Kanye, Discord, Defensible SaaS Business Models, and more.

Back from a short midterm break with a new Edition of What We've Been Following.

Hey everyone 👋,

Welcome to the October 30th Edition of What We’ve Been Following (WWBF), our newsletter highlighting some of the newsletters, podcasts, blog posts, tweets, startup news, and more that our Team found interesting over the past few weeks.

We’re in the middle of midterm season, so sorry we haven’t been as active in releasing content the past few weeks. This fact, however, will change!

We have a number of awesome interviews lined up for the next few weeks, and both Michael and I are working on super cool industry deep dives!

For now, here is some of the best content we’ve consumed over the past few weeks.


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

(Today’s What We’ve Been Following newsletter is written by Lukas.)

Podcasts 🎙

  1. Kanye West on The Joe Rogan Experience. Joe Rogan and Kanye West sat down for a lengthy three-hour interview in which Kanye does most of the talking with his classic, unrelenting, emerging stream of consciousness. While some of Kanye’s ideas are gracious and almost at times laughable, it was incredibly intriguing. He also mentions Sam Altman (who we recently interviewed: see here), who offered to help in creating Ye’s Y Combinator for music.

  2. Welcome to The Cult Factory (Tristan Harris with Sam Harris). Tristan Harris, star of the film Social Dilemma and Co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, chats with Sam Harris about the current state of social media in our lives. Tristan along with other tech executives in major consumer social talk about how monetization through advertisements has made consumers the product, rather than the customer. Buying into a startup often brings about a mob mentality. Although many employees and executives believe this mob is for the good of the world, we are now seeing some of the negative effects of this mentality.

  3. Michael Acton Smith (Co-founder of Calm) on Stigma Podcast. Stephen Hays, the host of Stigma Podcast, founded What if Ventures after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and going through rehab. What if Ventures not only helps Stephen with his own recovery, but it also allows him to help others going through recovery by investing in mental health companies, lessening the stigma surrounding mental health diagnoses in the process. In Stephen’s recent episode with Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm (the unicorn meditation company), the two discuss the origins of Calm, how COVID has affected the business, the B2B side of Calm, and Calm’s future, which could include psychedelic therapies and buying an island!

Twitter 🐦

  1. “Will you be on my podcast?” is the new “do you want to grab coffee?” Our former interview guest Jeff Morris Jr. (known by many as JMJ), recently Tweeted out something that I found pretty funny and incredibly true. I am certainly guilty of this tactic. Podcasts are an amazing way to gain mutual benefit from a connection. Not only are you able to build a network for yourself by making connections with awesome individuals, but you are also able to market someone else / a company to your audience, providing value to them too!

  2. Leveraging “champions” for content distribution. Harry certainly knows how to create and leverage great content.

Articles, Newsletters, Blog Posts, Etc. 📝

  1. How Discord Won by Ian Vanagas. Ian Vanagas (Business Development Manager for The Tantalus Group) wrote an interesting piece about how Discord became the chat platform of choice for gamers, and more, despite being late to the game and facing fierce competition. Some of the takeaways include:

    • Discord came in with a 10x better product than competitors.

    • Discord sells “status” as their product (versus other things they previously played with such as membership or games).

    • There is low friction to use Discord.

    • Two clicks and a paste to sign up, two clicks to create a channel, etc.

  2. Attributes of a defensible SaaS business model by Amit Kothari. Amit Kothari (CEO of Tallyfy) wrote a piece highlighting "15 attributes of a defensible SaaS business model." Amit includes thoughts of his own, as well as thoughts and stories from prominent investors and founders in the post. The post covers things from how companies can position their products for success to how to monetize users to how to have a product wow users and more. As for Tallyfy, it’s a super neat, early-stage workflow and process management startup HQ’d in St. Louis, though they have a remote-first nature (indefinitely). — Tallyfy website

More … 💡

  1. Twilio announces plan to acquire Segment for $3.2B. Twilio, a few weeks ago, announced plans to acquire Segment for $3.2B. Segment is a customer data infrastructure company. They’ve raised capital from Accel, GV, Thrive Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Y Combinator (Segment participated in YC S11), and others. Segment’s co-founders started the business while at MIT, which makes Segment extra special to The Takeoff.

Companies We’re Following 🚀

  • The Seed – The Startup Journey. Below is a quick blurb from their founder, Rick Liu. Rick is a fellow student at WashU!

    • The Seed is a podcast series interviewing startup founders. It is made for you, the curious student, talented innovator, and aspiring entrepreneur. Throughout this series, we will explore various startup journeys by discovering the genesis story behind these startups, and gathering advice, all condensed into episodes that are < 20 minutes! Through our conversations, we hope to inspire and plant the seed of innovation & creativity in the minds of our listeners, so that one day, we can watch it grow and prosper.

    • Our latest episode is an interview with the CEO & Co-Founder of Mighty Cricket – Sarah Schlafly. Sarah is building a clean, sustainable food supply, starting with turning crickets into oatmeal! To see the latest previews, highlights, and takeaways from each episode, check out The Seed’s Instagram!

  • Stir. Stir recently launched a beta and announced a $4M seed round led by Homebrew, Ludlow Ventures, XYZ Capital, Li Jin, Jack Conte, Casey Neistat, and others. Stir is a platform built for creators, with the goal of helping creators better understand their metrics and financial performance. Stir essentially helps creators “run sustainable businesses.”

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

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We have some amazing interviews lined up to be released in the coming weeks! Let us know your feedback by shooting us a tweet or DM on Twitter (@_TheTakeoff).

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