When doesn’t change in 2023

The constants in another year of flux

  • What are the enduring forces that drive startup success
  • What are the founder qualities that rise to the top
  • What are the long-term innovation frontiers
  • Startups are ultimately an exercise in building enduring companies.
  • Companies that get to escape velocity, scale and endure are ones that build up market power and competitive advantage, deliberately and consistently over many years (through product, biz model, brand).
  • Hype and frothy valuations don’t mean much. Intense customer pull and talent arbitrage is what counts, and you need both to build.
  • If the bar seems high now, it’s worth remembering it was always this high for customers (even if not some investors). On the one hand, it’s never been easier to build but it’s never been harder to build a truly magical, 10x better product. A product that occupies a permanent place in people’s lives. But that’s the game, it’s not supposed to be easy.
  • Scaling efficiently and managing talent to peak performance, i.e. making the most of your resources, is critical and never went out of style. CEOs that know this do spectacularly well in any market.
  • True validation comes from customers, not investors or tech headlines. Venture is a catalyst and going for higher valuations is like cranking up the speed and incline on the treadmill at the same time. A winning product and ability to generate cash flow is what creates options.
  • Venture underwrites future growth, big outcomes and L-T founder potential, not incremental progress. It usually comes with a multi-year personal commitment to the board / team. This level of conviction requires deep and detailed diligence from investors and that’s fair.
  • Discipline and business acumen beyond storytelling and vision.
  • Clear-headed, truth-seeking decision making and judgment.
  • “Long-term greedy” mindset in fundraising, team building, investor relationships and validation (it’s the ultimate marshmallow test).
  • Relentless drive to win your space and ability to see paths to sprint past competitors (especially when to play offense vs. defense).
  • Leadership and communication quality that earns trust, credibility and loyalty with customers and employees (it happens OFF twitter).
  • Resourceful. Resourceful. Resourceful. Or as the saying goes — if you can’t go through the door, go through the window.
  • Willingness to ask for help and solicit constructive feedback. Harder times require more vulnerability and self-management, not less.
  • Ubiquitous personalization in search, media, learning, commerce
  • Synthetic, endless media and entertainment content, on demand
  • New formats for self-expression and curated identities online
  • Acceleration of independent work as creatives and skilled knowledge workers gain productivity superpowers with AI assistants and tooling
  • Conversational AI that can be not just utilitarian (order me a pizza) but fulfill social emotional needs, like friendship and chit chat
  • Recreating memories, people and moments from our past, a kind of easily retrievable individual memory bank (time machine?)
  • Weird and wonderful new stuff we can’t imagine at the moment
  • Communication and connection: social, dating, self-expression
  • Commerce and lifestyle: conscious consumption, re-commerce, nomadic life, live shopping, and the proliferation of digital goods
  • Careers: independent work, social learning, professional networks
  • Entertainment: TikTok is winning but more will happen in gaming, media, immersive AR (Apple launching their headset in 2023?)
  • Financial health and wealth for digital natives
  • B2B marketplaces and commerce platforms
  • Decarbonization software and business intelligence for enterprises
  • Vertical SaaS for overlooked sectors (think boring but essentail)

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Investing, after building. Personal views only.

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