“Commodities” are interchangeable goods or homogenous products. As artificial intelligence (AI) technology becomes ubiquitous, accessible, easier to use, and more affordable to all businesses, what implications does it have on competitive dynamics and strategy?

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Courtesy: Serj Marco

You don’t have to look too far back in time. Cloud computing isn’t that old, but it has a lot to say in terms of tech commoditization trajectories. Close technical examination of major cloud computing companies reveals a clear pattern — there is little differentiation at the bottom of their stack.

Take cloud storage or compute for instance. Is there really such a big delta between what’s offered across AWS, Google, Microsoft, etc.? Other than pricing nuances, they are fundamentally the same. Typically, an enterprise will consume whichever offering on the basis of cost (cheapest), management approval, or historical momentum (grandfathered in). …


For startups, it’s about customer selection. Not lead generation.

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Credit: Anna Deinek

The most beautiful thing about founding and operating a startup is that you get to make meaningful choices. Each decision you make, especially in the early stages of your company, have outsized impact. To chart your own path and destiny (which affect the lives of your team and the money of your investors), is both a privilege and a responsibility. Nowhere, is your decision as a CEO more critical than your ability to identify customers you want to serve.

I didn’t say “target customers.” That’s a sales and marketing term. Targeting customers could mean a number of things, but at the end of the day, the attitude is too transactional and the framework is too vague. If you target your customer with advertisement, does that help serve them? If you target your customers based on pricing, does that help enable them? …


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Courtesy: Andy Selimov

There is a pandemic going on. No, not just COIVD-19. There’s a pandemic in the business sphere where people are over-qualifying their statements in a failed attempt to take the “sting” out of their comments — and guess what?

Not only do these qualification phrases not work, they often end up backfiring. Cheap qualifiers at the beginning of a sentence to break bad news or express disagreement is lazy. It presumes that because you’ve used a hackneyed preface, it gives you license to say whatever else that follows.

Why would anyone need to ever say this? Are you suggesting that under normal circumstances, you are not honest or frank? Anytime folks hear this phrase, they know you are setting them up with something harsh anyway. In fact, it often raises people’s defense mechanisms because the phrase is so commonly invoked without any thoughtfulness, that it completely backfires by triggering people to “brace for impact.” …


A condensed and practical roadmap for startup fundraising.

In Part 1, we covered how to calculate roughly how much capital you want to raise and what types of investors to target. Now, let’s talk about all of the materials you have to put together when you’re actually “on the road.”

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Courtesy: pacanza stock

The specific type of fundraising materials you’ll need to prepare are going to differ, depending on the type investors you talk to. But a few things will always be relevant. We’ll cover each in order here.

1 — Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is thus named because it should be a concise description of the product, the business, and the team. You should have this written down, in your back pocket, and memorized in cases where you get initial warm or chance introductions to investors. It doesn’t matter how well you know your stuff, practice it quietly in your mind and aloud in front of a mirror or with family and friends. You want any in-person delivery to be polished and brief. Each time you verbalize the elevator pitch to an investor, take visual cues and mental notes on their reaction and the follow-up questions they ask. This gives you opportunity to refine your pitch each time. Don’t use your investors as experiments. Be respectful. But also don’t be afraid to adapt your approach and take feedback. More importantly (and commonly these days), the elevator pitch is also what you’ll actually write into the body of an introductory email to an investor. …


A condensed and practical roadmap for startup fundraising.
Skip to: Part 2 — Fundraising Assets

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Courtesy: Martin Schmetzer

Fundraising for your startup can be simultaneously exciting, nerve-racking, and even daunting. Aside from the mechanics of the term sheet, the negotiations, confronting rejection, and finally landing signatures, many (if not most) entrepreneurs actually have no clue where to even begin. In this post, I’ll give you a practical roadmap, so that even when you inevitably get into specific rabbit holes of fundraising, you can always find your way back to the big picture. …


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There’s a myth that’s been perpetuated by the media — that entrepreneurs are typically young and “risk taking” or “risk seeking”. You know the caricature I’m talking about. You see it all the time. A young upstart bucking trends and flipping the bird to “the man”. They’re painted as iconoclast or cavalier, and often characterized as arrogant. Screw the system! I’m going to start my own billion-dollar business! You’ll see!

Look, I get it. We all love an underdog story. As human beings, we gravitate towards grand narratives. What’s not to love about Elon Musk dropping out of Stanford’s graduate program to start his first business, Zip2? It’s inspiring to hear that the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg passed on college educations from Harvard, striking out on their own. Steve Jobs only did one semester at Reed College before founding Apple. Not only did they turn out more than all right, they’ve become absolute titans of industry. But these folks are outliers, not the norm. They did it. So can you! …


After the creation and sale of my own businesses, I realized that coming up with the next great idea, building it, and maintaining is still going to be hard no matter how many times you’ve done it. So I started turning towards enabling other entrepreneurs in the making. After examining 100+ startup opportunities in the past two years, and combining it with my own entrepreneurial experiences, I’ve distilled down some core ingredients that I think (and hope) are helpful to founders and early investors alike in keeping focused.

A minor caveat — most of my experience is in B2B, so take this with a grain of salt if you are seeking more B2C gems.


If you’re like me, you probably haven’t found a great purpose for your Macbook’s touch bar. But if you like to monitor the stock market, the touch bar seems like a convenient and fun little place to display a few of your favorite symbols and prices.

Display stock symbols in your Mac touchbar
Display stock symbols in your Mac touchbar
www.stoqtkr.com

With COVID-19 running rampant, it seems like everything is going bottoms up pretty fast. A lot of the turmoil is reflected in the stock market, so it might be wise to an eye on some of your favorites investments. Sure, you can use the side bar on your Mac or if you have a second screen, keep Yahoo Finance open. But where’s the fun in that?

What if you could display stock symbols and prices on your Mac touch bar?Well, now you can. We made this little thing called StoqTkr and it’s free!

You can follow us on Product Hunt.

Step 1.
Download the app from the website and install it on your Mac (10.12.4 …


The irony of AI’s dependency on humanity, for now, at least.

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AI History, a Primer

“Artificial Intelligence” was coined in the 1955, by John McCarthy, who — together with founding fathers like Alan Turing, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon — explored the mathematical possibility of artificial intelligence. They famously kicked off a Dartmouth conference in the summer of 1956 that, for lack of better terms, formally introduced AI as a field of research and study.

Turing, in particular is important for his contributions to AI and computing in general. His seminal work, Computing Machinery and Intelligence discusses how to build intelligent machines and how to test their intelligence (e.g.


Can we expect AI startups to bear out similar economic gains as traditional SaaS businesses? Or are there unique qualities to AI startups that warrant a different set of expectations from investors and entrepreneurs?

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Let’s rewind the clock a bit. Back in the day, software vendors would write code, package it, and often distribute physically (through those nifty things called CDs). In this old world, buyers were shouldering most of the operational costs, such as running the applications that they bought on their own local data and compute centers (or laptops and desktops).

Then came the advent of faster Internet speeds and cloud computing, which really opened up software development and deployment to a whole new world. With that, we started to see a dramatic shift of infrastructure costs back to the software vendor. …

About

Paul Zhao

Father, husband, entrepreneur. All perspectives and opinions are mine only.

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