Check your Pulse # 64

Introducing The Modern Billboard, invest in and own digital real estate on promising sites

Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 64th edition of Check your Pulse, a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human. This issue is sponsored by one of my favorite startup communities: Launch House👌 Launch House members get to live together in cool mansions and get connected to world class builders, investors, and CEOs. Their next one month residency begins on Nov 28th in NYC and LA. They have limited spots so apply today!


Hello, hello.

I’m deep down the web3 rabbit hole. Like my friend Nathan, I’ve been oscillating between fascination and disgust with web 3. He said it better than I could:

“Some days I feel like the holy trinity of NFTs, DAOs, and DeFi might replace the very foundation that society rests on. Other days it feels like 90% vaporware and Ponzi schemes that collectively emit more CO2 than a medium-sized country. The challenge is to hold both of those ideas at once”

No doubt you’ve read about the NFT craze this year, where jpegs are selling for millions of dollars in some cases. I join you in thinking this is insane.

What’s lost amidst the shock and awe headlines is the use cases beyond collectible penguin jpegs.

In Check your Pulse #62, I brought up tokenized advertising as a promising use case:

What if you could own a small piece of the digital real estate in promising sites/startups you believe in? 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. 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.

There’s no better way to learn than by doing, and I’m excited to share that, together with a great crew of Internet friends, I built an early version of this.

It’s coming soon, but I’m sharing a sneak preview today with CYP readers only.

Say hello to the modern billboard - the first ever experiment in tokenized advertising, allowing you to invest in and own digital real estate on promising sites. 

Here’s an example of how a modern billboard might look on the New York Times 👇🏾

A modern billboard is broken down into 48 lots, each represented as an NFT that is freely tradable. 

In layman’s terms, this means you can buy and own an ad lot on a billboard that will be permanently hosted on a curated set of sites (not the New York Times… yet). As a lot owner, you can upload an image + link out to a URL of your choice. 

Wanna promote your company or project? Stick your logo in it.
Wanna show off your penguin avatar and link to your twitter profile? Do your thing.
Want to rent the ad space to someone else and make $? Dream big.

The cool thing is, you can buy a lot, hold it for months or years, and sell it in the future - that "digital real estate" should (in theory) get more valuable as the sites grow in value. 

It’s the benefits of advertising, the potential upside of an investment, and the feel good vibes of patronage ;)

They say build a product you wish you had, and we did. I’m committed to exploring alternative ways to fund Startupy that better align our community with our upside. With that said, the first billboards set to release are for Startupy, and my friends at Koodos and Coinvise.

✨ If you want pre-release access to Startupy’s billboard, sign up to be notified when we’re live.

✨ If this resonates, it would mean the world to me if you leave some feedback here.

If you’re still with me, thank you!

I built Startupy, Ghost Knowledge, Modern Billboard, and this newsletter (which now has over 12,000 of you) all in the past year without leaving my home, whilst mothering three kids under six.

Keep shipping on your terms 🚀

Sari

I don’t know who said this, but YES: the grass is always greener on the side that’s fertilized with bullshit 💯

The awesome crew behind Napkin converted thoughts and ideas I’ve shared in this newsletter into a vibey experience. There’s so much value in the archives y’all. Check it out.🧠

Keep an eye on Clay - the best personal CRM tool I’ve seen, optimized to help you be more thoughtful with the people that matter. CYP subscribers get 60 days membership for free here. (sponsored but I would rave about them regardless) ✨

I've fallen deep down the Dee Hock (founder of Visa) rabbit hole. His short essays are a goldmine of wisdom. ✍🏽

This sums up my six year old’s attitude on life. Send help. 🆘👇🏾

This, on writing. Of course, fancy writing doesn't just conceal ideas. It can also conceal the lack of them. That's why some people write that way, to conceal the fact that they have nothing to say. Whereas writing simply keeps you honest. ✍🏽

This is great 💯

This is just a great ad, from Italic. 🕯️

What a read! If you’re on the fence about crypto, I suggest spending 28 minutes reading this. 👁️

This interview with Chris Dixon is worth your time. Who’s more interesting: the person who happens to be sitting next to you in real life or the most interesting person in the world talking about your favorite topic? No wonder everyone is staring at their phone. 💭

Fantastic read on why we need more Omakase creators! People usually don’t know what they want until someone shows them or until theI encounter it in the world for the very first time. That's why the greatest role of an entrepreneur is shaper of desires. 👈🏽


I’ve kept this newsletter free, both to spread my ideas as wide as possible and so I don't feel pressured to write when I have nothing to say. 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 the founder of Startupy (coming soon). I spend my days thinking, building, and investing at the intersection of Web 3, curation, knowledge management, and the future of work. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

Want more?

