Your Startup's Problems Are Within Your Control
And a startup idea around work trials
I may end the free trial as we head into the new year so, if you’ve been thinking about it now’s the time to try it.
Today at a glance:
Opportunity → Work Trials
Framework → The (Other) 4 P’s
Tool → Folk
Trend → VTubers
Quote → Fix The Issues
💡 Opportunity: Work Trials
Hiring for an early stage startup is incredibly stressful. Your early employees will define your culture, product quality, and more. There’s a lot riding on getting it right.
So why should you (or the candidate) be expected to commit after a couple overly-formal, probing chats? Wouldn’t you both get a better signal about whether there was a good fit if you could try working together for a week or two?
I highly recommend reading through the full post — it outlines how Linear runs work trials and what they are (a paid period where the candidate works full-time alongside the team for a defined length of time).
I’ve hired people this way before as well and the process helps build a lot of trust and confidence in your decision. It also gets the candidate really hyped to say yes and get started for real, making the close a bit easier.
Most people are unfamiliar with work trials and how to structure and manage them, yet see the clear benefits once they’re brought up.
There’s the potential for a hiring platform built around work trials.
Initially you’d integrate with existing ATS options like Lever and others, where you’d allow users to add a custom step to their hiring funnel where they’d set up work trials. You’d have a dashboard for them, as well as education on how to prep for and run a work trial. You’d probably want to start out pretty in the weeds, as an account manager of sorts.
Over time you could expand beyond this and eat the whole ATS / hiring experience, but you’d be known as a native and best-in-class option for this emerging, interesting, high-signal way to hire.
🧠 Framework: 4 P’s of AI
If you ever took a marketing class in college you’re probably groaning right now because you’ve heard of the “4 P’s of marketing.”
This week’s framework is unfortunately named the 4 P’s as well, but is more practical for startups. Adobe’s Scott Belsky broke down the lifecycle of going from discovering a new AI tool up through when it becomes part of your normal workflow.
It’s relevant regardless of whether your team is just yourself and your cofounders, or if you’ve built a much bigger org:
When I find new tools that seem potentially useful, I just sort of let them be for a while. Unless I’m setting up a new workflow from scratch I’ll let myself wander around with a new tool, so to speak, until I find what it is uniquely useful for.
Rather than try to replace my existing workflow right away, I let the new tool linger on the periphery until I realize I keep coming back to it.
🛠 Tool: Folk
Founders juggle many different contacts during a day, whether it’s having a call with a investor, sending emails to a future hire, managing a sales pipeline and so on. Chances are you're leaving a lot of money on the table.
Folk is an all-in-one CRM that centralizes all of your relationships and lets you create custom workflows from a recruiting pipeline to managing your deals and more. 1,500 startups are using and loving Folk already, and now Houck's Newsletter readers get a 10% discount on the annual plan with the code FOLKXHOUCK.*
📈 Trend: VTubers
You’ve probably seen influencers talk about “faceless YouTube channels” over the last year. They’ve risen in popularity quite a bit as a way for people to make money via YouTube without needing to get in front of the camera.
The whole concept is an ode to editors and anonymity rather than the “talent.”
VTubers take it one step further — they create synthetic on-screen talent with 3D animation software (or sometimes even motion capture technology).
The first mainstream example that I know of was/is Lil Miquela, who began “her career” in 2016. Her team has been creating content for her for so long that she even has even had a few scandals, including one with Bella Hadid.
More recently, VTubers have been able to gain 2 million YouTube subscribers in under a year and #Vtuber has 17.3 billion views on TikTok.
Viewers I spoke with told me that they felt VTubers were able to be more “honest” and “authentic” than normal YouTubers.
Perhaps ironic, considering the characters aren’t real people, but it makes sense — YouTube and Instagram have both suffered from a continuously growing reputation of being overly polished or needing to cater to what’s acceptable to advertisers.
For everyone else, there’s VTubers.
There’s clearly appetite for a wide range of synthetic content, and room for multiple VTubers in every niche. Some ideas that come to mind:
A VTuber-specific management agency → Some VTubers will want to remain anonymous, even from their partners. An agency that understands and specializes in this could do well for licensing, sponsorships, etc as the industry grows to support it.
VTuber creation at scale → Use Pika to create VTuber content at scale. Scale to 1,000+ VTuber accounts in a year. Ruthlessly test and iterate.
💬 Quote: Fix The Issues
We all want our startups to work so badly. Unfortunately that can lead us to get make excuses for our own failures by blaming things outside of our control.
a16z’s David Ulevitch makes this case that everything is actually within our control (and if it really isn’t, to ask for help):
🔗 Houck’s Picks
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The sales process that gets a ridiculous cold response rate (Link)
4 learnings from a founder that grew her startup to $12M ARR (Link)
How to practice first principles thinking (Link)
Upgrade to see my full list of picks this week:
How to fix a broken cap table (Link)
Sometimes VCs change the goalposts on you (Link)
The state of Series A fundraising across various sectors (Link)
8 truths from bootstrapping a holdco to $20M in revenue (Link)
How to dissolve a company when it’s time to shut the doors (Link)
25 powerful psychological tendencies to avoid bad decisions (Link)
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