much about calendars
  • Second start up was Justin.tv
  • Where there own users in that case
  • But they needed to broaden the context/audience of Justin.tv
  • That's when they actually went out to talk to users

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Startup Class Lecture 15 Notes – Ben Horowitz

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These are my notes from Lecture 15 of the Startup Class taught by Sam Altman. Ben Horowitz, gave a talk on how to manage.
My notes from the previous lectures are here.

One management concept

  • The key concept covered in this lecture is this: when you’re making a critical decision, you have to understand how it will be interpreted from all points of view.
  • You have to be able to see the decision through the eyes of the company as a whole (every employees view should be incorporated into your own view).
  • To make the concept more clear, some example situations and the results of using the concept are presented below

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Startup Class Lecture 11 Notes – Company Culture and Hiring

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These are my notes from Lecture 11 of the Startup Class taught by Sam Altman on building culture and hiring. Sam Altman facilitated a panel with Ben Silbermann of Pinterest and John and Patrick Collison of Stripe.

My notes from the previous lectures are here.

What are the core pieces of culture you’ve found to be important?

Ben Silbermann:

  • What the people we hire value
  • What we do every day and why
  • What we choose to communicate
  • What we choose to celebrate

John Collison:

  • Transparency is huge.
  • If everyone believes in the mission and has good access to information within the company, that gets you a huge amount towards working together productively.
  • It helps forgives the things that break in a startup.

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