Follow me on TwitterMedium, and InstagramOr get access to my second brain. 🧠

Thanks for being here!

Check your Pulse #63

Re-organizing the world's information: why we need more boutique search engines

Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 63rd edition of Check your Pulse, a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human. Today’s issue is sponsored by Endel - an app with personalized soundscapes to help you focus, relax, and sleep. I wrote today’s essay in two sittings using Endel - a game changer. From their vibey manifesto: “Information overload is destroying our psyche” - a combination of Endel and boutique search engines (the subject of today’s essay) might just be what our bodies and minds need. Check your Pulse readers can get one month free, no card needed using this link.


Hi friends, I took a break to birth a human but I’m back.

I now have a baby, a haircut, and a finished essay

If curation and knowledge management are your thing, head on over to Mirror to read the full essay.

TL;DR:

  • Curators are the new Google. What started as a well-intentioned way to organize the world’s information has turned into a business focusing most of its resources on monetizing clicks to support advertisers rather than focusing on the search experience for people.

  • The mission of a company worth ~2 trillion dollars is to “organize the world’s information” and yet the Internet remains poorly organized. In a world of infinite information, it’s no longer enough to organize the world’s information. It becomes important to organize the world’s trustworthy information.

  • We are far from achieving the grand vision of the Internet.  Human knowledge today is a vast ocean of ephemeral and fragmented info, with the best sources near-impossible to find. Google is a great example of how the internet enabled scale and speed: every page on the web returned to you within a second. But we’re now seeing this scale is at odds with a fundamental human need: relevance. 

  • Vertical Search aggregators like Yelp, Expedia, Zillow, and Behance fill functionality and relevancy gaps using structured data specific to their industries.  But here too, relevance depends on the sociology of the current moment.  For example, on Behance, school and location feature prominently as filters, implying that where you live and where you went to school is an important indicator of the quality of your design portfolio. But in a world where talent is being decoupled from credentialism and geography, those filters are losing relevance.

  • On Yelp, a search for Electricians in Miami yields a page titled “The Best 10 Electricians in Miami, FL” with text underneath that tells me these are Sponsored Results. Do the top 10 electricians in Miami happen to be those that pay Yelp? My mind is doing some serious mental gymnastics. When you monetize via ads, curation takes a backseat to featuring advertisers and platforms end up making ethically dubious design choices that generate massive trust gaps.

  • A combination of irrelevant filters, ad-based business models, and unconstrained supply has overwhelmed consumers and made it hard to find signal in vertical search aggregators. 

  • The need for signal gives way to curators. But thus far, the conversation around “curation” has been too focused on the content and not enough on the structure. We’ve accepted the job of the curator as providing a list of links, a song rec, etc.. all inside linear feed structures designed to surface the ideas of the last 24hrs, not accumulate knowledge.

  • Curation, when thought of in the context of sharing bite-sized, isolated bits in feed-like architectures, is predominantly about entertainment, not utility. It’s not wrong to say there is a market for this kind of curation. What people miss is that this market is already captured by Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. 

  • The solution is better search and better curation, all wrapped in a better business model - a combination I call boutique search engines. Boutique search engines sit at the intersection of vertical search aggregators (think Linkedin, Yelp, Behance, Zillow) and curation platforms (Substack, Tiktok, Twitter).

  • Searchable, human-curated interfaces will help us move away from ephemeral, time-bound feeds, into contextual, high signal, trustworthy knowledge spaces. 

  • At Startupy I’m building a boutique search engine for startup insights and the people and companies that have them. We have a firehose of insights being created by founders, funders, thinkers and operators, and few people devoted to filtering, organizing, curating and indexing that information. That’s what Startupy does. 

  • Building a valuable boutique search engine will require making countless nuanced product choices. Read the full essay for a detailed breakdown of the questions keeping me up at night. It will be a long journey, but I am invigorated by the process of manifesting the answers into a tool that can help us use the explosion of information to harness our potential as a species, not to keep us scrolling.

