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This is my personal & professional blog.  It's a place for me to think out loud and learn. I'll sometimes talk about things I don't understand as a way to begin to understand them. I'll often be wrong, short sighted, and unclear. When you see this happening, please point it out!

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Product<->Market Fit cures many sins of Mismanagement


My Mom would be so Proud


Etsy is Awesome (Jeff Bezos, are you reading this?)

Etsy is a great product!  And they've the potential to grow the market they've pioneered for hand made goods into a disgustingly large business.  And then sell to Amazon!  And, since Jeff Bezos recently decided to make Amazon a retailing conglomerate, continue to operate as a largely independent business.

I love the story of how Rob Kalin started Etsy--he made furniture and wanted a place online to sell it.

Etsy's "Shop by Color" is a great feature:  It makes browsing on Etsy (which already feels wholesome and like it's for the good of Mother Earth) fun and serendipitous.

Some part of me wants to pinch Rob Kalin's cheeks!


Quora: What strong beliefs on culture for entrepreneurialism did Peter / Max / David have at PayPal?

Amazing answer by Keith Rabois to this question on Quora here:

I don't disagree with any of the attributes that Yee identifies, but his answer omits a few key elements that were more unorthodox and could be closer to unique.

 Focus (driven by Peter):  Peter required that everyone be tasked with exactly one priority.  He would refuse to discuss virtually anything else with you except what was currently assigned as your #1 initiative.  Even our annual review forms in 2001 required each employee to identify their single most valuable contribution to the company.  (Although I resisted some of this approach during the PayPal years, I am now a proponent of it and have even devised a theory of why it is crucial.)  

Dedication to individual accomplishment:  Teams were almost considered socialist institutions.  Most great innovations at PayPal were driven by one person who then conscripted others to support, adopt, implement the new idea.  If you identified the 8-12 most critical innovations at PayPal (or perhaps even the most important 25), almost every one had a single person inspire it (and often it drive it to implementation).  As a result,  David enforced an anti-meeting culture where any meeting that included more than 3-4 people was deemed suspect and subject to immediate adjournment if he gauged it inefficient.  Our annual review forms in 2002 included a direction to rate the employee on "avoids imposing on others' time, e.g. scheduling unnecessary meetings."

Refusal to accept constraints, external or internal:We were expected to pursue our #1 priority with extreme dispatch (NOW) and vigor.  To borrow an apt phrase, employees were expected to "come to work every day willing to be fired, to circumvent any order aimed at stopping your dream."  Jeremy Stoppelman has relayed elsewhere the story about an email he sent around criticizing management that he expected to get him fired and instead got him promoted: 

I was a 22-year-old whippersnapper, and I remember firing off this e-mail that disagreed with the entire executive staff," says Yelp's Stoppelman. "I didn't get fired--I got a pat on the back.
Peter did not accept no for answer:  If you couldn't solve the problem, someone else would be soon assigned to do it.

Radical transparency on metrics:   All employees were expected to be facile with the metrics driving the business.  Otherwise, how could one expect each employee to make rational calculations and decisions on their own every day? To enforce this norm, almost every all-hands meeting consisted of distributing a printed Excel spreadsheet to the assembled masses and Peter conducting a line by line review of our performance (this is only a modest exaggeration).  Even after we had our IPO, Peter impelled our legal counsel to allow us to continue 95% of this practice (basically stripping the explicit revenue line off of the printout).

Meritocratic opportunity &  opposition to traditional general managemen
t:   Just as responsibility for initiatives was frequently re-allocated based upon performance, so was "management."  Peter and Max crusaded to replace under-performing senior colleagues, which introduced some fear and less stability into the office, but, also forged new opportunities for new stars promoted from within to thrive.  Peter and David also were opposed to general managers or hiring people whose core skill was "managing."  People were promoted based upon their technical proficiency at a given role--i.e. the best engineers would manage engineering, the best product people who be running product, etc.  I still recall concluding my first week at PayPal by jogging around the Stanford campus on a Saturday afternoon  with Peter when he explained this philosophy to me; any other approach he argued would breed resentment by talented employees.  This approach was perceived as radical in 2000, by now it is much more "acceptable" in the consumer Internet realm, at least.

