Antler Week 2
This is still not a short post…
Or you can hit ‘Listen’ up above and throw on some nice background music.
Day 8 (Fourth of July Holiday)
I love building LEGOs. For me, the experience is akin to driving a car where your body goes on autopilot and your mind drifts into a place of reflection and clarity. At the end of week 1, a new LEGO Loop Rollercoaster set came out and while I’m not sure how I’ll get it back home just yet, I bought it.
With LEGOs, your mind visualizes the end result but you never start there. You start on page 1 with bag 1 and brick 1. Slowly but methodically, this creation begins to emerge and as it takes shape — there are periods of excitement, over zealousness which cause you to skip a few steps then have to backtrack, course correcting and moving with more precision, finding a system that works for the tedious build times, and ultimately you end up building something that you can stand back and smile at…and use.
If there was any way to mentally prepare for this week, building that LEGO set was it. Antler hones in on ‘relentless execution’. Once you’ve established a direction — MOVE on it and while you may get tripped up throughout the process, at least you didn’t spend your time thinking yourself in and out of things — you invested your time laying bricks.
So, onto Day 9.
I’ve spent the majority of my cognitive time researching First Principles and applying them to my business. That resulted in creating this ‘universe of problems’ — 12 to be exact that I needed to:
- Objectively ensure they were problems that markets faced;
- Break the problem down into its constituent parts; and
- Develop small tests on solutioning the problem in ways that validate an investable-enough market
I’ll spare you the 12 problems and focus on the 3 that I narrowed down based fundamentally on — ‘how much do I care about solving this problem’. This was the framework:
Brief intermission — I’ve been building a company called Framewrk and have been tallying every time one of the Antler folk say that word “framework” as a reference to a mental model or process. We’re at 6.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
- Founders feel like they’re going the journey alone and want emotional support
- It’s too expensive and time consuming for boutique consulting firms to do client discovery
- Small businesses and startups need a more effective (guaranteed) way of getting funding
Framework: go through this process asking yourself a series of questions that reveal the objective truths that remove opinion and breaking down problems into their constituent parts.
Instead of outright choosing one of these problems to focus on — I committed this week to building deployable betas that I could take to the three different target markets to validate which to pursue and in which ways.
My subsequent goals:
- Problem 1: Get 100 Founders to complete the form to test my underlying 3 assumptions.
- Problem 2: Conduct 50 interviews with boutique consulting firms to identify if they’d use a software to conduct their Discovery interviews/assessments.
- Problem 3: I realized I was still using a previously developed solution of a ‘stock market for entrepreneurs using blockchain technology and incentivizing entrepreneurs with consultants pitching them’…and decided not to go down this path for a variety of reasons…including me just using a past bias to put a solution on a problem.
We’ll see if we reach these goals this week. They’re loaded since we have to build the betas first, but we’re building up the email list to do a blitz asynchronously so…LEGGOOOO! 😁
Did not eat tacos tonight.
As I reflect on the day, I’m feeling really grateful. I’m being cognitively challenged, I’m engaging with some really great minds, the city’s energy is lifted — it’s a great feeling. Now let’s unpack what’s driving that for today.
Navi can Ball
There’s not much else to say here.
Justin’s Internalization + Storytelling is Phenomenal
Justin Ramos is an entrepreneur who is a part of the cohort building a technology around improving the efficiency of fashion and discovering fashion that aligns with our unique styles. I’m doing it a disservice. Justin is building Peachi, which connects individuals to the right fit, the right form, and the right function for how you desire to express yourself in the world.
Beyond his business (or perhaps integrated into it) is his ability to process in real time self-improvement. Justin’s pitch for his business is refined live — so he’ll assess how people respond to it, improve the narrative, and execute. It’s subtle but uncanny — and that trait has been inspiring to me because it’s shown me a better way to be more cognizant of how people receive information and how to intentionally touch people’s interests.
J excels at this, and I’m excited to see how it evolves over the course of the next few weeks.
I’m Better than I Thought I Was at Pool
Subconsciously, this comment may just be a way of validating myself…to myself compensating for thinking I had some basketball skills that I didn’t earlier when they busted my butt. Stream of consciousness: “Sheesh, the male ego is something else isn’t it?” I digress.
We were playing doubles (teammates) at the pub next door to the office. Justin, master storyteller was my partner. We were down to our last shots. Our opponents had one ball left (besides the 8 ball). My shot.
I line up the shot — a little cocky — I don’t even look at the ball when I shoot. I turn my head to the right and look our opponent in the eyes and take the shot across the long end of the table. It’s a cut shot for the 14. Sunk it.
Next is the 8 ball but their 4 ball is in the way for a corner pocket shot. I hop the cue ball over their ball and sink the 8 ball. Game. Blouses.
There was really no reason to tell that story outside of ego so I apologize if you read that thinking there was a lesson there except…
- When the pressure is on, focus yourself and rise to the occasion. Hop the circumstance.
And anyone who wants to step up to the plate can get it.
Next Train of Thought. “Choo choo”
I’ve Mentally Pivoted, but Physically am still Hesitant
- I’ve been building a Machine-learning based consultant for small businesses. The challenge I thought I was facing was that I was too unfocused — there’s no central problem that I was solving. Why? Because the quintessential job of a consultant (whether they know it or not) is to ask the right questions, and based on those questions, ask smarter and deeper questions. It is from there that they can formulate insights about a business and contextualize that against personalities, culture, and goals; and create a ‘framework’ for success that they either develop and pass off or help execute. That’s too general.
