A seismic shift in product management | GPT3 is the abstraction we deserve

In the last few weeks, the tech world has been abuzz with GPT3. There has been a Cambrian explosion in demos that look super cool. A16Z has a great podcast that goes through the details that is a must-listen.

You start by providing GPT3 a few example questions and answers that prime the model. After priming you can ask it questions and it correctly (mostly) predicts and generates the right answer. You could think about GPT3 as a super generalized inference model for text. You now how a generalized text-based interface that can understand what you are trying to ask/do well!Read More »

Adventures in underwriting, competitive advantage edition

Every business will eventually have to get into the financing business. Financing is a fancy word for lending and it has been around since the dawn of civilization. In this post, I will attempt to describe a simplified mental model for lending.
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Credit: Scott Adams

What is lending at its core?

Lending is a contractual relationship between two parties. One of them has something that the other needs. The lender, who has the thing and the borrower, who wants the thing. Since the dawn of mankind, the thing to want is productive assets. You start with borrowing a plow, borrowing some land, borrowing some seeds – you get the idea. As mankind progressed and the next abstraction of money came into being, money is the asset that everybody wants. Money is the path to get to productive assets. The lender of money wants to get compensated for giving his asset to the borrower. He is giving up the use of the asset and needs an incentive to compensate for the lost opportunity cost – this is the interest. Every contractual relationship has to have a time frame specified. In lending, this construct is described by the repayment term i.e over what period of time does the lender get their money back.

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Portrait of an arms dealer – a look at Shopify (SHOP:NYSE)

For our last 10K club we discussed Shopify ($SHOP). Giorgio has a fantastic post going into the 10k details. The bull case for Shopify is all over the interwebs but to truly understand the company, it’s useful to formulate the other side of the argument. In this post lets deep dive into Shopify’s business model and strategy and work out the bear case. Standard disclaimer: this is not investment advice and I do not hold any positions in $SHOP. This is a thought experiment using the good business/bad business framework.

What is Shopify’s business model?

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Good Business, Bad Business – Fintech edition

When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for poor fundamental economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact. – Warren Buffet

As I age in the business world, I have internalized this buffet quote. I superficially understood it early on in my career, but now I understand it! With fintech as the backdrop, this post is a view of my mental model on business models and gross margins in general. What makes a good high gross margin business?

Let’s start with a 30,000 ft view of what forms a business. Businesses exist to provide value to a set of customers via the products they create. A firm solves a need and customers pay them to solve that need. At its core, a company is a machine that takes raw ingredients (physical widgets, human capital, and intellectual capital) and transforms them into products that customers pay for. Raw ingredients cost money (cost centers) and customers pay money (revenue centers) for the finished product. A good business, in the long run, generates a consistent profit i.e (revenue – cost) is a positive number. Profit takes various forms such as free cash flow, EBIT or EBITDA – but the simple model holds, value creation only happens when what you get for the product is higher than what it costs to make it.

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Shouting from the rooftops, Channels 101 for Product Managers

In this post lets delve deeper into the mechanics of channels. As mentioned in my previous post, do not start this exercise before you have locked down your product value proposition and positioning.

Think deeply about LTV and set guardrails

What does the economics of your business look like? The most important thing is to align on is the value of your customer to you. What is the long term value of the customer (LTV)? Don’t be confused by the term “Long”. It’s up to you on how long you consider a customer to be using your product. Early on in a startup, it is better to have shorter periods. The more mature you are, you will have actual data on how long users use your service. You have to start by nailing down the exact equation on how you calculate LTV. This also forces you to think about the unit economics of the business. The biggest issue isn’t in creating the equation for LTV rather it’ getting a broad agreement with the team on the equation. Everybody has to believe in the assumptions and understand the specifics of how LTV is calculated.Read More »

Don’t believe the hype, Marketing 101 for Product Managers

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Credit: Scott Adams
I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing and distribution. In this day and age, it’s pretty clear that distribution wins everything. This is also an area where I see a lot of snake oil. Everybody is trying to sell you something that promises great ROI.
 
You need a simple structured framework to think through distribution and marketing. It is a mistake to directly jump into tactics. Should I do search? Should I try podcasts? Should I hire a marketing agency to do everything?
 
This is putting the cart before the horse.

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Money often costs too much – a look at Adyen (ADYEN:EN)

“Only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle.” – Jim Barksdale

In the last post, I talked about the history of merchant acquiring and how the industry evolved. This post talks about the natural progression of the trend and the rise of the full stack acquirer.

A quick recap

The core jobs to be done for merchant acquiring is to enable a merchant to accept credit card payments. It started with one institution, the bank, and then unbundled into a plethora of entities. We now have a complicated ecosystem consisting of the card networks, issuing banks, acquiring banks, payment processors, and the alphabet soup of PSPs and MSP’s. Merchant acquiring transitioned to being a commodity business and scale became king. The need for scale caused the companies to grow via acquisition.Read More »

The history of merchant acquiring |Rise of the full stack acquirer

Ayden was the next pick for the Fintech PM guild’s next 10k session. As I dug through their financials, I realized that I wasn’t familiar with the history of the business they were in. Why does merchant acquiring exist as an industry? What is the history of this business, why does it exist the way it does today? Let us take a step back and take a walk through memory lane.
 
To understand any system it is useful to have a framework around the core jobs to be done in the system. In a payment system, money is the main asset exchanged between parties and there are three main jobs to be done.

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