🤩 The Start of Something Great 🎢

Lobo Library #20 - 6/8/21 - a 4 min 41 second read ahead...

🗞TL;DR: I got engaged, I found a cofounder, and I’m working on something new.


Hey fam!

I'm writing this after getting back from what seems like my first vacation in over a year. I'm feeling refreshed and excited to catch you up on some exciting news. Get ready, because this one is going to get personal.

🏩 Personal Update:

Becky and I are engaged! We were lucky to have some amazing weather, and together with Arty and a couple of friends, we made our way to Central Park to take the plunge together. While it wasn't a surprise for either of us (we came to the decision together), we did take the opportunity to surprise both of our families who were meeting for dinner. It was a beautiful day.

🚀 Start-Update

This one is a bit more of a rollercoaster - so strap in. By the end of last year, I was feeling burned out, frustrated, and defeated. I worked really really hard last year, created a ton of products, and learned a whole lot, but in the end, I didn't have a startup I wanted to work on. I decided it was time to look for a job. This was really hard for me, because I felt like I was a failure, and that my lack of progress was a reflection of me (even though it was the likely outcome for anyone building a startup).

While I started to evaluate what I wanted to do for work and look for a job, I thought it was a great opportunity to test out my product/no-code development as a freelancer. I partnered up with a friend, Abhishek, who I had gotten to know well throughout quarantine. He had just wound down his YC startup and was interested in working together. Through a random connection, we were able to secure our first client project: building a Covid Compliance App that would allow event venues to securely check-in (tested/vaccinated) attendees.

Over the next 6 weeks, we built and delivered the most complex project I have ever worked on. It was incredibly challenging but also rewarding as we pushed no-code to the limit (99% of the final product was built without code).

And while I still don't know how to code, somehow I feel like I am a software developer now 🤓.

In addition to getting paid (woohoo), Abhishek and I were able to get to know each other very very well. I have never worked with another person like him, and he was exactly what I was looking for in a cofounder. To reiterate what I've said before, a good partner should be a good communicator, accountable, and proactive. In addition to checking all of those boxes, he is also brilliant, an optimist, and technical (complementary skillset FTW).

After our project ended, we went through a couple of cofounder dating exercises (which worked out well) and started looking for something we would be excited to work on together. We eventually picked a space which we both were passionate about, 'community.' We had both been inspired by amazing professional communities we were part of (On Deck, YC, Wharton, F.inc, etc.). We wanted to build a product that would enable the people running those groups, community builders ("CBs"), to be successful and create meaningful connections and experiences for their members.

Over the next couple of months, we ran customer interviews with 100 community leaders from around the globe to learn about their day-to-day processes, what makes them successful, and what gets in the way of that success.

We initially started down the path of building a feature-rich member portal inspired by On Deck (think member directory with access to content, resources, and more). Users of our member portal would be able to easily find and connect with the right people they wanted to reach. We built the MVP in 3 weeks (thanks to no-code). While we had some good initial reception, we found that it was challenging to have CBs onboard their members. After some investigating, we decided that we needed to build out many more features, including forum-like functionality (like Circle.so) before our product went from a 'nice-to-have' to a 'must-have.'

However, our customer conversations also pointed us in a different direction: member matching & introductions. One of the main reasons that people join communities, associations, and professional groups is to solve a problem that they have. Content or education can help with this, but meeting the right person (or group) is usually the key to their solution. In addition, people join communities to feel a part of something. a sense of belonging. Thus, one of the biggest parts of a CB's job is to introduce members to one another and create spaces where such interaction will happen. However, creating intimacy in communities becomes more complicated and challenging for the CB as the group grows in size. That's where we come in.

Abhishek and I have built Covalent, a product that helps CBs connect relevant members/students/attendees with one another in communities/courses/events, etc. Whether it's for 1:1s, masterminds, mentorship, roundtables, you name it - we can do it. We can make intros/send messages that are curated, personalized, and come from the community builder, rather than a bot (you know that everyone ignores the Donut channel in Slack).

Since we made the pivot to matching/intros, we have gotten some serious interest in the product and are running pilots with different groups (e.g. VC portfolio companies, startup/founder groups, freelance networks). We are planning on monetizing in the near-term and are hoping this becomes financially viable soon!

