Every company has a story. Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.
Thu, 27 Jun 2019 15:20
Please take the 2019 Acquired Survey. It takes 5-10 minutes, helps us immensely, and you may win a pair of new AirPods or a free 1-year subscription to the LP show! http://acquired.fm/survey
We wrap up Season 4 with a very special (and accidental!) episode, a conversation with the CEO of Superhuman, the red hot email productivity app which just announced their $33m Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz. While originally intended as an LP episode, we felt Superhuman would provide the perfect bookend to our “modern enterprise productivity trilogy” following our Zoom and Slack episodes. We hope you enjoy the conversation with Rahul as much as we did, and we’ll see you later this summer for Season 5!
Great. One take feels good. Welcome to season 4 episode 10, the finale of Acquired, the podcast about technology acquisitions and IPOs. I'm Ben Gilbert. David Rosenthul. And we are your hosts. Today we are covering Superhuman, the fastest email experience ever made. This show was originally going to be a limited partner bonus show with Superhuman CEO Rahul Vorah on understanding his algorithmic approach to find product market fit. But we realized that Superhuman was a perfect way to round out our trilogy on the modern productivity stack on the heels of our Zoom and Slack IPO episodes. And we learned that the timing would be perfect with some big news that just dropped for Superhuman. Indeed. Well, they just raised their $33 million series B funding led by Andrews and Horowitz on the heels of some very rapid growth as you'll hear. If you want to read more about the company after this episode, you can click the link in the show notes for the New York Times article that broke the news. Our presenting sponsor for this episode is not a sponsor, but another podcast that we love and want to recommend called the Founders podcast. We have seen dozens of tweets that say something like my favorite podcast is acquired and Founders. So we knew there's a natural fit. We know the host of Founders. Well, David Senra, hi, David. Hey, Ben. Hey, David. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me. I like how they group us together. And then they say it's like the best curriculum for founders and executives. It really is. We use your show for research a lot. I listened to your episode of the story of Akyo Marina before we did our Sony episodes that's this incredible primer. You know, he's actually a good example of why people listen to Founders until acquired because all of history's greatest entrepreneurs and investors, they had deep historical knowledge about the work that came before them. So like the founder of Sony, who did he influence? Steve Jobs talked about him over and over again if you do the research to him. But I think this is one of the reasons why people love both of our shows and there's such good compliments. It's not acquired. We focus on company histories. You tell the histories of the individual people. You're the people version of acquired and where the company version of founders listeners. The other fun thing to note is David will hit a topic from a bunch of different angles. So I just listened to an episode on Edwin Land from a biography that David did. David, it was the third, fourth time you've done Polaroid. I've read five biographies of Edwin Land and I think I've made eight episodes of them because in my opinion, the greatest such a printer to ever do it, my favorite entrepreneur personally is Steve Jobs. And if you go back and listen to like a 20 year old Steve Jobs, he's talking about Edwin Land's my hero. So the reason I did that is because I want to find out like I have my heroes who were their heroes and the beauty of this is the people may die, but the ideas never do. And so Edwin Land had passed away way before the apex of Apple, but Steve was still able to use those ideas. And now he's gone and we can use those ideas. And so I think what requires doing what a founder trying to do as well is find the best ideas in history and push them down to generations. Make sure they're not lost history. I love that. Well, listeners, go check out the founders podcast after this episode. You can search for it in any podcast player. Lots of companies that David covers that we have yet to dive into here on acquired. So for more indulgence on companies and founders, go check it out. Now, without further ado, here is our conversation with superhuman CEO Rahul Vora. So welcome acquired LPs to a very special episode of the LP show. David and I are sitting here in superhuman world HQ on California Street in San Francisco. And we have with us an awesome guest Rahul Vora CEO of superhuman. Welcome to the show. Absolutely. Thank you both for having me. Yeah, you bet. To give a little brief bio. So Rahul is the founder and CEO of superhuman, the wildly popular blazingly fast email app that is changing the way a lot of us think about our relationship with our inbox. And before superhuman Rahul was the CEO and co-founder of Reportive, selling that to LinkedIn in 2012. So if you're noticing a pattern there, I think I definitely am. Rahul is also an active angel investor and advisor to several startups. And we are lucky to have him with us today. So I already said welcome to the show. So I don't need to say that again, but welcome to show. Thank you again. Are we right that this is your second office? This technically is our fourth office. Wow. And you're about 30 people now here it looks like? We are, yes. It's a nice and decked out in superhuman colors. It's like. Yeah, we do like our pinks and our purples and our blues. Although we're sort of trying to keep the, we just moved in vibe. We don't want to go too crazy here. Yeah. Because what we've found is we grow so fast that by the time we've made a place nice, it's like, okay, time to move on to the next office. It's awesome. The problem with early stage startup offices. Good problem to have. Good problem to have. Let's talk for a minute before we get to superhuman, which we're going to spend most of the episode on. Can you tell us quickly on report of how did how did you start it and it was a very quick turnaround? So report of was basically started to satisfy my own need. It was a classic case of scratching my own itch. I was at the University of Cambridge at the time and I in fact had just dropped out of the PhD program. I'd started a PhD there and machine learning and computer vision. This was way before either of those things were cool or even feasible. In any case, I dropped out because I realized that what I wanted to be was an entrepreneur. But I didn't have an idea at the time that I wanted to pursue. So I networked my way into the part of the university that helps staff and students create companies called Cambridge University Entrepreneurs. And essentially what I would do is I would actually come to folks like yourself, VCs, angels, big tech companies. And I would say, hey, can I please have some money? And they'd be like, why? And I'd say, well, I want to give that money to staff and students at the University of Cambridge who are making companies. It's going to be awesome. Trust me. And these folks sort of rub their hands together and go, cool, how much equity do we get? And I would say, non-whats-o-ever. This is a charity that we're running here. We're trying to help people learn how to build businesses. And by the way, we're going to make some amazing businesses as well. And as we've covered multiple times on the show, Cambridge is actually a really great entrepreneurial hub. I mean, ARM came out of Cambridge as did many other companies. It's crazy. Cambridge Silicon Radio, let's see who else. There was that company that Qualcomm acquired. I forgot the name. Oh, boy, and more than companies too. My partner, Riley Wavve, was a grad student in Cambridge, as well as our friend Nelson at Vennbray, you know, plenty of Silicon Valley has come from Cambridge and UK. Yeah. It's a little easier to give in your money. They did. They did actually give me money in the end. But the point of the story is, I was thrust into this not-for-profit fundraising at a very young age with no training in this field whatsoever. And having grown up learning how to program and being a very competent programmer at the time, I was just wondering to myself, well, what tools would help me do this fundraising better? And I imagine if in my email I could see what people look like, where they were based, links to their recent tweets, links to their social profiles, then I would be able to authentically connect with that person and establish rapport so much better. Hence the idea behind rapportive, I couldn't find that product in the market. So in about six weeks, I just sat down and built that first version. And that was totally magical. I remember the first time I installed the plug-in was it first for Gmail and then Chrome or was it, what was the implementation of that? It was, in fact, always a Chrome extension. Although before it was a Chrome extension, technically it was a Firefox extension. This was in 2010 where people, it's kind of hard to remember now, but people were still skeptical that Chrome was a great