Focus On Your Top Goal First

And why you need to find your startup's "one core thing"

Hey y’all — here’s today at a glance:

Opportunity → AI-powered Front

Framework → Top Goal

Tool → Sanebox

Trend → Microplastics

Quote → One Core Thing

PS — Become a member to get access to my founder membership including an engaged community, fundraising support, fireside chats and more.

🔗 Houck’s Picks

My favorite finds of the week.

  • Why founders should weaponize their cap tables (Link)

  • Advice on company building from a multi-time unicorn founder (Link)

  • How to ask intros (Link)

  • Why “wrappers” may not get swallowed by foundation models (Link)

  • How startups maintain innovation without losing focus (Link)

  • Why this SaaS startup switched to one-time payments (Link)

  • How to build a $250M startup from scratch (Link)

  • Definitive list of things startups did that didn’t scale (Link)

💡 Opportunity: AI-Powered Front

When founders think about managing their inbox, the most common tool I’ve heard them mention is Superhuman.

But later stage founders in particular seem to favor Front due to its ability to be a collaborative inbox. In other words, the founders don’t need to be the ones who actually reply to the emails they get.

But even this (having other humans respond to your emails) may actually now be outdated.

If LLMs were trained on both your style of response and the surrounding context of the business, it would be able to automate your inbox.

I haven’t seen this nailed yet but two new players in the space that I’ve had my eye on are Micro and Floode.

The space is still early though and, when a product reaches parity with what the user would have said anyway, it will be very powerful.

A first step could be a simple routing system: receive all emails at a central inbox, and give access to the right person/people on the team based on the content and surrounding context.

🧠 Framework: Top Goal

If you’re a founder, you know that the work never ends. When you sign off for the day it’s not because you’re finished working. You’re just taking a break.

It’s what we sign up for.

The amount of work isn’t a problem, but what is a problem is ensuring you make progress against high leverage tasks.

It’s way too easy to get caught up solving 10 small fires without making any progress against what will actually move the needle for your business.

It feels like you’re making progress, but it’s linear progress — not exponential growth.

You want to raise the ceiling, not always be fixing the floor.

The simplest way to solve this is to reserve 2 hours every day to make progress against your top goal (and identifying what that is).

Turn the notifications off, leave your phone somewhere else, and just focus for 2 consecutive hours.

You’ll find at the end that the small fires haven’t destroyed your business and you can still tackle them quickly, but over weeks and months you make considerably more progress against what matters most.

🛠 Tool: SaneBox

Take back your day with SaneBox. This beloved tool intelligently organizes your inbox, saving you 2.5+ hours per week without lifting a finger.

Here’s why TechCrunch, Forbes, and The New York Times love SaneBox:

  • Takes just 10 minutes to set up and works with all email clients

  • Automatically groups your IMPORTANT emails and sorts non-essentials for later

  • No downloads, no software, and saves you hours each week

Supercharge your productivity with SaneBox.

📈 Trend: Microplastics

In recent history, health crises have tended to creep up on us.

Microplastics may be the next one that people are finally starting to search for.

The memes have been funny but it can’t be good to have a lot of tiny plastic particles floating around in your body.

We’re already seeing some innovation in removing them from the human body, and I’d imagine that as more research is done into the longterm impact of microplastics that we’ll also continue to see interest (and available capital) to solve it.

💬 Quote: One Core Thing

Startups become successful for a variety of reasons. We all know there’s no silver bullet or guaranteed playbook.

But the interesting thing is that successful startups often become successful in spite of themselves.

They have one core thing that they excelled at (product iteration velocity, branding, building customer trust, etc.) and it turns out that in their market, that thing is what customers truly care most about.

As a founder, your job isn’t to get everything right. It’s to learn your customers’ preferences and needs and then deliver those back to them. The path to get there will vary from market to market.

Just find your one core thing and exploit the advantage you get from having figured it out.

💡 How I Can Help

Become a member to join the community, get access to all 90+ deep dives, and fireside chats with experts.

Growth

Grow your audience + generate leads with my growth service.

Fundraising

Share your round with hundreds of investors in my personal network.

Hiring

Hire curated candidates from top startups and communities.

Advising

I’ll help solve a specific challenge you’re facing with your startup.

🚀 Advertise in this newsletter to get in front of 75,000+ founders.

“*” indicates sponsored content.

Join the conversation

or to participate.