There are a lot more updates to come, and if you are interested in following our startup progress in more detail, reply to this and let me know so I can add you to our investor update emails.


Ain’t no party like an Arty party:


🏁Wow - you made it to the bottom. I hope you enjoyed it. Reach out with feedback or to just say hi!🏁

I love you,

Lobo

👺1/ It's scary to sell 💸

Lobo Library #19 - 11/16/20 - a 3 min 59 second read ahead...

🗞TL;DR: I made my first $$$ as a founder - through my Intro to NoCode course. It launches today and runs for the next 5 weeks. If you want to learn to know how to build NoCode Apps / Landing Pages FAST, check it out. I’ll give subscribers a discount.


Happy Monday Fam,

This past weekend I attended my first Zoom wedding. My cousin got married, and while it was a fun get-together with a venue that was very dog-friendly #dadjoke, it was a reminder of how much I miss pre-COVID life. Alas, life goes on.

And now for some more exciting news…


🚀 Start-Update

Building an Online Course (part 1)

🤖 Picking up from my last update - I actually did it. I put myself out there and announced that I would be teaching an Intro to NoCode course (though I didn’t say when it would launch). I posted it to Twitter and the On Deck Slack, and I reached out to some of my friends in the NoCode community and got them to spread the word too.

Over the course of the next few hours, thousands of people saw my announcement and a few dozen reached out to learn more. Wow. Amazing, right? Wrong. The excitement that I had from the hackathon win, which spurred me to make the course announcement, suddenly turned to terror.

There were real people out there actually wanted to learn more and maybe even sign up. But I didn’t have anything prepared yet...I needed a curriculum, videos, presentations, demos, etc. I needed a course! I was just about to go off and start building everything I needed to launch a course. Then, my friend Ben stopped me.

Ben gave me two valuable pieces of advice.

First, he told me to not build anything until I got actual sales. There were customers knocking at the door asking to sign up, and there I was planning on disappearing for a few weeks to go build something with the hopes that when I came back, those people would still be interested in buying. Bad idea. Ben recommended that I focus all of my attention on doing things that were going to get me more excited to follow-through with this personal project.

For me, that meant paying customers.

Next, Ben told me I should set a goal for how many customers I needed to consider this successful. “As many as possible” isn’t a good answer here. How many paying customers were going to make me happy to follow-through? 1, 3, 50, 100? I thought about it and decided if I could get 5 people to sign up, that would be the minimum for me to go ahead and build the course. 10 customers would be a great outcome, and the unlikely 15 would be my ‘FUCK YEAH goal’.

So that’s what I did. I went to Gumroad and made a sales page for my course. The course would start two weeks later on Nov 16th. Then, I went back to all of those people who said they were interested in learning more and I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do….sell.

You know, I always thought that I would be great at sales. I’m gregarious, personable, (handsome), etc. Oh, and did I mention that I know a whole lot about sales? I’ve studied it, worked for a Sales tech company, and have advised hundreds of salespeople/managers on their sales strategy for my job?!

Yup, all of that went out the window when I actually had to sell something myself.

It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience to go to all of those people and try to convince them to pre-purchase the course (especially since it was ~12 hours after they had seen the announcement). Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way - if you are going to announce a product/service/(probably anything), give people the ability to take action on it immediately (e.g. provide their information, or better yet, purchase a product).

Slowly, the customers started to purchase. On the first day, 2 people purchased. On the second day, another 4 people purchased, and with that, I crossed my minimum threshold of 5 customers. Over the week, rather than reaching out to more people on LinkedIn or other channels, I kept pushing on the interested people who had reached out to me. I eventually wound up with 13 customers! That was enough, not just because I had sold way more than I thought I would, but because I was running out of time and needed to start creating content. Even more terror and anxiety.

Surprise surprise, another big lesson. Creating content is HARD (and takes forever).

(…part 2 coming soon…)


Ain’t no party like an Arty party:


🏁Wow - you made it to the bottom. I hope you enjoyed it. Reach out with feedback or to just say hi!🏁

I love you,

Lobo

🛣 Keep going... 🏃‍♂️

Lobo Library #18 - 10/26/20 - a 4 min 01 second read ahead...

Written with ❤️ from NYC.

