“Paradoxically a bottom-up strategy is in many ways simpler to implement than a top-down one. While a top-down investor must make several accurate predictions in a row, a bottom-up investor is not in the forecasting business at all.” — Seth Klarman, Margin of Safety (pg. 107)

Seth Klarman’s bread and butter is value investing. His success at The Baupost Group has come in a similar manner to the way in which Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway achieved extraordinary returns over the years — looking at the underlying fundamentals of equities, debt instruments, and other investment assets. From his perspective, too…

I’ve written several of these “Request for Startups” posts throughout college, and I’ve found them to be fruitful and engaging creative exercises. I view writing as a tool for thought, and these posts are mechanisms through which I can get my ideas out in the open, as well as starting points to keep expanding my knowledge on a certain topic. This is a long way of saying the ideas can often be half-baked. After I graduate, the format or structure of these posts may change, but I plan to continue actively writing online. None of the concepts have materialized into…

I explore variants of talent networks and design. As always, I welcome feedback and collaboration.

Opinionated Workspaces

Notion is cool. Everyone’s on that bandwagon.

I haven’t published in this specific format in a while and thought I’d unleash some ideas that have been circulating in my head into the wild.

APIs Outside the City

Rural areas cover 97% of the nation’s land. Yet, there have been few technology-driven startups and services that expose us to the great outdoors. Benchmark led the Series A for a camping marketplace called Hipcamp, and Getaway is a popular hospitality solution for people looking to escape the bustling nature of cities, but these are rare examples.

I’m interested in data tools that expose information about rural areas and nature, thus paving the way for more online-to-offline products, allowing for better planning and conservation efforts, and developing insights into granular natural resources data for things like forecasting. …

This month, I thought I’d highlight three theses I’ve been noodling on for some time now.

Asset Deployment

Airbnb and Uber are prime examples of companies that leverage Internet-enabled networks and markets to allow for the monetization of uncovered assets, previously underutilized. If you view this as an umbrella concept, we’re still in early innings. Personal assets can stretch far beyond cars and real estate:

  • Free Time
  • Knowledge Base
  • Peer Network
  • Human Capital
  • Personal Data (shopping receipts, listening history, etc.)

Once a certain asset comes into play, there are endless models for deployment. Here are some examples:

Products and services that enable lightweight and…

Or yet another mental model for thinking about the future

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a piece titled “Square Pegs Don’t Fit in Round Holes,” where I discussed business model — problem fit. In retrospect, the piece is pretty simplistic, but it gets at a point I still can’t stop thinking about.

The Original Logic

Here’s what I originally conceived with business model — problem fit. There are potentially hundreds (or even thousands) of unique business models that companies could incorporate. Each business model and problem space have a unique set of n features, and for the startups that succeed, the feature set of the business model maps accordingly…

Some of the largest companies in interesting, big industries (insurance, banking, real estate, distribution, manufacturing) have functioned in a homologous manner for years. I continue to be interested in these markets because the innovation to date in the categories has been largely about external experience over internal structure.

Thoughts on Scale

It’s important to layer in interesting and unique customer / stakeholder experiences, but I don’t believe that’s what caters to scalability, which is what venture-backed startups are about. They need to reach scale quickly in order to make sense as investments given the cost of capital for VCs.

“A startup is a…

Some real estate tech businesses such as Airbnb function like marketplaces — asset light models with reduced operational complexity. While Airbnb does incur costs with things like payments processing and insurance, they play a minimized role in the property experience, which is ultimately left to the seller (host).

Other companies take a different approach. Zeus (business travel), WeWork (office space), and Sonder (distributed hotel) lease space from landlords and property owners in order to market and distribute them through dynamic digital channels. End users and buyers interact with a single brand or entity, rather than a platform of supply-side agents…

Khosla Ventures GP Keith Rabois has a great heuristic for startup success.

This frame of mind has resulted in businesses like Opendoor, Forward, and Square. The philosophy behind consolidation and integration is that while it’s expensive to get off the ground, one can capture more pieces of the value chain in the long run with tight customer acquisition and lifetime value.

Digital proliferation within markets for older adults is weak. And if you look at my friend Will’s blog post, designing for this population requires a different type of product and business logic. He writes, “unique senior-specific UX and…

Following the 1970’s, the United States shifted to a services-dominated economy. Financial planning, management consulting, pet grooming, haircuts — the economy oriented itself around services. The question I’ve struggled with is how do these marketplaces manifest themselves online in the future, especially B2B services? Andreessen Horowitz has a terrific overview here, where they’ve outlined a few of the past stages of online marketplaces, including the listings era, the unbundling of Craigslist, and Uber for X models.

I’ve written about two approaches in the past. One is the “Unbundling of McKinsey” approach, where a startup consolidates professional services talent through an…

Aashay Sanghvi

Learning / Writing / Investing

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