Luck and Serendipity

From Paul’s  Newsletter article – Success is for the lucky

It doesn’t matter if the past 10 ideas you launched did well. It doesn’t matter if you have the best advisers on the planet. It especially doesn’t matter if you use an existing model that someone else has used with a ton of success.

Paul talks about several other factors which seem to lead to success but really do not. I love his conclusion.

This is the only common thread with successful entrepreneurs: they keep trying different ideas until one sticks.

How True! Past performance is no guarantee of future success. I have seen this (and experienced it) from my own ventures as well as several friends of mine.

Three Hard Problems for a Product Company…

If you are a product company, you need to hear this talk.

A small portion of my notes (may not be accurate enough to be called quotes)

Three hard problems for product software companies:

  1. How to get your customers into the front door ( website, portal, app)
  2. How do you get them to the Aha moment as soon as possible
  3. How do you consistently keep delivering core product value (as you learn more and more about the customers) as often as possible

The slides (did not show up well in the video)  may help when you are watching the video.


I Googled “Growth Hacking” on YouTube and started listening to various talks. This is by far the best in my opinion. Here is a strong dose of reality. It may not be what you expect but definitely what you need to hear.

Most Startups Fail Because

From  The Code Is Your Enemy

“Most startups fail because because not enough people show up on the home page, or people show up but they don’t try the product, or they don’t pay for the product, or it’s too expensive to get them to show up, or they don’t tell their friends to come along, or because it’s not solving a pain that people have, or it’s not solving a pain that people know they have, or it’s too hard to explain the pain, or a bunch of other things that are not whether the code works or whether it looks good.”

Read on

People Who Start Their Own Micro-businesses

Quotes (and some commentary) from the book The $100 Startup.

On the stories in this book:

Our story is about people who start their own microbusinesses without investment, without employees, and often without much of an idea of what they’re doing. They almost never have a formal business plan, and they often don’t have a plan at all besides “Try this out and see what happens.” More often than not, the business launches quickly, without waiting for permission from a board or manager. Market testing happens on the fly. “Are customers buying?” If the answer is yes, good. If no, what can we do differently?

This was the case of all our 4 startups. They were small and nimble when we started. Some grew to over 200 people. But I always promised myself that when it grows past a dozen people, I was going to leave and start another. It is nice to be small and focus on what you do well. But that is just me.


If I needed money, I learned to think in terms of how I could get what I needed by making something and selling it, not by cutting costs elsewhere or working for someone else.

This is the typical mentality of a bootstrapper. When you bootstrap you are focused on producing something useful fast and checking out whether any one will value it enough to pay for it. It brings a certain discipline.

A Dilemma that most startups face:

I learned how freedom is connected to responsibility, and how I could combine my desire for independence with something that helped the rest of the world.

This is a big dilemma every startup faces. Have a vision, but start with something small that provides value and build a viable sustainable business. That gives you a certain amount of financial freedom to do grow in other directions, if you want.

On Convergence:

As we’ll examine it, convergence represents the intersection between something you especially like to do or are good at doing (preferably both) and what other people are also interested in. The easiest way to understand convergence is to think of it as the overlapping space between what you care about and what other people are willing to spend money on.

Identifying this convergence is one of the biggest, initial problems in a startup.

On Tapping Emotional Needs of Customers:

A business ultimately succeeds because of the value it provides its end users, customers, or clients. More than anything else, value relates to emotional needs. Many business owners talk about their work in terms of the features it offers, but it’s much more powerful to talk about the benefits customers receive. A feature is descriptive; a benefit is emotional.

Finding Opportunities:

In addition to passion, you must develop a skill that provides a solution to a problem. Another way to think about it is (Passion + skill) ? (problem + marketplace) = opportunity

When considering an opportunity, ask: “Where is the business model?”

Persuasion vs Invitation:

Old-school marketing is based on persuasion; new marketing is based on invitation.

In all the messages you send (whether delivered via email or in another way), you’ll want to be mindful of several qualities. The first and most important is what we’ve mentioned already:

On the need to tell a good story:

On its own, however, a good story isn’t always enough. You also need to think about “relatability” and timeliness. Relatability, which may or may not be a real word, refers to the need to ensure that the people who hear about the launch can relate to it. Do

Being willing to promote in an authentic, non-sleazy manner is a core attribute of microbusiness success.