🗞TL;DR: I’m still here. I’m building stuff. The hustle continues…

Happy Monday Fam,

A quick update on the personal front - my girlfriend and I officially moved in together 🏠. I am happy.

(I do feel a bit weird talking about personal stuff here. I’m unlikely to write on here if I’m ever sad…Is that weird? Moving on…)

It was a crazy busy weekend. I spent nearly the entire time working, doing another OnDeck “Build Weekend” 3-day hackathon. I have participated in 3 other Build Weekends and was on the winning team in each one 🏆. This time, I worked on two separate teams with very different ideas.

The first was a streamlined approach to buying used construction equipment. It turns out if you want to buy construction equipment today, you need to go to a live auction, use a broker, or go to a very 1995-looking website where you can see available equipment. Whatever you choose, the process is going to involve at 1-2 dozen phone calls, as you negotiate price, inspection, financing, logistics, and many other time-consuming and irritating problems. It’s weird nobody has solved this problem because it represents $100B each year (yep that’s Billion with a B). Our proposed solution was called “GRRR.” Why? Cars go VROOM, but heavy machinery goes GRRR 😂.

The second project I worked on was an AI-powered virtual receptionist for small businesses. Despite the widespread adoption of Yelp and Google Maps, where information on businesses is plentiful, many folks (myself included) will still call to get their questions answered. “Are you dog friendly?” “Do you have keto options?” “Do you have outdoor seating?” It turns out 65% of these phone calls don’t get answered. And there are Billons of these phone calls happening each month (again, Billion with a B). Our proposed solution, Goodcall, can be set up in a couple of minutes, and can immediately save businesses time and money.

While I didn’t actually build the AI portion of the solution, I did flex my advanced NoCode skills and build the app (with the help of an amazing designer).

Luckily enough, our team won! We got the ‘Best Startup Award’ and ‘Crowd Favorite’ 🏆.

I hope that one of these days a project will take off. Either way, I have to keep going.


🚀 Start-Update

What I did:

  • 🚪 Stopped working on Extendo, the no-code tool to build Chrome Extensions. After a month and a half of research (50 customer interviews), it turns out that this was a very lukewarm problem for users. That being said, I’m way more bullish on Chrome Extensions themselves and think there are many opportunities for developer tools there.

  • 🤖 Finished an intro and advanced course on Bubble. Bubble is on the frontier of NoCode tools and it allows you to build fully functional apps, without code. It’s actually crazy. I feel like I have superpowers. That being said it’s definitely still a very complicated thing to learn.

What I’m working on:

What I need help with:

  • 🤓 Intro to NoCode: If you are interested in learning how to build a prototype/product, let me know! I’ll hook you up with a massive discount on the course. If you aren’t interested but you know someone who is, refer them and I’ll give you a bonus as a thank you too 💰.

  • 📨 Feedstack: Do you write a newsletter or produce any content where you course use an easy 1-click survey to get feedback from your audience? Or do you ever send out short surveys at all? Either way, let me know if you or someone you know might be interested in trying out the product when it’s ready.


Ain’t no party like an Arty party:

Arty’s trip to the beach.


🏁Wow - you made it to the bottom. I hope you enjoyed it. Reach out with feedback or to just say hi!🏁

I love you,

Lobo


🕸️Extending the Capabilities of the Web...also, Puppies🐕

Lobo Library #17 - 8/27/20 - a 3 min 56 second read ahead...

Written with ❤️ from NYC.

🗞TL;DR: Updates, launches, and more exciting news (puppies?!).

Happy Thursday!

Alas, summer is almost over. Time has truly flown by. For me, the main reason for this of course is the arrival of Arty (short for Artemis) the Whoodle (Wheaten Terrier + Poodle mix).

These days it feels like everything revolves around the pup. While the first month has been riddled with accidents and sleepless nights, my girlfriend and I are starting to get the hang of it.

My favorite part of the day is when Arty sees me in the morning and her little tail shakes back and forth like those old-time metal spring door stoppers.

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness never bought a puppy.

If you’re in NYC, come meet the puppy sometime 🐕‍🦺!

(more pictures at the end)


🚀 Start-Update

What I did:

  • 🚪 Stopped working on Glinda, the advisory service for parents of kids with special needs. After a month of customer interviews (30+), my cofounder and I learned a TON about the problem of navigating special needs. It’s a very intense and widespread problem. Unfortunately, for most parents, the solution we envisioned (like ‘Talkspace’ for special needs) was not economically feasible.