thing. The taste makers at the time, we were all sitting in Firefox. So it started as a Firefox add-on and later on it was a Chrome extension. I do definitively remember that I opened an experience of you can type someone's email and then like a second or two goes by and then boom, there's all this enrichment about them and it's like, now it's taken for granted because this idea has permeated into sort of other products throughout the years, but there's something really magical to it. How did the connection with LinkedIn happen? We've also talked a bunch of about the show about the importance of email to LinkedIn and to LinkedIn's growth and onboarding. So I imagine you popped up on the radar screen pretty quickly. What was the relationship like? We had a great relationship and ultimately it ended up in, I guess, a technical consummation there, quite us. Initially like many acquisitions it started with a business development relationship and the way that that transpired was we were consumers of an API at the time provided by, I don't know if you guys remember, a company called Rappleaf. Oh yeah, totally. So Rappleaf was one of those first companies to whom you were supposed to acquire there, I think. So Rappleaf ended up transmogrifying to some degree, they became live ramp and then they were acquired by Axiom and have recently spun out as a large public company. I think they're now worth three billion dollars or more so they're doing really well. But back in the day, it was a relatively small startup called Rappleaf. Yet despite their small size, they were the only company, and remember this was back in 2010, to whom you could supply an email address and they would give you the full social context about that email. And so today that's full contact, clear bit, those are the sort of providers that would be the comps today. Correct. Yeah. And there are others as well. And now it's almost a commodity marketplace for that data. But back then it was this sort of edgy, crazy new thing that you were able to do. And so me being an opportunistic entrepreneur, I was like cool, let's take this API, let's just package it up, which actually wasn't a crazy amount of work and let's jam it into Gmail via the use of a browser extension. So that's where the data came from. Now you can imagine that LinkedIn were non-too pleased about an upstart selling that data of all of what LinkedIn famously has always made it really hard to get mass quantities of data out of their API because they have a network effect. Indeed. And we definitely didn't want or need mass quantities. And everything by the way that we were doing was for the benefit of LinkedIn's hardest core members, which is ultimately why it was such a good relationship with them. But they approached us at one point and were like, hey listen, we really would prefer it if you were not buying our data off the third parties. And I was like cool, I would really prefer it if I had access to the API. Yeah. And so we both still need internal right now. We both stated our preferences for a while until I think a few months later we realized that maybe an actual business development relationship would be the best thing, which was truly remarkable because I think at that point in fact it never grew beyond us. There were only ever about 20 companies that had access to this secret LinkedIn API. That's awesome. And that was probably right around the time of their IPO, right? This would have been halfway through 2011. I don't recall exactly when they IPOed. Yeah, it would have been around that time. It was either end of 2011 or beginning of 2012, I believe. The chap I was dealing with is Adam Nash, who went on to be the CEO, well-threatened, who is now Dropbox. And he was super nice about it. So I went in and he was like, can you demo what you would do with the LinkedIn API? And I showed him the workflows. And he was looking for things like, is the copy helpful? Are we trying to deceive users? Clearly, no. Are we stealing data? Absolutely not. Is it for the value of the LinkedIn member? Yes, it is. He was like, okay, great. You should be a partner. I personally wanted to dive into that to sort of give context on how we got to where we are today. What I love to start to steer the conversation to is the founding of superhuman. And David and I have previously talked a couple times on the LP show about things that companies do pre and post-product market fit and definitions of it. But Rahul, you at superhuman have actually built metrics around it and found sort of systematic and scientific ways to find product market fit. I'm teasing sort of our analysis section here later because I want folks to know that we're going to dive into the founding of superhuman right now. But where we got eventually is to a company that waited over two years to launch and really built something sort of amazing in a very sort of both art and data driven way. And then we're going to sort of dive in and tell that whole story. But talk to me about the initial idea for superhuman where it came from and how you convinced yourself that there's a business to be started selling a new email platform. Right. It isn't necessarily obvious from the outside. I do agree with that. At LinkedIn, I ran all of our email integrations. It was my responsibility rather to get LinkedIn data, LinkedIn profiles into other email clients. And so I became very familiar with how professionals do their email and the TLDR is badly. So I took a year off after I left. And during that time, I was looking for what I wanted to start next due in parts to the IPO and to the acquisition. I was very fortunate to be in a position where I didn't really have to work. And so I focused on impact. You know, what was the biggest thing that I could possibly do? And my mind kept going back to a 2012 McKinsey study where they showed that the average professional and there are one billion professionals in the world. The average professional spends three hours a day reading and writing. You know, it's not hard not to believe. 100% right? Like it's crazy. It's, I mean, it's just mind blowing. And so during my year off, every single day I was doing the very simple math, one billion professionals times three hours a day is three billion hours a day that go into email. And I couldn't find, I couldn't think of anything bigger than that to do. I market that big and nobody have built a real business in it. Correct. Because people were scared because Microsoft and Google between them had systematically almost prevented. And during this area. Exactly. And so it was during that time when I looked very closely at how people were feeling about Gmail. And Bizarre, I saw this product get worse every single year. I think because I was building on the Gmail, it's not really a platform because I was building a Gmail browser extension. I could had a front row seat to what was happening here. So I saw the products becoming more cluttered, using more memory, consuming more CPU, slowing down your machine, still not working properly offline. And then on top of that, people were installing plugins like ours, Reposive, but also boom around you'll remember, mix max, clear bit, you name it. Yes, they had it. That's a lot of street and what have you. Right. It's kind of guilt inducing for me because Reposive was the first to get to millions of users. And I'm like, I am sorry guys. I did not intend it to be this way. I know. It actually makes me sad. Well, one of the rules I think we've talked about at various points on the show before all rules and startups and ventures meant to be broken, but you can't build a big company on the back of somebody else's platform. There are very, very few examples. And as long as Gmail and Microsoft are the platforms and you're just building plugins, report of being the most successful among them, you're just going to be a plugin. I think that's true. Although I would like to see, for example, Grammily be the exception to that rule. I think at this point, they're probably the highest valued, most successful plugin business and fingers crossed, they actually break the barrier and break out into their own thing. Right, there's a lot of existential crises around there. Yeah. Can I ask, when you were thinking about what to start and you were fully impact-driven on that, was your mind able to go to places that weren't email because you knew it, like, is it that you knew it so well that you felt that you sort of were uniquely positioned and owed it to the world to fix that problem or was it more like, I tried to think of other stuff and email is where my head was. So I did absolutely go to other ideas. I spent time in the summer of 2014 researching any number of things I could do and I got quite deep into what you would now call Consierge Health. So a non-demand doctor who might turn up and sort you out with whatever ailments you might be feeling. Again, I saw the potential for a very large amount of impact there. But it's interesting that you mentioned this idea of owing it to the world. I very much felt like I did and still do. I do believe that there is the perfect start-up for every founder. The one where if you do it, you have an outsized chance of success. The story arc is just perfect. And it's kind of the start-up