On building a portfolio of small bets
I think I’m on to something with Spectral. There is a clear need for a storytelling tool for founders and VCs (and experts more broadly) to create compelling content.
What specific form that tool ends up taking, is TBD. But it’s an exciting problem, and I’ve spent the last few months trying to figure it out.
I started by building an agency to scale my freelance career, and tried building a software to scale my agency.
This second part is where I’ve been struggling, for a variety of reasons. But I’m married to the problem, and I’m building a portfolio of small bets to see what sticks.
Ambiguous times, but also exciting ones.
The ultimate goal? a content tool that is based on a fine tuned model for thought leadership and personal brand building on the internet. Basically, democratized thoughtboyhood.
Anyway, on to today’s topic.
Over these last few months of iteration and experimentation, one thing has become increasingly clear to me:
If you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t be an “entrepreneur”
Let me explain.
The moment you proclaim you’re a founder or entrepreneur, there are a million different businesses waiting to feast on your naively optimistic soul.
offshore app development agencies who promise to build your MVP in 3 days.
shady capital providers who offer friendly deal terms and low interest loans
people and agencies that promise you leads
fractional CMOs, CTOs, and other pseudo suits
In other words, hustlers and hucks. The worst people to be surrounded by. They assure you quick fixes while making a quick buck. Even so called high reputation orgs like YC aren’t immune to this. Anyone who has tried to look for a cofounder on their matchmaking tool knows this.
Okay, we get it. What’s the alternative?
Imo, to build something truly brilliant, one needs to go upstream. It’s a cliche at this point, but definitely holds true - instead of asking myself what a successful outcome looks like, I need to establish processes and seek environments that that instil meaning into my life. I need to seek meaning, not success.
In other words, less “10 tips on how to make your cold emails more enticing” and more psychology. Less Twitter, more Substack (or arXiv if you’re feeling adventurous)
For me personally, this means going deep on high leverage domains. Here are a few things on my list:
Coding (I haven’t written a single line of code, so wish me luck)
Cognitive Psychology, Physics, Biology, etc
Understanding how frontier tech works from first principles
Talking to smart people (researchers and academics who have dedicated decades of their life figuring out hyper specific problems)
A few ideas I’ve been toying with, that’ll institutionalize these goals:
A podcast where I interview leading academics and researchers in AI and ask them to explain concepts like I’m 5.
Reading cognitive psychology as a tool to understand the future of generative agents (and AI more fundamentally)
Coding so all of this coalesces via action and real world problem solving.
One picture, two thoughts, and three links. Stolen from James Clear and Shaan Puri :)
The width versus depth challenge - everyone is inherently wired towards one extreme of this spectrum. Deep people know a lot about one domain but don’t know anything about other domains. Wide people know something about many things but do not deeply understand any one thing. I’m inherently wide so need to proactively go deep. Good people know how to do both. Great people know when to do either.
Shoe dog - I’d love to find or create a shoe that combines the comfort of the Allbirds Wool Piper, the durability / ruggedness of the La Sportiva TX4, and the style of the Jak Royal NZ. The use case? Something I can wear on a 12 hour flight, 12 hour hike, and a fun dinner right after.