    While there are other paths to solve this problem (digital products, community, etc.), my cofounder and I were unwilling to pursue them. This problem felt like one of those problems that everyone agrees is important but is very difficult to solve, like world hunger or poverty. I felt little ‘founder-market’ fit personally, which I thought would be necessary for continuing.

    I really do hope someone tackles this successfully. In the meanwhile, you should check out my cofounder’s new book on the topic.

  • 💥 Finished the pilot cohort of OperatorMVP, a workshop series to give you the tactical skills to validate your startup idea without needing to know how to code. I really enjoyed compiling and sharing my knowledge and personal experience of building and launching 10+ products over the last few months.

    I’ll likely turn this workshop into an online course at some point. Here was some positive feedback from my students 🗣️:

    • “David managed to incorporate just the right level of theory and practice in the course, and I found the course very useful to take my idea forward. My favorite part was the session on launching the startup which included lots of practical tips, even including how-to-word emails to get the best responses.”

    • “I'd definitely recommend signing up for the course - I learned a lot in a very short time. The sessions really kept me accountable and helped me make progress on my idea.”

    • “David was very engaging and passionate about the subject - good communication skills and helpful in making the content tailored to the audience.”

  • 🏆 Won OnDeck’s ‘Build Weekend Hackathon’ (judges choice + crowd favorite) for Extendo, a no-code tool to build Chrome Extensions. Over the course of a weekend, I paired up with 4 other OnDeck Fellows to flush out an idea to help people design, build, and distribute Chrome Extensions without code. You can see more information (and the demo) here:


What I’m working on:

  • 🤓 Extendo: One of my teammates from the hackathon and I are flushing out this idea to see if this is a problem worth solving. So far we’ve done 30+ customer/expert interviews with people that have built or want to build a Chrome Extension. We’ve found that there are 3 common issues that non-technical and technical builders have:

    • Problem 1: Extensions are obscure and it’s not clear what their capabilities are.

    • Problem 2: It’s challenging (or impossible) to build an Extension (especially without code).

    • Problem 3: Distributing and promoting an Extension is also difficult.

    While this might seem like a strange problem to tackle, it could be a massive opportunity - there are 3 BILLION Chrome users in the world. While we spend more time on our phones these days, work still happens on the computer. And thanks to the rise of SaaS and Cloud Platforms, that work is accessed through the browser. Chrome Extensions have the ability to personalize, customize, and greatly improve that experience.

What I need help with:

  • 🤓 Extendo: My cofounder and I are looking for a technical cofounder who is also interested in this space and who can help us build an MVP. If you know any all-star engineers who might be a good fit, please send them my way!


Ain’t no party like an Arty party:

Dad-ing out real hard.


🏁Wow - you made it to the bottom. I hope you enjoyed it. Reach out with feedback or to just say hi!🏁

I love you,

Lobo

🦴Some like it Ruff 🐶

Lobo Library #16 - 7/13/20 - a 5 min 2 second read ahead...

Written with ❤️ from NYC.

🗞TL;DR: Updates, launches, and more exciting news (puppies?!).

Howdy folks and happy Monday!

Time has flown by since our last update in mid-May. I’ve been plugging away between Manhattan and Long Island through the muggy summer heat.

A quick question for you: 1) what do you find interesting about this newsletter AND 2) is there anything you want to hear/learn more about? Let me know!

I have some exciting news to share! No. It’s not about anything I’ve been working on, unfortunately 😅. My girlfriend and I are making some big moves and getting a dog (a Whoodle named Artemis). See her picture at the end of the newsletter.

Anyway, we have a lot to catch up on, so let’s jump into it.


🚀 Start-Update

What I did:

  • 🖨 Launched PrintMyReturnLabel.com, the easiest way to print shipping/return labels if you don’t own a printer. Since we launched, we’ve had half a dozen orders and got some good publicity on Twitter. It’s not a main focus but rather something that will be running in the background.

  • 📚 Committed to learning Bubble. After months of stitching together products using a variety nocode tools, I’ve decided it’s time to level up with Bubble. Bubble is a visual development tool that allows you to build fully functional web apps with a frontend (what you see), backend (the database with your information), and workflows (instructions to make the frontend and backend work together).