where if you do, everybody will cheer you on because they want you to succeed because it feels like it should be destiny that this thing works. And that start-up exists for most founders. And for me, I believed that it was superhuman. It was the natural, logical, progressive evolution from Reporters. It is the thing that we always wanted to build anyway and was actually the solution to all the problems that we created whilst we were messing around at Reporters. We just didn't resonate so much because at the stage, at the seed stages that we invest in, or even at PSL, we're exactly like, I have some version of that conversation every week. You know, I'm just curious, were there people who helped you through that phase or was it like a journey you had to go on on yourself by yourself to realize, like, okay, like the destiny is superhuman? That would definitely lots of people who helped me through that phase. We just mentioned Adam Nash earlier. And I remember when I left LinkedIn, he was CEO of Wellthruentat that time. And I went to him and I said, hey, I have this idea for a new email experience. It's called superhuman. Here's what it's going to do. It's amazing. I'm going to go and start it. And he was like, whoa, whoa, slow down. Are you going to take any time off? And I said, yeah, I'm planning to take some time off. And he said, well, how much time do you think you need? And I said about three months. And he was like, wrong. However much time you think you need, it's actually more like three times that. You probably need nine months off. And in retrospect, he was completely right. I ended up taking about nine months off before I felt comfortable settling into what was essentially the same business idea that I'd been working on for about four years. So during that time, I did explore lots of other ideas. I had a few mentors that I would constantly bounce concepts off. But I just felt myself always coming back to this one idea because it's hard to explain. I just, I couldn't stay away from it. And I think that's a good sign when you can't stay away from an idea. It's a strong indication that you should probably go and do it. Yeah, totally. No matter how bad the idea is. Resonance so much for you know, certainly for me and starting with I super you in PSL. 100% for Kimberly Glow, like everything acquired. Yeah, totally. So cool to hear. Okay, so superhuman. So superhuman is the fastest email experience of all time. Our users get through their inbox about twice as fast compared to in Gmail. They respond more quickly to the emails that matter and many of them see in box zero for the first time in years. So you can imagine that's pretty life changing. Tell me more. Yeah, it's really beautiful. You've never said that before. I'm sure. No, I just wake up saying that every day. Not to overly fanboy here, but I can absolutely vouch for all of that. And it's especially in a day like today where I'm down in San Francisco and traveling literally feel like I have superpowers plowing through my email at the end of the day. You guys have built something amazing. So thank you. During those either during the nine months or at the end of it when you first started working on it and then into the to your process will get to you before you launched, there are a couple of value props in there. But like one of them is like fast, right? Did you land on that like how quick did you get to that or whatever like in your mind is like the most specific value prop you needed to nail? Speed was a value prop from very early on. And I think as I introspect this, it came out of some of the frustrations developing reportive on Gmail. Obviously Gmail at the time was my primary email interface. I was the founder and CEO of a of that startup and I was doing a lot of email based work. And so I was intimately familiar with how slow Gmail was and how slow it was getting. And I had therefore this this hunch, this inkling that speed was going to be a very big deal. But like with any hunch or inkling, one does have to validate it. So in the first year of superhuman as we were primarily building, we threw up a landing page. It was a terrible landing page, just like a basic square space thing that took us all of two hours to put together. And all you could do on this page was throw in your email address. And when you threw in your email address, you got an automatic email from me. And in that email, there were two questions. Number one was, what do you use for email today? And number two was what were your pet peeves about it? And I had two hypotheses going in. Hypothesis number one was that for Gmail, people were upset about how slow it had got and how it wasn't working properly offline and how they had to use Gmail plugins to make it do the things that they wanted to do. And then for third party email clients, people were upset about how buggy they were, how unstable they were, and how they don't sync properly, all of which is still true today. So I'm a headbabbling on this set. You're talking to an Apple mail conference. Oh boy, yeah, I feel for you. So we had to validate that. In that first year of superhuman, I think that we had maybe in the region of 5,000 signups on that landing page, 5,000 emails that went out, 1,000 conversations that actually happened. Therefore, 1,000 interviews that I did with early users probably way more than most founders would actually do. And resoundingly, those two hypotheses were confirmed. People disliked Gmail for the speed and the lack of offline and the clutter and the plugins and people disliked third party email apps because of the stability and the sync and the buggyness. How did you drive traffic? How did you get top of funnel to get all of those responses on your landing page? In the early days of a startup, I think, and this is what we did, the best way to do it is to pick one or two events per year where you can insert yourself into the cultural zeitgeist. So for us, one such event was when mailbox was being shut down. And RIP. Yeah, sadness, right? But it was the perfect narrative to say, hey, I'm over here. Come look at our company. And the trick when doing these is to think of interesting evergreen content. So you guys are the perfect people to talk to about this. You know more than anyone else just how hard acquisitions are. I currently have one of the most widely read articles on how to survive an acquisition and it was written in response to the mailbox shut down. I think it's your only medium post, right? It's probably my only medium post, correct, because I usually end up, I mean, the sort of second part to your question. I usually actually end up syndicating posts. You get far more reach that way. And so that post ended up on medium also was syndicated to QZ.com. And yes, it was about how do you survive an acquisition? And we were able to insert it into the zeitgeist because relevant to our company, some news event was happening. And I think if we as founders think hard enough, there's probably one or two things a year where that's true. And you only need one or two things a year. Now, it's a pretty intense period, I think, to write that article probably took me about three days of not doing anything else. And then another day of shopping it around. So four days all in. But those four days bought, I don't know, north of 5,000 signups. And then those are the signups that you need to validate your initial idea. Yeah. When you saw the news, the mailbox was being so like, how quickly did your mind go to opportunity? Like, I'm going to, I'm now going to go take four days to do this. And so, practically, immediately, immediately, I said to the team, this is something that we need to capitalize on and take advantage of. We have to make our self relevant. We didn't actually do anything. And this is just often how startups go until that was about a week to go. So the last week was an extreme scramble. I was like, remember that idea that we had a few months ago? Well, like, we need to do it right now. Amazing. Yep. Startups. Before we get into kind of our discussion, I want to talk about a kind of a provocative question. Have we reached the end of the era of the MVP or Ship a Crappy version? But before we get there, for the listeners who don't know, superhuman costs $30 a month for an email client. Talk about a narrative violation. This is, I think, the last browser that tried to charge for you to use was like Omniweb in, you know, the early 2000s. And I think it would be absolute heresy today to say, oh, you know, it's not even a mail service. It's backed by Gmail. It's an application through which to interface with Gmail. But boy, is it great. And oh my gosh, I pay $30 for it. How did you come to a revenue model of we're just going to ask people to pay? How did you pick a price point and how do you validate it? I think overall with pricing strategy, you have to analyze what you're going up against. And we were going up against free or nearly free. Gmail and Microsoft are practically free if you are a consumer. And if you're in the enterprise, it's being paid for you anyway, so you don't see or feel the cost. The only way to win, and I think it's Reid Hoffman who popularized the following statement, is to be contrarian and right. I don't necessarily know