A Couple of Pieces of Startup Advice

Present your startup idea to anyone who will listen. And even to those who won’t. Startups do not reward security and safety. If you are hesitant about exposing your idea to others, you won’t be able to expose it to prospects, customers and investors. Don’t expect constant support, either. Most people will say something like, “yeah, that sounds good. You should do it.” What you are looking for are those few who ask good questions or who challenge your thinking process and research.

Get really, really good at concisely stating your business idea. A lot of entrepreneurs fail in this area. It is important because you will need to communicate this to prospects, investors and new employees. What I have kept in my mind constantly over the years, is one internal question as I have started expounding on some idea: Later tonight, GL, (what I call myself) what will he say to Hilda about my idea? Or, as a great friend used to say over and over again, “if it is fuzzy in the pulpit, it is really fuzzy in the pews.”


This is from  A Complete List of 100 Attributes of People Who Start Companies:How You Can Be One of America’s Entrepreneurs. from an old post Dec 2007.


I remembered the post but forgot the source. I searched heaven and earth because I did not remember enough to do it properly. I knew that there were lots of Venn diagrams in his blog posts so I searched for Venn diagrams and was rewarded with some other nice articles.  Finally I found it in my own Linklog written in 2009! Somethings are worth searching for, and finding and sharing (again).

Yes. I updated the post and even changed the title a bit. I went from one advice to 2. But there are a cool 98 others worth checking out.

LinkLog: Venn Diagrams and Higher Order Thinking

This is an amazing article worth reading.  I have taken the liberty to take a fragment and give you taste.  A couple of quotes from the article.

The classic Venn diagram, with three circles, was invented by the English philosopher and mathematician John Venn in 1881. His goal was to find symmetrical figures that were elegant and attractive, and he was never satisfied with his attempts to find figures for mapping four, five, and more sets. But a hundred years later, Anthony Edwards, a statistician, geneticist, and evolutionary biologist at Cambridge University, thought of a way to do it.

Here are some rules for using them.

Four rules for using Venn diagrams

To sum up, here are four rules for using Venn (and Venn-like) diagrams to encourage higher-order thinking in your classroom.

  1. Use diagrams for classification, not just comparison.
    By using circles to represent sets and placing the elements within them, you can classify large numbers of things rather than simply comparing two or three.
  2. Draw diagrams to meet your needs.
    Circles don’t have to be the same size, and they don’t have to overlap — you don’t even have to use circles! By drawing custom diagrams for each topic, you can correctly represent relationships among sets or characteristics.
  3. Draw the universal set.
    Draw and label the universal set — the set of everything you might be discussing. That keeps the discussion within reasonable bounds, and makes a place for everything in it.
  4. Scaffold students up to using progressively more complicated diagrams.
    If you work your way up slowly, students will learn to use graphic organizers not simply to keep track of knowledge they’ve already learned, but to push themselves to think about that knowledge in new ways and to learn more.


Besides a Great Idea, it Takes…

Here is a great post on 6 Myths and Fallacies about Small Business Startup. One of the myths is that idea is everything .

To make your business work, besides a great idea, you will also need to:

  • Create an effective business plan.
  • Develop marketing that effectively introduces your great idea to the world.
  • Network effectively to create the partnerships necessary to get your product or service off the ground.
  • Handle customer service issues and make improvements as you begin to get feedback.
  • Scale your business and add members to your team as you grow.

Idea is a great starting point and is likely to evolve and get refined as you have more conversations.

In Science

Loved this snippet:

In science, there is always an experiment to be performed, an unexpected result to troubleshoot, a poster to prepare, a conference to attend, newly published research to read, old research to brush up on, a minus 80 to de-ice, primers to borrow, a protocol to overhaul, a technician to train, a bench to disinfect, equipment to order, reagents to prepare, glassware to clean, and malfunctioning computers to turn off and on again. And, of course, there’s never a time when a scientist can’t be thinking about his or her research. Often, this thinking permeates through scientists’ entire lives — not because they’re required to, but because they’re driven to. By curiosity, by pride, by the challenge of pushing knowledge forward. Scientists are workaholics. Caffeine-addiction likely fuels their work-addiction.

It is an article on which professions drink most coffee and Scientists and Lab Technicians top the list.

I am surprised that programmers did not figure high on the list!