Monthly updates

January

Summary

  • Currently building a 0-fee lottery for a monthlong hackathon
  • Met many potential cofounders, but paused for now

Asks

  • Would appreciate intros to DeFi liquidity providers or airdrop farmers
  • Play our lottery at play.pevl.xyz, follow our Twitter

What I’m working on

  • Building a 0-fee lottery for a monthlong hackathon, ending Feb 16
    • Storytime: I pitched an idea to a friend of a friend. Later, a monthlong hackathon was announced, and he reached out to work together. A potential cofounder was down to join too. We’ve been working fully remote and mostly async for two weeks now!
    • We’re building a positive expected value lottery. No fees are taken from the prize pool, and we monetize by generating yield on the lottery deposits. Here’s why it’s important and potentially very valuable.
    • The timing is unique. Blast, the platform we’re building on, generates yield automatically, saving us work. They offer significant developer incentives, which we can use for user acquisition. Consumer crypto apps can now take advantage of low transaction fees (Blast is an ETH L2) and frictionless onboarding (via signup with email/social media).
    • A similar project failed because their jackpots were small. I’ve spent weeks thinking about a novel mechanism to build and maintain jackpot sizes, and want your feedback on this proposal.
  • Cofounder matching
    • Met many brilliant folks in the first two weeks of the year. My focus is crypto, so Farcaster, a Twitter alternative for crypto builders, has been great for finding cofounders.
    • I’ve paused the search for now to focus on the hackathon.

What I’m thinking about:

  • Being in the flow and obsessed
    • I’ve canceled all of my meetings to focus. My day is entirely incentive design and product design, which has been fantastic. I look forward to it.
    • I love the feeling when I can’t stop thinking about something. While I was traveling, I hopped on midnight calls and woke up at 5am to work. I revised this proposal multiple times a day for over a week.
  • The power of writing
    • It opens doors you’d never expect. A friend of a friend shared my writing with his friends, convincing 4th degree strangers to work with me.
    • It saves time. By sharing pre-reads like this monthly email, I’ve eliminated, and shortened, many meetings. Many people want to hop on calls or meet as intros. Turns out my best filter to finding those who truly want to help is if they’re willing to read a proposal or doc async first.
December

Summary

  • Investigated, and discarded, ideas around crypto checkouts
  • Actively cofounder matching, went on some “dates”, with many more this month
  • Recognized my interest is mainstream use cases where crypto is behind the scenes

Asks

  • Would appreciate intros to potential cofounders who are thoughtful, technical, and in the SF Bay Area. Here’s my profile.
  • Share feedback on my profile. Any red flags or content to emphasize or elaborate more on? Rewording or improvement suggestions welcome!

What I’m working on

  • Discarded idea: Improvements to crypto checkouts
    • Invalidated through user research. I had three hypotheses: crypto-focused businesses want 1) lower/zero fees 2) payments aggregator for different app networks 3) standalone payment analytics instead of depending on e-Commerce platforms.
    • Generally, merchants found 1% fees pretty low, cared most about how much more can you help them make (increase conversion) and how little work there is (ease of integration), and few wanted standalone analytics. I learned a lot about the general state of stablecoins too.
    • I believe a TAM approximation of “Binance Pay doing $1.8B in volume” is likely primarily P2P volume, rather than B2C/B2B, which means it’s a much smaller market.
  • Cofounder matching
    • Iterated on my cofounder match profile. Optimizing it is high leverage given it’s a huge part of my top of funnel (200+ views) and is the same as my YC cofounder match profile. I revamped it to focus on crypto, shortened content, and stopped selling myself short on technical ability.
    • Met many talented folks. I learned more about what I’m looking for - someone who’s excited to “swing for the fences”, wants to validate markets, problems, and hypotheses before building - and what I’m not looking for - starting with an existing MVP that’s searching for a problem.
  • What’s most important for this industry
    • I like Richard Hamming's quote "What are the important problems of your field? Why aren't you working on them?” For crypto, I think it's building for mainstream use cases. It’s hard to build something people want, be uniquely enabled by blockchain, and be 10x better than the alternative — since existing off-chain solutions almost always work fine.
    • I jotted down why I’m fascinated with crypto. It allows for the most user-centric experiences possible - users can choose the best frontend for their data/assets, send money globally, instantly, and without fees, and guarantee privacy when verifying information. It allows for entirely new business models. It also serves as a novel go-to-market strategy for industries with network effects. Yet, this is all theory, so I’m excited to dig more into these this month.

