Reflecting on the Year (Notes from March 23 to 29, 2020)

When you just want to produce something for the day but you've been helping out others more than yourself, seek a site you use repeatedly for inspiration. Today's Farnam Street and its post on quotes from AMAs 2020.

Shane Parrish, FS Founder – Jan 2020

I don’t want to optimize for work, and I don’t want to optimize for family time. I want to optimize for life. I get one life and I don’t want to look back at ninety yelling at myself because I regret doing or not doing something. I always try to keep that end in mind.

Anese Cavanaugh, IEP Method Founder – Feb 2020

Culture is the energy, the container, we create together to do our best work, show up as our best selves, be productive, and feel safe. It’s how we feel when we’re doing our work together.

Jeff Hunter, Talentism Founder – March 2020

All of us do work that matters. It may matter in a little way, it may matter in a big way. We’re surrounded by signals all the time that say some work is more valuable than others. But as I like to say, the person who cleans the bathroom and does that excellently is probably more valuable than somebody who’s the head of an organization and does it terribly.

Katherine Eban, Investigative Journalist – April 2020

As a journalist doing a book, it’s like a marriage; and I know this sounds a little cynical but,
marriages only get worse as they go along so you have to be really in love to start with. So, there’s got to be a real love there with the topic because the project and the reporting and the work is only going to get deeper and worse the further you get into the project. Start from a good strong place.

Marc Tarpenning, Tesla Co-Founder – July 2020

Long-term thinking is really this idea of always keeping as much optionality in the future as you can. Because you don’t know what the future is going to bring. So what you don’t want to do is constrain your future possible options because you’re on some trajectory.

Jesse Mecham, YNAB Founder – August 2020

Budgeting just means you’re deciding. We don’t want people spending less, we really want people spending without guilt. That approach of thinking you’re going to push through and restrict yourself just fits and starts. People do that again and again. Give yourself room to learn how you spend money and learn what you care about, and slowly as you work the four rules, you’ve found something sustainable.

Gretchen Rubin, Happiness Project Author – Sept 2020

People who have habits that work for them have a happier, healthier, more productive, more creative life. People whose habits don’t work for them have a lot more challenges. It’s a question of thinking more about how to make something [which makes you happier] into a habit.

Stefanie Johnson, Management Professor – Oct 2020

One of the amazing things about inclusion is that it’s really something that any of us can do. It’s not like you have to be a leader to make someone feel seen. Any of us can do that.


