Per My Last E-mail #30

Venture Backable?, Indie CPG Gifts, Strategy Drunk, Big Things, Lemonade, and Religion

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy Monday! Last full week before the holidays. We got this 💪🏻.

Are IRL Member Communities Venture Backable?

Last Thursday, Erik Torenberg, a VC at Village Global, the host of the Venture Stories podcast, and the founder of OnDeck, posed a question on Twitter:

What’s the case for why IRL social clubs are now venture backable?

As I get ready to fundraise in 2020, this is a question that has consumed a lot of my time. Taking on the wrong type of capital can be like the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique from Kill Bill.

It seems innocent enough when it happens, but once its done, you’re just a few steps away from certain death.

So I’m writing a post with my thoughts on whether IRL social clubs a.k.a. IRL Member Communities should raise venture capital. I’m using it as a way to organize my thoughts on the topic and get to an answer. Yes or no, and if yes, under what circumstances and in what proportion?

I was hoping to get the post up in time to send it in this e-mail, but it’s even meatier than I expected, and I want to do it right.

With that in mind, if you have any thoughts on 1) what makes a business venture backable, or 2) whether IRL Member Communities are venture backable, 3) your favorite examples of place-based businesses that have had big exits, I’d love to discuss! Reply to this e-mail with your thoughts or to kick off a conversation.

Stay tuned 📡


P.O.T.W.

Indie CPG Holiday Gift Guide

We’re mixing things up this week and doing a meta-P.O.T.W. - a gift guide full of excellent products from independent CPG Brands, brought to us by Amrit Richmond of Indie CPG.

Some of my favorites on the list (hint, hint Santa) include Glyph molecular whiskey, Kin euphorics, and the Moment iPhone lens starter kit.


Links & Listens

🍻 Strategy Drunk by Nathan Baschez in Divinations

This piece hits close to home. Baschez points out that the companies we all love to make fun of - WeWork, Theranos, Tesla - are all full of smart, experienced people who make seemingly simple mistakes. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because they’re strategy drunk.

“Strategy drunk” is when a person is so excited about the potential returns from a strategy, that they overlook how improbable some components of the strategy are, and forge ahead anyway.

I’ve probably gone out and had one too many strategy drinks, myself. This first installment of Baschez’s newsletter is a good reminder that a plan that looks good on paper is nothing until it’s proven true in practice.

🧸 A Letter to My Younger Self: Big Things Start Small by Jonathan Wegener

Wegener’s letter is a beautiful complement to Baschez’s piece. Wegener reminds his friend who is starting his/her first company that today’s massive companies started out seeming like toys. Twitter let you tell your friends what you were having for lunch, Airbnb helped you find a couch to crash on, Facebook helped you creep on your new classmates (if you went to Harvard). He encourages his friend to build something cool, and worry about the big vision later. “Vision comes second, cool comes first.”

It’s a warning to not get Strategy Drunk in the beginning, and an encouraging reminder to focus on building something that people love and worry about where it goes from there later.

🍋 Zero-to-100 Million in Three Years by Daniel Schreiber of Lemonade

And now for the balance of “start small” and “have a big vision.” Lemonade, the renters and homeowners insurance company, released a detailed blog post on their eye-popping growth over the past three years. It’s transparent, packed with information on the company’s growth, and honest about challenges that they’ve faced.

In the context of the Strategy Drunk article, the most interesting thing to me is that Lemonade had a plan from Day 1 to target renters first, and grow with them into their more lucrative homeowners’ plans. This is one of those ideas that looks amazing on paper, but is always more likely to not work than to work. It’s cool to see that they combined the strategy with hands-on execution when it didn’t initially work as smoothly as expected to turn the strategy into a reality.

As an aside, when Puj and I needed to get homeowners insurance on our house in Athens while we were thousands of miles away in Tel Aviv, we were able to get set up in less than 5 minutes. Big fan of the product.

👋🏻🙏🏻 Millennials Are Leaving Religion and Not Coming Back by Daniel Cox and Amelia Thomson-DeVaux in FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight summarizes the statistics on religion’s declining popularity in one easy-to-read primer, and adds a new twist to the conversation. People have hypothesized that while, yes, millennials are less religious, they’ll come back to the church once they settle down and have kids. FiveThirtyEight points out that that doesn’t seem to be happening, and gives a few reasons why that might be the case.

(Andrew Lynch wrote a great post about one of the organizations millennials are turning to to fulfill the role religion once played: Crossfit.)

🚨 Bonus: What is the best article you read online this year?

Shane Parrish, the author of the Farnam Street Blog and The Great Mental Models asked his followers for the best article that they read in 2019. I’ve bookmarked so that I can read a bunch of them while I’m on vacation over Christmas, and with 129 replies, you’ll all be able to find something that interests you in the list.


What I’m Reading

On Wednesday night, the book club that I’m a part of met to discuss Normal People by Sally Rooney. I wrote in the last e-mail that I really enjoyed the book, particularly because of the way that Irish people speak. I know that I like pretty much everything - it’s my blessing and my curse - but I was still surprised when I showed up and people said that they really didn’t like it. The great thing about meeting IRL to discuss the book, though, was that by the end of the conversation, we, even the people who came into it anti-Normal People, left with a new perspective and greater appreciation for the book.

Up next? I’m setting a personal record for indecisiveness and am currently at various points in four different books:

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, The Man Who Solved the Market by Gregory Zuckerman, The Systems Bible by John Gall, and The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner

This is uncharted territory for me. All four books are interesting but none has really grabbed me, and I’m looking for a fifth book (!!), preferably fiction, to get be back on track.

Request for Books: What is the book that you read in 2019 that you couldn’t put down?

I’ll share the responses in next week’s e-mail so we can all read the great ones together.


What’s Next?

So much to get done in 2019, so little time left. This week, the three biggest things on tap are:

  • Three nights of focus groups

  • Publishing the article on whether IRL Member Communities are venture backable

  • Sending out signups for Debate Club #3. If you want to get involved, sign up to receive updates here.

Rollercoaster check-in: I’m feeling great this week - making progress, getting the idea to a place I feel good about, and remembering that big things start small.

Big thanks to everyone who reached out with words of encouragement after last week’s e-mail. I feel very lucky to be a part of a strong, supportive community 🤗


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Thanks for reading,

Packy