A list of essays I love. Maybe you will love them as well.
Like a hoarder, I’ve been collecting essays and talks that I find especially interesting. I wanted to share them in hopes that you may find something new.
You know how there are sayings that seem obvious once you’ve heard them, but coming up with them is damn hard? This is one such case. After reading this essay, I jumped to comparing what we are building (automation) with a product in the other camp: Photoshop. For a while, I struggled to wrap my head around our core value proposition. Because, if you bubble up to the highest level there are really only two core value propositions, and these are the two philosophies in tech.
This rant is a classic. Have you ever wondered why Amazon, a company that sells books among other things, was able to dominate the cloud? Shouldn’t Google, an internet company, be the kind of cloud?
Notable Quote: “We don't get Platforms, and we don't get Accessibility. The two are basically the same thing, because platforms solve accessibility. A platform is accessibility.”
Chamath Palihapitiya on Money as an Instrument of Change
I’m always blown away by how sharp Chamath is, and this interview is no different. Here, Chamath shares a view of money that I never grokked growing up in the middle-class: money as an instrument of change. Money not as a currency but as a way to realize one’s worldview.
Amazing talk on the start of Musicaly/TikTok
Ever wonder what the similarities are between starting a country and starting a social app? I had no idea until watching this interview with Alex.
Notable Quote: In this new land, you have to build a centralized economy in the early days. This means that wealth distribution is accruing to a small percentage of people in your land. You make sure they successfully build an audience and wealth. This makes them role models for the country (and platform). You effectively create the American dream. People in Europe (Instagram) will start to realize that this "normal" person went to America (Musical.ly) and became super rich. Maybe I can do the same? This will lead to a lot of people migrating to your country (platform).
I personally did not know what to ask of my investors for a while. This short essay gives great concrete and actionable advice I found helpful.
Another great essay that brings to light something that is often overlooked. I’ll let this quote below describe what this is.
Notable Quote: …there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies. The one is printed in some little red book and anyone can easily read it up. It also remains constant. A general is always superior to a colonel, and a colonel to a captain. The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organised secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it.
So much of starting a company is making good decisions with incomplete data. For a while, I liked the “strong opinions, weakly held” mental framework. But, this essay pokes a few holes into this framework and introduces a better one that I’ve been using since. Put simply, before making a decision ask yourself “how much am I willing to bet on this?”
Further reading: On Forecasting
A classic essay by Sam Altman on how to hire. A great to read if you are both hiring or looking to get hired.
Oh, don’t you love HackerNews comments… This one was especially wrong…
I don’t know why I placed this one so far down. This is one of the best essays I have ever read, period. In this essay, Stewart tells his team that they need to sell the transformation, not the product.
Notable Quote: The best — maybe the only? — real, direct measure of “innovation” is change in human behaviour.
This is a great framework for investors and founders to internalize. Startups are essentially a conglomeration of risk, and it’s up to you to make this explicit and decide what to de-risk and when.
Howie’s Airtable Pitch Deck
I’m blown away by the clarity of vision Howie had all the way back in 2012. He laid out a plan, that he has barely deviated from for the past 8 years. I’m truly inspired by his clarity and would love to personally reach that level someday.
Richard Hamming on learning how to learn
It sounds meta, but learning how to learn is so important. I argue that what separates the good from the great is knowing how to learn. In this lecture series, Richard Hamming (the same man who invented Hamming codes!) teaches a mindset that I believe everyone should strive for.
Big innovations are usually linked to interface changes. There are many examples where interface changes drove innovation. And although it is not an Axiom, it is indeed an interesting concept to think about.
Apple and Microsoft succeeded by turning DOS terminals into graphical user interfaces accessible by mainstream consumers.
Google simplified the search interface, as compared to those of ad-heavy and difficult-to-use competitors like Yahoo.
Facebook and Twitter turned new behavioral insights into interfaces that simplified social interactions online.
I’m always looking for more content, so please don’t hesitate to share essays you believe are evergreen!