    Bubble is a one-of-a-kind tool with a steep learning curve, but it can enable you to do incredible things (at least I hope so!). Get started using this course. Bubble might be too intimidating for you (it was for me - took me 6 months to commit…). I think the best way to learn about nocode is by building things as fast as possible and learning a new tool only when you hit a wall. Here is my recommendation for a learning path (in order): Carrd, Typeform, Zapier, Airtable, Webflow, and if needed, Bubble.

  • 🧭 Switched my notetaking/general knowledge-base app from Notion to Roam Research. Roam is one of the most interesting and unique pieces of software I’ve ever used. Roam allows you to use bi-directional ‘tags’ or hyperlinks to connect any piece of content to another. With this more flexible linkage, your thoughts and ideas don’t need to be separated using hierarchical-based structure/folders but rather can operate more like Wikipedia. (I’m aware this might be very hard to understand, so check out one of these videos to learn more about Roam: 1, 2, 3). HIGHLY RECOMMEND 👍

  • 👥 Completed ~3 months of weekly meetings with amazing founders (quasi-Mastermind group). Every weekend, I get together on a Zoom with the same small group of folks to talk about our goals, priorities, and whatever else is on our minds. It’s been a really special and rewarding experience to go through this together. HIGHLY RECOMMEND 👍

What I’m working on:

  • 🤓 OperatorMVP:
    Problem: MBA programs and other entrepreneurship courses/offerings don’t provide tactical skills to launch a startup. Despite being extremely involved with the entrepreneurship/startup/tech resources at Wharton, I saw this issue first-hand. There was a lot of theory but not any guidance on what to actually do.

    Last month, I launched a cohort-based course to teach non-technical business folks (targeted mainly at MBAs) how to launch a startup and leverage nocode tools to do so. After interviewing a dozen candidates and selecting the initial group, we successfully launched and are halfway through the programming. If all goes well I think I’ll expand this to other areas to help uplevel

  • 👐 Glinda:
    Problem: Parents of kids with special needs can be overwhelmed by the challenge of understanding their child’s issues, addressing them, and getting the right resources through their school. Schools can be adversarial getting kids the help they need (and are entitled to under law) because schools have to foot the bill. Getting personalized advice can also be daunting from a financial perspective too; special needs lawyers and parent advocates are expensive (200+/hr).

    This month, I teamed up with another founder who is an expert in the special needs arena (kids with special needs + wrote a book on the subject + battle scars from personal experience) to do more research on this problem area. We’ve interviewed two dozen experts and parents and will be piloting a solution called Glinda.
    Glinda is the ‘Talkspace for Parents of Kids with Special Needs.’ It’s a text/voice message-based advisory service that is affordable, convenient, and personalized for parents.

  • 🔀 Cofounder Dating: Remix! After Antler made some disappointing changes to their program structure, I decided to focus my founder search through the On Deck Fellowship (a founder program/community that I joined in Q3/Q4 of 2019). Over the last 4 weeks I’ve had over 50 one-on-ones with incredible founders from around the globe.
    Plug for On Deck: On Deck has been the most impactful driver in my founder journey thus far. It’s like an MBA (badass community/network) without the classes and with a 100% focus on startups (also investing and big tech). If you are interested in joining or have any questions about it, let me know! HIGHLY RECOMMEND 👍

What I need help with:

  • 🤓 OperatorMVP: Do you know anyone who is interested in starting a business? Are they someone who doesn’t code or doesn’t know where to start? Tell them to check out OperatorMVP.com to learn more about the program or joining our next cohort. Email me with any questions!

  • 👐 Glinda: Do you know any parent who has a young kid with special needs (or one that is going through an IEP process with their school)? Do you know any specialists/experts in the special needs space? I’m trying to get some advice (not sell anything). I’d love an introduction!

  • 🔀 Cofounder Dating: I’m still on the co-founder hunt. Do you know someone who is 1) working on founding something full-time AND 2) happens to be an all-star? I’d love an introduction!


Meet Artemis:

Coming soon…


🏁Wow - you made it to the bottom. I hope you enjoyed it. Reach out with feedback or to just say hi!🏁

I love you,

Lobo

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