We did not invest in many other traditional management techniques (which are poorly suited for managing talented employees anyway).  As  David summarized, one's prestige at PayPal was measured by how few people could stop you from proceeding with a new idea.

5) Vigorous debate, often via email:  Almost every important issue had champions and critics.  These were normally resolved not by official edict but by a vigorous debate that could be very intense.  Being able to articulate and defend a strategy or product in a succinct, compelling manner with empirical analysis and withstand a withering critique was a key attribute of almost every key contributor.  I still recall the trepidation I confronted when I was informed that I needed to defend the feasibility of my favorite "baby" to Max for the first time.

My Name is Dug!

The movie Up by Pixar is amazing and beautiful!  Watch it like right away.  I'm sure it's better than Sex in the City 2.  Does Sex in the City 2 have a dog named Dug that's effusive?

My Name is Dug.  I have just met you and I love you!

I was hiding under your porch because I love you.  Can I stay?


Netflix's 2010 Pitch Deck

This slidedeck is a masterpiece.  Netflix crisply captures the tumult in the industry, the nuances of consumer behavior, their value proposition, and competitive threats.  This is a great model for thinking about businesses.

Netflix is simple.  And Netflix intends to remain simple.  I tend to think Netflix will do well because it's laser focused, a well run company, and because they will be quick to shift to prevailing winds.


Digsby--is this magic or it actually works?


The iPad: Everything You Can't Imagine (yet)

To my surprise, lots of folks are missing out on the potential of the iPad!  To me, it heralds the era of ubiquitous computing.  Devices with the power of an entire computer, connected via 3G anywhere you go, and versatile enough to be used for anything.  Let the innovation begin!


Internet Treasures (circa 2009)

Here are the top 30 websites in the entire world according to Comscore (stolen from Fred Wilson)

A couple thoughts:

I was surprised to see on the list.  I simply didn't realize they were that big.  Conduit makes non-spammy, branded browser toolbars!  Internet sites brand and distribute the toolbars as a way to push updates to their users through the toolbar.  Conduit has a strong relationship with Google--Conduit toolbars come with a Google search box and Google pays Conduit for every search.  Conduit shares the revenue with the brand that distributed the toolbar.

AOL is number 6?  Wow!  Tim Armstrong, you can make AOL worth more than $2.5B easy!

For all the hulabaloo around Twitter, it's still smaller than the New York Times and about 10% the size of Facebook (even if you assume that 50% of twitter mobile users don't ever visit

20% of the top sites are Chinese today.  That despite China being home to more internet users than any other nation.  And despite cultural differences and the Great Firewall of China, which isolate Chinese users/encourage adoption of homegrown sites (as opposed to their American forefathers).  In the next 3 years, Chinese sites should comprise >50% of this list!


I <3 Factories



I Heart Good Grammar


Make sense of this?

Someone make sense of this!


I dislike people that say NO!

“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road.

I guarantee you will be very glad you did.

But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think that I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover.

Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon.”

— Part of a letter from Chris McCandless to ‘Ronald Franz’, as documented in Into The Wild


Keith Rabois, what was the most important decision you've ever made?

I'm reposting this from Quora.  I'm not sure who the Rabois Fanboy is that keeps asking Keith personal questions.  But I'm beginning to like it.  Here's Keith's answer (republished without permission):

In February of 2000, I agreed to leave the safety and security of large law firm life for the wildnerness of Internet startups.  The market crashed less than a month after I started my job at, a hot startup funded by over $15 million from CRV, Sigma Partners and Bessemer.  Our CEO was a 22-year old Harvard graduate.  

This decision would eventually alter my entire identity.   Until that moment, I had followed the most predictable, well-established paths and chased the most well-established credentials (Stanford poli sci, HLS, federal appellate clerkship, S&C etc).  I eschewed risk.

I had never even used an Internet browser until one year before that decision.  We were not even allowed to have an external email address at work until 1998.   I spent nearly all of my life with people from the same educational backgrounds and pursuing identical professional aspirations.