how to be right, but I do know how to be contrarian. And there's nothing more contrarian against a free product than to charge as much as seems reasonable, or maybe even more than seems reasonable. But then to back it up with the goods that actually make it worthwhile. So before we tried to address pricing, we actually first addressed our positioning. And we ran through a series of questions. I'm a car guy, so a lot of my analogies to do with cars. And so for example, we asked ourselves, are we the Ford of email? No, not really. Are we the Mercedes of email? Not quite, but maybe we're getting there. Are we the Tesla of email? Okay, this is beginning to feel about right. And there's a classic positioning game that you can do. It's a little bit of a madlib's exercise where you say, for a target customer who has a need or an opportunity, my product is in this category and this key benefit. Unlike some other competitive products, we'll create this primary differentiation from Crising the Cazam. Yeah, yeah. I believe to every morning, Crising the Cazam came up with that frame. And then like, it's been used many times. Gotcha. So I'm clearly not as widely read as you are. That's a framework, guys. Well, when you go to business school, you learn a lot of useless trivia. So I actually found this piece of wisdom as I find much of my wisdom off the first round review journal, which is incredible. And it was written by Ariel Jackson, who listeners may not know, but she was the product marketing manager at Google who launched Gmail. Wow. Wow. Okay, here we go. I have to meet her. Unfortunately, we were a first round or our first round investment. And so that was very easy. And so I got to spend a lot of time with her working on our positioning. And I have it right here. We came up with for founders, CEOs, and managers of high growth technology companies who feel like their work is mostly email. Superhuman is the fastest email experience ever made. It's what Gmail could be if it were made today instead of 12 years ago. Unlike Gmail, superhuman is meticulously crafted so that everything happens in 100 milliseconds or less. And we've since expanded beyond that. Very, very narrow. That's so great. That's what you have to do. You have to start with something that narrow. Is there a risk in starting with something that narrow that you're not going to be able to expand outside of it? Or do you feel like if you can nail it for that core group, then you're always going to be able to find more room around the edges? Very much the latter. So I think we should come back to that point because I have a thing that I should probably share with the listeners, but just to tie the positioning back into the pricing. Because this is a very methodical exercise that we ran through. So step one is understand the lay of the competitive environment. In our case, we were going up against two incumbents whose products are free or practically free. Step two is come up with the positioning, like I just described. And when you read our positioning, it's clear that superhuman is a premium tool for a premium market. And step three is develop your pricing. Now there are many, many ways to develop pricing, but one of the easiest ways, this will appeal to the business school guy and you, is the Van Westendor pricing sensitivity meter. I see head nods going on over here. It sounds like a fancy name. Yeah, it's just some dudes name, I think. He was probably very smart, very clever, did a lot of pricing. Anyway, so he said, ask your target users for questions. Number one, what price would you consider superhuman to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it? Number two, what price would you consider superhuman to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn't be very good? Number three, at what price would you consider superhuman to be starting to get expensive so that it isn't out of the question, but you would have to give some thoughts to buying it. And number four, at what price would you consider superhuman to be a bargain, a great buy for the money? Now most startups actually orient around the fourth question, the bargain for the money because there's some kind of network effect or a green field effect or they're trying to take advantage of a first mover effects or so on. So there's a land grab. They want to go get all the users we may as well, price as low as we can to get them all. Exactly, which is why most founders I know have the experience of a board meeting where your board members are like, hey, you know what, maybe you should half the price. Maybe we should just make this free and give this away from you. You're giving me the heavy TV's here. Have you done this to times I've done this? Yeah, yeah. Well, my point is, it's last week. It's actually entirely the correct thing to do if you're building in a new market or there is a land grab or a first mover advantage that you're trying to chase. However, definitely not the case with email. Not the case with email, where there's a big incumbent and the competitive products are great. Concepts like superhuman should orient around the third question. When does it feel expensive, but you'd still buy it anyway? That makes sense if you're building a premium product. Now for us, the median answer to that third question was $30 per month. That's how we picked the price. We very methodically went through competitive landscape positioning and then pricing using this very simple pricing methodology. Were you using people who had engaged with the survey that you were driving traffic to? This was actually well before we started doing the service. This is when we were onboarding our first 100 customers. I did all of these manually in the onboarding and these onboarding used to be much longer they were one hours or one and a half hours. I'd give them a demo of the product and then I'd look them in the eye and I'd be like, hey, this is the thing that you have to pay for. Now they didn't know going into the demo. I mean, they kind of knew, but I was reminding them. You can't see Rahul right now, but it's almost like this like a terse dad look that he's giving you. It's like, now son, I have some news for you. And I would actually very sternly look them in the eye. So, hey, this is the thing you have to pay for. Can I ask you a few questions about how you feel on pricing? And they'd be like, yes, and then I'd go into it. I'd write down the numbers and after we'd done a hundred of these, the answers were pretty clear. That's awesome. That's amazing. And you haven't changed the pricing since. Well, actually the initial pricing was $29 per user per month. We didn't think too hard about that. That was just like, well, you know, it seems to be the right price, roughly the right order of magnitude. And then I had a few conversations with some pricing experts who pointed out that if we are truly owning the premium experience in our category, then ending your price with a nine probably isn't the best thing to do. So we pretty quickly rounded it up to $30 per month. Interesting. That's fascinating. I never thought about that before. Especially because Apple does, you know, $12.99 for your iPhone or, you know, I think it's $12.99. I know Walmart undercuts at like $12.95. Interesting. That's super interesting psychology. Wow. Super cool. You said you wanted to circle back on the positioning. Oh, yeah. So let's dive in now to this analysis section. So for listeners, I want to set the stage on sort of a timeline for this whole thing because I do think it's kind of crazy how long it waited before seeing the light of day. When did you break ground on designing superhuman? When was the first line of code and when did you start rolling out to these first hundred users? I first started sketching out the concept and the business model for superhuman in February of 2014. That's five years ago now. Wow. Or more, rather. And then it wasn't until nearly a year later in January of 2015 when I started designing the product. That's when I first put pen to paper. I wrote the landing page before I did anything else. All of the copy that you see on superhuman.com is actually copy that was written in January of 2015. And I created hundreds of detailed wireframes. And the first line of code was not written until May the 4th in 2015. And just to get nerdy, how are you doing the wireframes in sketch? Are you literally sketching it out? Is it what's your preferred methodology here? It depends on how clearly I can see it in my head. It will often start with an extremely sketchy sketch on paper. And then once I can begin to see it, my tool of choice is still ball sum. I come kind of old school about this. I can use it extremely fast, way faster than I am in sketch. That's what I did it in. It's your superhuman of prototyping technologies. Pretty much. Okay. So started sketching for a year then did a year of design after that? In the week after I left LinkedIn in my gusto to get something done, I actually went out and pitched a bunch of VCs that same week. This was the February of 2014. Where Adam Nash's advice to? He was like, you're chill out bro. You just see it. Which was great advice. And so I had term sheets at that point. I could have raised money, but he suggested as did many