A Technical Cofounder Tells You How To Find Your Technical Cofounder, Where The Stuff We Return to Amazon Goes, a Benchmark VC on Rethinking Your AI Startup, and More….

Holiday weekend here in the US means links for you to read

Playing Different (Stupider) Games The Other End Of The Valuation Stick [Kyle Harrison, Contrary Capital] – Kyle puts out a new essay (almost) every Saturday and I really enjoy his consistent and clear eyed POV on venture capital. There’s a group of us who I describe as “in the industry but not of the industry,” in the sense that we understand and embrace the jobs we have but don’t put everything about venture on to a precious pedestal. Here he blends some separate observations about Tiger, AI, Chamath to be what I’d call, tangibly philosophical:

“In the world of building and investing in companies, there are a LOT of different games at play. The only way to avoid finding yourself playing a stupider game is to look around and understand the games that everyone else is playing. And adjust accordingly.”

What Happens to All the Stuff We Return [David Owen/New Yorker Magazine] – How online shopping and reverse logistics tilted a bunch of assumptions about returns (and costs of return policies) on their heads. I love the intricate specialization of different supply chain nodes – the people who just route goods to resellers; the ones who repair and sell; the ones who ‘recycle’ (which is basically bullshit – not much gets reclaimed/reused). Some brilliant anecdotes such as:

Three years ago, the producers of a Canadian television show called “Marketplace” ordered boots, diapers, a toy train, a coffee maker, a printer, and several other items from Amazon Canada. They concealed a G.P.S. tracking device inside each one, then returned everything and monitored what happened next. Some of the items travelled hundreds of miles in trucks, with intermediate stops at warehouses and liquidation centers, ultimate disposition unknown. A brand-new women’s backpack ended up in a waste-processing center, en route to a landfill. The show included a surreptitiously recorded conversation with an employee of a “product-destruction” facility, who described receiving truckload after truckload of Amazon returns and shredding everything—ostensibly for recycling, although the recoverable content of a chewed-up random selection of consumer goods is not high.

AI startups: Sell work, not software [Sarah Tavel/Benchmark] – Like many of us Sarah writes in spurts, so I’m always excited when there’s a burst of stuff from her. Here’s a brief smart take on thinking about what you’re actually selling as an AI startup (really as any B2B SaaS startup I’d say): “To do this, rather than sell software to improve an end-user’s productivity, founders should consider what it would look like to sell the work itself.”

To find a technical cofounder, start building and prove that your idea is inevitable [Taylor Hughes/Hypernatural] – Taylor is a dream technical cofounder, having both built startups and experienced all sorts of learnings via stints at Google, Facebook and Clubhouse. Here he gives the best advice I’ve seen on finding and attracting folks like him as cofounders:

A compelling case to join you consists of two things:

  1. Proof that the idea or product itself will work, and, maybe more importantly:
  2. Validation of you, yourself! — as a person who can ship this, even without waiting for a magic coder person to help. You’re going to be successful bringing this idea to life, no matter what.

Taylor continues with more practical detailed advice and of course a call to action.

“So, my main takeaway for nontechnical founders: Don’t wait. Start that iteration cycle now, and someone will inevitably be excited to join you when it starts working.”

This is my main observation between non-engineer founders who actually gain momentum vs those who don’t. The former start the work. The latter imagine the work can only start once they find a cofounder.

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