I jumped into a world I knew nothing about, with no real life-line.  I needed to learn everything on the fly, forge a completely new network, and navigate people who were unreliable, even willing to lie or betray you in a second.  We had to fire a guy on my team who would frequently show up for work drunk; this did not happen at Sullivan & Cromwell.

The first month was rough.  But by the third month, I was hooked.  Fortunately, Geoff Donaker was able to teach me the fundamentals of Internet BD and Excel-modeling quickly.  I mastered the BD part, and could at least fake a decent model (although Geoff always barfed on the formatting.)  I received a promotion in my fourth month.

If I had not quit the law before the market collapsed at the end of March 2000, I never would have been able to.

To quote a friend of mine from Stanford from the mid 1990's:  "Rabois, you went from the most risk averse person I knew"....  to someone who intentionally embraces risk.


Wayne Mak has found it.

When I first met Wayne Mak, he made me really angry.  But I now love Wayne.  In fact, I think Wayne has found it.  He's hit his stride, living life as he was meant to live it, and is aggressively pursuing making every day the best day of his life.

He's doing a bunch of awesome things.  Since he's a great writer, I'll link to his blog and let it do all the talking.

From the About Me on Wayne's blog:

5 years ago, I decided to turn my life around. Every day since then has been amazing.

I'm a firm believer in Carol Dweck's theory of the growth mindset. You're capable of so much more than you can imagine and you can only realize your potential when you start to believe.

This is the first of a series of my blog I'm calling "People I Like".  Like is really a euphemism for admire!


The Tiger Woods Economy


Parikrma Humanity Foundation


  • Wow, the stats are scary: 200M children that should be going to school but do not, 100M that go to school but are illiterate.  Because they're so scary, forget about them!
  • The Hardy Boys lives on!
  • Get parents involved.  They want to believe too!
  • The girl who effuses joy at the 10:30 mark is moving!  Her new-found confidence and ambition is the birthright of all children.
  • Progress is hard.  Start now.

TED is spectacular!  Where is TED China?


Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

In 2004, then first-term Illinois Senator Barack Obama delivered the Keynote Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.  In case you forgot, as I did, John Kerry had just won the Democratic Nomination.

I'm not sure how he managed to get the gig.  I'm not sure how much scheming and "what if-ing" he had in mind when he wrote the speech.  I'm not sure if even he, in his wildest dreams, could have foretold what the following decade would bring him.

If you take out any mention of "John Kerry", this speech is Barack Obama running for President in 2004.  In fact, the fundamental themes of Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign are set forth in this speech, 4 years prior: his unlikely story, the power of Hope, that there is one undivided United Sates of America.  Wow!  These themes were already established in his mind, had nothing to do with national polling or what was making news in post-Bush 2008!  What vision!  The question "is America ready for a black President" is nowhere to be found; in 2004, Obama and his vision have already moved past that.

I can't imagine the surprise of the Democratic Leadership or the American People when hearing such a speech.  Did the Democratic Leadership know what was coming?  Could even Obama appreciate the irony of the following line in his speech?

In this election, we offer that choice. Our Party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.

It's crazy to, as Steve Jobs would say, connect the dots looking back.

The audience absolutely loses it when Obama says the following:

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.



The New Dork


Don't Leave before You're Actually Pregnant!

This is great advice.  From Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  

If I thought it would be effective, I would sing this from the rooftops.  Being happy in your career is a pivotal part of happiness.  And working diligently to create and pursue opportunities is REQUIRED.  Needless to say, this isn't advice just for women.  Humans all too often checkout in all aspects of life instead of aggressively making shit happen. 

Last week at work I had a conversation with a woman I will call Jamie. We have a new project, and I offered her the opportunity to be its leader.  She seemed flattered to be asked but then quickly became very hesitant. She told me she wasn’t sure she should take on more right now. Just before she got up to leave, I looked at her and quietly asked, “Are you worried about taking this on because you are considering getting pregnant sometime soon?”

A few years ago I would have been afraid to ask such a direct and personal question. Nothing is more private than the decision to have a child. Bringing up that topic in the workplace feels like a dangerous thing to do.  We are not supposed to show any bias or take childbearing plans into account as we manage people. But after watching talented woman after talented woman let her career go before she actually leaves it, I now ask this question and I ask it directly.

