Check your Pulse #47

Hey for X, Software with a Soul, Progress Studies

Hi, I’m Sari Azout and this is the the 47th edition of Check your Pulse, a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human. I try to make this one of the best emails you get each week. If you’ve been sent this email and you’re not a subscriber, you can join by clicking on this big button below.

Happy Sunday, friends.

I’ve been slow — my three year old son accidentally spilled a cup of tea on my laptop last week, which marked the end of my laptop’s life. I’m not proud of the way I managed the situation - I lost my temper. If you’re addicted to doing or having a hard time decoupling your identity from your work, I recommend this talk —from human doing to human being. I still have a long ways to go.

In a recent Invest like the Best interview, John Collison, the founder of Stripe, said:

When an industry, technology, or product area feels mature and "settled", it doesn't mean that it’s a bad space to build something new. In fact, such inertia or perceived product maturity may be signs of a huge opportunity. In these cases, you should build from the ideal experience backwards, as Stripe has done with its payments API.

Build from the ideal experience backwards.

That’s exactly what Hey, the new email product from Basecamp, did with their genuinely original take on email launched this week (tour here). 

It’s one of those rare instances where a product is so good it reveals how bad the rest are. 

People love describing startups as “X for Y”. A few years ago, Airbnb for X was all the rage, then Uber for X. These days, you hear about Lambda School for X.

I suspect we’ll see lots of Hey for X references in the coming years and I suspect the references will speak to the product philosophy rather than the product itself.

Designing from the ideal experience backwards.

When you design from the ideal experience backwards, you’re forced to focus not on features users need, but on how the software makes a user feel. 

You can see how this might apply to other categories. What is the ideal experience for digital file management? I want the system to organize everything for me — passively, without file structure, all based on metadata and OCR.

A focus on making things different, not better.

A complete rethink of the “Job to be Done” for schools might result in a school that pays students to attend in exchange for long-term financial upside.

Hey for Health Insurance might look like asking why you need insurance for primary care in the first place. I want the person I’m paying to be the one treating me. I’ll pay you a monthly fee to keep me healthy. If you keep me out of the hospital, you make more money. I’m oversimplifying, I know... The point is that when you break free of existing constraints, the replacement product looks nothing like the original.

Designers and purveyors of delight working alongside engineers.

In 1995, Steve Jobs said about Microsoft:

The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste, and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their product.

Technology is easy to predict. Human nature is more complicated. We need more artists and designers working alongside engineers to bring soul, psychology, and culture into software. These products cannot be birthed in a boardroom and cannot be forced into existing incumbents. That would be like Sears building a website to become the next Amazon. 

That’s why, despite all the talk of incumbents, I’m optimistic about the opportunity for the next generation of software — there’s still so much good software to make.



This really resonated: Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority” and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person” and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay. 💭

Ghia is live! And in all honesty, it’s one of my favorite unboxing experiences, ever. 🍸

I’m intrigued and inspired by Bentoism, the latest project from Yancey Strickler, former CEO of Kickstarter - it’s a way of framing your choices with an eye to the future, beyond your own self-interest, and with consideration for your community and the next generation. (related video here) 🍱

It’s been exactly 21 years since a little known company called Google closed their first $25,000,000 round of financing. 🔎

A great collection of icebreaker questions you can use with your team, community, friends, or partner. 💧

Jason Crawford just launched Progress Studies School - an online course covering the history of technology and progress, geared towards high school students. I wish this was around when I was in high school! 📈

Lots of good thoughts on email, in one place. 📧

Uff, this thread, I really needed to internalize the dopamine trap. (related: Meera explores how startups can use dopamine for world positive change). 👇🏾

Brandless is coming back.♻️

Really thoughtful piece from Kevin Kwon on why Figma is dominating the design space. 🎨

An inside look at how branding is changing, using Supreme vs. Madhappy as an example - Supreme built its reputation on selling products that were exclusive, while Madhappy is promoting a lifestyle choice built on inclusivity. Aspirational brands -> Inspirational brands 🌀

Strong piece on the rise of social audio which makes the case for why Roadtrip (a new app that’s a cross between the couch, the radio and your friends) might eat Clubhouse’s lunch. 🎙️

Early and prelaunch startups on my radar 🚀:

  • Neeva: A new way to search founded by former SVP of advertising for Google

  • Walling: Another notetaking tool

  • Relate: Design & develop at the same time

  • Patch: An API to help your customers offset their environmental footprint

  • Spark Grills: Warby Parker for Grills

  • From your couch: Visit the world from your couch

This thread is everything I believe but didn’t have the words for 🔥

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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