It’s an essential habit for the 21st century. A principle I have to learn and re-learn:
No matter what challenge you have, anything. Google is your friend!
Have a problem with your computer? Google it and find a solution.
Don’t know how to disable the answering machine? Google the manual and get it done.
Annoyed by a tedious workflow? Google it and find a better one.
Need to repair something? Google it and find a walkthrough video.
Suffering from pain under your shoulder blade? Google it and find out what you can do about it. (Been there, done that.)
Never hesitate or ruminate. Challenge? Google. It needs to be a reflex. And too often, it isn’t.
An increasing number of hairdressers and manicurists are giving up their studios in China. They get booked via app and do home visits instead.
This is called Online-to-Offline (O2O), and it’s booming in China. (Link / Link).
Tired of bathing your dog? Hire a dog bather that comes to your home. Too busy to pick up your kids from school? Hire a private driver that brings your child home, and keeps you posted via app.
Are you ready to join this new economy? Or are you holding on to what’s familiar and comfortable?
No matter what you do, at least upgrade your service: give your clients an option to book online, or start communicating via text message or email.
My Crossfit gym has nailed it: all classes are booked via app, and the main communication channel is WhatsApp. Easy and effective!
I asked a bicycle workshop if they can send me a text message when the work is done, as other shops do. “We don’t do that here”, they said. I suggested that they think about adding it. “No”, they insisted. So I don’t come again, I thought. Simple.
Of course, you don’t need to build these services yourself. There are platforms and Software-as-a-Service solutions for everything.
Do the work and upgrade your business, before it’s too late.
(I learned this lesson from AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee.)
Silicon Valley is mission-driven, pure, about making a dent in the universe. Abundance mindset. Copying is shameful.
China is market-driven, hyper-competitive, survival of the fittest. Scarcity mindset. Culture of copying.
In Beijing entrepreneurs often joke that Facebook is the most Chinese company in Silicon Valley, for its willingness to copy and its fierce competitiveness.
While you might be somewhat repelled by the aggressive, gladiator-style entrepreneurship in China, the results compared to the USA speak for themselves:
- Rides on shared bikes 300:1
- Mobile payments 50:1
- Food delivery 10:1
- E-commerce purchases 2:1
Let’s also not forget that Uber lost against Didi, eBay lost against Taobao, and Meituan is more successful than its role model Groupon ever was.
According to Marc Andreessen, the winning companies 20 years from now will be enormously large, maybe 10 or 100 times the size of today’s Google or Facebook. I’m pretty sure that a lot of them, if not the majority, will come from China.
It’s foolish for us Westerners not to watch China more closely. I know that Charlie Munger does. And that’s what I’ll be doing as well.
(I learned this lesson from AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee.)
You can 9x your results by choosing the right default, as shown by organ donation statistics:
- If people need to check a box to not donate (“opt-out”), the consent rate is between 85% and 99%.
- If people need to check a box to donate (“opt-in”), the consent rate is between 4% and 27%.
“Opt-in” vs. “Opt-out” has a huge impact. Choose wisely!
I love simple heuristics. Here is one:
The Lindy effect is a concept that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.
In other words, the longer a product/company/idea already exists, the longer is its expected remaining lifespan.
A very simplified version might look like this:
- Something that exists 1 year is expected to exist another 1 year
- Something that exists 5 years is expected to exist another 5 years
- Something that exists 100 years is expected to exist another 100 years
This might be good news for something like Bitcoin, which just celebrated its 10th birthday. And it might be bad news for the startup next door that was founded last year.
I recently experienced this effect firsthand:
When going through some old online accounts, I realized how many of the services that I used 10 to 15 years ago are offline. I probably went through 50 accounts, and the vast majority was out of business! Most services were probably less than 5 to 7 years old at the time that I used them.
How many of the companies and services that we use today will be out of business 10 to 15 years from now?
Don’t ask your money manager for stock recommendations. Ask him which stocks he owns personally.
Don’t listen to the theories of your business school professor. Ask him about his own industry experience.
Don’t ask for advice. Ask for a demonstration of their methods.
Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do.
(I learned this lesson from Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.)
Recently I watched this Q&A with Charlie Munger. Pure wisdom, and two hours very well spent.
He talked about a key principle of (value) investing: Deferred gratification
We live in a world of instant gratification. It’s very hard to get rich if you eat your seeds, instead of planting them.
That’s what makes value investors rich. And that’s what transformed China into a rich country: they had a savings-rate of 50% and applied this principle masterfully.
Charlie also joked that people who have mastered this concept enjoy it so much, that they never harvest their fruit. They keep deferring until they die.
Personally, I’d rather die a rich deferrer than a poor pleasure-seeker. Even better, I’d prefer to die a poor deferrer. Having given away the fruit to people and causes who need them more than I do.
Two cautionary tales:
- Theranos was a privately held health tech company, becoming infamous for its false claims to have developed blood tests that only needed very small amounts of blood. I recently read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, detailing this whole story. Pretty scary stuff.
- Robinhood recently announced a new Checking & Savings service with 3% interest, no fees, and free ATMs. Then it had to crawl back.
I know it’s tempting to exaggerate and overpromise. But it rarely works. When in doubt, strive for the opposite: underpromise, then overdeliver.
[Hat tip to Daniel Gladiš]
I love the idea of reinventing venture capital. Here are some great examples:
- Patagonia’s venture capital fund: invests in environmentally and socially responsible start-up companies, providing long-term, patient capital. I highly recommend reading Let My People Go Surfing by founder Yvon Chouinard.
- Y Combinator: invests small sums at the seed stage, but in large batches of startups, with hands-on mentoring. They were the first investors in AirBnB, Dropbox, Stripe, Coinbase, Reddit, and 1800+ more.
- Venture Kick: Switzerland’s largest startup accelerator program. Get up to 150’000 CHF for your project.
- indie.vc: 50% of the companies they’ve backed are led by female founders & the vast majority of them are based outside of the Bay Area or NYC
- Tiny: they start, buy, and invest in wonderful internet businesses
Know other examples? Let me know on Twitter.
How to innovate:
- Build a prototype, and then keep iterating.
- Each time, only change one single thing. Then you see exactly what caused the improvement or failure.
- That way you build a huge bank of knowledge, and after many iterations, end up with something unique.
James Dyson used this method to create over 5000 prototypes of his radically different vacuum technology.
What will you come up with?