- Houck's Newsletter
- I'm Launching IRL Founder Meetups Around the World
I'm Launching IRL Founder Meetups Around the World
And an idea for an AI that helps out while you're on vacation
Big day today! I’m launching Houck’s Founder Meetups — local happy hours, dinners, and more in cities around the world exclusively for ambitious founders and builders (invite your friends!). Members who upgrade to premium will get access to limited open bars at all happy hours.
We’ll host over 15 meetups in Q4, with the first 7 already scheduled in NYC, Miami, Mexico City, Austin, Hong Kong, Orlando, and Toronto.
This wouldn’t be possible without our Q4 meetups partner AE Studio. They help founders implement AI the right strategy for their product and have engineers, data scientists, and designers from Stanford, MIT, and Harvard on staff ready to help create bespoke AI solutions.
Here’s today at a glance:
Opportunity → Vacation Mode AI
Framework → Expectedness Matrix
Tool → Attention
Trend → Photoshop Requests
Quote → Hiring for Strengths
🤝 A Message from Vanta
Compliance for Startups: Join Vanta’s Office Hours
Do you have questions about SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA, or other security and privacy frameworks? Wondering if, when, and how to achieve compliance (as painlessly as possible)?
Join Vanta’s office hours on Tuesday, October 10th to learn about compliance for growing startups. In this 45-minute open session, we’ll answer your compliance-related questions, provide tips and insights, and support you with the next steps.
💡 Opportunity: Vacation Mode AI
Next week I’ll be heading to China and Taiwan for 3 weeks.
I’m excited but also nervous — this will be the first time I’ve been somewhere close to OOO since I started the newsletter and Megaphone (don’t worry, the newsletter is written and scheduled for the next few weeks already).
It’d be great if I had some sort of AI that does a lot more than send an auto-response when people email me. Then I saw this tweet:
Auto-responders haven’t been updated… ever? Maybe?
At a minimum a tool like this could reply to Slack messages and emails on my behalf to keep the wheels moving on projects while I’m out.
Taken one step further, I could record voice notes for it before I leave that instruct it in detail how to handle various situations with specific team members while I’m gone. This context, combined with full knowledge of what’s going on in my emails + Slack messages could be very powerful.
Imagine if it proactively left comments on Figma files, or on GitHub pull requests… there’s a surprising amount of possibilities here if you give it personal context right before you leave.
You could sell this B2B and have companies equip entire teams with the product.
It could potentially be useful even when I’m not on vacation, but probably better to focus on a single use case to start.
🧠 Framework: Expectedness Matrix
No one wants a “neat” tool. But it’s easy to not realize the difference between something that’s low impact and high impact if it’s unexpected.
This framework forces you to sort the different features in your product, or parts of your service, into distinct categories based on the impact and “expectedness” they have:
Neat → A pleasant, but unnecessary, surprise for users.
Who cares? → Features users expect but don’t actually care about. You’re often actually better off without these — build an opinionated product instead.
Must-Have → These are the tablestakes features. Your customers are used to these and will be upset or think your product is inferior to others without them.
Wow → This is where you want to be. If your users don’t expect your product to do something, but it does AND it makes a big difference for them then they’ll stick around and look forward to what you’ve got coming next. These are the features that tell you you understand your users, and lead to PMF.
🛠 Tool: Attention
You’re probably doing a ton more monotonous work than you need to be. From updating your CRM to writing emails, Attention automates it all for you.
Their AI wizard even pulls in an extra $250k ARR per sales team member by guiding them (or you) with post-call coaching. Start automating sales today.*
📈 Trend: Photoshop Requests
The subreddit r/PhotoshopRequests is skyrocketing right now.
It’s a community where you can post a photo and ask to get it photoshopped.
Yep, that’s it. And it’s ripe for unbundling.
Today members submit their photos along with a “paid request” tag and graphic designers will edit their photos for a small fee.
Here are 5 no-brainer opportunities to capture this interest, depending on what your business model flavor of choice is:
A one-person agency — all you do is photoshop, one request at a time per client (like Designjoy’s productize yourself philosophy but just for photoshop).
A more traditional agency — you onboard clients as hire teams from around the world to actually process the requests
A traditional marketplace — Upwork/Fiverr but specifically for photoshop requests. Make the photoshoppers searchable and filterable by attributes specific to photoshop so that there’s actual reasons people would use this over Upwork/Fiverr.
A managed marketplace — people submit requests and you offer or route them to the best-fit photoshopper, then you return it to the requestor and take your cut of the earnings. The two other parties don’t need to interact — you’re the middleman / curator.
An AI tool — receive a prompt from a requestor and an image, update the image based on the prompt and return it to them. Easy money.
Whenever you see dramatically accelerating user behaviors in a subreddit, it’s a good opportunity. Greg Isenberg’s playbook to unbundle Reddit is a classic post.
💬 Quote: Hire for Strengths not Lack of Weakness
This might be controversial to some people, but most decisions should be made by a single decision maker.
It’s important to take in and listen to context from others of course but, just as areas of your business should have single owners, decisions should be made by one decision maker as well.
You don’t want to get stuck hiring the least offensive candidate to everyone’s needs — you want the candidate who your chosen decision maker knows will do the job the best, from the perspective you need them to make the decision from.
This is how you hire 10x employees.
🔗 Houck’s Picks
Track the value of your startup equity, show live bids & asks, and sell when you’re ready (Link)*
A founder checklist from Greg Isenberg (Link)
Why the founder of Netflix says you should always trust the customer (Link)
The 7 types of moats to build your business around (Link)
15 steps to know if your company is venture backable (Link)
Upgrade for the full batch of picks this week:
Hyper-specific tactics to grow to over $7M in revenue
Everything to know about advisory shares
A pricing trick that all SaaS founders have to know
How to acquire products to help you grow your startup
💡 How I Can Help
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“*” indicates sponsored content.