I had the opportunity to attend a really cool conference over the past weekend called The Behavioral Economics Summit for Startups that is focused on helping startup founders and product designers understand and drive user behavior. There were some great speakers like Dan Ariely, Chris Anderson and Hal Varian.

Here are some notes on the talk Dan Ariely (Duke Professor & best-selling Author of Predictabyl Irrational) on the psychology of money and payment systems. Hope you guys find this valuable!

The paradox of money

  • Money is a tremendous invention – on the same level as the wheel
  • Extremely useful but because it’s so versatile, makes it hard to think about

Shadow Value of Price

  • When you buy coffee – you should ask: what else could I do with this $2.50?
  • The rational approach is to consider alternative uses / tradeoffs
  • Doing this with money is hard – it’s easier to think about what to do each day

Envelope Thought Experiment

  • Imagine you got an envelope with $1000 cash each week
  • How would you spend it?
  • You’d spend a lot early on, but then realize later the trade-off value of the money
  • We studied Intuit customers – this is the pattern we see with people’s spending their paychecks
  • Credit cards and other things make it hard to see financial horizons

Nice Speakers Thought Experiment

  • Imagine buying either $700 Sony speaker set vs $1000 Pioneer speaker set
  • Most people go for the better, pricer Pioneer speakers
  • New comparison: $700 sony + $300 only in CDs/DVDs vs $1000 Pioneer speaker set
  • Now – most people choose the speaker + CD package over the Pioneer
  • Why? It is easier to imagine the value of $300 of CDs
  • vs the diluted value of $300 spread across all kinds of things (despite the fact that you could buy CDs or anything else with the $300 saved from buying the Pioneer)

Considering Trade-Offs When Buying Cars

  • Went to a Toyota dealership and asked people:
  • What are you giving up in order to buy this car?
  • First got blank stares
  • Then people said – “Well I’m giving up buying a Honda”
  • No one said – “I’m giving up 700 lattes, 4 weeks of vacation, etc”

People Vary In Ability/Willingness to Make Trade-Off Comparisons

  • Turns out poor people are better at weighing the differences compared to wealthy people
  • When dealing just with cash – the difference is more clear/obvious that if you buy one thing (food) you can’t buy something else (shelter)
  • Also seen in the difference in Presidents: George W Bush vs Dwight Eisenhower
  • Bush said his budget increased the defense budget because the price of freedom is not too high
  • Eisenhower talked about how the cost of a single destroyer could house more that 8000 people

Continue reading

Things have been super busy lately, but I promise a more regular blogging schedule is coming soon. In the meantime I thought I’d highlight some things I’ve been up to across the web that you might not have checked out:

Startup Fitness

Derek and I wrote a series of posts about working out & entrepreneurship. The first one was about How Working Out Makes Us Better Entrepreneurs, which I cross-posted here. The other two are excerpted below.

Start Up Fitness: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Working Out

We recently wrote about how working out can be your secret weapon as an entrepreneur. It gives you more energy, stronger focus & decision-making abilities, better ideas, and deeper rest– and that’s just for starters.

But if working out is so great, why aren’t we all doing it? Well, no time, too busy, not enough energy, don’t know where to start, putting it off for later, will start tomorrow, etc… We know it’s hard to fit working out into a crazy busy life. But it is possible. And worthwhile. Living a healthier lifestyle is one that’s built step by step, one smart choice at a time. But if you’re ready to start down that path of a more energized, focused, and productive life – here are our best strategies on how to get started: (Click to read more)

Startup Fitness Advice from Battle-Hardened Entrepreneurs

We recently wrote about how working out can be your secret weapon as an entrepreneur and shared our entrepreneur’s guide to working out. This time, we turn to 14 battle-hardened founders and entrepreneurs who prioritize fitness and ask them what they do, why they do it, how they find the time, and what their advice is for others. Without further ado, here’s the awesome stuff they said: (Click to read more)

6 Thoughts on Online Dating from a Guy’s Perspective

This is a post I wrote for Kat Richter during our recent blog swap. Her blog is all about dating (most off people she’s met online) so I wrote about something I don’t cover much here: dating. Here’s the intro:

Hey guys – I’m Jason! I’m a twenty-something guy who grew up on near Boston, went to school in California (Stanford) and now live in San Francisco.

I write a blog called The Art of Ass-Kicking which means I mostly blog about things like taking cold showerslessons learned from working at a startup, and getting personally rejected 30 days straight.

One topic that doesn’t get much coverage is my dating life (surprise, surprise). Which makes it great that I’ve been partnered here with Kat for this blog swap.

I’m a big fan of online dating (as the co-founder of an Internet startup, I find that it’s the only thing that gets me out of the house and meeting people) and I know Kat has some experience with it too.

