Your First Idea Doesn't Matter

And why your customers should rank their problems for you

On Saturday I shared a deep dive on how positioning drives conversions.

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Anyway, here’s today at a glance:

  • Opportunity → Surrogacy Marketplace

  • Framework → Customer Problems Stack Rank

  • Tool → Fuelfinance

  • Trend → Prompt Tuning

  • Quote → Your First Idea Doesn’t Matter

💡 Opportunity: Surrogacy Marketplace

What does it mean when you find a market that has a lot of red flags (see Rex’s points below)… but is clearly growing and will likely be able to support a venture scale business?

To me, that smells like opportunity. Doing the hard things that other people don’t want to can be a competitive advantage.

When I was building my last startup, we started a global community by running a coliving house in Tulum — I was literally going to the grocery store to pick up giant jugs of water for the house after we lost potable water due to flooding.

Alternatively, if investors won’t fund it because they see too many challenges, these are the types of markets that can create very lucrative cashflowing businesses.

Surrogacy may be one of these markets:

Rex wrote more about it and some other healthcare trends in his newsletter, but what would a surrogacy marketplace or vertical SaaS startup look like?

Upgrade to premium to get my idea for the marketplace in full:

🧠 Framework: Customer Problems Stack Rank

You know that saying “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about?”

Turns out it’s true for your customers, too.

You might have visibility into how your customers are using your product or service, but you probably don’t have an understanding of every problem they’re trying to solve across their entire business.

This framework, dubbed CPSR by Shreyas Doshi, helps you get that additional visibility.

It’s extremely simple:

Ask your customers to rank the problems they’re actively trying to solve from most important to least important.

Where does the problem your product or service is helping them solve fall on this list?

The lower it falls on their list, the harder it will be for you to convince them to spend more and the faster they may be to churn if things aren’t working. If you’re selling B2B you can take it one step further by asking to get the same list from team members at the company who aren’t your primary contact.

Shreyas shared this as a product management framework, but it’s arguably even more applicable to founders.

🛠 Tool: Fuelfinance

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📈 Trend: Prompt Tuning

You’ve probably heard about prompt engineering, but how about prompt tuning? It’s been exploding throughout this year:

But what’s the difference between the two?

Basically, prompt engineering is about crafting better inputs to get better outputs from an AI model, while prompt tuning involves actually adjusting the model itself to better suit certain tasks or types of input.

From a business perspective, this turns generalized models into infrastructure for everyone else and implies that open source models will have an advantage in the long run due to their customizability.

Aadit Sheth writes the huge prompt engineering newsletter, Prompts Daily, and we caught up yesterday about prompt tuning.

💬 Quote: Your First Idea Doesn’t Matter

Founders put a lot of pressure on themselves to get things right. This can be healthy, as pressure leads to great things and for many people helps them create their best work.

But don’t confuse progress with perfection.

Rather than being paralyzed by a fear to get it wrong, focus on learning as much as possible as quickly as possible.

Once you make this mindset shift you’ll open yourself up to failing (and failing fast) because learning comes from gathering feedback and iterating on your offer to users.

Ideally each experiment is more effective than the previous one, but not all will be and that’s ok.

This idea applies in particular to your first idea on a project:

🔗 Houck’s Picks

  • Free download: 100 leading SaaS landing pages audited. Identify landing page trends, get started with benchmarks, and know what your competitors are doing. Click here to receive it.*

  • Steve Jobs’ advice to young people (Link)

  • A reminder of who you’re competing against (Link) and another (Link)

  • An a16z partner’s thoughts on how AI impacts marketplaces (Link)

  • Elad Gil on how to prepare for a meeting with a “big name” (Link)

  • If you’re a founder with less than 12 months of runway read this (Link)

Upgrade to see my full list of picks this week:

  • How to discover viral content ideas for your startup

  • 5 proven UX + UI tips

  • 5 takeaways from a startup that took 181 meetings to raise

  • How an app got ~50% of their customers to gift them a subscription to avoid going out of business

  • Peter Thiel on the value of meaningful work

  • Why demand-based pricing drives FOMO and growth

  • How AI has flipped SaaS to be SaS — “Services as Software”

  • Why founders should trust their gut

  • Why you should have an alumni syndicate on your cap table

  • Exactly how a startup grew from 0 to 1 million “jams”

  • What the founder of Morning Brew would do differently as a second time founder

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