Check your Pulse #23

☕too busy for coffee, ben and jerry's vs. amazon, and the spectrum of wealth 💭

Welcome to the 23rd edition of Check your Pulse, a weekly newsletter where I curate thought provoking reads at the intersection of tech, society, and culture. It is read by 3,000+ founders, creators, and other purposeful readers and has been described by readers as ‘a yoga class for the mind’. If you know someone who’d like this sort of thing in their inbox, they can subscribe here.

Greetings from Cartagena, Colombia! (here for a quick and delightful 48 hours)

People that have worked with me know that I tend to be ruthlessly efficient and have a bias towards effectiveness — I take no meetings without an agenda and no meetings when a call or email will do. That often comes across as cold and intense.

Having to juggle kids and a professional career has made me much more accountable to how I spend my time – one useless meeting means one hour less with my kids, in a very real way.

I’ve gotten great at editing things down to the extreme, but this week, I failed miserably: calendar distractions instead of meaningful, intentional work sucked up all of my energy. One habit that still creates lots of tension in my life is agreeing to meetings in the future. When that day comes, I’m pissed off and depleted and I take it out on everyone around me, even though I’m the one to blame.

Most people wear their busyness as a badge of honor, when the reality is being busy is a sign you’re not in control of your life.

If there’s one thing I aspire to live by it’s Naval’s: “Be too busy to do coffee, while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.”

Great work requires large chunks of time in solitude — and you can’t make that happen in between calls and meetings.

There are 51 days left in this decade. Will you choose to spend your time on the urgent things (meetings, deadlines, answering emails) or the important things (thinking, learning, planning)?



“Focus is a force multiplier on work. Almost everyone I’ve ever met would be well-served by spending more time thinking about what to focus on. It is much more important to work on the right thing than it is to work many hours. Most people waste most of their time on stuff that doesn’t matter.”

-Sam Altman

caught my attention

links to love this week

The Spectrum of Wealth by Morgan Housel is a short, excellent read. Chris Rock joked that Bill Gates would jump out the window if he woke up with Oprah’s money. Like most comedy, it’s funny because it contains a nugget of truth. 💸

You’re never too old to dance to ABBA while wearing sequins. 🎶

What the world will be like in 50 years, according to some of the boldest thinkers. 💭

  • Successful companies will go beyond the bottom line and be gauged by the value they bring to the communities they operate in.

  • Climate and climate migration will make today’s immigration crises look quaint. We’ll be looking at hundreds of millions of people trying to escape one region and move to another. National boundaries won’t really mean anything to these people (and really shouldn’t, since nation states are entirely artificial constructs).

  • There will still be lots of passive income for people or corporations that own things—land, resources, digital networks—but for those who work with their hands, the future looks bleak.

  • I hope that rather than replacing jobs, more companies will figure out how to use AI to replace repetitive tasks and free up people’s minds to become better creators, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

  • I believe choosing a partner will become an informed, data-driven decision. That probably sounds unromantic! But the person we decide to spend our lives with is the single most important choice of our life—and virtually all of us make that decision based on a fleeting gut feeling, rather than what *actually* indicates long-term compatibility. That, I believe, is the true potential of dating apps.

Shopify’s global economic impact report is worth a peak. The narrative that Amazon means e-commerce is dead is good clickbait, but not accurate. Shopify is empowering over one million thriving businesses. 👀

This week, Blackstone agreed to purchase a controlling stake in MagicLab, the parent company of the popular Bumble dating app, valuing the overall business at ~$3 billion. Bumble Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd negotiated this deal while 8 months pregnant and will take over as CEO, retaining most of her ownership. (Fun fact: back when co-founder of Blackstone Steve Schwarzman was at Yale, which at the time only admitted men, he helped overturn a rule that banned women from staying overnight in dorm rooms on campus.) 👏🏼

In case you missed it, Twitter stopped political ads while Facebook employees wrote a letter urging the company's executive team voicing dissent towards its political ads policy. Their argument is that free speech and paid speech are not the same thing. Allowing paid civic misinformation to run on the platform in its current state has the potential to increase distrust in our platform by allowing similar paid and organic content to sit side-by-side — some with third-party fact-checking and some without. Additionally, it communicates that we are OK profiting from deliberate misinformation campaigns by those in or seeking positions of power. 🗣

Related: Silicon Valley used to love Mark Zuckerberg. Not anymore. (Vanity Fair) 🤔

The Art of Blooming Late is a great read that advocates for accepting that real “becoming” may only happen in our mid-life. As you move forward, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s never too late to “become” yourself. Aristotle, for example, didn’t fully devote himself to writing and philosophy until he was nearly 50. There are also benefits to taking a long, winding path to self-fulfillment. Remember that age typically brings wisdom, resilience, humility, self-knowledge, and creativity. This is one reason the average age of founders of high-growth start-ups is 45. Citing the work of developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, Karlgaard writes, the “ages 40 to 64 constitute a unique period where one’s creativity and experience combine with a universal human longing to make our lives matter.” 👵🏽

This lost video of Jeff Bezos in 1997 is 💯

A comprehensive analysis by Scientific American concluded that social media has not destroyed a generation.  To be clear, it is not that social media is never a problem. Heavy use is associated with potentially harmful effects on well-being. But effects from social media appear to depend on the user. 📱

On a related note, I love this nuanced article defending screen time for kids and moving the conversation from judging the screen itself towards judging the activity taking place on the screen. We’ve always resisted new things — there were reading skeptics in 1938 👇🏽

A must watch. 👇🏽

venture corner

a roundup of startupy things from around the web

The Gross Margin Problem: Lessons for Tech-Enabled Startups is a good read. Growth solves many problems at startups, unit economics is not one of them. 📈

This is true and important 👇🏽

I love this piece urging founders building a company to decide whether they’re a Ben and Jerry’s or an Amazon.  The organic model is to start small, with limited goals, and slowly build a business over a long period of time. I’m going to call this the Ben and Jerry’s model, because Ben and Jerry’s fits this model pretty well. The other model, popularly called “Get Big Fast” (a.k.a. “Land Grab”), requires you to raise a lot of capital, and work as quickly as possible to get big fast without concern for profitability. I’m going to call this the Amazon model, because Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has practically become the celebrity spokesmodel for Get Big Fast. The worst thing you can do is fail to decide whether you’re going to be a Ben and Jerry’s company or an Amazon company… Both models work, but you’ve got to pick one and stick to it, or you’ll find things mysteriously going wrong and you won’t quite know why. 🍦📚

have you heard of?

Nuuly is a new monthly rental subscription for clothing. It’s similar to Rent the Runway, except it was started by the company behind Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie. Offering 6 items for $88 a month (cheaper than Rent the Runway) it includes free 2-day shipping, returns, professional cleaning, and no late fees. For brands, clothing rental is an opportunity to take advantage of excess inventory, present upselling opportunities, and monetize changing consumer preferences. What’s most interesting here is that it took Rent the Runway 10 years to hit on a scalable model and Nuuly has essentially replicated their model and leveraged their strategic advantage in merchandising, millions of customers and data points, and a broad point-of-sale distribution network. In other words, this may be an example of a startup popularizing and validating a model and a large company capitalizing on it.⁣

overheard on twitter

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

My name is Sari Azout. I am a design-thinker, strategist, and early stage startup investor at Level Ventures and Rokk3r. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

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