There’s definitely some big differences (in my mind) about about online dating from the male vs female perspective– and perhaps from the East Coast and the West Coast. So without further ado, here are six thoughts from me on online dating– Some of these are lessons, some are questions some are just observations. Enjoy! (Click to read more)

Rejection Therapy Podcast continues

Though I haven’t been talking about it lately, I’ve continued to host podcasts with Jason Comely around the topics of Rejection Therapy. In two recent podcasts, we discussed Rejection Therapy being optioned for a reality TV series, as well as the lessons of humility and persistence learned from doing Rejection Therapy. Check ’em out:

Rejection Therapy Reality TV Series? Here’s the Scoop: Podcast 19

Being Wrong and Rejection Therapy for Start-Ups: Podcast 18

Hey guys, I recently participated in a blog swap hosted by 20-Something Bloggers where two bloggers cross post on each other’s sites. My swapee? The wonderful Kat Richter. She’s got a great dating blog out in Philadelphia and I  wrote a guest post for her called: 6 Thoughts on Online Dating from a Guy’s Perspective. Hope you enjoy Kat’s guest post! – Jason

Before we get started, I need to let you in on a little secret: my name is Kat Richter, I’m a Philadelphia-based serial dater (amongst other things) and I don’t actually know the first thing about kicking-ass.  I write a blog called After I Quit my Day Job in which I chronicle my daily adventures in life, literature and the (City of Brotherly) love and when I learned that Jason was to be my blog swap partner, my first thought was: Me?  Kicking ass?  I don’t think so…

This is perhaps because during the school year, I spend the majority of my time trying to prevent the kicking of asses; I teach creative movement for a non-profit, arts-integrated Headstart preschool program in North Philly so if any asses are inadvertently kicked in my dance studio, I need to fill out an incident report form and I really hate those things.

Nonetheless, if you were to take a look at my passport and the various student visas contained therein, it would appear that I am indeed “driven, ambitious and intelligent.”  And if I were to show you my spreadsheet, you’d realize that I’m nothing if not goal-oriented.

But wait—you don’t know about my spreadsheet, do you?  Of course not.  Allow me to explain:

When I turned 25, I decided to celebrate my birthday (and imminent spinsterhood) with a three-month subscription to Match.com.  Having completed my graduate work in anthropology, I decided it might be fun to try a little “experiment,” in which I’d attempt to date 30 men in 90 days.  You can read about my first date (and each of the subsequent 60-something encounters) here but for today’s purposes, you simply need to know that I had just returned to the US after nearly a year and a half in London.   I hated my job, hated my new address and essentially hated everything this side of the Atlantic so obviously this was the optimal time to go seeking a new relationship.

I uploaded my profile to Match.com and before I knew it, I’d scheduled five first dates in as many days.  Eventually I landed a bi-weekly column in which I was actually paid to write about dating (which led to many a sticky situation so far as men in question were concerned) and resorted to tracking my love life in an Excel spreadsheet. Continue reading

I got in touch a while back with a U of Michigan student Jenny Li, who was interning at True Ventures as part of the TEC Program. The original interview was here, but I figured it might be worth posting it on the blog as well. Enjoy!

On Tuesday, July 12, I attended StartupRoots and met Manish Shah from Rapleaf (next blog post–stay tuned!), who referred me to Steve Newcomb’s essay on team building, which led me to googling “cult creation,” which led me to a blog entry by Jason Shen, who turned out to be a San Francisco start-up guy, whose blog inspired me so much that I emailed him, from which he was nice enough to answer some questions, which are below.

If you got through that long story and run-on sentence, here’s what he had to say about start-ups, life, and #winning. Thanks again Jason!

1. Can you tell us your abridged life story? What led you to Stanford, nonprofits, and start-ups?

Oh man – how much editing to do? I was born in China, moved to a suburb of Boston at age 3 with my mom to join my father, who was getting a doctorate degree in education at Boston University.

Mom was a gymnast in China and I ended up in the sport at age 6. Loved gymnastics – great outlet as I was a highly excitable kid. Didn’t really start to excel until around age 10. Started competing in nation-wide competitions at age 11 – think I placed 70 something out of 90 competitors at my first Jr Nationals. In sophomore year of high school, I changed gyms and started training with a hard core Armenian coach – made the Jr National team that first year.

I always liked school – especially reading. My parents had high expectations for my grades but I rarely got straight As – usually had some B+’s due to sloppy work. Read 7 Habits of Highly Effective people when I was 13, which sparked a life long obsession with personal development and making myself a better human being. Went to a big, well run public school and took a number of honors and AP classes. Found that I had a knack for standardized testing and did really well in the SATs and various SAT IIs.

Got recruited by a number of schools my senior year, but there was only one school that had a good athletic and academic program: Stanford. I applied through a special earlier-than-early application and after getting accepted in October plus a partial scholarship, my college decision was settled.