- Yes, that’s a challenge, however, deeper than that is the problem of ‘Intellectual Capital’. We know that small businesses and startups are undercapitalized. However, most people view ‘capital’ as linear — financial. The subtle reality is that capital is a two-sided coin and on the other side of that coin is ‘Intellectual Capital’.
- If you put yourself in the position of an investor and 10 startups approach you asking for money — and assuming you have that money — all things being equal, how confident are you in that those startups know how to invest that capital into infrastructure, technology, personnel, etc.?
- Intellectual capital directs financial capital, and most information sources that are directed towards entrepreneurs are commodities. We’re not actually evolving intellect and execution, we’re patternizing intellect — and that’s a rabbit hole of failure in the bad sense.
- Our minds have to evolve — to build better businesses. Otherwise, that intellectual chasm gets wider and it could create a permanent underclass like we’ve seen in socieconomically distressed economies. More on that later.
- My point: it’s too early for this model.
- So let’s zoom out. The core challenge with the business that I was building prior to Antler was that small business owners focus on the former side of that coin. I recognize that in order to scale that business — people actually have to take the advice that our algo’s deliver to them — but doing that and measuring it inhibits our ability to grow.
- Mentally — I’ve pivoted into a different but adjacent marketplace, but physically, I still built a beta product that would test around the original thesis…plus two other betas we’re testing next week. You can see the need to focus — but testing these assumptions in this sense has been helpful.
I still haven’t had tacos this week.
It’s Day 11 but I’m reflecting on Day 12. If I could sum it up in words that don’t need to be said the way I’m about to say them — the day was one of programmatic clarity.
“What does that mean?” We gained more clarity about the program.
Each week, Antler hosts a ‘Town Hall’ and in this experience, Founders share deeper insight into where they are, what they’ve done, and what they need help with. After sharing, the Antler crew and other Founders get a chance to chime in and offer assistance through an ‘Asks and Gives’ moment.
One moment stood out when a Founder expressed their interest in how the weeks were segmented. They broke it down into three key segments based on two-week sprints:
The First Two Weeks
- This is a chance for Founders to unpack their ideas, clear up their biases, reflect on the thinking (and execution) that has brought them here, engage with other Founders, have their 1-on-1’s, and achieve some sort of cognitive clarity around the core problems they’re solving.
- Core insight: it’s okay to feel a bit scattered after these two weeks, which are meant to shake the foundation so you can build a more structural one.
The Second Two Weeks
- “Relentless execution” begins to settle in. At this stage, you’re likely building a few test products, or at least testable hypotheses that you can execute on in very minimal ways. You’ve already engaged in customer interviews, but are expanding on that to really dive into the solution set. The job here is not to create new features of your product — but to create new insights about what features deliver on a unique insight. There’s a really key difference there.
The Last Two Weeks
- This is where “relentless execution” is supposed to show itself. It’s honing in on what are the repeatable actions you’re taking to prove out your hypotheses or at least the actions that show you how to course correct. From the initial talk with Malcolm Wiley — he referenced their pivot against the backdrop of “it was taking us too long to learn.” Here is where I think Antler is trying to tease out — how fast are people learning and adapting to those learnings and insights along the way.
At the end of the day, and the penultimate of this experience — what Antler is teasing out is “the delta” of where you started versus where you end up. This is not quantifiable — but much more a blend of qualitative insights about their experience with you and your thinking, and quantitative insights about your ability to shift towards more favorable outcomes.
I haven’t had one taco this week.
FINALLY. THIS HAS BEEN A LONG POST BUT WE’RE REACHING THE END.
I let out a deep breath before starting this one. Today…was a day. In one sentence:
$5 for anyone who can say that aloud without taking a breath.
One of the Founders — Nilay — is building a company that leverages improv to build soft skills and ultimately improve corporate culture. He led an improv session with a group of us that was inspiring but more importantly it was insightful. We went through a series of 4–5 experiences that challenged our ability to:
- Sacrifice our own agendas for the sake of the team;
- Create humor through simplicity; and
- Build story through limited data sets.
Sidebar: this experience actually reminded me of Justin’s diagnosis on how sports can reveal a lot of a person’s character. Specifically basketball and how you can identify a team player, how someone reacts to defeat, their ability to engage others, and so much more. I’m not the biggest sports watching fan — but the way he described this sentiment reframed how I viewed sports and what the actions translate to in a non-athletic world.
After the improv experiences, Nilay explained why we went through the exercises and what they meant in terms of learning. That was powerful and it became very apparent how brilliant of a mind he has.
Commercial Break: I’d love to go into the middle of the day, but I’ll share the spark notes because Happy Hour was filled with insights I’d like to share.
- A few of us ‘Shark Tank’ style pitched our businesses and pivots to each other, which led to this really interesting (read: impactful) set of feedback. What I valued about the feedback was that it was contextual — no one (absent me) just said: here’s what I think you should do.
- Everyone else said: here’s my reflection, my perspective, and what I think you should do. That type of feedback speaks volumes about understanding the person — where they are — and where they should be headed.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
This is a long post so I’ll snapshot these:
- The model for Venture Capital is broken and a more globally integrated system of supporting early stage founders that translates into better late stage deals can help shift it towards the right direction. More insights here from Jeff, but I think you should join Antler and ask him yourself if you’re interest.
I was going to finish this but I just realized — this is NYC and I can get tacos at any time!
And then I ordered tacos.