READ THE ESSAY

I’ve been on a brain-high writing this and I’m now trying to reconcile this category-defining piece with the fact that Startupy is, at the moment, a personal project that looks more like my own flourishing digital garden and less like a boutique search engine. As I transition to making Startupy my main thing, I’m looking for a Lead Engineer to join me in the front lines of building this new knowledge graph. If that’s you, or someone you know, email me: sari@startupy.world

🙏🏼

Sari

Last Crumb sells luxury cookies in weekly drops that sell out in 20 seconds. Proof that adults are hungry for fun and delight. 🍪

A very good personal website 💻

I got up close and personal with Every. Companies need financial capital. But they also need emotional capital—good energy, positivity, and resilience. Ironically, being surrounded by close friends and having a strong support system is the best source of emotional capital for founders. 📿

Haley Nahman on depression: “In its more severe forms, depression can keep people in bed for days, but my milder strain tends to manifest as an accumulation of insignificant failures. I notice a sock has fallen from the hamper, and I ignore it for days. I leave a cabinet door perennially ajar, even when it bugs me. I abandon a cup on the counter and let sticky juice coagulate in its seams. Though this sort of neglect can register as minor, it represents something fundamental: a kind of mental blindness to optimism, an unwillingness to see my actions as meaningful, and a self-defeating inner monologue that favors stasis above all else.” 🥱

Michael Nielsen on the compliment deficit: “There is this enormous compliment deficit in the world....Almost everybody's friends know a whole lot of really good things about them, that the person doesn't know about themselves." 💯

Marina Keegan was 22 years old when she died in a car crash. Her essay, The Opposite of Loneliness is magic. We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. 🙏🏼

Endel (the vibey sounds app that sponsored today’s newsletter) just released a new soundscape in partnership with Grammy-winning RnB star Miguel. If you missed the promo at the top of the issue, they are hooking up my readers with one month free, no card needed using this link. 👂🏾

The amount of wisdom in this essay on the future of expertise is 💯

I look forward to every issue of the Demand Curve newsletter. There’s too much fluffy startup content out there. This is not that. It’s packed with practical insights and step-by-step playbooks to grow your startup. (sponsored, but trust me when I say it’s worth it) 📈

The single best resource to understand why crypto is blowing TF up. 🔥

This, via Molly Mielke: As technology advances, software will increasingly be chosen not just for how well it addresses its use case, but how it conveys its personality, similar to how we choose our clothes. 👩🏽‍💻

Eugene Wei wrote a banger essay on social graph design (seeded via Ghost Knowledge). Who we follow can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. First you build your graph, then your graph builds you. 👁️


I’ve kept this newsletter free, both to spread my ideas as wide as possible and so I don't feel pressured to write when I have nothing to say. 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 the founder of Startupy (coming soon). I spend my days thinking, building, and investing at the intersection of Web 3, curation, knowledge management, and the future of work. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

Want more?

Follow me on TwitterMedium, and InstagramOr get access to my second brain. 🧠

Thanks for being here!

Check your Pulse #62

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.

Want more?

Follow me on TwitterMedium, and InstagramOr get access to my second brain. 🧠

Thanks for being here!

Introducing Ghost Knowledge – a startupy.world drop

Knowledge from the people that don't write enough

Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 61st edition of Check your Pulse, a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human.

Hello, hello!

Last year, when I decided to take a step back from the consulting world, I made a promise to myself: I was going to use my expanded brain real estate to build cool, creative, values-aligned Internet experiments.

Today, I’m excited to launch Ghost Knowledge, a 1-week crowdfunding experiment to get the people who don’t normally write online to share their knowledge. 👻 🧠


Why does this matter?

Human evolution can be seen through the lens of publishing advancements; from oral language and the printing press, to ad-funded Internet writing.

Recently, subscription media has made great strides, with Substack popularizing newsletter subscriptions as the dominant business model for writing online.

But the paid newsletter model only works for a certain kind of writer – one that wants to primarily dedicate themselves to sharing their ideas online, consistently. The model doesn’t work for the inspired one-timer, busy founder, or expert practitioner that doesn’t want the pressure to publish often.

There's a leaky pipeline of knowledge from expert communities to the outside world – too much knowledge remains locked behind in emails and private exchanges or behind company walls. 

We call this “ghost knowledge”.


How does Ghost Knowledge work?

Ghost Knowledge was created to experiment with a new way to fund quality, one-off writing that’s not part of a subscription or newsletter. How does it work? SIMPLE.

1. Submit an idea for an essay you’d want to read along with whom you'd want the author to be OR support other people's requests.

2. Pledge $ to the crowdfund.

3. If the crowdfund meets a minimum of $500, we reach out to the author. If the author agrees to write the piece, we’ll reach out to collect your payment. 

❤️ Oh, and if you’re the original requester, you get 10% of the proceeds of the crowdfund – a fun experiment in shared upside!