others who knew me, they were like, listen, you're really burned out. Maybe you don't see it yet. And I did go through this roller coaster of emotions in the following months as I was processing the burnout from the last four years. So let's say that there was like a few weeks in early 2014. And then most of 2014 was time of. So for a time, yeah. And then I really got going again around Q4 of 2014. And my advice to any listener who's going through the same thing or who shortly will be is don't try and just jump straight into it. You can't go from being a professional party animal like I was into, okay, I'm now going to do 12 hour days again. It just doesn't work. I went from not working to four hours a day to five hours a day to six hours a day. And I slowly built that muscle memory backup. And the first few things were things like let's buy superhuman.com. Let's investigate trademarks. Let's raise some seed capital. Were you pulling together a team at this point too? I was trying to, but you know that is a longer term thing. And there are things you can do even when you don't have a team. What I did in Q4 was I bought superhuman.com and I raised about $750,000 of seed capital. And then in January, I did the wireframes. Then in February, I engaged with a design agency to make those wireframes into really beautiful mockups, high fidelity mockups. I think that's a little bit of a contrarian thing to bring in a design agency sort of that early in a, in a startup rather than hiring a designer or doing it in-house. This is, and it's turned out to be super expensive compared to hiring a designer. I think I spent $45,000 on turning these wireframes into high fidelity mockups. I do speaking of frameworks. I do have a framework on this, which explains why I think it was the rational thing to do in my case if you want to hear his answer. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, cool. So, I think the fundamental job of a founder is to create momentum. In my mind, I like to imagine this gigantic flywheel and it's made up of the most dense material in the universe and the job is to get this thing moving. Now, most founders, the first time, are probably technical. And the way that you get this flywheel moving is you make a thing, you launch a thing and hopefully people like your thing and it starts moving by sheer force of user numbers. This was certainly how reportive worked. It took me about six weeks to build the first version, tens of thousands of users in 24 hours and it just kept on growing dramatically thereafter. Yeah. Which is cool. So, the flywheel just started moving by itself and at that point it's like, okay, can I now hold on to this thing? Yeah. When you are a second time founder and you're coming back at it again, you get to do things in weird, strange orders, but it's still moving the flywheel. So, for example, the money that initials $750,000 that was raised in 2014 for superhuman was raised on the basis of primarily one slide where I took a screenshot of Gmail and I just read, lined out everything I didn't like. And I said, I'm going to make this pretty and fast. Amazing. And you'll believe me because of what I did pretty quickly. Because you build report it. Right. There is no execution risk here. I know how to build a thing. I know how to hire the team. I know how to market the thing. This is what I'm going to do. Yep. And that's $750,000 starts this flywheel moving. So, now I'm like, cool. The single founder, I've got this money in the bank. I'm not paying myself obviously. I don't need to do that. Well, what else can I do to get this flywheel moving? Well, that domain name looks pretty juicy. Let's see if I can make that happen. And the guy who sold it to me, it wasn't the most pleasant of individuals. They like, never are. No, never fun. He took a perverse sense of enjoyment out of sending me abusive and insulting emails. But fortunately, I didn't have to deal with this myself. I hired an expert broker to go after the domain. Oh, man. And we ended up getting a very good deal. But that's another example of how you can get this flywheel moving. Now you might think, as many people said at the time, whoa, so you just raised $750,000. And you're going to spend what was like, I don't know, 20% of it or something, on buying a domain name. Yeah, right. That's crazy. I don't know how you would feel about that as a seed investor. Yeah, I would be like, we need a conversation. How about the Darko? So I think I did buy the Darko and then I let it lapse. So that's probably how it's now. In any case, I thought about it long and hard. And I realized that in the grand scheme of things, this is going to turn out to be no money whatsoever. But most importantly, this is a sign to the world that this flywheel is moving. We're serious about this. I'm super serious about this. The people I'm really signaling to at this point are potential co-founders number one and potential investors number two. Yeah. And we'll also come back to the market too. If you were trying to create a new market, it would be wholly irrelevant. But you're trying to compete with established and trans competitors and back to your positioning. You are the Tesla. What was Tesla before it was Tesla? What was the name of the company? Oh, the E1 or something like that. Yeah, the EV1. The EV1. Yep, not the EV1. Which of course, Rahul is staring at us like we're crazy. Of course you wouldn't know because it wasn't the Tesla. Right, right, right. Before the road, the roadster before Elon Musk joined Tesla, it was the EV1. That was a pretty terrible name. Yeah. Actually, it was the T0. The T0, that's it. It was like, it was math mathematician. So it was like at time zero. That's kind of cool. Although it just reminds me of a Terminator, which has a story sort of murderous contention that you probably don't want in a self-driving car. Yeah, so in any case, the flywheel, the domain was another piece, then the landing page, like a really well-crafted landing page where every single sentence had been iterated hundreds of times over. I'm not even exaggerating, by the way. I spent four to six weeks writing the copy for the landing page, and then another six weeks doing the wireframes, and then $50,000 to the design agency to create these beautiful designs. These are all examples of how a single founder who once upon a time was technical, I wouldn't claim to be particularly technical nowadays, can create... You did drop out. I did drop out. I instantly forgot everything I could. Exactly. It's an example of how a single human being can start the flywheel spinning, and that helps both with recruiting co-founders, as well as with raising investment. Yeah. I'm going to catch us up on the timeline. It's summer 2017, so we started in February 2015, so we're two and a half years in. It's a 14-person team still haven't shipped. This is a freaking heresy for startups that are supposed to be embarrassed of your first version. Read Hoffman, there's this famous sort of read Hoffman mindset. If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched Too Late. So could superhuman have done this and put your worst foot forward to get some signal and then iterated, iterated, iterated, or did it have to be done in this way where you and a team went away for two and a half years and created the magic internally? I think it had to be done this way. I noticed with almost every single other email app, every single other productivity app, they went through the following motion. They would raise some seed money. They would make a thing, it wouldn't be a very good thing, not because the teams weren't talented or well intentions. Most people here are, but you're competing with Microsoft and Google. And the domain is so inherently complex. It is a very, very difficult thing to build an email client that people actually want to use. And it does take more than two years. I challenge anybody to do that faster. I don't think it's possible. And the same is true, by the way, of a web browser or of a database or a compiler. Any sufficiently hard productivity tool will take many, many years to build. But back to the read-hawking quotes, I'm still embarrassed today by many aspects of superhuman. And I probably always will be. So I think read is actually still correct. The nuance here, though, and I think this is the question that you might be asking, is how applicable is the advice to superhuman? And I think his advice applies most to startups that are creating new markets and especially to startups that have network effects. So for startups that are creating new markets, the alternative is usually a terrible experience. I mean, you guys will talk about this on Friday, but remember trying to hail a cab in San Francisco before Uber existed. Right. Well, you could have used cabbulous or taxi magic. Yes. Yes. I remember. I remember standing in the rain, which of course made everything worse on the Embarcadero for like 30 to 40 minutes. So waiting for a taxi to arrive and the keep on whizzing by you. It was the worst thing. Exactly to your point. There was a moment in time after iOS was opened at their party developers where the time had come and there were probably seven companies, legit companies that all got started. And like then it