Personal sites, 👁👄👁, how B2B rocket ships got their early customers, Lee Fixel's new fund, and much, much more.

What We've Been Following (July 11, 2020)

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We have two types of newsletters:

  1. Long-form interviews with leading founders, operators, and investors. These are released every Monday. (Check out: Jeff Moris Jr. (Chapter One), Ashley Brasier (Lightspeed), Ryan Choi (Y Combinator), Domm Holland (Fast)

  2. Curated content that our Team found interesting and relevant for our subscribers. These are released every other Friday / Saturday. (This newsletter is an example)

Hey everyone 👋,

Welcome to the July 11th 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 LukasRoshan, and I found interesting over the past two weeks.

If you missed the last Edition of What We’ve Been Following, published on June 26 and written by Roshan, be sure to check it out, here.

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

(Today’s WWBF is curated by Michael. Special thanks to the Team at The Takeoff for helping put this Edition of WWBF together 😁)

Quick rundown of today’s newsletter

  • Shameless plug 🔌

  • 3 Podcasts 🎙

  • 1 Book 📚

  • 4 Tweets 🐦

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

  • 👁👄👁

  • 8 Other Things 💡

  • 6 Additional Reads

  • Student VC Fellowship 📚

  • Summer 2020 internship opportunities at ISA startup (YC S19) 📚

  • 1 Future Mini-Dive

Shameless plug 🔌

If you aren’t already, go follow us on Twitter (@_TheTakeoff). We share all new interviews and What We’ve Been Following newsletters via our Twitter account. We also recently started sharing some relevant (hopefully helpful) content. For example, we started a few threads, designed to help all of you learn, such as the ones below — this is something we’ll continue doing on a somewhat regular basis moving forward.

Personal Sites 💻

Last week, we started a Twitter thread asking people for their “favorite personal sites.” If you’re looking for cool personal sites, check out the thread and feel free to add other cool sites you’ve seen to the THREAD, too.

Shameless Plug # 2: I also put together a personal site a few weeks ago (using Notion) and would love some feedback (feel free to shoot me a dm / write a comment directly on Notion): Get To Know Me (Michael). Our amazing Contributor, Gaby Goldberg, also recently put together an awesome site:

Using Twitter as a Student 📚

Podcasts 🎙

  • The Official Navy Seal Podcast: 26 NSW: A Psychological Approach. This is an interview with a Naval Special Warfare command psychologist discussing how humans mentally adapt to the challenges of hardship. Three key takeaways from the podcast:

    1. Mental health / mindfulness is like working out — you can’t cram it, it has to be a daily routine.

    2. Visualization is super important and helpful for athletes (and pretty much everyone). Nearly all Olympic coaches incorporate visualization as part of training in some capacity.

    3. There has been a lot of new research on post-traumatic growth — essentially traumatic events leading to positive growth, rather than stress and other negative responses.

  • Update 2 - Not Really an Update (Rick Zullo, Equal Ventures). My former boss, Rick Zullo (GP at Equal Ventures), did an interview on the Growth Stage Podcast in late May. I just listened to it the other day — it’s full of a lot of great advice and insights. In it, he dives into a lot of things, including:

    1. Equal’s thesis-driven approach to investing AND what it means to have a thesis-driven approach in early-stage investing.

    2. How / why Equal develops strong relationships with businesses before investing. In reference to building relationships with companies, Rick says, “We prefer marriages over tinder dates.”

    3. How Equal finds conviction in businesses / founders that may not be obvious to other investors.

    4. How he’s been surviving without new Rick and Morty episodes recently.

  • Stanford Pathfinders: 48. Compelling, Confident Public Speaking with Matt Abrahams. Speaking in public is hard. Nobody is immune to feeling stressed and nervous prior to public speeches — whether a first-time public speaker or someone who has done it one million times. Matt Abrahams, Lecturer in Organizational Behavior at Stanford GSB, discusses how people can reduce their fears of public speaking, engage their audiences, and make a strong impression, getting the most out of speaking in public. A few of my main takeaways:

    1. Tell stories. Don’t just give facts. Stories help keep people engaged and make it easier to retain information.

    2. Grab something cold before speaking in public.

    3. Tell your audience what they want to hear. Don’t make it all about you and what you (can) do. Talk about what you can do for your audience and how what you do relates to them.

    4. (Nearly) everybody is afraid of public speaking! You are not alone.

Books 📚 

  • The Lessons of History by Will Durant and Ariel Durant. The Lessons of History is a concise survey of the culture and civilization of mankind written by Will and Ariel Durant, authors of the eleven-volume The Story of Civilization. Here are some quotes and paraphrases that stood out:

    • “Only the person who is below average desires equality. Those who are aware of superior ability desire freedom, and often those with superior ability get their way.”

    • “War is one of the constants of history. In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.”

    • “History as usually written is quite different from history as usually lived: the historian records the exceptional because it is interesting.”

