May 3, 2022




A Simple Framework To 10x Your Network, Framework For Evaluating Startup Ideas, Subtraction As The Antidote To Abundance & More

At a glance

Welcome to the 213(!) new friends of the Mental Models, Concepts, and Frameworks newsletter who have joined us since last week!

Highlights of this newsletter:

  • A simple framework to 10x your network
  • Framework for evaluating startup ideas
  • Subtraction as the antidote to abundance
  • The 10:10:10 strategy
  • Four simple principles to avoid bad decisions

A simple framework to 10x your network

Help This Person

Every time you encounter another person, think: "How can I help this person?"

It's not altruistic.

Nothing else can so quickly accelerate your career and improve your quality of life.

Being helpful is the best form of "self-promotion" there is.

When you see someone you'd rather not spend time talking to, think "help this person."

Instead of giving short answers and trying to end the conversation abruptly, genuinely ask how they are and what they're working on.

See if there's something obvious you can help with.

When you see someone you haven't seen in a while, do the same.

When you walk into your local cafe, think "help this person" about the server.

Instead of standing there with negative body language because your order isn't coming fast enough, see if you can make them smile.

When your colleague produces a subpar piece of work, think "help this person."

Instead of criticizing them, dig below the surface to understand why it happened.

Help them improve their skills or find a role better suited where they can succeed.

Don't ignore it, really help.

When you interview someone and realise halfway through that you're not going to hire them, tell them.

Use the rest of the interview to problem solve and help them find a role or company that's better suited.

You'll be their most memorable rejection ever.

h/t @vkhosla

Approaching any situation with the mindset of, "How can I help this person?" will dramatically change your attitude.

It will change your thought process from one of scarcity to one of abundance.

It will change the interaction from negative to overwhelmingly positive.

But, wait a minute, don't some bad people win?

Yes, they do. But, this is the exception. Not the rule.

It takes extraordinary intellect or skill to succeed while being a bad person.

For those of us with a heart, the only choice is to succeed by helping others.

There is no faster or more effective way to change your interactions and build relationships.

You'll be viewed as a helpful, constructive, positive, and dependable person.

People will think you are more thoughtful, attentive, and understanding.

People will think of you for job opportunities.

People will think of you for investment opportunities.

People will think of you when they need someone they can trust.

People will tell other people all of these things which enhances your reputation even further.

That's why thinking "help this person" is not altruistic; it's selfish.

Selfish in the best sense of the word.

The single best way to help yourself is to always be looking for ways to help other people.

It just so happens that this also makes the world a better place.

What makes this framework difficult:

It doesn't always have an immediate payoff.

You could spend months with this approach and not receive any benefit.

And so it is with all great habits, their gratification is delayed.

The key is trusting the principle of reciprocity.

The 'Times' change. Technology changes. Markets change.

But, human behaviour doesn't change.

We're hard wired to respond well to those that treat us well and help us.

You can trust that over a long enough time period, your efforts to help others will pay you back 10x.

h/t to @BruceKasanoff for this brilliant framework.

You can read his full article here:

Tip from a Proven Ghostwriter - Help This Person — Givers Deliver

Bruce Kasanoff’s career guide, How to Self-Promote (Without Being a Jerk),

says anytime you interact with another person, three words should be in

your mind: help this person.

And remember,

Helpful people don't ask "how can I help?"

They just help.

Framework for evaluating startup ideas

Having Co-Founded a billion dollar company (@Udemy) and recently raising US$20m from @a16z for @MavenHQ,

@Gaganbiyani knows a thing or two about finding great startup ideas.

Here's the framework he uses to evaluate startup ideas:

The traditional approach in startups is that you can't predict whether people will want your product.

So, you build a 'Minimum Viable Product' as fast as possible to see if users find value in the idea.

If they don't, you iterate until they do.

This isn't Gagan's approach.

Instead, Gagan uses 'Minimum Viable Testing.'

An MVT is a test of a critical hypothesis—something that must be right for the company to stand a chance.

For example, AirBnB had to be right that strangers would pay to stay in others' homes, or else the business fails.

So, rather than building any software, they tested this assumption in the simplest manner possible.

They provided air mattresses in their living room, free wifi, and breakfast to attendees of an upcoming conference (where all the hotels were booked out).

The team were able to validate—with real-world data, minimal risk and cost—that people were willing to stay with strangers.

