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The Science of Growth with Sean Ammirati (2-time Founder Turned VC)

I recently finished reading a new book about startups. It’s called The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust. It’s written by Sean Ammirati, who is a partner at Birchmere Ventures and an Adjunct Professor at Carnegie Mellon, where he teaches a courses on entrepreneurship. He was previously COO of ReadWriteWeb and cofounded mSpoke, a content recommendation engine that was acquired by LinkedIn.

The book is a spiritual successor to Four Steps to the Epiphany, in that it is an intellectual framework for thinking about high-growth entrepreneurship written someone with deep experience in the field. While there’s a cursory similarity to Good to Great / Great by Choice in comparing pairs of winner/loser companies, it really shines as a way of thinking about, talking about, and analyzing startups at different stages of growth: Continue reading…

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Interviewed for the NYTimes’s The Upshot on Silicon Valley

The New York Times’s sub-brand The Upshot [1] recently did a piece called What It’s Really Like to Risk it All in Silicon Valley. The article follows Nathalie Miller, who left Instacart to start Doxa, a company in the recruiting space focused on getting women into technology firms. The piece includes commentary from a number of folks on the Silicon Valley experience, including Tristan Walker of Bevel, Julia Hu of Lark, and Jason Shen (me) of Ridejoy, talking about the often unspoken challenges of entrepreneurship.

As the writer Claire Cain Miller explained to me, her goal in following Miller for 6+ months was to tell the story behind the hype of the Valley, and show that doing a startup is not all about unicorn status, launch parties, and huge rounds of financing. I had fun talking to her and they even sent a photographer out to take a photo of me in DUMBO.

It’s a great piece and you can read the whole thing here.


[1] The mission of The Up Shot: making events in the news and things in the world clearer, so people can converse about them, and cut through the fog with a certain confidence, as when we say, “The upshot of it is…” (source)

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Reference Groups and the YC Fellowship

As you may have heard, Y Combinator is going back to its roots with something called the YC Fellowship. Today is the last day to apply. [1]

It’s a equity-free grant of $12k for super-early-stage startups where founders will have an 8 week program to work on their idea. You don’t have to move to the Bay Area, a cofounder, or even a prototype but all are encouraged. It’s positioned as an experiment in reducing the barrier to entry (i.e. activation energy) for starting a startup. Continue reading…

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StartupAdventure.co — A Fun Nerdy Side Project

Edit May 28th: StartupAdventure was reviewed by PSFK!

Back in 2013, I spent a good deal of time learning how to code on Ruby on Rails, I used Michael Hartl’s Rails Tutorial and the learning platform Treehouse (referral link) and hacked together RewardBox, an app that helps you build habits through variable reward reinforcement. It was a great education to the MVC mental model and those ideas help me as a product manager at Percolate.

Since then, I’ve had a few opportunities to code here and there — I wrote a little Ruby script to call an API during the Smithsonian Hackathon at the Luce Center, and wrote a little code using Squirrel to govern the Electric Imp for Team Ghostfinger at Hack Day 2015. Still, I’ve been itching for more. (Because I’m trying to be a good chef). Continue reading…

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Thinking Out Loud about Product Management: Early Observations as a PM on the Demo

When I moved to New York City a year ago, I had a plan to become a product manager in a technology firm. After interviewing for PM roles at Pivotal Labs and Meetup, I met with Noah, the CEO of Percolate. He told me that they didn’t have a PM function and but that he was looking for hackers on the marketing team.

I jumped in with two feet — producing blog posts, case studies, white papers, webinars, films, and independent research — and learned a ton about marketing enterprise software. But I continued be passionate about directly building technology products. And in 2015, I finally got my chance to do it. Continue reading…