Why Founders Should Build an Opinionated Culture

And the advantage of building 90/10 solutions

On Saturday I shared a deep dive on what founders need to know about design.

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Today at a glance:

  • Opportunity → “Granderr”

  • Framework → The 90/10 Rule

  • Tool → Folk

  • Trend → Home Cooking

  • Quote → Opinionated Cultures

💡 Opportunity: “Granderr”

What Fiverr is to straightforward tasks, “Granderr” could be to more complex ones:

Imagine a site where you could hire experts to do complex or even ambiguous tasks. It would be a cross between GLG and Task Rabbit.

Your challenge would be aggregating the experts who are willing to spend their time on a “side hustle” though I imagine some could earn enough this way to go full-time on the platform.

On the expert side it would be like taking the “fractional executive” concept to its extreme.

But be careful. Don’t try to build “the world’s experts, 1 click away” right away. Instead, do this:

  1. Experiment with experts in a few verticals to see where the highest willingness to pay from users is and where it’s easiest to acquire experts.

  2. Choose 1 vertical to double-down on. Only accept experts and users from that vertical. Brand yourself entirely around this.

  3. Build credibility and revenue until you start seeing strong, organic growth.

  4. Rapidly begin expanding to other, adjacent verticals. If you’ve done numbers 1-3 well, your customers will already be asking you to expand into specific verticals they need help with and are willing to pay for, so you won’t need to stress over which verticals to prioritize.

This saves you from trying to boil the ocean. If you try to onboard all verticals at once you won’t have a clear identity to potential customers and you’ll end up with a lot of discovery calls that don’t lead to paying customers (because you simply can’t have experts in every niche potential customers will be asking you about in the beginning).

If you pull it off, eventually people would be able to build a company entirely on the back of your platform by hiring these hyper-fractional, hyper-specialized “employees” for specific projects.

🧠 Framework: The 90/10 Rule

There’s a direct correlation between how complete a solution needs to be before users will use it and how painful the problem it’s trying to solve is for them.

If you’re truly making something people want then they’ll be ok with a solution that is only half-baked.

First time founders miss this. If people aren’t using their product, they think the reason is because the product isn’t good enough rather than the problem isn’t painful enough. This leads to founders spending months or even years on a product that is very unlikely to get off the ground.

The solution is to implement the 90/10 rule:

I would even go one step further — your solution doesn’t need to be 90% ready. In most cases it only needs to be ~70% ready before early adopters will begin to use it, but you can only accomplish this if you truly understand the pain your users feel and what matters most to them.

For example I’m finally launching a robust onboarding flow for Megaphone later this week after 6 months of users using the product. I also manually send payouts to our creators every month, and my VA team has manually recorded all 11,000+ engagements that have been generated by the network into our database.

None of that has stopped over 300 people from signing up and paying for the product (and sticking around), though. They were fine with a Typeform-based onboarding flow with an up-to 24 hour delay before their accounts were turned on post-signup.

The actual pain point they feel is getting distribution for their content, so we spent the first 6 months, signing up creators, building our creator matching system, and a dashboard to provide visibility (among other things).

Find that most painful part of the problem for your users and focus all your time on solving that specific thing.

🛠 Tool: Folk

Founders juggle many different contacts during a day, whether it’s having a call with a investor, sending emails to a future hire, managing a sales pipeline and so on. Chances are you're leaving a lot of money on the table.

Folk is an all-in-one CRM that centralizes all of your relationships and lets you create custom workflows from a recruiting pipeline to managing your deals and more. 1,500 startups are using and loving Folk already, and now Houck's Newsletter readers get a 10% discount on the annual plan with the code FOLKXHOUCK.*

📈 Trend: Home Cooking

The pandemic forced the Uber Eats generation to learn how to cook at home, and it turns out that it’s become part of many people’s normal way of life since then.

In the couple years since we’ve been a steady rise in online communities and startups around cooking.

Jake Aronskind founded Pepper, a social cooking app (think Strava but for cooking) to capture this trend and I caught up with him this week to understand where it’s headed.

There’s a macro trend of approachability — people want to watch videos of people like them and be able to emulate what they’re doing.

From shopping to DIY to food — it’s the world of “me.”

Home cooking also rides the macro emphasis on health and being prudent financially, not to mention that there’s a pretty low barrier to entry for anyone to get started.

It’s the perfect recipe (pun intended) for a rise in popularity since the pandemic.

Q: Why will it be a big deal?

This may sound obvious but everyone eats and wants to spend less money.

It doesn’t seem likely either of those things will change, especially given current inflation in the economy. An increasing amount of people are looking for the most affordable way to eat.

Q: What opportunities does it create?

Well, the biggest opportunity we saw is the one we’re doing after with Pepper — a highly-engaged community around home cooking through our app.

But there’s a lot of other more as well:

  • CPG brands

  • Subscription services

  • Cookware companies

  • Creator-led businesses

There’s an entire new generation learning about home cooking and that demands new brands. Every single person has a unique relationship with food and what resonated with past generations doesn’t tend to resonate with the next.

My Take

For the last decade+ people have increasingly chosen to trade money for time and food is no exception. Rather than save a few bucks to cook at home, people would rather save the time and energy by ordering DoorDash.

But Jake’s right that that’s changing. As inflation puts a strain on many people’s budgets, the trend has reversed and people are now starting to spend time to save money. That seems likely to continue for the next few years as the economy struggles to recover from policy choices and money printing that began during the pandemic.

If you’re building in this space (or in consumer in general) I’d recommend positioning your product or service so that it makes it clear it will save customers money (rather than time).

💬 Quote: Opinionated Cultures

You win in modern politics when you inspire your base, not when you pander to the middle.

The same is true in startups.

The best way to not have a cohesive culture and not attract + retain the types of people you want is to have a generic hiring page, JD, interview process, and onboarding.

The surprising thing is that embracing your opinions tend to lead to exceptional results:

One of the best examples I’ve seen of this recently is Traba.

They’ve raised over $46 million from investors like Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures across three rounds.

On their careers page, they advertise that one of their four core values is that people at Traba work “harder, longer, and smarter — not just two out of the three.”

This will help them in two ways:

  • It deters people who aren’t willing to work as hard as the existing employees

  • It attracts people who derive meaning from their work who will go the extra mile to build a great company

That type of culture isn’t for everyone, but it is specifically for someone. A more generic cultural value wouldn’t resonate with anyone to the degree this resonates with someone.

This is the same tactic Facebook used with “move fast and break things.” You can instantly tell that Facebook was not a place to work in the early days if you aren’t okay a somewhat chaotic work culture or if you valued the status quo above trying new things.

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