Twitter 🐦

Leave a comment

Articles, Newsletters, Blog Posts, Etc. 📝

  • How today's fastest growing B2B businesses found their first ten customers (Lenny’s Newsletter) by Lenny Rachitsky. Super insightful read from Lenny’s Newsletter. Lenny pooled data and learnings related to how a number of fast-growing B2B businesses got their early customers. Main takeaways:

    1. Three strategies. There are three main ways that B2B companies get their early customers: tapping into personal networks, seeking customers where they are, and getting press.

    2. Personal network. Having a strong personal network is a massive advantage for early-stage B2B businesses. Helpful personal relationships can be developed in a few ways: previous relationships (friends, former coworkers, etc.), investors (raising capital from angel investors / venture funds with relevant relationships / portfolio companies), and by participating in incubators such as Y Combinator.

    3. Word of mouth. Word of mouth can be incredibly helpful for B2B businesses early on. Stripe, Plaid, and Airtable all benefitted greatly from word of mouth in the early days of their businesses.

    4. Early websites. Lenny includes photos of the companies’ early websites in the post. It’s super interesting to see how the websites / businesses have changed over time. The early websites of Stripe and Salesforce caught my eye.

  • Remote Work Market Map by Elaine Zelby. Elaine Zelby (Principal & Director of Growth at SignalFire) put together an awesome Market Map of the startups helping make remote work a reality. Elaine’s Medium post highlights the Map, includes an Airtable database with all 200+ companies in the Map, and includes a brief, yet comprehensive explanation about each section of the Map.

  • Oh Snap! (Not Boring) by Packy McCormick. I came across Not Boring the other day and instantly got hooked. In this post (from mid-June), Packy dives into Snap’s upside potential. Main takeaways:

    1. While Snap is currently much small than many of its competitors, the company has long had a clear vision of the future, which the company and founder Evan Spiegel have been building upon for years, yielding to high upside potential for the business.

    2. Snap has the potential to position itself as the next big platform, due in part to the company’s long-term vision and ability to make AR a reality.

    The two graphs below (from Packy’s post) sum up Snap’s potential / current position pretty well:

  • Student Resource Guide: Uncovering Venture Capital (Dorm Room Fund) by Shohini Gupta. Shohini Gupta and Dorm Room Fund recently put together a guide of resources to help students learn more about venture capital and break into the industry. Main takeaways:

    1. Stay On Top of Market Knowledge

    2. Develop a Thesis

    3. Listen To and Spend Time with Founders

    4. Maximize The Value of Your Network

    5. Understand Follow-on Funding Dynamics

    6. Establish an Online Presence

    7. Get on Twitter

    8. If Twitter is not for you, be active on other platforms (write a blog, start a podcast, host events, etc.)


👁👄👁 (it is what it is)

  • We’ll give this its own section because, well, it is what it is.

  • Last week, a group of young, diverse people in tech took advantage of people’s obsession with exclusive social apps, causing tech Twitter to blow up around what exactly 👁👄👁 is and getting countless individuals to add 👁👄👁 to their Twitter bios, among many other things.

  • Bottom line: The 👁👄👁 Team built massive hype around a non-existent product, leveraging that hype to help raise over $200,000 (as of June 26) for Loveland Foundation, The Innocence Project, and The Okra Project. Well done!

  • Learn more:

  • Follow 👁👄👁 on Twitter.

Other Things… 💡

  • Bunch of Founders. Gefen Skolnick has been busy! Aside from helping build 👁👄👁, Gefen recently founded a community space for underrepresented founders to connect with one another. Here’s a quick blurb explaining Bunch of Founders from its website: “Bunch of Founders is an inclusive and open community space for underrepresented founders to connect with one another, and welcomes future founders, allies & venture capitalists who want to help out and invest in underrepresented folks.”

  • When You Come at the King — This Too Shall Pass by Rhys Wallace. Twitch has established a community with in-jokes, memes, and more, making it incredibly difficult to disrupt the platform. This is one of the reasons why Mixer failed, even though it dished out millions to poach streamers from Twitch. However, Facebook’s approach to disrupting Twitch — capturing the casual gamer’s interest in streaming and integrating this interest with cloud gaming technology — may work, especially since Microsoft recently partnered with Facebook Gaming after shutting down Mixer.

  • Lee Fixel officially launches new fund, Addition. I chatted with someone on Addition’s Investment Team the other day and cannot stress enough how excited I am to see the fund’s impact and success in the coming years. Fixel, who had been at Tiger Global Management for 13 years, led Tiger’s investments in Flipkart, Spotify, Stripe, Postmates, Juul, and Peloton, among others. He has been included on the Forbes Midas List of Top 100 venture capital investors 8 times and is also on the Board of Directors of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. What makes Addition extra exciting to me is that Lee is a WashU alum (I’m a student at WashU!). Without knowing it, Lee’s career and success have been a massive motivation in my progression to date. Everyone I’ve talked to about Lee has spoken about him with the highest regards — something that does not happen very often!

  • Lemonade goes public. Lemonade, a DTC insurance company powered by AI and behavioral economics, went public (NYSE: LMND) on July 2. After opening at $29, Lemonade more than doubled to $65/share on day one of trading. Lemonade’s backers include SoftBank, Sequoia, General Catalyst, Aleph, and XL Innovate. Congrats to the Lemonade team and community on the IPO!

