What if apps had ‘hours of operation’ like retail stores?

Having hours of operations really works well to concentrate attention or liquidity when you have scarce amounts of either. Trading platforms seem to benefit from this, as trade volume jumps when the bell rings on Monday.
 
You can also concentrate the number of channels. A mistake I see early forums or any community space makes is by making too many channels at first. With every channel, you dilute the rate of conversation, making it hard to bootstrap the community.
 
Another variant is to concentrate inventory instead of time. It’s a technique used to great effect by Groupon in the early days, when they only had one deal, rather than lots.

What is the equivalent of home appliances?

Credit didn’t use to be available to the middle class in America. It was for businesses and/or the wealthy. Consumerism didn’t start until the 1920’s, when technological advances made better time-saving devices that was priced just out of reach of individuals.

Smelling a need, financial institutions expanded credit to be available to the average middle class American. For the first time, instead of waiting months/years to save up for a new car / fridge / radio, they could owe it immediately and pay for it over time.

When there’s borrowing, there’s KYC for lending, and credit scoring. After all, banks wanted to be sure the borrower could pay back the loan.

In fact, without the appearance of home appliances, there likely wouldn’t have been lines of credit or credit cards as we know it.

Currently, Defi (decentralized finance) is a growing niche within cryptocurrencies where users borrow and lend money through smart contracts. It’s gotten a bunch of traction and attention. There are currently $466 million of ETH locked up in MakerDao. Check out the rates of other Defi on Loanscan.

Currently, all borrowing is over-collateralized, meaning you can’t borrow more than you’ve deposited. That’s because without credit scoring or KYC, lenders wouldn’t be assured borrowers would pay back the money.

There are people working on KYC and identity in the space. And we know much of the activity right now is trading on speculation. But a second order question is probably more important than how to solve identity on any blockchain:

“What’s the equivalent of the home appliances for cryptocurrencies? What do people want/need to buy that they need to borrow cryptocurrencies for?”

The situation that lead to rampant consumerism in the 1920’s was unique to its time. What is the situation now that’s unique to this time that people will want to borrow money for?

Without a clear answer to this question, it doesn’t yet make sense to solve identity for under-collateralized borrowing and lending. And if you make a Defi lending product, a clear answer will help light your way.

Datalog is a thread to pull on

Ever since Eve, I meant to look into Datalog. Peter Alvaro’s @strangeloop_stl talk also piqued my curiosity. He used Datalog as a restricted language to build concurrent programs.

So what is Datalog? It’s an old language that’s more powerful than relational algebra, because it has recursion. But it’s less powerful than Prolog, because there’s no negation, and the ability to express algos beyond polynomial time. It’s not a Turing complete language.

Why use such a restrictive language? In Peter Alvaro’s talk, he uses the self-imposed constraints to avoid certain classes of programming mistakes in concurrent programs.

I found these two very helpful for beginners (prereq is that you kinda know what logic programming is and can read haskell). This gives you an intro to datalog.

And if you want to build your own naive compiler and evaluator of datalog, that will take you along. And if you’re curious about the Eve implementation in Rust for v0.4, check it out.

Logic programming boils down to essentially a graph search in the possible space. All the details is about how to do the graph search effectively.

Noticed stock gift cards. What about crypto gift cards?

A company called stockpile is selling stocks in the form of gift cards at Target. https://twitter.com/patio11/status/1140119792596033537

Putting it in gift card form with a bit of design (good UX oft missing from traditional finance) seems to make it accessible to kids and lower middle classes. What seems clever about this? It seems like the play here is to find a new distribution channel (retail) to find a new market.

According to the tweet thread, you pay a $5 commission on $20 trade for the plastic gift cards. That’s highway robbery, but you’re paying for the education.

They mostly provide stocks, but also some ETFs. There is a single exposure to Bitcoin through Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust (search GBTC) https://www.stockpile.com/gift/basket/choose_stock

That should open up markets to people who don’t need to know anything about crypto, and it’s another onboarding ramp.

Taking it further—Technically, you should be able to create new financial instruments with smart contracts that you can sell at Target in the form of a card. The private keys for an address is generated and held in the card itself.

Operationally, I can see how it hard it would be.

1/ Making gift cards should probably not be too hard. But secure cards might take some engineering. Are there off the shelf chip cards you can flash software onto? Seems unlikely for security reasons.

2/ Most big retailers (Target, Costco, Best Buy) are not going to want to carry crypto-based products out of FUD. Maybe Walmart would, as they have a Labs division that’s already looking into blockchain for supply chain.

3/ Even if they do, you’d have to spend $ on making end cap displays. Also, because they own distribution, they can make more onerous demands, like your product has to sell well or they won’t give you good shelf space.

Or for the remaining inventory, you have to promise to buy it back. They have high costs too, such as making advertising flyers and training employees on these new products.

4/ Regulatory restrictions probably would require KYC for these gift card crypto.

Is there a second order effect that makes this an interesting business or technical breakthrough if this works?

