Focus Is Everything

And an idea for a rejected candidates marketplace

On Saturday I shared a deep dive on 17 fundraising terms founders need to know. Join the community to get my library of 50+ deep dives, and a new one in your inbox each Saturday.

Today at a glance:

  • Opportunity → Rejected Candidates Marketplace

  • Framework → Three Feature Buckets

  • Tool → Loops

  • Trend → AI Presentation Maker

  • Quote → Focus is Everything

💡 Opportunity: Rejected Candidates Marketplace

One of the sad parts of the early stages of a startup is that you can’t possibly hire all of the incredible people you meet.

For example maybe you aren’t hiring designers right now, but you meet a great designer who’d fit in at a startup.

I love this idea to create a shared pool of those candidates, with some sort of way to vouch for them:

A good reason this could work, besides the obvious good will, is that typical recruiting agencies charge high commissions to cover their own staff costs, but a service like this wouldn’t need to because it’s a decentralized marketplace. You don’t need to grow your own headcount to service more candidates.

Upgrade to go deeper on the two big hurdles that this business would face:

🧠 Framework: Three Feature Buckets

Adam Nash’s Three Feature Buckets framework helps founders classify and prioritize new features:

  • Metric Movers → Features that will significantly move your metrics. Typically features that drive engagement, growth, or revenue.

  • Customer Requests → Features that customers are requesting. You won’t implement every request but understanding what’s in this bucket will help you keep a pulse on how users are feeling.

  • Customer Delight → Features your customers aren’t asking for but will create an unexpected and delightful experience.

Another way to think about this is that metric movers are focused on the business, while the other two are focused on the customer (with the difference being whether customers know they want the feature or not).

Your priorities between these three buckets will shift over time — typically in the early days you’ll want to prioritize the latter two, and worry more about metrics as your startup grows.

🛠 Tool: Loops

Bulk email sends to hundreds or thousands of people can be a huge pain. No, I’m not talking about newsletters — I’m talking about outreach, marketing, and retention blasts. Legacy tools have clunky UXs and charge a ton per seat.

Loops has been on my radar since their YC batch last winter, and I love their approach — great interface, easy setup, and fully functional.

They’re waitlist-only for now but it didn’t take me too long to get an invite after signing up.

📈 Trend: AI Presentation Maker

Yes, AI trends are still hot. I’m seeing that specific niches within AI continue to spike — that’s why I highlighted one in last week’s issue as well.

This week I’m calling out AI presentation makers. There are a few in this space, and existing players are moving to add AI features as well. Search interest is way up since creating decks can be such a hassle, but where is this trend headed?

This week I want to pose a question to you: have niche AI use cases like this already peaked, or do they have more a moat than I’m giving them credit for?

💬 Quote: Be Unshackled

This is a small quote with a ton to unpack:

The right person → Startups don’t succeed naturally. They need to be willed into existence by a founder who can make that specific startup happen. This is better than a team of 10 because a single-minded, capable founder won’t need to spend any time on alignment and co-ordination. They’ll simply identify problems and work to solve them.

The precise, right focus → Being focused is essential, startups are too hard to be unfocused, but focus alone is not enough. Founders need to spend their focus on the right things to drive their startup forward in ways that resonate with users. Knowing how to identify this is more valuable than just working hard.

Completely unshackled → Throw off your constraints. The best founders I know move fast and, yes, break things. They’re not concerned with the things that are trying to slow them down — they’re concerned with getting past them. Your shackles may be a co-founder who isn’t pulling their weight, a lack of funding, or something else — it’s your job to unshackle yourself.

🔗 Houck’s Picks

  • Find out how the top brands are crushing their landing page conversion rates and selling more products (Link)*

  • If you’re struggling to fundraise for your startup, do this (Link)

  • Why you need momentum and not traction to raise a seed round (Link)

  • How to not run out of cash for your business (Link)

Upgrade for the full batch of picks this week:

  • A helpful explanation of market risk vs. execution risk

  • The definitive guide for hiring your early growth team

  • The biggest marketing mistake founders make

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