was like, you need to move. You need to ship yesterday. You need to move as fast as possible like I've all the supply and all the demand. Exactly. Because at that moment in time, anything you release, even if as Reads says, it's embarrassing to you, is going to be worth it for a critical mass of use of the game. And that gives you a small advantage. And when you have a network effect as all of these companies did, that small advantage is going to start compounding on itself. Great for that kind of company. But for a startup like superhuman. In an existing market. Exactly where the alternative product is Gmail. And without an explicit network effect built into it right now, the bar is very different. I want to double click a little bit on the network effect piece. Obviously, Reportive had a network effect. Or at least you were building on other people's network effects. Maybe it would be a more accurate way to put it. Were you intentional about at least this first active superhuman not being a network effect business? I don't actually think that Reportive had a network effect. We may be using the term in a different way. So by a network effect, I mean where the value of the product becomes more valuable the more people are using it. Different for example. Well, as I caught myself there, you didn't really, you were building on the fact that LinkedIn had that. Right. And then you were using their data. Yes. I think it's always great if you can build in a network effect. We believe that with superhuman, there are underlying network effects that will become apparent over time. And that means we don't need one. And the reason why we don't need one is that we can solve the marketing and the retention challenges in a different way, which would be able to by making the product very desirable, very viral and very sticky once you actually start using it. So you mentioned competing in an existing market where the bar is already very high versus a land grab opportunity as a framework for can you sort of take your time and be very intentional and methodical and frankly spend a good amount of money developing your first version of your product. Are there other sort of vectors on which to sort of decide whether you need to launch yesterday or you can take your time other than other than that market timing? Yes. So I have another framework for you. Excellent. David, be very excited. Yeah. I can see you. I'm not going to claim credit for this one because it's not my, it's not my, it's mine, but it is, oh boy, it's right. So this one came to me from Shishemahotra. He is the founder and CEO of Coda, another great productivity tool. And we were talking about our respective attitudes to launch. And you know, sort of as you've been alluding to superhuman has at this point famously held back from a public launch so to his Coda and he was able to put into words what I had been feeling for a very long time. And he said, a startup should only launch for one of three reasons. Number one, either you need more users or customers to sell to. Number two, you need more capital to spend or number three, you need more candidates to hire. If you're benchmarking well across all three, if you're attracting all the users you need to, if you have all the capital you could spend and if you have no trouble hiring, yeah, then why would you launch? It's a relatively expensive, distracting one time event that's going to bring an influx of people into your product. They'll find a myriad of bugs because of course we're all startups. We don't have perfect products. And you won't be able to fix them on a responsible time frame. So you'll just end up with thousands, if not tens of thousands of disappointed people. And I was like, yes, that's exactly the problem. What he said. True. This is the problem that happens in productivity. And so we just decided that we wouldn't. And who knows maybe we never will launch. What were you pre-launched today, right? I mean, at this point, it's like we have a lot of users. We have a lot of revenue. We're growing very quickly. While we pre-launch, who knows? I think we're just doing it in a very different fashion way. And the way that we actually model the company is from my favorite Paul Graham essay, Startup Ecosquare. Yeah, you know that. Oh, yeah. This is such a good essay. Probably his best. For listeners who don't know, he basically says the most important thing a Startup needs to do is to grow. And especially if you're a technology startup, you probably like to optimize things. And you like to optimize things on a short-term basis. So let's optimize short-term growth rate. Pick a weekly growth rates that you like. It might be 2%, it might be 3%, it might be 4% per week. And just do it. Do it every single week. And you will be shocked at how fast you grow every month and every year. And we've been running superhuman that way for the last two years. Every single week, we just pick a number of users that we will onboard the following week. And that's how we grow. You have the finest control knobs on that of any company I've ever heard of. Well, I mean, you have a wait list of 180,000 people who are dying to use the product and can't. So you just choose every week how many of those people we're going to let in. Is that about capture it? That's more or less correct. Although I would say that the wait list is a relatively small funnel into the product. The fastest way in and one of the reasons why superhuman is so exciting is that each week, 70% of our new users are virally referred within products from the previous week. Fascinating. So do you put a governor on how many referrals can start the next week or if you're referred is it we will grant you in access no matter what. This is a qualification process. I got qualified out six months ago because I'm a primary. I've had user. Well, there you go. This was before we had iPod shortcuts. We do. I'm very excited to be out qualified back in. It's going to be good. So I'm going to blatantly steal from your essay on first round review, which if you're listening to this and you're finding this interesting, you are just going to be beside yourself reading this awesome piece that Rahul wrote on the first round review. But you basically at superhuman developed a way to measure product market fit and a four step process to get there. Can you sort of talk about what that process is? Sure. The context for this or the motivation was we had to spend a number of years to get the product to the point where people would actually pay for it. That's not something that most teams want to go through. Most teams want to build a thing, launch the thing, make money, go, go, go. But it was very obvious to me as a member of our target market that we didn't have products market fit. I didn't need to do the big splashy launch in order to convince myself to my own level of satisfaction that our products wasn't good enough. It was just obvious and it was obvious because I couldn't personally switch away from Gmail to superhuman. And if I couldn't, then why would anybody else? Do you feel like you are uniquely equipped to be able to hold yourself to that bar because you were a second time founder? Yes. But only because founders were a core target market for who we were going after because I had experienced the pain that we were trying to solve when I was running my last company. I very clearly could see, oh, we haven't solved that pain not yet. I could feel ourselves getting closer every single day. But I had to find a way to explain this to the team. These are hyper ambitious, super intelligent engineers and designers and people of all disciplines who'd poured their hearts and souls into the product. They needed a way to understand not only that we weren't ready, but how not ready we were or how close we were and the precise steps that we could do in order to get there. So I went out and about I read everything I could find. I started searching for definitions of products market fit. And there's quite a few out there. So for example, Paul Graham would say it's when you made something people want. I think that's a pretty good definition. But I wanted something more actionable. And I think Sam Altman had a slightly different take, which is it's when users love your product so much that they spontaneously tell other people to start using it without you even asking them to do that. And that's a different take on it. So PG's take is around desire, Sam's take is around distribution or sort of net promotion. But perhaps the best definition I found, all the most interesting at least, was Mark Andresons. And he had the most vivid definition. So he would say, and I have it right here because it's quite lengthy and detailed. Number one, you can always feel it when products market fit is not happening. Users aren't quite getting value, users are not growing quite that fast. Word amount is not spreading. Pressive user kind of blar and the sales cycle takes too damn long. But you can always feel it when products market fit is happening. Customers are buying as fast as you can add servers, your hiring sales and supporters fast as you can. Reporters are constantly calling you about your hot new thing. Money is piling up in your checking account. Investors are staking out