I always give people the option of not answering, but so far, everyone has appeared grateful for a chance to talk.  There is just one reason why I ask–to make sure people aren’t leaving before they leave.

Here is what happens.  An ambitious and successful woman starts considering having children, typically once she finds a domestic partner. She thinks hard about how busy she is and realizes that finding time for a child means something will have to give. As soon as that thinking process starts, she is already looking for ways to scale back. She no longer searches for new opportunities; if any are presented to her, she is likely to decline or offer the kind of hesitant “yes” that gets the project assigned to someone else, just like “Jamie” did last week in my office.

The problem is that even if she gets pregnant immediately, she still has nine months of pregnancy ahead of her, months of maternity leave and then another lengthy period after returning to work to even catch her breath. And since women usually start the thinking process before even trying to conceive, often several years actually pass. By the time she is back to focusing on her career, she is in a radically different place than she was before.

She was always a top performer–always on par with her peers in responsibility, opportunity, and pay. But now she is not. By not finding ways to stretch herself during the years before she has a child, she has fallen behind.

While I don’t believe that the choice to work fulltime and be a parent is the right choice for everyone, it is a wonderful–and often necessary–choice for many people. I also believe that once you have a child, it becomes necessary to make real changes, including potentially deemphasizing your career. But slowing down too early is a mistake that too many women make today, often without even realizing it. Because they sincerely want to stay in the workforce, they try to make room for everything and they slow down–or unconsciously pull back–well before their circumstances actually change. By the time they fully return, they are in jobs that no longer challenge or reward them enough to hold their attention.

I don’t know any women–or men for that matter–who do not have days when they wonder if leaving their children in someone else’s care for their careers is the right thing to do. I know I do. If your job feels less fulfilling because you have been in the same role for too long or are no longer paid comparably to your peers, that choice becomes a hard one to make day after day. One of the tragic ironies for working women today is that the very desire to stay in the workforce leads to decisions that eventually cause them to leave.

No one can know in advance the choices they will make after going through a life change as profound as becoming a parent. But if you want to preserve the option of staying in the workforce and building a career, my advice is simple.  Stay fully engaged, take on new and interesting challenges, and do so until you have a child. Keep your foot on the gas pedal until your life actually changes. Then you can make the decision to keep driving quickly, slow down, or step out of the car.

I joined Facebook as its COO when I had just returned to work from having my second child. The timing was far from ideal. As many people had told me–but I had not believed–having two children was more than double the work of having one. At the time I was not looking for a new opportunity but rather trying to get through each day. But both my husband and I recognized that if I waited until the time was exactly right, the opportunity would be gone. So I jumped in.

I can’t say it was easy. The first six months were a struggle both at work and at home. But now I am settled in, finding just enough balance to make it work, and learning and growing with new responsibilities and challenges.  Looking back, if I hadn’t taken on something new, I might easily have left the workforce by now, because it would not have been worth making the daily tradeoffs to continue in the job I’d held for the previous six years.

There is a broader lesson here that applies not just to women contemplating starting a family, but to anyone trying to plan for the future. Making decisions too early, trying to plan life too carefully, can close doors rather than keep them open. Any time you make a plan, you do it with imperfect information; the further in advance you make that plan, the less information you have. You never know how you will feel or what choices you might face.  Take life one step at a time and don’t make decisions before you have to.

A few months ago we were interviewing a fantastic woman to join Facebook’s Business Development team. After we extended an offer, she came in to ask some follow-up questions about the role. She did not mention lifestyle or hours. But she was the typical age of the people who leave before they leave.  So I shocked her by asking the question no one asks. “Priti,” I said, “I’m sorry for bringing up something so personal, and feel free to tell me you don’t want to discuss it. But just in case you are thinking that you might want to have a child sometime soon and need to stay where you are to have room to slow down, I’d love a chance to tell you why that makes it even more important that you change jobs now.”

Priti accepted our offer. And just a few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant. Her timing could not have been better.

via Elsa Chang and Fortune Blog