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Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Unusual’s blog.

When we launched Unusual Academy in 2018, an immersive, hands-on learning program, our goal was simple: to provide unprecedented guidance to equip seed-stage founders with the tactics and network to level up as leaders and win big. Our mission has remained consistent as we’ve evolved the program, but the world has changed quite a bit in light of COVID-19 both for us and for early-stage entrepreneurs. Unusual Academy was created with the belief that we learn in life by doing, and both the model and curriculum have been developed to deliver…

Yogi Berra was a much better baseball player than he was a linguist. He’s known for all sorts of Berra’isms i.e. sayings that don’t make any sense. Here are a few of my favorite examples.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

“Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hittin’.”

“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”

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There’s a few dozen gems to pick from but there’s one that I find myself sharing often with early-stage founders…

“When you see a fork in the road, take it.”

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Today, Unusual Ventures is thrilled to announce we have partnered with Ride Report to deepen its commitment to helping cities deliver on their goals of providing safe, equitable, and environmentally sustainable transportation options via a complete micromobility management toolset. We are pleased to lead their $10M Series A round in partnership with Homebrew, Urban Innovation Fund, and several other investors.

Ride Report gives cities the data and tools they need to introduce new forms of transportation, like bikes, scooters, and a growing list of new ways to get around. By working with cities and mobility operators, Ride Report bridges the…

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When a startup has enough momentum to raise enough capital ($15–20M in the bank), they eventually reach a phase in their journey where they need to hire and onboard their first executives and build an executive team. That’s usually when they have tens of millions in capital and the founder needs to offload responsibilities to functional experts, such as a VP of Product, Engineering, Operations, Sales, and so on.

The type of business model you have and sector you’re in will ultimately determine the type of executives the company needs most. For example, if you’re building a marketplace startup, you…

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Simple In-n-Out Menu

More businesses need to be like Chick-fil-A and In-n-Out. The menu is simple, the service is excellent, and the quality is high. Customers don’t have to learn a new menu each month, smile at apathetic employees, or brood over an incorrectly filled order. For those reasons, customers love them.

The lesson is clear: do less, do it well, and be consistent.

How else do you explain their durability? Both In-n-Out and Chick-fil-A were started in the 1940s, but growth hasn’t plateaued nor has their cult-like following. Chick-fil-A’s revenue tripled between 2010 and 2019. Meanwhile, the rest of the fast-food industry…

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Brian Balfour leading a session on organic growth

Two weeks ago, we wrapped up our third iteration of Unusual Academy — an immersive, hands-on learning program to equip founders with the tactics to overcome the most common challenges we’ve observed at the seed and Series A stage. For the first time, we opened the Academy to both Consumer and Enterprise founders, with 19 startups selected from over 400 applicants. After our third time running the program, feedback from participating founders has made it clear that we’re headed in the right direction.

When I joined the firm as a Partner in late 2018, I was amazed at the high…

The majority of meetings are a waste of time. And in my opinion, one flavor of meeting that tops the charts in uselessness is the “status update” meeting. You know this meeting — the meeting where everyone gets together to share what they’ve been doing. It’s ironic that meetings like this exist because it gets in the way of people actually doing something productive. A cross-functional group of people (product, design, engineering, marketing and so on) working on a new product doesn’t greatly benefit from status updates.

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“Standups” Won’t Save You

I don’t claim to know the perfect recipe for a cross-functional product team…

Growth Hacking is declining in relevance. Will it disappear entirely? I don’t think so. Nor do I think it should. But the craze that once drove every startup (even enterprise!) to look for a Growth Hacker is on a steep decline. And I believe that’s a good thing.

How did it start?

In 2010 a very sharp technology marketer named Sean Ellis coined the term “Growth Hacking”. Andrew Chen, another very skilled technologist and current Partner at A16Z, followed on with a post describing the role of a Growth Hacker as the “new VP of marketing“. In parallel to that companies like Facebook and…

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked on product at Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and Wealthfront, and have advised dozens of other companies on the role of growth and product. Now, as an investor at Unusual Ventures, I get exposure to an even broader collection of companies, and the product cultures within them. Despite that exposure, there is a lot about the role of product that I still don’t understand. But what I can say for sure is that there are as many philosophies on the role of a product manager (PM) as there are letters in the alphabet. …

How startups can optimize and innovate their way to more growth

“Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.”

That’s what Satya Nadella wrote in his opening email to the company shortly after becoming Microsoft’s new CEO. It was a clear call to arms that Microsoft needed to reignite innovation in order to scale the company after roughly 15 years of stagnation. The price of Microsoft’s stock has increased ~3x since he came back because the market seems pleased with Microsoft’s sharpened focus, progress made in the cloud business, and willingness to change how it used to do things in order to compete in the future. …

Andy Johns

Previous growth and product at Facebook, Twitter, Quora and President at Wealthfront. Current consumer investor at Unusual Ventures. Blog at

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