What’s in it for…

Authors
A path to being paid for one-off work that's not part of a subscription or newsletter, and that remains a public good (no paywall).

Patrons
Access to insights from people that don’t normally share their knowledge + the social and utilitarian benefits of supporting the creators you believe in. 

Everyone else
Knowledge without paywalls.


As a bootstrapped project, there are a lot of things on our wishlist we couldn’t get to. But constraints breed creativity and many hours deep in the Airtable and Zapier forums later, we are proud preachers of the no-code gospel.

What a time to be alive! What a time to be making things online!


If you’re feeling the Ghost Knowledge vibe and believe in what the small and mighty Startupy crew is doing, here’s how you can help 👇

UPVOTE US ON PRODUCT HUNT

REQUEST AN ESSAY

SUPPORT EXISTING REQUESTS

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

Cheers to a world with fewer, better content 👊
Cheers to making the Internet a more delightful place 👊
And cheers to normalizing Zoom meetings with your camera off 👊

A million times, thank you!
Sari ✌️

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, early stage startup investor at Level Ventures, and founder of Startupy. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

Want more?

Follow me on Twitter and InstagramOr get access to my second brain. 🧠

Thanks for being here!

Check your Pulse #61

on my mind

Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 61st 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 and 50 MVPs for some of the most exciting startups, including Oura, Block Renovation, and Keeps. If you’re building something, reach out to them here.


Hello, friends.

For most of last year I was able to let an idea rattle around in my brain for a day or two, and then like magic, a fully formed think piece or even a whole essay would pop into my head. I can’t seem to find the headspace for that these days, but I’m trying something different today. Instead of a fully formed essay, I’m sharing a collection of evolving notes and things on my mind. More half baked ideas, less friction to hitting that SEND button.

🧠 I spent a lot of time going through old photos on my phone when I was in the hospital. One thing I noticed - there’s a big gap between seeing a photo of myself and appreciating it. It’s only days (or years) later that I appreciate how happy I was in that moment, or how fabulous I looked. We are so used to being grateful, but this often happens in the form of nighttime rituals (like the one I practice with my kids every night) that, while worthwhile on some level, are just an abstract reminder that on paper we have it pretty good. Gratitude and happiness, when we do genuinely feel it, arises from experiences we are currently having. I love the Kurt Vonnegut quote that goes: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” When you feel pain, for example, simply remembering that you have been healthy in the past is a dull comfort compared to how wonderful it feels when you luxuriate in feeling good right in the moment. For me, right now, it’s wonderful that I have this warm drink. This laptop is so quick; it doesn’t lag like the old one. This chair is comfortable. The sunset views from my backyard are insane. There's nothing to say here to round it out — all I know is I’m spending more time noticing when I’m happy, and less time evaluating my life in my head. On that note, here’s a photo of my extremely pregnant self, taken yesterday.

🧠 Believing that things last is the root of our unhappiness. Nothing, no matter how good or bad, is going to last. In pain? It will pass. Sleep-deprived with a newborn? It will pass. There's a Jewish folktale about King Solomon asking a counselor for an adage that would make the happy man sad, and the sad man happy. The counselor, perplexed, asked a jeweler in the bazaar for advice. The jeweler inscribed on a ring: 'This too shall pass.' Call it obvious, but it’s taken me my entire life to half-master this axiom.

🧠 Status symbols change: Idleness and leisure were considered virtues in the ancient world, where today being busy is a badge of honor. Owning a car used to represent freedom. We’re now transitioning to a world where not having a car is freedom. In the past, going online was a luxury. Now, going offline is a luxury. There was a time when a feed full of selfies was cool. Now it’s lame. One of the most fascinating things about Poparazzi is that it shot itself to the #1 spot in the App Store by building its entire product around one of Instagram’s least important features: tagged photos. Status symbol changes represent new product opportunities.

🧠 On the topic of Poparazzi, it’s clear that the design space for even seemingly trivial software is huge. We’ll continue to see successful new product variants in many categories. Why? Because software today is as much a utility as it is an expression of psychology and culture. For example, Startupy is my own interpretation of how the world of work/collaboration is changing, what new information graphs are missing, and how people might want to search in conditions of information abundance. The product itself reflects how I see the world. If product is art and philosophy, it follows there’s room for many interpretations and dynamics are less winner take all than we’ve been led to believe.

