How I used Twilio and a few lines of Python to stop all unwanted callers permanently.

I, like most people, am annoyed by telemarketers. But recently the problem has gotten so much worse due to the automation of scam calls. This was covered in detail by NPR’s Planet Money and investigated extensively by Reply All in an amazing 2 part podcast (available below). The Planet Money piece shows that these robocalls are unlikely to end anytime soon, since the FTC is moving very slowly on the issue. Then, right in the middle of the piece, they played an ad for Google Cloud Platform and I got an idea. I could make a bot that would screen for unwanted calls and only let quality calls through. …

I read all the food, beverage, and CPG (consumer packaged goods) news so you don’t have to! Here’s what happened last month and why it matters:

Big Company Moves:

Amazon is again top of mind as they cut prices at Whole Foods in a move nearly everyone expected. Still hilarious to see Alexas being sold at the entrance of the store as “Farm Fresh.” Lower prices are making things harder for rival stores like Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Safeway, who were already struggling to compete with Amazon in an increasing number of categories. Read more.

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Mmmmm, I love the smell of fresh IoT devices in the morning!

IBM launched a new blockchain-based initiative aimed at improving supply chain transparency in the food sector. Blockchains are a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. IBM is increasingly reliant on marketing projects/stunts to drive consulting revenue growth and I doubt this will have any staying power, but food safety is incredibly important and I will support any initiative aimed at improving consumer health.

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Reading. It’s an important thing to do and an even more important thing to do quickly. Tai Lopez, in his seminal treatise on reading titled “Here In My Garage (Official): Lamborghini, Knowledge, And Books”, argues that reading a book a day leads to overnight success, especially when paired with a paid subscription to his “Mentorship” club. In this post, I’ll show you how to take this concept to the next level, break free of all the normal constraints, and read 10 books a day!

Step 1: Use Audiobooks!

It can be very hard to find the time to sit down, get some peace and quiet, and focus on a good book. Audiobooks allow you to multitask! I often listen to audiobooks while walking the dog, doing the dishes, or running errands. …

Today, a friend of mine, Brett Fink, asked me for my 3 favorite companies from this YC batch’s demo day.

That’s an extremely difficult question, since there are so many excellent companies in this batch and they have all made incredible progress, but I thought I would try and compile a list of companies I thought were interesting and why. Here’s the full list:

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Click for link to the spreadsheet.

Full disclosure, I don’t have a financial stake in any of these firms, I’m just interested in them because of my background and experience. I can’t share numbers about their progress, but every company listed here had some very impressive stats to share at Demo Day. …

I have been a hobbyist data-scientist since I took my first economics class and wanted to go deeper into the quantitative side of the discipline. Consequently, the potential for quantum computing to speed up the training of complex deep learning models has me more excited than I’ve ever been about a new technology. …

With a case study on the Hyperloop launch announcement

In 2012, I saw the most amazing visualization in the New York Times. It was created by one of my favorite engineers, Mike Bostock, and his team of data visualization specialists to give readers a deeper look into the most polarizing issues of Obama’s reelection campaign.

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When we launched Soylent, we were flooded with comments on Hacker News, Twitter, and Reddit. There was so much feedback, both positive and negative, we actually couldn’t read through every comment. Faced with the problem of having too much customer feedback (an amazing problem to have), I built a solution that let us highlight the most important issues to both our supporters and detractors. …

I read all the food, beverage, and CPG (consumer packaged goods) news so you don’t have to! Here’s what happened last month and why it matters:

Big Company Moves:

It’s been a big month for Amazon as they continue to freak everyone out by marching relentlessly towards world domination of commerce. The Whole Foods acquisition has everyone thinking of how much bigger Amazon could be in a relatively short amount of time and marketing agencies are starting to pop up that specialize in marketing to Amazon customers. They also launched meal kits and have plans for “single cow burgers.” Link

On a somewhat related note, P&G reduced their digital ad spending by $140M last quarter. Some people think this is a sign that the online ad space is not healthy, but I actually think it’s more of a sign that P&G still hasn’t adapted it’s business model to a digitally native world.

FYI: I’m not selling anything and I’m not affiliated with any credit card company.

A few years ago I started using this credit card card to repair my credit. The best part is that the card has no annual fee and it’s so exclusive, I’m the only one that has it. Here’s what it looks like:

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For reference this card:

  • Helped me increase my credit score over 200 points.
  • Has no annual fee whatsoever.
  • Makes a mockery of America’s propensity for fetishizing consumerism.

But first, some backstory:

When I started my first company, I was straight out of college and only had a few thousand dollars saved up for expenses. I also had a few credit cards with an aggregate limit of around $5,000. After months of failing to get the business off the ground and running out of savings, I started using my credit cards as extra runway. I don’t recommend this at all; but it allowed me to keep doing what I loved and avoid getting a “real job.” …

Since leaving Soylent, I’ve had a ton of interesting conversations with friends and new acquaintances about what inspires me as an entrepreneur and what type of companies I get excited about generally. While Soylent has pioneered a number of exciting trends (subscription ecommerce, plant-based food, etc), ultimately what I love most about entrepreneurship is something I call “Stealth Help”.

Stealth Help is when a product precipitates a positive lifestyle change without having to heavily market that as the singular product benefit. Essentially, it’s a positive externality of user adoption. Put another way, Stealth Help is the opposite of those late-night TV infomercials where some quack doctor tries to sell you a miracle weight-loss pill that costs a ton of money and ultimately winds up in the trash. …

After 5 incredible years at Soylent, I’m moving on to work on new projects. Co-founding Soylent was the most deeply rewarding experience of my professional career and I am permanently indebted to all the passionate, smart, and hard-working folks who helped get us to where we are today.

In 2012, I moved into a house in Sunnyvale, California with Rob Rhinehart, Matt Cauble, and David Renteln. Although we were working on different ideas at the time, we would go on to co-found Soylent together in 2013, shortly after Rob released his blog post announcing that he had stopped eating food entirely for a full month. The history of the company has been well documented (I encourage you to read through the amazingly in-depth four-part profile in the Dieline) and there are too many great memories to share in this post, but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all the customers, employees, investors, executives, and partners who have made Soylent possible. The company is poised for incredible growth and has the proper people in place to achieve the full vision laid out by Rob and the early team. …


John Coogan

Co-founder of @Soylent, was CTO there for ~5 years. I write about technology, marketing, ecommerce, food, productivity, and anything that can be hacked.

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