tokenized advertising, reframing failure as possibility, and why the talent is staying focused
Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 62nd edition of Check your Pulse, a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human. Today’s issue is sponsored by Intent, a dev shop that has built over 160 apps for startups like Oura, HQ Trivia, and Lover. If you’re looking for a development partner, reach out to them here.
On reframing failure as possibility: It’s not groundbreaking to point out that people exist in very different emotional realities, but it still amazes me. In particular because the world’s mood, judging by my Instagram feed, has been fun, vibrantly alive, a pent up hunger to make up for lost time, while my own mood for the past few months has been bleh - I’m just muddling through my days, getting by, hoping that the milestone of birthing a human being (any day now) will relieve some of the pain I’ve endured as a result of the shitshow that is getting lung surgery at seven months pregnant. Like any good American, I felt the pressure to power through the pain and chaos and keep crossing things off my to-do list.
I’m a list person. I always feel better after making lists. By all accounts, my ambitious goals at the start of the year didn’t survive contact with the real world. I have two choices: beat myself up for not doing what I set out to do, or respect my limitations, get off the fucking hamster wheel for no other reason than my body needs it, and be excited to have ideas to come back to in the future. I’m choosing the latter. If you find yourself today or in the future going through a shitstorm that derails your plans, I hope you find a way to allow the gap between where you are and where you want to be inspire you, instead of become an excuse to beat yourself up.
On Ghost Knowledge. Startupy’s Drop001 - Ghost Knowledge - was fun! Here’s a deck with recap + learnings. Overall, it’s clear that there is a market for one-off async knowledge sharing, and this works best with knowledge that provides a ton of utility to a few people vs. some utility to a ton of people. For example, if you’re building a recommendation feed inside an app, you’re probably willing to pay big $$$ for Twitter’s Feed designer to share his/her learnings. I still think there’s an underserved market for practical, specific business knowledge, the sort of secret intellectual capital few people have access to. When an angel investor writes a check into a startup, more than buying an asset with a potential return, they are paying to learn, and getting a status symbol in the process. What if instead of raising traditional VC, you announced you are working on something and were paid by people to document your learnings? My bet is people would pay. There’s so much talk about learning in public - but how much of that learning is performative sharing of selective metrics vs. transparent, highly actionable insights (this is why this account is so good)? I don’t know if we’ll run a Ghost Knowledge Season Two, but if we do, one idea is let creators set up bounties for themselves and get paid to learn in public. The core thesis remains unchanged: we need better models to fund one-off knowledge sharing that is not part of a subscription or publication.
On tokenized advertising. Here’s another idea some friends and I have been toying with (👀maybe drop 002?) — what if you could own a small piece of the digital real estate in promising sites/startups you believe in? In the physical real estate business, it is well known that value is driven primarily by one thing: location, location, location! The same logic applies to digital spaces, but thus far there have been few ways to monetize valuable digital real estate (domain squatting?). Owning shares of a startup has proven to be a huge source of wealth creation - but most people can’t invest in startups, either due to lack of access or not being accredited investors. And most startups thus far have had to trade money for freedom, defaulting to raising venture funding even though the tool of venture capital is appropriate for a tiny, tiny fraction of companies. I think there’s an opportunity for tokenized advertising to allow people to bet early on promising sites, while opening up a new revenue stream for startups to raise funding from their community. The lines between patronage, investing, and advertising are blurring. Ad products typically only work once you have millions of eyeballs. But tokenization introduces a new dynamic. By combining the benefits of an ad with the appreciation potential of an NFT, your community has a unique way to align themselves with your mission, promote their projects, and retain significant upside potential, making it possible to bet early on promising sites. I feel way out of my league here and I’m sure I’m missing something. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
On the talent of staying focused. One of my deeply held beliefs is that it is more important to work on the right thing than it is to work many hours. Another way to put this is to say that what many people attribute to genius is just time. Sure, not all of us have the song writing abilities of Lin Manuel Miranda. But how many of us have spent seven years cranking on one thing? It took Lin one year alone to write the song My Shot. Committing to one thing is really fucking hard. In Dedicated, Pete Davis talks about how we live in “Infinite Browsing Culture,” where we’re presented with the illusion of endless optionality for everything: content, romantic partners, jobs, side gigs and creative projects. He argues that the people we truly admire commit instead of browse. Look around - Packy committed to the newsletter game. Li committed to the creator economy. David Perell committed to writing. Any long-term project requires sustained interest through ebbs and flows in confidence, and prolonged periods of boredom and hopelessness. The talent, I suppose, is staying focused.
Than Average is an interesting experiment in how you value and compare yourself to others. ⚖️
What's old is new again! Mailman lets you receive emails in batches a few times a day vs. email just flowing in constantly. If you want to protect your focus and make your inbox significantly calmer, give it a spin. The best part? No app to download, no software to install. Just a simple plugin. Get 20% off your first year using this link. (sponsored) 📪
Designer brain, too real 🤣👇🏾
The retail price of a bottle of Coca-Cola stayed set at 5 cents for 70 years (1890-1959) despite inflation, 3 wars, and the Great Depression. The main reason? Coke's vending machines were built to only accept nickels and the company didn't want to double the price. 🤯
Whoa, did you know California is the 5th largest economy in the world? 🌎👇🏾
This resonates 💯👇🏾
Startups on my radar 🚀
Mighty - an e-comm platform for kids to run their own businesses.
Pietra - really solid merch-as-a-service business.
Nue Life - psychedelics meets tech mental wellness platform.
Path - a robo-advisor for Gen Z.
The Tinderization of the Internet. People want to use social media to meet other people—not to win the social analytics game. No one cares how many people you matched with on Tinder. No one cares how many followers you have on Twitter. Did you find love? Did you find sex? Did you find a friend? These are the questions that matter.
Rex Woodbury, on the Financialization of Everything What’s groundbreaking about crypto is that it shifts the web from social currency to economic currency. When I like your Instagram post today, I grant you some social capital; what’s the equivalent for the cryptomedia age? Me “liking” your content may mean me financially investing in your success and sharing in future income. Maybe Spotify’s Year in Review will award “stock” in your top artists. If you’re in the top 1% of Olivia Rodrigo listeners, you get 1,000 shares of $OLIVIA token, good for 0.001% of her Spotify royalties. The value being created online today largely goes uncaptured. That won’t happen in the future—we’ll all be investors and equity owners, sharing in our own upsides and the upsides of the people we believe in.
This newsletter is free but not cheap. I don’t expect you to pay me anything, but if you’re feeling extra thankful, my venmo is @sari-azout
If you’re wondering who’s behind this newsletter:
My name is Sari Azout. I am a design-thinker, strategist, angel investor, and founder of Startupy (coming soon). My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.
Thanks for being here!