🧠 The more my career takes me in the direction of creative projects that require peace and quiet, alone time, and imagination, the more I realize that being productive has very little to do with high-stakes, high intensity conferences, back to back meetings, can't-catch-a-breath to-do lists, or endless projects I’ll half-ass due to exhaustion. What makes work good is time to read, think, slow down, and create a rich inner life. In other words, good work comes from slowing the fuck down and trusting that good ideas will come through if we give ourselves enough time and space to see them. The biggest lie founders tell themselves is that if they slow down they’ll get left behind.

🧠 As I’m spending more time on Startupy, I’m thinking about how I want to build this company. I’m just as interested in what I’m building (the product) than in how I’m building it (the process). I’m still thinking through what matters to me but I keep coming back to one thing: strip away the bullshit. For customers - it means no default on notifications, or unskippable ads. It means calling them humans, not consumers. For us as a company it means no meetings when an email will do. It also means keeping the team as small as possible and finding a way to do things without hiring more people. It means building the business at a pace that suits my sanity. And it means really, really caring. I want everything we do to be tasteful.

🧠 Products we’re using at Startupy that I’m obsessed with: Mercury (banking), Linear (project management), Figma (design), Typeform (forms), Webflow and Zapier (for a drop we’re launching next week), Airtable (database), Stripe and Memberful (payments and member management). What we’re still looking for: Analytics (we’re using Fathom but I’m not sold and I hate Google Analytics), Budgeting/Finance (waiting for Runway to launch), Community Software (am I the only person in this world who profusely dislikes Discord?) and better ways to coordinate and distribute equity/revenue to contributors (looking at Fairmint, Rally, Sourcecred, and others… but the solution space still feels ripe here).

🧠 Changes in tech and culture have opened the possibility space for how groups can work together (Packy wrote a bang post yesterday exploring this). A core part of the long-term thesis for Startupy is that a new form of organizing that makes it easy for groups of people to collaborate is not just possible, but optimal. Corporate legacy structures are outdated. Old social technologies like coops are ready to be paired with modern technologies (like tokens) that can align the incentives of collaborators in new ways. For many people, the idea of a long-term career is being replaced by a string of interesting projects and flexible ownership will power this shift. A lot of the conversation around “redefinition of teams” and new employment models is happening in DAOs but we need more user interfaces to help us understand the possibilities, and to help us bridge the gap between web2 and web3.

🧠 Self-organization and decentralized power are one of the strongest themes of the blockchain/DAO/decentralized movement. I’m drawn to the ideals of governing collectively, where decision-making power is shared among those doing the work. But I have a hard time reconciling the idea of no top-down control with the reality that a good product requires a certain degree of “founder dictatorship” to embody a singular and coherent identity.

A Union College study found that fraternity students saw a 0.25 drop in GPA, but a 36% rise in lifetime income known as the “Bro Wage Premium.” Personal networks matter. 🍹

I enjoyed taking this just launched personality test, by Ray Dalio. 🔮

Great Marc Andreessen interview. I was particularly drawn to his remarks on Reality Privilege, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The vast majority of humanity, lacks Reality Privilege -- their online world is, or will be, immeasurably richer and more fulfilling than most of the physical and social environment around them... Most people will be able to express far fuller versions of themselves and have richer and more fulfilling lives online than they would have in the old purely offline world… We should build -- and we are building -- online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in. 🖥️

This: The goal is resonance - resonated. When two people work on a shared project – a joke, gossip, a product, an essay – and are able to understand and build on each other, that’s the peak of the human condition. 💯

Whoa. Jumping from 25,000 feet without a parachute and landing safely. 🪂

Mare of Eastown is the best show I’ve watched in a long time. Kate Winslet deserves all the awards! 📽️

This list of the 28 best affordable hotels in the world is giving me serious wanderlust. ✈️

LOVE the idea of a human library. 📚

Startups on my radar 🚀

  • MeetsySoftware that automatically pairs your community members for 1:1s - scaling intimacy.

  • June: Instant analytics, on top of Segment.

  • Marco: Curated experiences that bring teams together

  • Party by Numbers: A NYC-based events company that delivers a whole party - food, bev, decor, and flair - direct to your door.

  • Blank Street: A small format coffee-shop that is actually a platform to launch your own business.

A brilliant Twitter account that resurfaces fascinating discussions that shaped the tech industry. 📝

So real. What MVP really means. 👇🏾


If you’re wondering who’s behind this newsletter:

My name is Sari Azout. I am a design-thinker, strategist, early stage startup investor at Level Ventures, and founder of Startupy (coming soon). My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

Want more?

Follow me on TwitterMedium, and Instagram. Or get access to my second brain. 🧠

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