Productization, Disruption, Bubbles, and More

I want to start this week’s newsletter pointing you toward a conference talk I’m giving later today, Tuesday, March 23. I’ll be discussing OKRs: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. If you are a product person or interested in OKRs, go check out Product-Led Alliance. You can access a few of the talks for free, or upgrade for more. I’d love your feedback as well. If you miss the conference, I’ll post a link to the video after.

You’ve probably been bombarded lately with news of NFTs, SPACs, GME, bitcoin, and all sorts of fun acronyms. It’s an exciting time. The world moves forward rapidly, especially science and technology. We’ve made rapid advancements, and the pace of change will continue to accelerate.

We’re pushing the boundaries of our current technology, and that is exciting. There is so much potential we have only begun to tap. We’re only getting started, and new horizons await us in quantum computing, energy and batteries, health and longevity, nanotechnology and materials, travel and transportation on earth and beyond, and so much more.

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In an interview with Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO of Stripe, Noah Smith touches on many of these topics and more. It’s a great read.

As we progress toward a future that automates more and creates far more abundance, what will that look like? Sam Altman gives some thoughts in Moore’s Law for Everything, which is an interesting read. Robots and AI can make things cheaper, we can take that surplus and make life better for everyone by making everyone an owner, tipping the scales back when the balance gets out of whack. It’s what we need to do. Not level things, but stop the inevitable trend toward winner take all.

“A great future isn’t complicated: we need technology to create more wealth, and policy to fairly distribute it.”

Good in theory, tougher in practice.

One of the hang-ups, though, is our own institutions and inability to be flexible enough. Which is why some of the current innovations are both exciting and invigorating.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) offer an alternative way for artists and others to actually get paid for their work while tapping into new markets and fans. You’ve probably heard of NBA Top Shot by now. There are other interesting projects in the works. Of course, the whole thing feels frothy. We’re all excited. The potential is there, and we will have some fits and starts. But it is early and I’m excited to see where it goes.

For a good podcast on this topic, check out The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of NFTs. Bad Crytpo breaks down what’s working and what isn’t right now.

Decentralizing, or at least disrupting and democratizing many existing processes sounds like a dream. And that’s partly what we’re seeing with SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies, also known as “blank check” companies. These companies raise money through an IPO and then look to acquire a company. Basically the reverse of the normal IPO process where a company has to do their due diligence to go public and do an IPO. The advantage is the speed.

SPACs have been around a long time. But have become popular in this time of uncertainty. And to move the center of gravity away from investment banks. Here is a good podcast episode for a primer: SPAC to the Future.

Unfortunately, we tilt most of the current system toward incumbents. Which is why Wall Street and large institutions aren’t going anywhere and will work to leverage their current positions within the existing structure to take part of the new products and technology.

In an interesting podcast called The Business of Wall Street, Epsilon Theory looks at the underlying business of Wall Street. Very little of investing today is buying and selling shares of common stock in individual companies. Instead, we buy and sell what Wall Street calls "products". Mutual funds, ETFs, options, REITs, SPACs, etc.

I used to work on many of these products, and even created new ones. Which is partly why this episode was fun to listen to. The business of Wall Street isn’t just in the products, it’s in capturing the “money in motion”, which is a term we used a lot. So expect to see more of that as money (and NFTs and bitcoin and crypto and SPACs) is in motion.

We’re in a great time for change. It is just getting started. It will be bumpy, but that is how it always is in the beginning.

Other Good Reads and Listens

MVP: What is the Real Definition of Minimum Viable Product and How to Use One (podcast) - What is an MVP? Why is it important? Why is the idea of a minimum viable product so contentious? Are you building an actual MVP or just shipping crap and calling it an MVP? We tackle these questions and more as we discuss MVPs, their history, what an MVP really is, and how to use them in product development.

Commenting vs Making - It’s really easy to offer advice from the sideline. It’s much harder to actually make the thing. Not that advice is bad. And it’s often well-intentioned. But being on the ground creating is much harder than flying by with advice.

Bigfoot: Origins of Sasquatch, the Yeti, and Our Modern-Day Folklore (podcast) - Sasquatch, or the wild man, has a long history in American folklore. Similarly, the Yeti, or the man-bear snowman, has been around for a long time. Where did these stories come from? Why do they exist? And where does our modern-day Bigfoot come from? Most importantly, does Bigfoot exist? We tackle all of that on this episode.