Mental health as a founder, alternative funding for SaaS, social content moderation, and more

Weekend reads 📚📈🚀

Hey everyone 👋,

Welcome to the August 7th Edition of What We’ve Been Following, a bi-weekly newsletter highlighting some of the newsletters, podcasts, blog posts, tweets, startup news, and more that our Team found interesting over the past two weeks.

If you missed the last Edition of What We’ve Been Following, published on July 24 and written by Michael, Roshan, and Lukas, be sure to check it out, here.

As always, you can find us on Twitter @_TheTakeoff.

[Today’s WWBF is written and curated by Isabella. Isabella is a rising sophomore at Duke and is finishing up an amazing summer with The Takeoff :)]


Quick rundown of today’s newsletter:

  • 4 Podcasts 🎙

  • 5 Books 📚

  • 2 Tweets 🐦

  • 6 Articles, Newsletters, Blog Posts, etc. 📝

  • 4 Additional Reads 💡

  • 2 Opportunities 🌟


Podcasts 🎙

  1. 20VC: Brad Feld, Jerry Colonna and Tracy Lawrence. A great discussion on mental health as a founder / investor. High-level takeaway: happiness is not tied to achieving certain results / goals and it’s ok (and good) to show vulnerability.

    • By the way, if you’re looking for a chill podcast for when your brain needs a break, The Empty Bowl is a meditative podcast all about… cereal!

  2. Tic-Tac-Toe The Hard Way. A podcast about the human decisions in building a machine learning system. Check this out if you’re interested in machine learning and want to understand how ML works behind the scenes, beyond throwing data into a black box and hoping for the best :)

  3. An Oral History of the Office. Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone) does a deep dive into how The Office became so successful. There are snippets from the show, interviews with the crew, and insights into casting in the early days.

  4. Sawbones. A medical history show that explores the misguided origins and misconceptions of medical practices.

Books 📚 

  1. Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelley.

    • Everyone has creative potential regardless of background. Creativity is something you can practice, not a talent that only some people are born with.

    • Anecdotes on creativity and innovation in approaching and solving problems.

  2. On growing financial literacy and personal finance (from this interview with Aileen Tapia):

  3. Some fiction recommendations! Xenogenesis, a sci-fi trilogy on the limits of love, humanity, and our collective destructive nature. Exhalation, a collection of short stories on human nature, technology, and philosophy.

Twitter 🐦

  1. Six months ago, Alex Danco published his Debt is Coming thesis, predicting the end of the all-equity model of funding startups. Now, Pipe is making this a reality by building a platform for alternative financing for SaaS companies which will be based on subscriptions, not equity / debt. Alex recently shared a new interview with Harry Hurst, Founder & Co-CEO at Pipe:

  1. Steve Schlafman and Rishi Tripathy (a recent Duke grad) created The High Output Library, a great resource with actionable advice for founders. The library is a collection of 300 hand-picked pieces that give practical advice on 75+ topics across 8 categories. In the following Twitter thread, Steve highlights some of his favorite pieces from the library:

Articles, Newsletters, Blog Posts, Etc. 📝

  1. Our amazing Contributor Gaby Goldberg published The Invisible Labor of Content Moderation on the importance of moderation in social computing systems.

    • Content moderation shapes the way users participate and experience online platforms and communities.

    • “Platforms love to be vocal about how much content they support and welcome — but they’re also typically quiet about how much content they like to remove.”

    • Three “imperfect” solutions, often combined in multiple tiers: paid moderation, community moderation, and algorithmic moderation.

  2. Starting a Company is Less Risky Than You Think by Erik Torenberg.

    • Starting a company is a great way to build your network and brand.

    • “In many important tech circles, there’s typically lower career risk in starting a company than joining a company. Though startups have much higher job risk, they reward you with greatly diminished career risk.”

    • Consider starting earlier than you think. If you worry too much about failing right away, you may not get enough actual shots on the goal to actually make it big.

  3. TikTok has been all over the news, becoming a political pawn between the U.S. and China. Trump threatened to ban Tiktok and order China’s ByteDance to divest its ownership. Microsoft was reportedly in talks to buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S. Then, just yesterday, Facebook launches Instagram Reels, a new feature designed to rival TikTok. Last night, Trump signed an executive order that will ban TikTok in the US in 45 days, absent of a sale.

  4. Once B2B companies have found their early users, how do they turn them into paying users? According to Lenny Rachitsky, there are 3 strategies:

  1. Kodak, once a leader in photography, just won a $765 million government loan to produce ingredients for generic drugs. The goal is to speed up domestic drug production and reduce American reliance on foreign sources.

  2. Last week, Jeff Bezos testified before a House Judiciary Committee panel. The hearing was in regards to potential violations of U.S. antitrust law and anti-competitive practices allegedly used by Amazon and three other big tech companies: Alphabet, Facebook, and Apple.

Additional Reads… 💡

  1. Winning the Internet. A newsletter experiment by The Pudding. This data-driven newsletter automatically compiles content based off of 97 popular online newsletters. This week, they’ve statistically proven that TikTok has been on everyone’s mind and that this essay, written by John Lewis shortly before his death, was the most linked article of the week.

  2. Nightlife and public venues are extremely high-risk for COVID outbreaks, especially as several college campuses open up for the fall. A new report from nightlife consultancy VibeLab sets out some principles for urban nightlife to carefully move outdoors. However, there are still issues such as high noise, colder climates, and how to maintain order in open spaces. The group’s overarching Global Nighttime Recovery Plan, to be released in September, will include financial support for workers and owners and what the future of dance and live music clubs might look like.

  3. Residential prices continue to rise in Hong Kong, infuriating many youth who believe they’ve been robbed of a chance to ever buy a home of their own. An unfair housing policy makes it hard for people to even buy a flat since property companies control the market. LivingSpaceInHK, an Instagram account started recently by my friends in HK, presents more info on the housing crisis.

  4. A $600 per week benefit expires for the unemployed at the end of July. Ella Koeze presents data visualizations of the percentage of usual income the unemployed will receive as a function of annual earnings and weekly benefit amount.

Lastly, two opportunities! 🌟

  1. Female Founders Alliance - Ready Set Raise helps support high-growth, pre-seed startups across North America. The accelerator is for female and non-binary CEO’s whose companies are positioned to accept investment. Applications are open until September 8.

  2. Bee Breeders hosts a variety of architecture competitions every year, addressing interesting problems. Great opportunity for anyone interested in architecture, design, and/or engineering! Check out the website for deadlines.

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