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Editor’s Note: This piece was written in partnership with the Stanford Tech History Project, which seeks to document how Stanford’s tech ecosystem has changed since 2010. The full report will be published on Monday, April 26th. To RSVP for the launch event, click here.

As an early-stage consumer investor, my #1 question to founders almost always regards defensibility. It’s easy to get distracted by the bells and whistles of consumer companies (related: The Value of a Velvet Rope), so I’ve found that returning to first principles keeps me grounded when making investment decisions and thinking about early-stage businesses.

As such, I wanted to share this four-part framework more broadly in case it is helpful to other consumer founders:

Why do people come? Why do people stay? Why do people share? Why do people pay?

1. Why do people come?

What gets users on the platform? Can this be distilled…

La Grenouillere by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Last year, Ryan Dawidjan wrote a piece about modern friends, or the relationships that originate and develop through digital channels (like forums, email, Twitter, etc.). I’ve been thinking more and more about this concept of modern friends recently, particularly because I’ve made a lot of them this year.

Perhaps I am even writing about friendship in the first place because I realize now more than ever how rare it is, and more importantly, how immeasurable in value it is. …

By Gaby Goldberg & Talia Goldberg. Originally published in Bessemer’s Atlas.

Audio is experiencing a Cambrian moment, growing faster now than it ever has before. Apple is expected to sell over 100 million AirPods this year, up from 60 million in 2019. Roughly one in four adults owns a smart speaker, with a third of those owners having three or more devices in their homes. Sixty-two percent of Americans use a voice-operated personal assistant. …

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky to meet and work with Matt, Miles, and Jason at OthersideAI. They’re building productivity and communication tools using GPT-3: in one summer, they’ve generated over 3,000 followers on Twitter, along with a waitlist of nearly 8,000 people who want to get their hands on Otherside’s early access alpha product.

But perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of OthersideAI’s story is their approach to onboarding: every single user who gains access to the coveted alpha is personally onboarded through a one-on-one…

In consumer technology, everything old is new again.

As products get flashier with more features and shinier buttons, we crave a return to our roots. In food delivery, Amazon Prime Now and Instacart bring back memories of Webvan, the poster child of the dot-com “excess” bubble that filed for bankruptcy in 2001. David’s Disposable, the disposable camera app from YouTube personality David Dobrik, is a nostalgic throwback to the Kodaks and Fujifilms of the ‘90s. Even iOS 14’s homescreen widget functionality is reminiscent of the days of jailbreaking iPhones to create custom themes.

Another growing trend among modern alternatives to legacy products is the comeback of the command…

The Business Model of Good Taste

We’re experiencing a content overload. There are an average of 550 new social media users each minute, and over 40,000 search queries on Google every second. The Facebook like button has been pressed 13 trillion times, and each new day welcomes another 682 million tweets. It seems that every time we blink there’s a new podcast published, or blog post to read, or book recommendation to order on Amazon. To make a long story short, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disaggregate signal from noise.

Andrew Chen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, wrote last year:

“We’re living in a pivotal time…

At Chapter One, we like to say we invest in cults. But what does that really mean? Here are a few examples from our portfolio:

  • Roam Research, a note-taking tool for networked thought, exploded to nearly 10,000 subscribers in two months, reaching $1.2M ARR within 60 days of launching a paid plan. Roam fostered an obsessive community of users, leading to vibrant groups on Slack (6,000+ members), Reddit (nearly 6,000 members in /r/RoamResearch), and GitHub (over 100 Roam-related repositories).
  • Lambda School, an online immersive computer science academy, processed 60,000 applications in 2019 — 50% more than Harvard — and scheduled…

Have you ever taken a look at Facebook’s content policies? Or Twitter’s? Probably not — they’re decently hard to find, and most social media platforms don’t necessarily go out of their way to advertise their moderation policies. But this silence around moderation illuminates a fascinating dichotomy: moderation is the actual commodity of any social computing system. It classifies the kinds of content allowed on a given platform, and it has downstream influences on how people use the platform to interact. Moderation shapes social norms, public discourse, and cultural production — so why does it receive so little scrutiny?

The benefits…

By Gaby Goldberg & Jordan Odinsky

None of us are new to the idea of hype and exclusivity around drops and launches. Streetwear brands like Supreme and Yeezy are in the business of scarcity, where limited product releases supercharge the traditional supply-and-demand model, and where influencers, celebrities and fans alike create an “echo chamber of excitement.” Gaming and lifestyle brand 100 Thieves has become one of the hottest names in competitive gaming, in part due to its limited and highly sought-after drops of branded hoodies and t-shirts. …

Gaby Goldberg

Investing @BessemerVP & studying Symbolic Systems @Stanford. Previously @ChapterOne. Follow me @gaby_goldberg.

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