June 30, 2018

Request for (crazy) startups

Yesterday I met a founder[1] building the future of voice communication. I immediately offered to invest even though they had no users or even a product. More important to me is the vision and a deep conviction in where the world is going.

I see dozens of products launch every day but few seem to demonstrate an exceptionally unique insight. It’s often the non-consensus startups that change the world and result in the biggest returns.

We think you can draw a 2×2 matrix for venture capital. …And on one axis you could say, consensus versus non-consensus. And on the other axis you can say, successful or failure. And of course, you make all your money on successful and non-consensus. … it’s very hard to make money on successful and consensus. Because if something is already consensus then money will have already flooded in and the profit opportunity is gone. And so by definition in venture capital, if you are doing it right, you are continuously investing in things that are non-consensus at the time of investment.
And let me translate ‘non-consensus’: in sort of practical terms, it translates to crazy. You are investing in things that look like they are just nuts.
– Marc Andreessen (source)

I’m looking for more startups with crazy ideas; founders that have a unique perspective and approach to our crowded, attention-grabbing world. Here are four areas I’m most excited to explore:

1. Audio/Voice

More of our interaction with technology will shift toward audio/voice input/output as the hardware becomes ubiquitous. According to this study, more than 47M adults in the U.S. have access to a smart speaker such as an Echo or Google Home. Her might become our reality sooner than we think, especially if Airpods continue to fly off the shelves.

I’m fascinated by both consumer-facing applications and those building the “pick and shovel” to support companies in this space.

2. Digital Celebrities

Lil Miquela (pictured above) is a preview of the future of mixed reality entertainment. This CGI influencer has amassed over 1.2M Instagram followers, sponsored by luxury brands like Prada, and can be seen on billboards in LA. This phenomenon might seem weird, but it isn’t new (see Hatsune Miku) or really all that different from “real” influencers. Celebrities, and even everyday people to varying degrees, express themselves with a filter online. We paint an image of how we want to be perceived. Perhaps these manufactured celebs are as “real” as we are.

As more of our physical world intertwines with the digital, the differences between the two will begin to fade and we’ll see a more opportunities to craft immersive experiences, brands, and characters that people love.

3. Tools for Creators and Makers

The internet has empowered a new wave of digital entrepreneurs, from new media content creators (empowered by YouTube, Twitch, Patreon) to indie D2C brands (empowered by Shopify, Instagram) to bootstrapped SaaS businesses (empowered by Stripe). As more people start a side (or primary) hustle online, there will be a greater need for tools to support all the challenges that go into internet entrepreneurship. Product Hunt plays in this space and I’m particularly passionate to support those creating economic opportunity for others.

4. Distributed and Remote Working

There’s a massive talent arbitrage opportunity today in building a distributed team, something we’ve done at Product Hunt from the beginning. Over the next decade we’ll see more companies hire remote teammates and many more will build entirely distributed teams[2] (a la InVision, Automattic, and Zapier) instead of limiting their candidate pool to the <1% of people that live nearby.

As this happens, there will be greater demand for tools to help teammates communicate, collaborate, onboard, and evaluate candidates without oft used brand filters (e.g. ex-Facebook, MIT grad).

If you’re building something crazy or have a startup to recommend in any of the categories above, drop me an email at ryan@weekend.fund. I’d love to chat. ☀️

[1] Thanks Suzy Ryoo for the introduction!

[2] Of course, there are pros and cons to building a distributed team and centralization may be the right approach for many companies.

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