Founders Own The Unpleasant Parts

And why to hire 1 person to avoid hiring 10

On Saturday I shared a deep dive on how PartnerHero bootstrapped to $100 million in revenue. You can get a 14-day free trial to get access to my library of 70+ deep dives, and a new one in your inbox each Saturday.

Also you probably notice the new design and branding on the newsletter. After working with Li Zeng and her agency, Studio Salt, we think this is much more readable and the logo is more unique.

Reply and LMK what you think, we’re still tweaking things :)

Highly recommend reaching out to her if you’re doing some design or branding work — she’s been great to work with.

Anyway, here’s today at a glance:

  • Opportunity → AI-powered data visualization

  • Framework → Hire 1 to Hire 10

  • Tool → Artisan AI

  • Trend → Vulnerability

  • Quote → The unpleasant parts

💡 Opportunity: AI-Powered Data Visualization

Jakob Greenfeld created an AI agent that scours the web for pain points and ranks them based off monetization potential and difficulty to solve. Here’s one from the list that stood out to me:

At first you might be thinking wait, doesn’t ChatGPT now let you create data visualizations on demand?

Yes, but… well, you can judge the quality of the output for yourself:

I don’t think that output is winning any visualization awards anytime soon. The only unique benefit here is that it can pull the data together nearly instantly. The chart itself leaves a lot to be desired:

  • The scale of the right axis arbitrarily starts just under 0.5

  • The data itself seems wrong (Crunchbase data from 2020-2022 shows otherwise)

  • The color scheme clashes and overall the design is bland

  • The citation is wordy and unnecessary

Shouldn’t we expect better from AI tools? Sure, I could improve the output by writing a much more complex prompt, but the user shouldn’t have to — and not every user will know or remember how to each and every time they need a chart. This is why settings and filters exist in the first place.

Rebuilding Tableau from first-principles powered by transformer-based foundation models is a straightforward SaaS opportunity that can expand the market for data visualization software and the data literacy of users.

🧠 Framework: Hire 1 to (Not) Hire 10

As revenue or funding starts to come in for a startup, it’s easy for founders to fall into the trap of hiring specialists too early in the pursuit of making things perfect.

It’s true that specialists are the best in their field and many will get things right more often than generalists or to a higher level of quality, but that’s not what you need. Startups are better off getting 70% of their reversible decisions correct and moving faster with less need for cross-functional co-ordination.

Andrew Wilkinson’s Hire 1 to Hire 10 framework addresses this:

Andrew talks about it in the context of hiring CEOs for his holding company, but the same is true for small teams. You’re often better off hiring a more senior operator who is still enthusiastic about doing IC work (rather than managing people).

The additional work-hours you get by hiring more people isn’t worth what you lose in logistics, operational complexity, and co-ordination. If you’re pre-Series A and you have to worry about “alignment” then you have this problem.

Resist the temptation of making this perfect and stick with high-trust and high-agency generalists until

🛠 Tool: Artisan AI

Meet Ava, your new AI employee from Artisan AI. Ava is an SDR with 10x the skills of a human appointment setter, but for 4% of the cost.

Artisans are highly advanced digital workers, and Ava is the first one who can:

  • Form your ICP and prospects from a database of 270M+ contacts

  • Warm up email addresses and sends 1000s of hyper-personalized cold outreach emails

  • Autonomously schedule meetings in your calendar

Hire Ava today and 10x your leads, meetings & deals.*

📈 Trend: Vulnerability

Surprise — this week’s trend comes from Pinterest. Their 2024 trend report is a treasure trove of emerging trends you may not be aware of if you aren’t a Pinterest user.

Trends don’t emerge just from Reddit, X, or Instagram — Pinterest has over 450 million monthly active users (more than Twitter!) and in a wide range of niche communities and demographics that don’t get as much attention on other platforms.

The report is a bit of a chore to navigate through on their website but very useful if you’re currently in the idea maze, so here it is as a PDF.

A meta-trend for Gen Z and millennials is vulnerability. The report states “2024 will be all about forging deeper connections. Gen Z and Millennials will drive this trend, searching for new conversation starters and intimate questions to help couples reconnect.”

I’d argue this is a logical off-platform progression from social media’s increasing obsession with the “authenticity” of micro-influencers rather than Instagram-level polish.

💬 Quote: The Unpleasant Parts

When I chatted with Brett Adcock, the serial founder of Archer ($2.7 billion IPO), Vettery ($100 million acquisition), and Figure (his current company that builds autonomous robot workers), he talked about how he spends most of his time on problems.

Specifically on the biggest problem his startup is facing at any given time.

My own advice to founders is to narrow in on the biggest problem and highest leverage opportunity — and ignore everything else.

Netflix’s founder, Marc Randolph, and Elon Musk agree:

Remember — no one cares about the success of your startup more than you do. And startups are hard.

It’s up to you to proactively dive in and address the biggest problems, because no one else has the same motivation to solve them that you do.

🔗 Houck’s Picks

  • Why there will be fewer VCs over the next few years (Link)

  • The playbook to build a $10M cashflowing internet business (Link)

  • A guide on when to raise money and when not to (Link)

  • Peter Thiel on the most important event in Facebook’s history (Link)

  • Keith Rabois on why the best startups are cults (Link)

  • Benedict Evans’ annual state-of-tech presentation for 2024 (Link)

Upgrade to see my full list of picks this week:

  • The 3 types of early-stage venture funds

  • How this founder added $100k MRR with influencer marketing

  • NVIDIA’s founder on why your startup’s mindset should be that you’re about to perish in 30 days

  • A reminder to not get caught up in things other than your users

  • Here’s how many VC-backed startups have failed this year

📅 Upcoming Events

Each month I host fireside chats, workshops, and meetups in cities around the world. You can find all past and upcoming events here.

Using Memes to Grow Your Startup [Members Only]

Memes are no longer just a fun way to build collective culture. They’ve transitioned into a tool startups can use to find their initial audience and grow quickly.

Jason Levin is the author of Memes Make Millions and a ghostwriter who’s joining us for a members-only fireside chat + AMA on December 14th at 1pm EST.

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?

Phil Hedayatnia has helped hundreds of founders across South Park Commons, Y Combinator, and more go from 0 to 1 and beyond with his agency, Airfoil Studio.

He’s joining us for a members-only fireside chat + AMA on December 21st at 1pm EST.

💡 How I Can Help

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