Great article: What seven years at Airbnb taught me

Here is a fantastic article by Lenny Rachitsky about some of the lessons he learned during his seven years at Airbnb.

I particularly liked the sections on nailing culture as a competitive advantage and thinking of your org design like a product. I also found some of the following templates useful:

Lots of other gems in there too!

1000 True Fans

Fans in audience

I was recently chatting to Adam, one of the best designers I know, about The Good News Email. He shared an article with me called 1000 True Fans, by Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired Magazine. It really resonated with me, and is worth a read.

The takeaway: 1,000 true fans is an alternative path to success other than stardom. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status, you can aim for direct connection with a thousand true fans. On your way, no matter how many fans you actually succeed in gaining, you’ll be surrounded not by faddish infatuation, but by genuine and true appreciation. It’s a much saner destiny to hope for. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

Kevin Kelly


Startup Wisdom: Kung Fu by Jason Cohen.

I came across this fantastic page packed full of interesting startup advice at Jason Cohen’s blog: A Smart Bear.

Some of the tips may sounds obvious or commonplace, but that’s because they’re true, and they’re also worth repeating. Often I’ll read an article like this and 90% of the advice will be familiar. While I’ve heard it before, it might only hit home in this moment, in this context – and that’s why it’s powerful.

  • If you have more than three priorities, you have none.
  • It’s better to complete 100% of 8 things than 80% of 10 things.
  • The “long tail” can sound appealing, but it sure is easy to sell vanilla ice cream at the beach even when you’re right next to another ice cream stand.
  • The only cause of Writer’s Block is high standards. Type garbage. Editing is 10x easier than writing.

Read the rest of the article here.

Winner Take All Technology

Survival of the Richest is an interesting article about a futurist who was asked to speak to a group of wealthy men, and the discussion that turned into a Q&A for surviving the apocalypse.

One of the parts of the article I found most interesting was the author’s discussion on ‘unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism’. I found myself thinking about Zero to One, part of the start up canon recommended to all, by all in the venture capital fuelled bubble.

I struggled with a large part of the book that urged prospective founders to build monopolies, advice which flew in the face of all I’d learnt about the benefits of competition and the dangers of capitalism. There seemed to be a missing consideration – there was no balancing what might be good for the small number of founders and investors who own a monopoly with the effects on society as a whole

I think it’s one of the most frustrating parts of the narrative that dominates the current startup zeitgeist – the lack of wider awareness and ethical discussion on the way technology impacts the world. There are exceptions – Time Well Spent and Sam Altman’s interest in UBI for example.

Good News Update

Beer in Hoi An

I’ve spent the past month bunkered down in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, working on a little project that I’ve been thinking about for about a year now. It’s an email newsletter focussed on ‘good news’ that attempts to balance a news cycle that favours the shocking, gruesome and grotesque.

It’s been an interesting time going through the many large and small decisions that come with starting an enterprise. I’ve tried to mix both the necessary admin like registering domains and social media accounts with the big picture stuff like validating the idea.

I drafted some emails and became semi-familiar with Mailchimp in an effort to craft some decent looking campaigns – I found the software incredibly easy to use. I’ve researched successful newsletters like The Skimm, The Hustle and Finimize. I played around with content and wrote two weeks worth of newsletters.

When I was ready I asked a group of friends to give some feedback on the idea, and signed up 20 of them for a little trial which is running now – I’ve scheduled the first four emails through Mailchimp.

In the meantime I’ve been working on setting up the website – I wanted something basic in WordPress but got so frustrated trying to customise it myself that I switched to Squarespace. At $30 AUD per month it’s more than I’d like to pay but it’s very easy to get up and running quickly, so I plan on looking for a more permanent solution later.

I’ve also been looking in to the business admin side of things – I toyed with setting up a company in the USA using Strip Atlas, or becoming an e-resident in Estonia, both of which look like interesting high-tech options. I settled with the cheapest and easiest option for me – becoming a sole trader in Australia. The only cost was registering the name of the business for $36.

I am vaguely aware that there are some tax implications of this business structure, so I searched for some online accounting software. Xero seems to be the clear leader in this space, but since I haven’t started and have no plans for revenue yet I didn’t want another $25 per month subscription. I did a bit of research and went with Wave, a cloud provider who have easy connections to bank accounts so I can import my credit card transactions and highlight the relevant expenses.

At times it seems like everything is coming together and on other days I feel like I wasted hours tinkering in WordPress to no avail. Overall it’s been a great learning experience so far and I’m really enjoying the process of setting things up!

I’m now in Hoi An, toasting the new venture with my Hannah, my partner in crime. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all goes!