  • Transform Your Data Science Projects with 5 Steps for Design Thinking (HumAIn Podcast 3/22/20)
  • Data Collection - thorough data navigation skills
  • Where is my data stored?
  • How large is the data size?
  • What quantity or quality do I need to launch?
  • Who manages the data?
  • When is it updated?
  • Why is it relevant?
  • Data Refinement - Large quantities of data are good, but high quality is better - invest in refining data
  • Who has data insight or dictionaries/features?
  • What data requires querying, feature engineering or preprocessing? By what techniques?
  • When will the data be ready to move to next place?
  • Where will it be stored?
  • Why will it need to be refined?
  • How can it be tested/validated for consistent performance?
  • Data Expansion - With best data, problem may not be solvable. Integrations with APIs, feature enrichment.
  • Who controls data access?
  • What budget is available for obtaining more data?
  • When do you stop expanding or iterating?
  • Where can you get high quality data sources?
  • Why are more data features needed?
  • How do we decide what is most relevant?
  • Data Learning - Models or features for insights for the product to accelerate the workflow
  • Who determines the benchmarks for the model?
  • What ML framework/algos are chosen for what you will predict?
  • When do you decide that modeling results are ready?
  • Where will you process the data locally or in cloud?
  • Why does product/feature require ML?
  • How much compute time or resources are available to model?
  • Data Maintenance - Implementing into Production, while the data degrades over time
  • Who is responsible for making changes to models with performance changes?
  • What triggers/pipelines/data jobs implemented to monitor quality of data?
  • If data falls below benchmarks, what do you action?
  • Where do you commit time in schedule to monitor pipeline for qc?
  • Why do your data modeling results decrease in quality in production?
  • How do you communicate the results to PM, Data engineers, software engineers and in what frequency?
  • Remote Work and Our New Reality (a16z Podcast #529, 3/23/20)
  • With GP Connie Chan for consumers, David Ulevitch for enterprise
  • Scaling enterprise and infrastructure operations
  • Prioritization, scaling and outages - platforms that are cut and pasted
  • Legacy technology or video codecs make it tough to scale for the way you're doing
  • Tandem (watercooler), Zoom, Around the World
  • More people to chat / participate in a virtual setting
  • Recording and autodocumenting/archiving is easier than real world
  • Online classes and verticals - v2 curriculum beyond streaming and animation, A/R or interactive ways
  • Classes can fill up in the real world and now, with online settings, it can't
  • Krisp - background noise elimination or Muzzel - popup notifications off during screen sharing
  • David is used to WebEx (from time at Cisco) for being always-on video conf
  • More engaged for virtual
  • Tandem will show you what you're doing / what app - collaborate if shared google doc
  • Gaming and entertainment - playing with friends, children and maintaining relationships like Roblox
  • David installing an Xbox One even as a software dev moreso than gaming, but alone
  • Asana / Workboard to align teams and communicating what's important for org transparency
  • Telehealth or telemedicine - more people going remote
  • Remote work - myth for jobs that aren't possible to successfully do remote
  • Test case - most people aren't comfortable video conferencing, but forced to
  • Some like the separation of work and home life - people do want to work where they want and live otherwise
  • What are the products/features - A/R or fashion show - save items for later when you overlay digital as a second screen
  • Browser extensions or different destination websites
  • Is it a horizontal or vertical platform that wins?
  • Investing in the Time of Corona Part I (Meb Faber podcast #206, 3/20/20)
  • Preseason training - running after practice to make it easier for games
  • His firm has 45k+ investors and he's heard from only a few of them
  • Get rich - more money, and all relative
  • 100k in net worth is Top 10% globally but 1M is top 1% globally - people want roughly twice as much
  • Luck as out of our hands - marrying into wealth or winning the lottery, Ken Fisher had a chapter on marrying rich
  • 88% of millionaires are self-made, other book said 80%+
  • High-earning exec, upper level management, professionally as the path to wealth
  • Morgan Housel as saying "I want to be a millionaire" is instead "I want to spend a million dollars"
  • Timing - best (yearly, 17%) and worst (0.06% loss), market-cap weighted equities don't work
  • Small cap value and momentum is about 16% - drawdowns are inevitable in these types of strategies
  • Portfolio manager hat for 20% returns - would look for concentrated tilts toward global value, momentum and trend following
  • Lever up to 1.5-2x but the risk is there
  • Small minority of companies with big winners - 100 baggers in investments
  • Sizing in private investments - sidestep threats to money, which is you (eg AMZN 95% drawdown on way up)
  • Money locked in - largest financial asset is house often - annuities are another
  • Paul Merriman where he gifts annuities to his grandchildren and wraps in a trust
  • Inconsistent opinion of illiquidity of house vs private
  • Startup investing - QSBS treatment - investors can exclude 100% of cap gains ($10mln cap or 10x cost basis of stock)
  • Investments into retirement accounts to gain - Thiel and Levchin doing this, along with Romney
  • Opportunity zones in long-term, as well
  • Angel List is one of his favorite, but there are others - own sweat or your labor or with others on behaving properly
  • Manu Kumar, CEO of HiHello (20min VC 3/23/20)
  • Founder at K9 Ventures, seed firm with investments in Carta, Lyft, Twilio, Auth0, LucidChart
  • Founder of 3 prior cos, 3 with successful exits and then Carta
  • Graduated in 2007, started his first company at 20, also