2. You maintain a pretty kickass blog—can you tell us how it got started and what it’s like keeping up an awesome blog despite your busy schedule? What advice do you have for writing a successful blog?

I’ve tried to keep a various versions of a blog since 2006 but the current version of the site began when I was working at isocket in summer of 2010. My coworker Ryan Hupfer convinced me to write – his experiences writing a blog with his girlfriend-turned-wife showed him that even if only a few people read your blog, the people you would touch and get in contact with would make it worth it.

I started to write about what I was learning at my startup. My big break was writing “How to Land a Killer Job at a Tech Startup” with my friend Derek. The post landed on Hacker News and sent ~3k unique visitors to my site in one day. I think at the time my traffic was around 5-10 uniques a day.

Like a drug dealer I was hooked.

My blog has turned into an incredibly valuable asset for me – as a channel for distributing ideas, a way to “build my personal brand”, and as a learning mechanism (writing makes you think + you get to interview smart people).

Writing now is more something I’m compelled to do. It’s the act of creating something – I get uncomfortable if I’m not putting out a post at least once a week. When I was working at isocket, I’d write on the train ride to and from work, or on weekends. If you see the value, you’ll make time.

My biggest piece of advice is to not quit. So many people start blogs with good intentions and can’t stay with it. Start small, don’t quit and you’ll figure everything else out along the way.

3. Most experienced entrepreneurs say that 1) persistence is key, 2) the idea is nothing without execution, and 3) people are the startup’s best assets. Since you have a unique perspective on that since you’re currently in the middle of getting a start-up off the ground, what would you say about that?

These things sound like truisms but make a lot of sense when you think about what starting a startup involves. Pretty much every viable idea has been tried by someone somewhere at some point. A big part of succeeding is figuring out how your version of this idea will work when others have failed (execution). When you start out, it’s just you and whoever else you’re working with, maybe some money, maybe a prototype and some code. But really, having the right people shapes the outcome more than anything else early on is so key (people). And finally, you are unlikely to get everything right the first time around so you have to be willing to run into walls again and again until you get something going (persistence).

4. You’ve written about recovering from setbacks—what other stories can you tell us about the sorts of rejection that new entrepreneurs will face and the best ways to deal with them?

One good story that I think shows the power of persistence is that Pandora went two years without paying people. So many entrepreneurs and employees would have given up right there but somehow as a company they survived and have now IPOed. More here: http://it-jobs.fins.com/Articles/SB129683674636383261/Pandora-Paid-No-Salaries-for-Two-Years-Considered-Gambling-to-Survive

5. You’ve won a NCAA championship in men’s gymnastics, graduated from Stanford University, cofounded a nonprofit, worked in sales & marketing at isocket, are a certified professional in the Art of Kicking Ass, and are now in the midst of a tech start-up. Is there anything you can’t or don’t do, and more importantly, where’s the guide on #winning in life? What’s your version of “7 Habits for Highly Effective People”?

Haha. Thanks for the kind words. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and failed at many things. I keep a failure resume that I should update since I’ve f-ed up many things since last time I edited it. A short list:

– failed to get a girlfriend in high school

– failed to make the jr national team my senior year of high school

– failed an advanced organic chem class at Stanford

– failed to “hit” my routine at Day 2 of NCAA championships in 2008

– failed to get into Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program

– failed to get the Stanford Daily to profitability in my year as COO

In general I perform poorly on things that require super high level of organization / attention to detail, need me to do a lot of math, require a really great deal of patience without short term payoffs. And if I’m really honest, I’d say that I don’t think I’m great at first dates.

I have more to learn before I write any sort of overall life advice book but I’d love to someday in the future. In 2007, at the bequest of my father I wrote something called A Guide to Life for Asian American Teens. I think it’s held up pretty well and isn’t that age or race specific despite the title. You can check it out here: https://www.jasonshen.com/resources/

Can’t see the video? Click here to view the post on the blog.

Parkour / Freerunning is an activity I really admire and I was reminded of it when I was emailed by Zachary Cohn, an Art of Ass-Kicking reader and vice chair of Parkour Visions. There are a lot of gymnastics and martial arts elements to Parkour / Freerunning and I can really appreciate how hard these things are. I’m a little sad that I’ll never really be able to participate because my bum knee wouldn’t be able to handle the landings, but it’s sure fun to watch.

This video is an awesome reminder of what’s possible with coaching, practice, courage and effort. None of these people were born knowing how to do flips off walls or jump off high surfaces with a twisting motion and just roll out of it. And you better believe they were pretty damn scared the first dozen times (or more) when they were trying it on their own. But they pushed through their fears, injuries and self-doubt to reach this high level of ability. And you can too.