What I’m thinking about:

  • Personal life and diligence
    • We let our daughter’s sleep schedule move very late, which meant I slept later, woke up later, and had less work time. I also let personal errands, travel, and logistics slip until they were too late, such that I had to take care of them during the workday.
    • I need to cap the time I spend on meetings/events. If it isn’t urgent, delay to weeks when I don’t have much socializing, or am low energy/momentum, and want it.
  • Acceptance of being a father and family man
    • Time is a great forcing function. I don’t have the evenings and weekends to hack on things for fun, plus it forces me to validate before building.
    • I’m happy with how I spent my time and wouldn’t change a thing. If my daughter wakes up late, I’m happy to take a break from work for an hour to get her ready for the day and take her out for a walk. I spent 1.5 weeks of the holidays hanging out with my daughter and cousin-in-laws, almost entirely offline.
  • My work setup and process matters. Got asked, happy to share, would love suggestions!
    • Working outdoors - continuously for past 6 months, improves my mood significantly
    • Notion - used for 3 years, here’s my Notion setup
    • Sunsama - used for 3 months, set realistic daily goals and easily adjust as things come up or take longer than expected
    • RescueTime - used for 5 years, filter out distracting websites, set pomodoro
    • Chia seeds - adding it to my water keeps me from wandering around for snacks all day
November

Summary

Asks

  • Intros to potential cofounders who are thoughtful, technical, and in the SF Bay Area. Here’s a blurb you can share.
  • For those in crypto, I’m curious to hear what you would work on if you weren’t working your current job!

What I’m working on:

  • Discarded idea: Building bot prevention for crypto companies
    • Invalidated through user research. Sybil prevention isn’t a top concern for most companies, and there is no clear path to building a system that’s robust, private, and friction-less. Here’s my write-up.
    • I learned so much by talking to four founders who pivoted out of the space, who were helpful and open about their learnings. Will definitely lean on network and chat with former founders for future ideas.
  • Paused idea: Effortless email with just your voice
    • Got positive feedback and interest, but putting on pause to focus on crypto. I did this as an experiment for a South Park Commons curriculum to see if I still enjoy GTM (I do!) and if crypto is still top of mind (it is!). Here is a landing page and write-up.
    • Learned that I built a landing page too soon. User interviews helps with figuring out what problems your target audience has and how they articulate them. Landing pages validate whether your proposed solution makes sense for the problem as they see it.
  • Passively cofounder dated, will start actively looking this month
    • Did many live brainstorms and it’s been great to evaluate potential cofounder fit while making progress on ideation and exploration. Better ideas are generated when you can talk back and forth, plus have time pressure.
    • Working with other founders as accountability partners. We exchange weekly updates, get feedback on top of mind, and learn how others work. It’s inspiring to see what others can get done in a week and pushes me to work harder.
    • I’ve gotten great intros to potential cofounders by just telling folks in person. This month, I’ll set up a YC cofounder profile, post publicly about it, and reach out to web3 builders and recently laid off folks over Farcaster/Twitter. Let me know if you’ve got other ideas to reach crypto builders!
  • I am exploring abstract crypto concepts. I'm most interested in public infrastructure or protocols, but also in non-infra and non-speculative products. This is a long section, but it really is just the summary - here’s the full writeup.
    • Hyperstructures: Financially valuable open-source software and fee-less marketplaces. The world runs on open-source, yet the only business model is to sell optional SaaS alongside it. Marketplaces build closed networks so they can extract fees, so no one wants to build on top of them as a platform. I’m exploring different financial and digital assets and how users interact with them, plus evaluating peer-to-peer marketplaces, to see if there is an opportunity to build a protocol as a platform. Separately, if we believed in a fat apps thesis - or building apps and interfaces on top of popular protocols - is there an opportunity to build a payment software platform (eg. Stripe, Visa) on top of a stablecoin like USDC, where the software is 1) open-source 2) is fee-less but has a fee switch?
    • Zero-knowledge proofs: Attested data and escrowed transactions. It’s like having a magic wand to be able to privately prove something without sharing who you are, use private data from any service without API access, build trustless escrow systems, and ensure code was executed correctly among a non-trusting group. Generally, my takeaways are that people trust third parties to verify identity or assets for the vast majority of pseudonymity use cases, anonymity is not desired by businesses and especially governments, and finance problem space has 10x more product-market-fit than identity. That said, I haven’t identified large opportunities outside of peer-to-peer payments coordination (eg. zkp2p), which have a number of players now. I’m exploring SaaS instead, in areas with zero trust (eg. whistleblowing) or marketing/sales opportunities based on private data (eg. offering VIP benefits if you prove you’re a top customer of a competitor).
    • Intents: Outsourcing execution of any asset or transaction, to anybody. Previously, outsourcing execution was limited to tradfi, like stocks, ETFs, or FX, and only to a closed network of fillers. Now, you can outsource execution of any asset or transaction, to anybody. You can use any digitally signed content, whether it’s a webpage, email, or signed PDF. I’m exploring transactions that are conducted digitally, are irreversible, have clearly defined outcomes, and are price-compared often to see if there are opportunities to make it easier to transact.
    • A world that runs on stablecoins: I believe stablecoins have the most product market fit in crypto, that Circle will continue integrating USDC with banks and merchant networks, and fees for on/offramping (going from fiat to crypto) will go to zero over a long time horizon. In this future world, transfers and remittances are a clear opportunity, but I don’t have a unique insight here. I’m exploring B2B payments and problems faced by the unbanked and underbanked. If a banking platform was built from the ground up in stablecoins, what would that look like and could the backend of every bank be a protocol?