  • Noticed gap in ecosystem and created a job he wanted to do with K9 and seed/pre-seed
  • More capital being deployed and companies staying private longer, also
  • Seed before was $500k and now multi million
  • He's a big fan of former operators starting venture funds but doesn't have experience with many scouts
  • Founders taking early money, especially with multi stage funds - harder for option vat
  • Simpler answer for bigger firms - they've added new people, so what's better than getting ball running with smaller checks
  • Safe playground and training for the newer folks at the firm as they grow
  • He believes this may phase out eventually
  • At pre-seed, he has luxury to get to know teams before investing, especially since he does only 3-4 investments a year
  • At later stages, there's a concern for how quickly rounds are progressing
  • His investment fund cycle is 5 years - 15-20 portfolio companies per fund (Fund I - 19, II - 14, III - 1/3 at 6)
  • Check sizes have inched up marginally ($400-600k now but probably closer to $600k now)
  • He has no FOMO in term sheet plays for chasing - he wants a mutual agreement on investments
  • His LPs prefer concentrated portfolio, not diversification larger (Harry at 35-40)
  • How do you avoid adverse selection - general issue at preseed funds (he and Tim Connors)
  • For K9 - number of investments per year means he has a very tight filter - fit for investment thesis/model and mutual fit
  • Making the call on people - diamond in the rough - help them seek the diamond
  • How does he think about decision making as a solo GP? For LPs and fund itself?
  • Benefit of being a solo founder from 1996 - dealt with it already and on his own - comfortable in making judgment call
  • Leaps of faith - incomplete data
  • 100% accountable / responsible on both ends
  • Venture firms fall prey to group think - limit to where it's healthy
  • Group think and consensus is dangerous - most innovative companies are doing something unusual and different
  • In 2009, for first investment out of K9 - he received a stock certificate and massive stack of papers
  • Called GPs - hands to CFO and gives to safe deposit box - what's he do? Became the kernel for Carta (never touch paper)
  • Spent 3 years discussing this with teams before finally meeting Henry to pitch and pitch a second time
  • Running HiHello has changed what he looks for in companies he invests in
  • From before, no outsourcing or distributed or remote teams on his blog on K9 - recruiting has become a nightmare
  • Remote belief was wrong for him - learn and adapt - now he is comfortable in advocating for remote
  • As an investor, you aren't at the cutting edge of products/technology - didn't understand Slack until HiHello usage
  • Get to experience new stack in starting a company - comm, hr, resources, tech, etc
  • Fav book - How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Best board member - different ones add value in number of ways
  • What does he know now that he wished he had known before - Nothing
  • If you know too much, it can be a deterrent. Being naïve may be a good thing - learn things at the right time.
  • Worst thing for venture - mega funding rounds from multistage
  • Best for venture - operators turning investors more often
  • Workona as most recent investment - mostly working inside a web browser, building a desktop in the cloud
  • Misha Esipov, founder & CEO of Nova Credit (20min VC 3/20/20)
  • Using international credit history for application of cc, apt rental, loans and more
  • Misha raised $69M and KP, Index, First Round, Pear and Core Innovation Capital
  • Misha spent 5+ years in private equity at Apollo, I/B at Goldman
  • Goldman established a rigor for being first-principle, arbitrage, structure and similar in natural resources
  • Hunt for global raw materials (credit is unique pieces of data, formula for synthesizing and refine into pipelines)
  • For value - business without a clear path to generating cash isn't an enduring business
  • Press and publicity can create the aura, but margin profile can contract and needs to thought out
  • Grad school in valley and got into YC summer program and incredible access to the venture funds in the valley
  • Authentic mission for what you're doing and being honest - brings up the challenges and why they're comfortable
  • He wants to see more VC's creating more value by helping execs to get to world-class and small portfolios
  • He admired Matt Harris at Bain Capital - one of best fintech investors with a long-dated outlook across cycles
  • Not an investor but has a curiosity for the space and decisions for data usage
  • How do you manage the psychology of being a CEO? It's his life's work, so it's hard to find a balance.
  • David Bradford at Stanford Interpersonal Dynamics told him - at onboarding and 1:1, deliberately enter a contract with you
  • If I'm micromanaging, you have a duty and obligation to call me out - I can't scale as a CEO without that
  • If it's not a tier 1, company-killing, decision, he lets the team decide and make mistakes
  • Leadership team must signal some diversity to go down - 3 cofounders scaled to 10 (and all new 7 were male, by accident)
  • Company example for future hiring managers for ensuring the proper candidates - reaching out to VCs
  • Here is what I believe, look for and expect for you in a role - no misalignment in expectations
  • Inevitably early on, it becomes on you to determine judgment for slipping on KPIs, individual may not be responsible
  • Mastery by Robert Green - when he was debating on starting Nova or go back to finance world
  • Purpose is to figure out the craft he wanted to master - financial engineering vs building org, team and pursuit
  • Superpower in company building - attention, listening and spotting subtleties for following up
  • Weakness - boundless potential on core business and pmf, wants to go into new thing but have to strengthen core
  • Financial access for newcomers that are new/migrants to the states - strengthening this global infrastructure