your house. You start winning company of the year awards from Harvard Business School. My favorite is the part about staking out the house. Does actually happen can confirm wild. So I can tell just by your reaction, whilst this is a vivid and accurate definition, there is a challenge to using this in running the business, which is that it is a post hoc definition. By the time investors are staking out your house or blowing up your phone, you probably already have your last concern is a tubing product market fit at that point. You're no longer interested in quantifying it. Right. So I remember staring at this definition through tears in the summer of 2017 thinking, oh boy, we don't have this and we are so, so far away from having this. But how do I explain that? Did you have a board at this point? Did we have a board at this point? David, why is that relevant? Well, I actually wrote on board. You know, when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But you obviously had investors. Was there a group of people to whom you felt be holding to explain this current state of the business to? That's a good question. So as I cast my mind back, the answer is yes, of course we did have a board. We never did any board meetings, which is why I had to think about it. So our board, formerly at the time, was Bill Trencher from first round, who's been incredible to us. And informally, I would speak basically every two or three days with Ed Sim from Boldstart. There were New York based funds that does really great enterprise investments. And they led you seed round, right? Yes, they actually wrote the first check in. Yeah, that first 750 was from them. And they wanted to write a million dollar check. I was like, no, I'll take 250 at this cap. And then I went to, went to a way and it made some progress. And I came back like, I'll have another 250 now, but it's had a more expensive price. And then the next 250 was added even more expensive. Hashtag, second time founder. Yeah. Yeah. Just play the game, play it nicely. Yeah. And everyone will enjoy themselves. Yes, we did have a board, but it wasn't really a thing that I was turning to them for help on. So the tears to you guys were like, yourself, like not just like, less so like yourself and like, oh shoot, now I gotta go explain to everybody where we are. Oh, sure. Yeah, like explaining it to the board was the very least of my concerns. Yeah, because you know, these are for Ed, I made money for in the past at Reportive. Bill is a long term investor. He just fundamentally believes in what we're doing. All of our other investors fundamentally believe in what we're doing. If I went to them and I said, hey, this is the direction I think we should go, they would always be like, good, we believe in you. This is why we invested in you. It was the team who are working on this day in, day out. I wanted to give them a path and an engine that could work. And so I found a piece of work by Sean Ellis, who's famous for coining the term growth now there. Exactly. He came up with that. And he ran early growth at Dropbox, Logmian event bright. And during his days of doing growth consultancy to start-ups, he found a benchmarked predictive way to measure product market fit. You simply ask your users, how would you feel if you could no longer use the product and you let them answer either, I would be very disappointed, I would be somewhat disappointed or I would be not disappointed. And you measure the percentage that's say very disappointed. And what he found is that the companies that struggled to grow almost always had less than 40% very disappointed. And the companies that grew the most easily almost always had more than 40% very disappointed. In other words, if more than 40% of your users would be very disappointed without your product, guess what, you have initial product market fit. Threaten to take it away and see what they say. Exactly. And I'm not going to claim to invent it. He did its more predictive of success than net promoter score. Its benchmarked across hundreds of venture backed companies. It's a really phenomenal metric. And you know the most exciting thing about this metric. And the thing that we did at Superhuman is that you can use it to build your very own product market fit engine. You can use it to come up with a systematic methodology to numerically optimize product market fit, which sounds crazy, but it's true. You can actually build this thing. It's fascinating. So that is the measuring stick by which you can determine if the changes that you're making in the product are bringing you closer to product market fit. What then is the other side of that equation to actually govern how you should change the product to hopefully get you closer when you measure that? How do you figure out what the inputs need to be in your product changes? So we have a whole very lengthy article about this. I'll give you the, we'll put it in the show notes. Yeah, I'll give you the quick summary, but I would very much recommend reading the article because there's a ton of subtlety around how to do this correctly. So it begins fundamentally with surveying your users for every user who comes into your product and who then experiences the core benefit of your product. That usually means they've done the thing, whatever it might be two or three times. They've probably been there for about two weeks. You send them a survey. And in that survey, you ask a number of questions. You ask four questions. Number one, how would you feel if you could no longer use, I'll take superhuman as an example. Do you feel if you can no longer use superhuman with the answers that I outlined? Number two, what type of people do you think would most benefit from superhuman? Number three, what is the main benefit that you get from superhuman and number four? How can we improve superhuman for you? Free text or... Grab downs and this. So the first one is a tri-state. Like I described and the other three, yes, free-street. And type form is what we use. It's probably the easiest way to get this done. Nice keyboard shortcuts. Great keyboard. That's actually why we chose it. Thank you. That's our primary, at Pioneer Square Labs, that's like all we use for validation now. I wish everything had keyboard shortcuts would just make everybody's lives so much better and faster. How do you then use those four questions to guide you toward what features should we build or change? So we then have a four-step engine to systematically generate your roadmap and increase product market fit. And the four steps that you go through are number one segment, number two, analyze, number three, build, and number four, repeat. And it just occurs to me that this creates a nice acronym, which is Saber. Saber. Saber. Saber, analyze, build and repeat. So you've got to Saber your users, that sounds quite violent. This is getting, so it's interesting because you're an artisan. You are someone who, you spent three, four weeks writing copy on a landing page, you're an artisan. And yet, what you're describing here, it's an algorithm to start a product market fit startup. It sort of begs the question, if you have the right team who are capable of doing all of these functions, writing that survey, analyzing the results, doing Saber, will every startup idea end up at an end state of product market fit if you apply the correct algorithm to it? I think that this greatly increases your chances. But the sad and realistic answer to your question, I think is obviously no. Why? Well, let me give you three big reasons. Number one, many stars have sort of run out of money before they finish this process. Number two, many co-founding teams will have disagreements and fall apart. And number three, many teams will just get tired and go, you know what, I can't do this anymore. And those are the three fundamental reasons that people will fail even given the Saber products market fit, Adrian. Yeah, and it could be two. If you start with a kernel of an idea that is sufficiently bad for a sufficiently incorrect market, it could just take too long to ever iterate your way toward whatever that ultimate correct end state is. Yes, I do have some rules of thumb around that. So the first step of this engine is to segment. And if you like, we can get into the details of how you might do that. But if after that first segmentation step, your very disappointed score, your product market fit score is in the region of five to 15%. My considered advice to you would be to suggest not doing that product. I mean, like in all, you know, totally, yeah, we all have only so many years on this earth. Take the capital you've raised, take the team that you have and go bring something else and I'm sure your board will be supportive if you have the data to show that it's not really working. Yeah. But if you're in the 15 to 25% mark, which is where we were after that original segmentation, then I do believe you can actually iterate your way to success. And it's the challenge then becomes raise enough money and keep morale high enough for long enough so that you actually have the time to make it work. Yeah. Hence the job of the CEO, the momentum creator. Well, it also extracts me that I'm curious if you'd say this has to be the case. But in your