  • Tech Journalists v. VCs. Last week, there was a lot of debate / argument on Twitter and other mediums between tech journalists and venture capitalists / “Silicon Valley Elite.” The flurry even rolled over into Clubhouse — where journalists recorded a conversation between a number of VCs and other prominent figures related to the role of tech journalists in today’s world. To be honest, I don’t know enough about both sides of the argument to share an opinion, but the premise is that tech journalists have too much power / influence to “cancel” someone and often don’t accept criticism / backlash for the pieces they write. Basically, if a journalist is willing to give a punch, shouldn’t they expect to get one back in return? The audio of the Clubhouse conversation is definitely worth listening to — though it’s an hour-long, it contains a lot of valuable, thought-provoking discussions and information.

  • Uber buys Postmates. Uber recently announced that it acquired Postmates for $2.65B, all in stock. The deal comes on the back of Uber’s failed attempt to purchase Grubhub, which was acquired by European takeout player Just Eat Takeaway for $7.3B in early June. These acquisitions suggest a likely push toward increasing food delivery consolidation moving forward.

  • The Holloway Syllabus on Company Culture. For quite some time, I have been fascinated by how early-stage companies can build cultures that last and enable the company to flourish. Yesterday, Hunter Walk tweeted about how difficult it can be to change company culture, which got me curious as to what resources exist related to how companies can build strong cultures from day one (see the tweet, here). Andy Sparks (Co-founder & CEO at Holloway) shared the link to “The Holloway Syllabus on Company Culture”, and I was instantly amazed. The “Syllabus” contains 230+ resources on company culture — I have only had time to look through a few of them, so far, but look forward to diving into more.

  • Hiatus. Our amazing Contributor Gaby (the same Gaby who just put together a dope personal website) and Dheera Vuppala recently launched Hiatus, a community for gap year students. You can see their announcement here and follow along as they build in public through their Substack newsletter (click Hiatus above for the newsletter!).

And, more: Different Kinds of Smart (Morgan Housel | Collaborative Fund), Inside the Coronavirus, After India, U.S. Considers Banning TikTok For Real This Time, First Things First: What to do when you disagree with the ones you love, Palantir Technologies Files for IPO, Help Me Help You Help Me (Not Boring)

Job / Internship Opportunities 📚

New Stack Ventures VC Fellowship

Applications close this Monday (7/13/20), so apply ASAP!

New Stack Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm HQ’d in Chicago and ran by Nick Moran (host of The Full Ratchet podcast), is hiring students for its 2020-2021 VC Fellowship. I chatted with Austen Ju (who’s on the Investment Team at New Stack) the other day and it sounds like they have big things planned for this year’s Fellowship.

Fellows will get hands-on experience learning about how venture capital works and how startups raise capital.

Learn more about the Fellowship


(Note: Applications close this Monday (7/13/20) so apply quickly!)

Blair (YC S19)

Looking for interns for Summer 2020!

Blair is a Y-Combinator funded company pioneering the future of Income Share Agreements. We are a full-stack service offering ISA management and financing to vocational schools and career-focused programs. Blair is based in Silicon Valley and operates with a lean team, allowing students to get true hands on experience in the startup world.

The team is looking for students to help with projects related to:

  • Transaction Analysis (Data Scientist)

    • Pre-requisites: Python, JS (potentially Java)

  • External Blog Creation (Technical Writer)

  • Build out of student platform (Software Engineer)

    • Pre-requisites: HTML, CSS & JS

  • Build out of student platform (Web Designer)

    • Pre-requisites: Figma and key knowledge of design concepts and best practices

If you’re looking for experience in any of these areas and have an entrepreneurial, get-things-done mentality, you can apply by reaching out to with a resume, GitHub profile (if applicable), and any other revelant credentials.

Mailbrew ❕

Roshan came across Mailbrew on ProductHunt the other day. Initial thoughts: it’s a cool, sleek product solving a severe pain point. Mini-dive coming in the next Edition of What We’ve Been Following.

That’s all for today’s edition of What We’ve Been Following!

Thanks for being a part of The Takeoff fam! Help us grow and expand our impact by sharing The Takeoff.

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We have some amazing interviews lined up to be released in the coming weeks, starting with Monday’s newsletter with Andrew Oved (Founder & Managing Partner at Reformation Partners).

In case you missed some of our recent newsletters…

Written by Michael Spiro (Founder at The Takeoff. Junior at Washington University in St. Louis. Summer Analyst at JMI Equity). I’m on Twitter @mspiro3 👋

A quick note from Michael:

In early June, I started a full-time internship. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been working 8am-6pm, working out, eating dinner, and, on most nights, working on The Takeoff for a few hours before heading to sleep. It’s been a grind, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it because I love The Takeoff and am super passionate about our mission. With that said, we would not be able to function without our incredible Team — so I want to make sure to give them the credit they deserve. To my co-founders (Roshan and Lukas), our Interns (Isabella and Robbie), and our Contributors (Gaby, Matt, and Yash), you guys are all amazing!

If you find The Takeoff valuable, share it with friends, or subscribe 👇 if you aren’t already.