What I’m thinking about:

  • Stated preferences vs. actual preferences
    • I used to say (”stated preferences”) that balancing family, friends, health, and work is my priority, yet it wasn’t actually balanced. Now that I’m fully in control of my time, I view my calendar as my “actual preferences”. I set aside quality time for my wife and family, catching up with friends, getting sleep, and prioritizing work sessions with potential cofounders or uninterrupted chunks of time for brainstorming and research. There isn’t much time left after that, and I feel content with that.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel - finding specific templates for your specific scenario
    • SPC is known for -1 to 0, so it’s nice to use templates for evaluating markets and running ideation sprints that I know have worked for other startups. Templates for cold and warm outreach have increased reply rates for me. I skipped generic website builders like Framer for a no-code landing page builder that bundles analytics, questionnaires, and formatting.
  • Writing, sharing, and being open
    • I’ve gotten great introductions and valuable feedback just by sharing what I’m working on in person, or sending my writing, even when I feel like my ideas or writing isn’t ready for primetime. Writing, and promising someone a written note, has been helpful for me to clarify thoughts, especially since I’m operating solo, and as a forcing function to get it done. I’m trying to share earlier and with more people.
October

Summary

  • Earlier this month, I left my role at Uniswap after 1.5 years and joined South Park Commons, a community of founders who are exploring startup ideas. More about my decision.
  • I’m working out of San Francisco most days of the week. Let me know if you’re down to meet!
  • I’m evaluating many different industries, started looking for cofounders, and am exploring an idea around bot prevention for websites with privacy-conscious audiences.

Asks:

What I’ve been thinking about work-wise

  • Zero-knowledge-proof (ZKP) products are becoming usable
    • ZKPs allow you to prove something without showing the underlying information. Combined with smart contracts, or code that runs autonomously, you can enable new and more privacy-centric coordination types between two parties.
    • I played around with sending money to someone on Venmo and get paid in crypto (zkp2p.xyz), or anonymously verifying that you’re a US resident (holonym.id).
  • Approaching from problems, rather than from solutions, especially in crypto
    • Blockchain and cryptography are fundamentally new building blocks, but many in crypto are using a specific technology even when it’s overkill for the problem or lacks a go-to-market strategy. Some problems would benefit from a centralized or sufficiently decentralized solution at first, and move towards decentralization over time.
  • Bot prevention for websites with privacy-conscious users
    • Can we prevent bot fraud without storing, sharing, or linking activity to, personal identity information? This could allow websites with privacy-conscious users, such as those in crypto, to provide onboarding incentives and reduce spam. Over time, this can be the default bot prevention service used by any website or app. Here’s a 1-pager.

What I’ve been thinking about life-wise

  • Taking time to reflect and explore
    • I’m privileged, and fortunate, to have the time and resources to do this. Although I have many ideas I want to start on, I’m taking the time to understand more about myself first. A month spent on this is negligible if it significantly influences the direction of my next decade.
    • I wrote about my views on life and work, and did a lot of journaling. I’m also in a community cohort to figure out my North Star, and find founder-market fit.
  • Building a venture-scale business vs. tinkering with new tech vs. indie hacking
    • I’m the former, respect those who pursue the latter approaches, but recognize that I wouldn’t be the right cofounder for them.
  • Finding a cofounder before deciding on an idea
    • South Park Commons believes that since founders will often change ideas, finding the best cofounder is most important. From a funnel perspective, when you are most open-minded, you can choose from the largest pool of candidates. If you build conviction on an idea, and then try to recruit someone into your vision, this greatly reduces how many cofounders would be interested. Instead, find great people and do work trials together and see if you can build conviction together.

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