case, certainly is the case. You have this engine is a mixing metaphor is the engine is the like transmission of the startup. But the two engine, the startup is like, you're passionate like, this is your destiny, right? Or through that nine month process, like there was no other company that you would start and I would imagine that is, you know, in many ways, giving you the perseverance, the drive to look at your 15 to 25% score on that rubric and say, okay, we're going to make that better. You know, versus like, I think so. I suspect I may just be on the far end of persistence compared to most people. We had a very interesting debate as a, as an executive team over the last year about redefining our company values. And this idea of persistence kept coming up over and over again. Now I was like, you know what? Maybe we should have persistence as a value. You know, ultimately it didn't end up becoming a company value. But I do believe that even if it's not a company value, every single founder needs to exhibit unnatural levels of persistence. I think again, to quote Paul Graham, he talks about grimly determined founders and how during the days when he was operating YC, he would see these people come out to college and they're like, they're super nice and bubbly and then like a year or two later, they're just these sort of grimly persistent people who will stop at nothing and they've got the battle scars from running through brick walls over and over and over again. And I do genuinely believe that if you're a co-founder, if you're a founder, especially if you're a CEO, this is your job. You have to run through the brick walls over and over and over and over again. And when it's time that other people might be thinking of giving up or backing out, you have to be the person saying, nope, we're going to keep on going. Absolutely. Yeah. Also resonates. Okay. So we're going to loop back to a previous question that we sort of talked about to end this segment here. I'm going to read it from my Google doc here, which is written much more eloquently than I phrased it earlier. So when you're building for a narrow segment of users who love you at the start, how do you think about building for them without overfitting the product to them such that you can't serve the broader market leader? So I'm going to read the answer from my equivalently, who mentored Google doc. It's not even my answer, but this is just something I believe so strongly because it seems so self-evidently true to me. And again, it's going to be a Paul Graham quote. Is it about local maxima? It is. Yes. I'm going to quote two different of his essays. Oh. Did DJ Rahul. So number one is going to be from startup ideas. We talked about how you find startup ideas and some good startup ideas incidentally and tangentially to this answer. One of them is just Bill Gmail, but fast. And that was public on the web for about 10 years before we started superhuman. So the idea was out there. That was one of PD's startup ideas. I'm pretty sure it's in the essay startup ideas. He says, and I'm going to try and quote this from memory, he's like, just Bill Gmail, but fast, it's become so slow. There are sufficiently many people like me that, and he had some insane price that would spend $1,000 a month on Gmail because it's literally all we do. Yeah. I mean, he said it started superhuman. He wasn't grimly determined. He was not grimly determined. OK. So startup ideas, he says, when a startup launches, there have to be at least some users who really need what they're making, not just people who could see themselves using it one day, but who wants it urgently. Usually, this initial group of users is small for the simple reason that if there were something that large numbers of people urgently needed, and that could be built with the amount of efforts that a startup usually puts into version one, it would probably already exist, which means you have to compromise on one dimension. You can either build something that a large number of people want a small amount or something that a small number of people want a large amount. Choose the latter. But all ideas of that type are good startup ideas, but nearly all good startup ideas are of that type. In other words, what he's saying is, don't worry too much about building for a narrow segment of users and therefore overfitting. It's precisely what he's advising that you do. And then you might say, well, doesn't that give you the problem of being boxed into a particular niche or a particular segment of the market? And then to quote from a different essay, one that we've already referenced startup equals growth, he says, in theory, this sort of hill climbing could get a startup into trouble. They could end up on a local maximum. But in practice, that never happens. The maxima in the space of startup ideas are not spiky and isolated. Most fairly good ideas are adjacent to even better ones. And so this I'll give two very classic examples. One, of course, is Airbnb, where the idea of couch surfing is extremely adjacent to the idea of houses being hotels. And the other, very timely, is Uber, where the idea of a luxury car that comes to your house with a chauffeur is adjacent to peer-to-peer driving. That's amazing. I mean, literally every single one of the quote unquote A-plus companies that we're going to cover on this season of the IPO is that Airbnb Pinterest, Lyft, Uber, Slack, Fits this definition. It's like the Lyft. Even Stripes, I mean, that thing was Stripe now too. The original market was startups that need to get their merchant accounts faster and implement them quickly. And it turns out everybody that needs better merchant accounts. So it's an excellent. So what I guess to put words in your mouth for email, like, yeah, who the business people in executive seats spend three hours a day on email, they need like, they really desperately care about faster email. But everybody cares about really faster email, right? Absolutely. And the good thing for us, it turns out that even that particular market will lead to a multi-billion dollar company. And so there is this potential to create a enduring franchise, a company that could last for over a hundred years and that's certainly our goal here. All right. Well, we very much look forward to covering the superhuman IPO on the main show next. I think that's the next acronym we're going to be. I don't know. Who else is in your cohort that's going to be all IPO-ing around the same time? I'd love to see all the great products of the companies right now. No, sure. We're in a total renaissance. Yeah, we are. We really are. Absolutely. Well, before we break, Rahul, where can our LPs find you on the internet and, too, what is the best way for them to get access to superhuman? Okay. So I am on Twitter at RahulVore. That's my name, R-A-H-U-L-V-O-H-R-A. And of course, at email at rahulatssuperhuman.com and to get access by far, the best way is to get a referral from an existing user. I would just recommend going to search.twitter.com and typing in superhuman. There is a high volume of tweets. There's a lot of very helpful superhuman users out there. You can see which ones the most helpful users are just by who's jumping in on which threads giving out invites. If you don't feel inclined to do that level of work, then you can sign up on the website, but that will be a fair bit slower. All right. What about what are you hiring for? I'm sure there are lots of listeners who would love to come work here. Well, you mentioned that just before we started, your primary audience is actually product managers right now and it turns out that I'm hiring for our very first product manager. Whoa. So this is a super exciting role. You get to work with me for better for worse all day, every day, on building the fastest email experience of all time. And I'm really thrilled to be hiring for this role. I've carried product in the company for a number of years and it's a really fantastic opportunity for the right person. Terrible boss, but like, great. I don't know. I think I rate, okay. I think I rate, okay. But yes, really great product. Really great product. In addition to that, engineers of all types, lead backend engineer, front end engineer. If you're a phenomenal developer, we'd really love to speak with you. Awesome. Well, we rarely do LP shows, I think, with early stage companies that are still early stage and quotes here. But I think we very intentionally and selectively reached out. I think we think incredibly highly of superhuman. So LP's, if you do feel so inclined that that may be interesting for you, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thank you. Awesome. Well, listeners, if you aren't subscribed and you like what you hear, you totally should. And also, if you were way too excited about this episode earlier to pause and fill out the season for a survey, now is literally the perfect time. You should totally click the link in the show notes or you should go to acquired.fm slash survey. You should take the survey. And you could win a pair of second generation AirPods or one of 10 acquired LP subscriptions. Thank you so much for doing that. We really appreciate it. Thank you, everyone. And we will see you next time. Thank you, everyone. Later, David.