Getting over yourself, zombie VCs and low-margin businesses.

Happy Saturday.
(Hello from Vancouver, BC today and a warm welcome to all the new subscribers from Vancouver Startup Week where I delivered a keynote on Thursday. I hope you’ll forward this to a friend if you think they’ll find it useful.)

1. “My job is to give you lots of advice. Your job is to ignore 95% of it.” [Link] [Tweet]

The worst requests for advice all end with the same question: “what do you think?” It’s a terrible waste of time for everyone involved.

If you’re serious about asking for advice, it’s best to start with specific questions. “We’re experimenting with Facebook Ads and seeing a X% conversion rate, is that inline with what you’ve seen elsewhere?” is better than “I’m building a thing for dogs, what do you think?”

Don’t be lazy. If you’re going to burn a little bit of social capital to get some advice, make sure you get the advice you actually need.

2. “We’re in a period of euphoria now. Get ready for a new wave of zombie VCs.” [Link] [Tweet]

This is counterintuitive to most people: raising your first fund is hard, raising your next fund is even harder. The same goes for raising money for your company: your first round will be the easiest money you ever raise.

3. “This is bigger than taxis — ridesharing is on a path to displace cars.” [Link] [Tweet]

The eye opener: “Industry experts estimate 30% of San Francisco lease owners will not renew when their lease comes up.”

Uber’s past the point of being a “taxi company.” They’re laying the groundwork for an entirely new transportation infrastructure.

4. “I’ve seen where my investor’s sentiment leads. Burnout. Depression. Loss of self. Extreme fear of failure.” [Link] [Tweet]

This. So much this.

I’ve been there too — it’s hard to bounce back. Take care of yourselves.

5. “My one and only rule for not getting burned out is simple: get over yourself.” [Link] [Tweet]

Yep: “No one is standing over you at 12 AM making you answer emails. No one is telling you that you can’t go for a run in order to save your sanity. These are your decisions and you have no one to blame but yourself.”

Work hard but put yourself first.

6. “If I work with you nine hours a day and you smell, then you’re ruining my life.” [Link] [Tweet]

This was my favorite read this week. This guy gets it: “I need to make a profit, but I would like to do it with ethics, dignity, morals. It’s my dream.”

7. “Low-margin businesses have never been more fashionable here than they are right now.” [Link] [Tweet]

The key thing here is to understand that your unit economics matter. Many founders don’t realize that it’s sometimes OK to lose money as a company (especially if you’ve raised outside money to speed up your growth) as long as your unit economics are sound.

8. “while nerds have taken over pop culture and technology, there’s one area they haven’t mastered: politics.” [Link] [Tweet]

If you want to make a huge difference in the world, entrepreneurship and politics are the best way to do it. You’re already reading this newsletter, so I assume you’re interested in entrepreneurship but I’m not quite sure where to point you if you’re looking to learn more about politics. (Any recommendations?)

As an aside, I served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at DHS/USCIS in 2012 where we focused on the immigration issues that many founders and entrepreneurs faced when trying to come into the US. Over the first two days of the project, I got a complete braindump on the immigration system: we saw the processing facilities, the training manuals, the people making it all work.

In those two days, I realized that it’s so easy to be the “armchair quarterback” when anything related to the government is brought up. It is, however, much harder to dig into the realities, learn about all the complexity and decide to do your part to help make things better.

9. “when you’re NASA, your idea of shooting something into the sky includes a gravity assist from Jupiter.” [Link] [Tweet]

Going fast is cool.

10. “I just don’t want to tell that story any more.” [Link] [Tweet]

The quantified self is only one half of the equation. The other half is using all that data to encourage consistent behavior change.


That’s the number of students enrolled in my public speaking course — this cohort started last Tuesday and will run for five weeks. Enroll now if you want to be first in line to hear about the next cohort I’ll be opening up soon.

I’m coming for you

Next up (though, not in this exact order): Lincoln, NE, Madrid, SP, Halifax, NS, Detroit, MI, Lagos, NG, Chattanooga, TN (coupon code: PaulSingh) and a bunch of other interesting places.

If there’s cool stuff happening in your neck of the woods, let me know ASAP — let’s get it on the calendar, I want to see how startups are growing in your neck of the woods.


You can get the full stream of the things I read, it’s all on Twitter — follow me: @paulsingh. Sometimes I write stuff too. You can always find me on Slack, apply to join.

Have a great weekend!

P.S. If you loved this newsletter, share it with a friend. If you hated this newsletter, share it with an enemy.