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How to find a Rocket-Ship 🚀 

Tuesday October 22 2019

In my last post, I talked a ton about going and working for these 'Rocket Ship' companies like Sam Altman points out in his Advice for Ambitious 19 Year olds articles. A Rocket-ship is a company that's growing like crazy. What I realized was that I didn't point out how to find one of these companies, so I decided to share the framework that I use to find a 'Rocket Ship'.

Finding a rocket-ship isn't about the company, it's not even about the idea. When it comes to the world of startups, what I've come to realize is that if an idea sounds good, someone would've already done it. So gauging whether a company is a rocket-ship based upon the idea is not a great idea. Finding a rocket-ship is about 3 things, the team, the growth, and who believes in them. 

The team

Rocket-ships have the tendency to draw some of the top engineering talent to them. Engineers with multiple years of experience and have worked at top tech companies, are relatively good at finding high growth startups. So look at the engineering team and if you find that the engineers have worked at Google for 5 years, Facebook for 7 years, Netflix for 6 years or anything along those lines, that's a good indication that the company may be a rocket-ship. Also look at the founders, if they are 2nd or 3rd time founders that's awesome, if they have already had 1 or more successful exits that's even better. If the company has both amazing founders and a really strong engineering team, that's a good sign and you should now dig deeper to find out more. 

The growth

By definition, this is the only metric that should matter when evaluating a rocket-ship company. Growth doesn't mean that the number of engineers or team size is growing like crazy, but rather the product and usage is growing. A good way to identify this is usually by just finding things that a lot of people are talking about or things that you are starting to use or what your friends are starting to use. A good example in recent times is Tandem. I recently have started working remotely and I understand the pains of not feeling like a part of the team. Tandem does a great job of creating virtual offices that users can quickly hop on a call and communicate with team members. It's a great product and is really easy to use, would recommend trying it out. I heard about Tandem first on Twitter when people were tweeting about it so decided to give it a shot. After using the product obsessively myself I realized everyone was also talking about them and using it everyday. This was a product that had high growth and I'm confident is a rocket-ship. (Hopefully this ages well)

Who believes in it
This one is pretty easy to identify, just look at the investors. The job of an investor is to find these 'rocket-ship' companies and really good investors are really good at finding these companies. Some of the top VCs out there are A16Z, Sequoia Capital, Founders  Fund, etc. Just look at their portfolios and find companies that they recently invested in, then look at those companies, their growth and also their team. 

If you find one of these companies that have a great team, amazing growth and smart investors, don't look back on hop on the rocket-ship. Like Sheryl Sandberg says 'If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat. Just get on!'

Why ambitious teenagers should learn to code  💻 

Monday October 14 2019

My assumption if you're reading this is that you're a super ambitious individual who want's to impact a ton of people. If you think you fall under this bucket, keep reading! This post is supposed to be an extension of one of my favourite articles by Sam Altman. Advice for Ambitious 19 Year olds. Highly recommend that you read this article before reading the rest of this post.

In the article Sam Altman does a great job of describing what an ambitious teenager should choose to do during some of their most productive years. The three main options he outlines is 1) Going to college and building a bunch of side projects. 2) Joining a company with high growth potential (Rocket Ships) 3) Go start a company around something you really want. I believe as a teenager, your priority should be to learn a ton and any one of those 3 options can you lead you on a path to high growth.

Now for many of you, you're probably thinking that any one of these options would be great but how do I even put myself in a position where I can get these options. I think that from being in this position and talking to a lot of smart teenagers in the same position, the best method is to learn to code.

In the startup world, there's this methodology which many people preach: You want to give yourself as many unfair advantages as possible. Being a hacker/developer/engineer will always give you an advantage in any of these 3 situations. Whether you want to build side projects, work for a rocket-ship or start your own company. I'll explain why for each situation:

Build side projects in school

In order to build side projects, you're going to have to learn to code. The motivation behind side projects is usually just building products that you want and the most efficient way would be to learn to code and be able to build thos side projects yourself. There are the odd cases where people may outsource the work for a side project but that totally takes away from any of the learning which is almost always the biggest asset from building a ton of side projects. Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook used to build a ton of side projects before building Facebook (which also started off as a side project). The point being, side projects are a gateway to serendipity, so build them yourself to move faster and learn a ton more.

Working for a rocket ship

Sam Altman says that at any given point in time there are only a few rocket-ships that exist and that for a young individual these are really easy to identify. As I started spending more time in the startup community, this became really easy to identify. Now a lot of rocket-ship companies know that they are a rocket-ship, so there's no way of fooling them into giving you a job. The best way to show that you can add value and become a valuable member of the team right away would be to write code. Companies value engineering talent and if you get good enough at programming and they recognize it, the companies will waste no time to get you to join their team.

Starting your own company

Whenever starting a company, the most important part is building product. In order to do sales, marketing, growth, you need a product first. Once you have a product you have to be able to iterate and keep making that product better. In order to do so, you need to be able to build and if not you're going to be dependent on someone else to build it for you. Talking to a lot of founders who are non-technical, one of the things that they would change if they started their company again would be to learn to code. So learn to code that way you can build product and iterate really quickly. 

I'll probably do a follow up post diving deeper into some of the topics we talked about in this post.