In fact, this model allowed travellers to have a unique, personable experience with the city and other like-minded people.

The rest is history.

So, how does an MVT compare to an MVP?

MVP = a basic early version of a product that looks and feels like a simplified version of the eventual vision.

MVT = a specific test of an assumption that must be true for the business to succeed.

How do the strategies differ?

MVP = there is no strategy: you throw things at the wall until it sticks. You iterate from an initial product.

MVT = take your time to discover a strategy but once you have one, move forward with conviction. You build with confidence.

What's wrong with MVP's?

1/ MVP’s overemphasize building

New products don’t succeed because of the number of features they provide.

They succeed because of one core insight that customers actually care about.

MVT's focus the attention on this core insight and not features.

2/ MVP’s cause founders to obsess about customer opinion

Customers rarely know what they really want, and even if they do, they’ll want different things.

If you rely on customers, you’ll build incremental improvements instead of a novel breakthrough.

3/ MVPs are often overbuilt and make horrible core products

Once you start writing code with an MVP, you start to add technical and product debt.

If instead, you run an MVT, you start from a fresh slate and are actually building the longer-term vision.

So, what does starting a company look like with a MVT?

1/ Immerse yourself in a new industry

2/ Determine your user's jobs-to-be-done

3/ Identify your value proposition: what promise can you make to help a user with their jobs-to-be done?

Now, it's time for the MVT—not MVP.

The Minimum Viable Testing Framework

1/ List the riskiest assumptions that might lead your business to succeed or fail:

Why might this not work?

Riskiest assumptions commonly include:

  1. Building something people don’t want (test: force people to pay)
  2. Execution risk (harder in reality than theory)
  3. Marketing/Distribution (can you reach users)
  4. Market size
  5. Profitability

2/ Test your assumptions through Minimum Viable Tests:

Determine if your idea actually works in reality.

Pick your riskiest assumption and devise a specific test for that assumption.

There is no specific 'prescription' for how to do this because it depends on the nature of the company, industry, and specific risks.

This is where creativity is required.

Here, it's critical to disregard the future state of what the solution might look like.

Instead, focus on the lowest risk and cost solution you can deliver in the shortest possible timeframe.

This will often involve leveraging assets—just like AirBnB did—you already have.

Once you've tested enough risky assumptions to have more confidence about your product viability, it's time to build an initial product.

With the help of your target customers, iterate on the product until you have nailed product/market fit.

Then, it's time to scale!

If you'd like a deeper dive on the MVT process, I highly recommend reading Gagan's initial article:

The Minimum Viable Testing Process for Evaluating Startup Ideas | First Round

The traditional approach is to do some customer research, throw an MVP out there as fast as possible, and hope it hits. After being early at three startups that achieved over $1M in run-rate in their first six months of going live, Gagan Biyani has landed on an approach that’s quite different. Here’s his framework.

Subtraction as the antidote to abundance

Achieving more in less time requires better mental models.

Forget all the productivity advice you've heard.

Focus on one thing: Minimising distractions.

Turn off notifications.

Quiten your environment.

Delete social media apps.

Block distracting websites.

Leave your phone in another room.

The 10:10:10 Strategy

Before making an important decision, ask:

  • How will I feel 10 minutes from now?
  • 10 months from now?
  • 10 years from now?

This will force you to think about the longer term impact of what's facing you.

Don’t make decisions based on immediate gratification.

Four simple principles to avoid bad decisions

Consider Unintended Consequences

Before making a decision, ask, "What are the possible unplanned outcomes that could occur?"

Focus on the possible second-order effects—can you live with ALL of them?

“We make choices, but we don't always choose the consequences.” Sean Covey

Preserve Optionality

Make choices that preserve future options or, when you have a decision, delay deciding until you have the most information possible.

This allows you to keep your options open until you have higher certainty over the best path.

That path will be yours.

Avoid Short-Termism

Short-termism is an excessive focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term interests.

An example is how Company's prioritise quarterly earnings over long-term innovation.

Where possible, make decisions that are optimal for the long-term.

Precautionary Principle

A strategy for dealing with decisions where taking no action at all is better than a bad or unintended result from action.

It's pausing to increase the certainty that a decision will be safe.

“Precaution is better than cure.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

That's it! I hope you enjoyed reading :)

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