Hey Gang 👋
Hello again! It seems to me like the relentless world of tech is never going to have a slow week, and never going to get boring as the future is imagined into existence. That is mostly a good thing for all of us (I think), but it does make it hard to keep up. So, here is my little contribution to help you find some signal in all of the noise.
Many technologists think that one of the key components in ushering in that accelerated future will be quantum computing. We explore that in our Build link, with a beginners guide which dives just deep enough.
One of the most compelling human skills has always been communicating ideas clearly, particularly through writing. Our Grow link is all about copywriting for traction.
Remember a few years ago, those Casper mattresses were all the rage? Seemed like those folks were building a sure-fire DTC success. Turns out, they were not – because of failing to keep a tight grip on their unit economics as our Lead link digs into.
In the Bonus link this week, the ethics of eugenics – two words forever connected – are being brought into sharp focus in the world of biotech.
From the Archive, I can’t recommend enough Des Traynor‘s superb keynote from a few years ago. Intercom is Ireland’s biggest internet success, and Des is one of the main reasons why.
Btw, I just want to say thank you for reading this newsletter. I’m sure your inbox is at least as hyperactive as mine – with Twitter slowly fading away, I feel like I am subscribed to a lot more newsletters than before – and I’m keenly aware of how much everyone wants your attention, and is using email to get it. I really appreciate you letting this fortnightly note through the gate, and will endeavour to never waste your time.
📚 [BUILD] The WIRED guide to quantum computing
For the past 50 years, Moore’s Law – the astonishingly accurate prediction of microprocessor capabilities doubling every two years – has essentially defined the trajectory of technology and, in many ways, of human progress. That may all be about to change with quantum computing edging inexorably into reality.
Starting with the basics of quantum computing, from qubits to superposition, the authors of this fascinating WIRED guide outline the potential applications and challenges facing the field.
As with any emerging technology, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but the potential rewards are enormous. Coupled with advances in AI, we are truly heading into an undiscovered country.
[Sophia Chen & Tom Simonite, WIRED]
🗞️ [LEAD] The cautionary tale of Casper: why realism about TAM and clarity on unit economics matters
In 2018, I bought a Casper mattress. The whole process – discovering them online (everywhere!), investigating the product on their beautiful website, seamlessly ordering, quick delivery, delightful unboxing, and finally a truly wonderful night’s sleep – was an excellent experience. Many happy customers agreed, and so did a bunch of eager investors – they pumped over $350m into this star of the emerging “sleep economy”, prior to the company’s IPO in 2020.
However, despite early success, their value soon began to plummet. Last November they were bought by a PE for a fraction of the IPO price and delisted.
So what went wrong? In two words, unit economics.
The excellent breakdown below explores the strategic and tactical mistakes that lead to Casper appearing to be growing like crazy, but actually losing money on every mattress sold. Rising CAC, falling LTV, and a flawed TAM assumption: this is a cautionary tale every company builder should read.
📖 Read the full newsletter here
📚 [GROW] Getting people’s attention: you just push the viral button, right?
As a former VP Product at Substack, and someone who has published 230,000 words in the past 3 years, Nathan Baschez must know a thing or two about writing that gets shared on the internet.
Luckily for you, he has condensed his thinking into a single essay, with a helpful framework and process for executing writing that spreads.
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📚 [BONUS] As biotechnology leaps forward, deeply uncomfortable questions need to be addressed
It is perhaps (hopefully!) a universal truth that everyone wants the best for the people they love. Like most parents, I like to think that I would do anything for my kids. But how much is too much?
40% of Americans report that they are ready to test embryos for future college chances – and biotech companies are getting close to making that a real choice. Ethicists, unsurprisingly, are freaking out. This stuff is frightening and amazing in equal measure – worth a read.
[Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review]
🎥 [ARCHIVE – TF18] Des Traynor – What we’ve learned scaling from 0-25k+ paying customers
Back in 2018, Des came to Turing Fest to share the wins, losses, successes and failures he’s experienced working across product, growth, marketing, and support at one of the fastest-growing startups out there. In his talk – one of the most popular ever at TF – he covered the decisions that can make or break a product, including the product’s pricing, packaging, positioning and placement.
Anyone working in marketing, growth, or product will learn the impact of these early product decisions on a business’ trajectory, and how the right decision can lead to maximum growth.
Considering Des gave his talk almost 5 years ago, and when you look at the success of Intercom and its position in the market today, there are definitely valuable lessons to be learned here.