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You Can’t Fix a Blank Page

A motto I embrace for everything, not just when it comes to writing.

8 min read
You Can’t Fix a Blank Page
Before Growth is a weekly newsletter about startups and their builders before product–market fit, by 3x founder and programmer Kamil Nicieja.
I confess, last week was a bit of a slow one for me—I was under the weather, which is part of the reason I missed the deadline for our previous newsletter. To make up for it, this week we’ll be releasing two issues. Apart from that, we’re returning to our regular schedule of one post per week.
  • In 2024, technology is a market driven by employers.
  • Carta is exiting the startup stock sale business.
  • Effective metrics for your next investor update.

Whenever I sit down to write, I don’t worry too much if the initial idea seems kinda “meh.” I just crank out a draft and see where it goes. Sometimes it turns out great, other times not so much. But even if it sucks at first, I might figure out a way to fix it a week later. Heck, there’ve been times when I hated something one month and loved it the next. You never know.

I’m a big believer in just diving in and getting stuff done. To me, the whole debate between “ideas” and “execution” is kinda pointless. You can’t improve a blank page, right? Plus, you never really know how complicated an idea is gonna be until you start working on it. So, you’ve gotta do both—come up with the idea and take it for a test drive to see if it’s got legs.

That said, it’s crucial to keep things low–key at the start. Let’s be real, we’ve all got limited time and energy, and there’s always something else that needs doing. You can’t pour a ton of resources into every whim or idea. Keeping the initial effort minimal helps you suss out an idea’s potential without breaking the bank, either in time or resources.

I got convinced this heuristic is alright based on own my experience. (Writer’s block, am I right?) But it’s not limited to just one field; it applies broadly to startups, projects, coding, ideas—essentially anything. A straightforward yet impactful framework to kick off 2024.

Let’s dive into this week’s recap.

In 2024, technology is a market driven by employers

Every year, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Price makes it a practice to disclose the number of job applications received and the count of hires. On December 29, he revealed the statistics for 2023. In 2021, approximately 7 out of every 1,000 applicants were hired, but this ratio decreased to less than 1 in 2023.

The majority of the decline appears to be due to a significant increase in applications each year. Considering the events of 2022 and 2023, it’s reasonable to conclude that this surge is a result of the tech industry shifting from an employee-driven market to one dominated by employers.

An employee’s market occurs when employers face significant challenges in finding qualified staff. Prospects aren’t enticed by basic job availability slogans; they scrutinize multiple job offers, seeking to meet their ever-growing expectations. Employers, therefore, must intensify their efforts to attract candidates with the necessary qualifications. Even retaining current employees in the company can become a challenge in such conditions.

But it appears we’ve shifted to an employer’s market now. With widespread layoffs, startups shutting down, and job insecurity common at even established companies, there’s a larger pool of job seekers. This results in heightened competition for each candidate. It’s an important factor to consider this year, whether you’re planning to hire or looking for a new job.

Generative AI in Product Design

You may have noticed that in 2023, Before Growth has alternated between AI and other early-stage startups. In a year in which AI startups made up over 60% of Y Combinator’s startup class, this was deliberate. But there was also another reason behind this choice.

When I began structuring my ideas about AI, it became clear that I had more material than what a few newsletter issues could cover. In fact, the content was extensive enough to fill a short book. This led me to think: Why not write it? And that’s how Generative AI in Product Design, an ebook focused on designing and building products in the AI era, came into this world. You can check it out here. It offers case studies on artificial intelligence applied to next-gen products and just enough theory for you to build your next app with gen AI.

Can you trust Carta with your cap table?

Karri Saarinen, co-founder of Linear, recently highlighted an issue on Twitter regarding Carta, a platform known for helping startups manage equity ownership and option grants. The main concern is Carta’s cold outreach to Linear’s angel investors, proposing the sale of their shares to prospective buyers Carta has identified. Given Linear’s status as a highly sought-after tech startup, finding buyers wasn’t difficult. However, founders are usually cautious about equity for good reasons. Selling equity might signal a lack of confidence, or it could bring in an investor whose interests don’t align, potentially leading to complications in critical scenarios like company sales. I’m not surprised that Saarinen is unhappy.

The investor Carta contacted was a family member who had never publicly disclosed their ownership of Linear shares, raising concerns about privacy and confidentiality. The question then is why Carta would take such a risk with their reputation. The answer lies in financial incentives: while having a leading startup like Linear use their management platform brings in about $10,000 annually for Carta, acting as a broker in just one transaction could earn them a $100,000 commission.

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