When starting a company or any other big endeavor, you should have two different types of reasons ready when you tell people about why you’re doing what you’re doing:

The idealistic reason

The first type of reason should appeal to human emotion. You need a moral high ground that people can rally behind, a sense of inevitable progress, or a cause they can feel proud to support. This higher sense of meaning is what creates the true believers, ardent missionaries, and optimists that will forcibly push something out into the world.

Will people feel good when they tell their friends and family about…


The human mind is a wonderfully complex thinking machine. We’ve developed written language, built skyscrapers, and discovered quantum physics through our collective ability to plan and reason. But despite our intellect and like all earthly creatures, the mental circuitry of our biological ancestors had been optimized by evolution for a world where timeliness was more valuable than accuracy.

Optimizations often present tradeoffs. In many modern decision-making contexts, humans are predictably irrational. Many studies have empirically demonstrated these types of systematic deviations, which are also known as cognitive biases or mental fallacies. Neuroscience researchers have shown that cognitive bias is deeply…


Takeaways from the last 12 months

What I Learned In My First Year as a Product Designer

For the past year, I’ve had an incredible experience contributing to the design team at Edmodo, a K-12 education startup backed by Greylock Partners, Benchmark Capital, and Union Square Ventures. While I wasn’t new to building stuff, having hacked projects together with friends in college, the last twelve months have afforded me the opportunity to ship world-class software alongside seasoned veterans. Now that I have a couple of product cycles under my belt, I’ve learned a lot about what to do (and what not to) when working on a multidisciplinary product development team. …

Alvin Hsia

Designer → PM at Airbnb. Essays on technology, economics, and cognitive science.

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