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- Startups are Experiments
Startups are Experiments
And a decision-making framework Jeff Bezos uses
On Saturday I shared a deep dive on why founders need to lead sales for their startup. You can become a member to get access to my library of 70+ deep dives, and a new one in your inbox each Saturday.
Here’s today at a glance:
Opportunity → Home Owner Dashboard
Framework → Amazon Decision-Making
Tool → Senders
Trend → Hiring Freelancers
Quote → Startups are Experiments
💡 Opportunity: Home Owner Dashboard
Even though home ownership seems more unreachable than ever for many millennials and Gen-Z, there may be a higher-end market for a home services platform:
Sahil Bloom posted something similar back in 2021 but I like Ankur’s twist to make it more about a dashboard rather than a concierge-driven service, as it’ll be higher margin and easier to get off the ground.
The main challenge (and moat) with this idea is verifying the quality of service providers and getting them to buy-into alerting you when services have been completed.
To get to market in a position to grow, you need to start with as constrained a market as possible — you won’t get the benefit of word-of-mouth if you go too wide and verifying quality service providers will quickly become impossible. You may even want to start with verifying just one type of service providers (i.e. HVAC).
I would identify various high-net-worth neighborhoods across the US and choose one with a high percentage of first-time homeowners and without strong existing word-of-mouth or trusted service providers.
If you look through the replies to Ankur and Sahil’s posts, you’ll see a lot of people calling out existing solutions that try to address this:
You could also argue a bigger company like Angi should get into this space since they have a huge dataset on the quality of home service providers around the country already.
However it doesn’t look like any of these existing solutions are large enough to deter a new entrant to the market, and you may have second-mover advantage by just talking to some of their customers about what’s lacking from the current offering.
As I called out in this past Saturday’s deep dive, siphoning off an underserved niche of customers from existing players is often enough to get something new off the ground. But in this case the market may still be early enough for you to win by moving faster than the others.
🧠 Framework: Amazon Decision-Making
In 2015 Amazon was a big company and no longer a startup, but their framework for decision-making is arguably more relevant for startups.
Founders need to make quick decisions, even amidst a lot of uncertainty, so it’s important to not only recognize which decisions are reversible or not, but also to use an entirely different decision-making process for both respective types.
Reversible decisions → Emphasize speed. Make educated decisions but being fast is more important than being right.
Irreversible decisions → Emphasize correctness. Take your time and gather all necessary information. It’s better to be precise than aggressive with these.
Jeff Bezos laid this out in his 2015 shareholder letter when talking about Amazon’s “invention machine” process:
🛠 Tool: Senders
Scaling up cold emails? Marketing or transactional emails got you worried? Anxious about Google's new sending rules? Want expert eyes on your DNS setup?
Senders can help.
They're experts on the technicalities of email sendability and deliverability. Click here to learn more and ask about their free training programs.*
📈 Trend: Hiring Freelancers
As it’s becoming considerably harder to avoid paying new, massive taxes on hiring FT employees in the US, many startups are turning towards hiring freelancers on 1099’s (including me, with Megaphone).
Over the last few months the subreddit for freelancer hiring has exploded:
Nicole Jarbo has spent the last few years helping freelancers navigate their professiona life through founding Boost, a venture-backed startup that was building a financial health platform for freelancers, as well as running the Sidepiece newsletter and various consulting gigs herself.
She’s one of the most thoughtful people I know on the state of the freelancer market.
We caught up last week and she shared her take on the trend:
Q: Why is it trending?
It offers flexibility and scalability for businesses. Companies can adjust their workforce easily, scaling up or down without long-term commitments. This approach also reduces the need for routine employee management tasks like performance reviews and social events.
Another key factor is cost efficiency – hiring freelancers can be more economical than full-time staff.
Also, freelancers often bring specialized skills that are not required forever or on a full-time basis, so companies can access top talent without paying top salaries.
The ability to hire quickly and globally also enhances a company's competitiveness and adaptability.
Q: Why is it a big deal?
It leads to major cost savings for companies. Tech is evolving rapidly, and the truth is that some jobs might become obsolete, making specialized, temporary skills more valuable.
This shift aligns with a cultural change where people are less loyal to long-term employers and more interested in using their skills independently to earn more.
This change in mindset is part of a broader shift toward valuing work-life balance and independence over extreme loyalty to an employer (who may not return it). And as industries, particularly tech, become more competitive the ability to quickly adapt and leverage new technologies becomes crucial and freelancers play a key role in this agility.
Q: What opportunities does it create?
Niche freelancer platforms → Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, but focused on particular skillsets. A few that come to mind — AI, no-code and automation experts, etc. Focused on helping freelancers with experience in new technologies get access to companies looking to move quickly without a long-term commitment.
Lead support for freelancers → A major issue for freelancers is finding clients. However, platforms usually spend more of their time on brand/company side of a marketplace. There's room for thoughtful leads researchers who can help freelancers and agencies connect with the right folks. See cyberleads.
Backend support for freelancers → While project management and onboarding tools for freelancers are common, there is still potential for super-targeted SaaS tools for freelancers. Financial services and insurance products for freelancers are growing, but there's room for high-quality products that meet their specific needs without being exclusively freelancer-focused.
Community, networking, and training platforms → Example: Pollen, this is another promising area offering peer-to-peer support, coaching, and networking opportunities for freelancers who usually work alone.
Productized services → Ones that help freelancers work more efficiently to deliver the work. In the future, the most successful freelancers with have one or all of these qualities: compelling personal brand, super specialized skill or knowledge, or killer sales skills. The work they execute will be able to be done with their supervision by low-touch productive agencies. See designjoy, storyarb, and more.
💬 Quote: Startups are Experiments
Being a founder means living in the midst of constant uncertainty and ambiguity on all sides.
More often than not you’ll think you have a good handle on something but it ends up being proven wrong down the road.
A founder’s mindset needs to be one of constant, iterative experimentation.
Your goal is not to find the truth. Instead, it’s to constantly get a little closer to the truth. And to realize that truth is constantly shifting ever so slightly.
🔗 Houck’s Picks
Want a finance Cheat Sheet for SaaS Startups? Fuelfinance, an FP&A solution for founder has all the important financial metrics that SaaS founders should keep an eye on and analyze. Download it here.*
The seed deck Beehiiv used to raise $2.6M (Link)
8 forecasts and implications for 2024 (Link)
The exact conversation two co-founders had before deciding to launch their startup (Link)
Become a member to see all my picks of the week:
7 concrete actions you can take to turn your startup around
Things to do when asking for an intro
The reality of what an overnight success is
Shaan Puri’s business hiring strategy
8 pieces of advice after scaling to $100k MRR
💡 How I Can Help
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📅 Upcoming Events
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Practical Design for Founders [Members Only]
When should you bring a designer onto your team or a specific project, and what types of designers are there? When should you hire vs work with an agency? How do you avoid over-designing in the early stages?
He’s joining us for a members-only fireside chat + AMA on January 18th at 1pm EST.
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