I currently don’t see either, but the cultural implications might be interesting. Once people figure out these things have value, they can do a bunch of OTC trades on the streets for any type of behavior normally deemed unacceptable.

Even if regulations require KYC to move the money, having a physical representation of the money is enough for people to trade it around, without having to actually move it. It’s much like how the banks don’t actually move the stock certificates around, but just change a ledger on who owns it at the end of every day.

What is it like to be rejected by Y Combinator?

Originally posted on Quora on Sep 19th, 2014.

I applied six times between 2005 and 2010, before getting in the seventh. Someone on Hacker News once called it winning the Oscar of Rejections. I can’t say I’m particularly proud of that distinction, as I’d rather be successful. That said, the lessons are more apparent when you fail, compared to when you succeed. I wrote about it in the form of advice for people applying to YC.

So as for what it feels like. The first couple of times, it felt like disappointment and a huge letdown. At the time, I wasn’t sure what they were even looking for, but maybe we got it. So after sending the application in, it had all the tension and melodrama of gambling: the ball is spinning around the roulette wheel waiting to land on your number.

After a while, I started to figure out what they were looking for, and subsequent rejections were not disappointing, but felt expected. When I finally got it, it was a little unsurprising. We have done more to prepare and shore up our chances much more than any other time–though it was no guarantee.

Nowadays, I feel if you’ve been rejected by anything, all you do is keep working. Sometimes, it’s a blessing in disguise. If you’re not at the right stage in your own development as an entrepreneur, even if you get in, you won’t be able to properly leverage YC to build a successful company. Other times, you’re overlooked, but don’t take it personally. Mistakes happen. Keep on working. Get to be so good they can’t ignore you.

I read somewhere about how it feels for athletes to win a championship game, rather than feeling like a fluke of high performance, like it seems in the movies, it feels rather like an execution of a habit. That’s probably what it should feel like.

Working on a Personal Relationship Manager

I got asked if I wanted to work on a Personal Relationship Manger. I politely declined, and wrote the reasons why:

On the technical side

if you’re going to be writing something to help do relationship management, it’d better be really constrained and focused in scope. Because we often use umbrella terms to mean different, but related things, it’s really easy to build assumptions into the software that doesn’t serve large segments of your users. For example, we built Noteleaf to cover ‘meetings’, but the workflow we had only meant to cover ‘coffee meetings between founders’. We had all sorts of people sign up for it that we weren’t built for, since they saw ‘meetings’, and thought it applied to them. As a result, we got a hodge-podge of user feedback that we couldn’t decipher at the time, because it was actually different segments of users having completely different needs and jobs to be done. That’s not to say it can’t be done in the near future. DNNs may be able to handle all the different variations of ‘meetings’, but that’s mostly just hand-waving on my part, than anything concrete.

On the business side

Most people don’t care enough about managing their personal relationships to pay for it, and hence, it’ll be really difficult to build a business on top of it. That’s why most relationship software are CRMs, as businesses care alot about knowing who their customers are and what they’ll buy. On the flip side, the closest we come to a personal relationship manager is facebook and other social networks. And even then, it’s not so much about the management (managing is work…no one want to do work), but getting news (pictures and text) about their friends. It seems like there’s a new social network about every 7 years or so. AOL IM ~1997, FB 2004, Instagram 2010/Snapchat 2011. 2018 might be ripe for another one. I’m not sure if it’s because teenagers don’t like being where the adults are or what, but that seems to happen. If you want to work on something related to personal relationship manager, I’d work on a new email (search for DotMail). People get tons of email and really hate their email client, and are excited for something that works better. You should really understand why people use email (i.e. people use it as a todo list rather than point to point messaging, or people use it to transfer files between their devices). before attempting it. However, be forewarned that email protocols are old and shitty to work with. It’s a lot of work to get something basic up and running.

How to take apart the Panasonic Toughbook CF-W2

From the archives. Good thing for the Wayback Machine.

1. 1 screw inside the CD/RW unit underneath the cover on left. Do this before you power down the unit. Otherwise you will have to force open the drive from the bottom.
2. 2 nut screws on the VGA connector on the top left side.
3. Take the plastic cover off the Wireless antenna near the Intel logo on the right side of the unit by prying the cover loose. Remove 2 screws at side of antenna.
4. Turn the notebook over.
5. 7 screws at back. Make a note of the screw positions in a piece of paper, since there are 3 long and 4 short screws.
6. 1 screw for the Memory Cover
7. 3 long screws holding the Honeycomb cover, next to the memory slot. These screws hold the keyboard.
8. 1 inside after the Honeycomb cover is removed.
9. Turn the unit over. Open the lid. Push The keyboard up from back under the battery. The top part comes up. Now lift up the keyboard. Pull the ribbon out underneath the TOUGHBOOK Sign. Unclip the ribbon from the unit very carefully.
10. 2 silver screws on inside just above the logo Intel Centrino under the keyboard
11. 6 black screws under the keyboard
12. Now close the lid and turn the unit over.
13. 4 screws holding the LCD Hinges at back (2 Screws each side).
14. Now slowly pull the back cover up.