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Erik Trautman

Technical entrepreneurship, business strategy and product development

Sometimes You Need a Slap in the Face

When I was in college I played poker online and did well enough that it steered me towards an interest in trading on Wall Street. I liked what I learned about trading and decided that I wanted to someday start a hedge fund. My friend's father headed a public company at the time and he put me in touch with two fund managers so I could get some advice.

The first guy I called worked within an old-style bank. I don't remember much of anything from our conversation except that he seemed a bit... "traditional"? My questions weren't very good and his answers were pure vanilla. I learned nothing.

The second guy was a different story. He ran a nimble long/short fund with a few hundred million under management and had needed to scrap for every victory. From the second he picked up the phone I could tell he was short on time and low on patience. I kind of stammered through my list of questions and he gave me answers that appropriately reflected the poorly researched nature of my queries, which included things like "what is a long/short fund exactly?".

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4 Steps to Initial Product Growth

This post is based on a great talk given by Jared Fliesler, formerly VP of User Acquisition at Square.

How do you begin thinking about growing your startup or product? "Build it and they will come" is long gone and "Be user centric" has taken over product development but what frameworks do we have to think about growth and user acquisition specifically?

These 4 simple steps, starting from the most coarse to the somewhat finer grained, should get your feet firmly planted and your mind pointed in the right direction.

1. Identify Your Core Product Loop

Every product has a single core user experience, a set of finite steps that represent a successful use or transaction. If you had to define your product's use in as few steps as possible, what would it look like? What happens after the use is complete?

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Dear Jane Doe

This letter was addressed some time ago to the younger sister of a good friend, a very smart young lady who grew up without a lot of resources in a small town and who was struggling with the specter of college admissions and the general life questions raised by the process. I don't want to dive too deeply into the background, but it's a situation which puts one at a crossroads -- staying home and living a big life in a small town or throwing the dice and heading off to school elsewhere.

Note: Names and identifying references removed. Some points relate to previous conversations.

[Redacted],

I don't often go out of my way to check up on people or give advice but I know you've got such great potential that I feel like I should make sure you get off on the right path and such. I've included some thoughts about various things (that got longer than I initially expected) and an invitation to call me for whatever reason anytime about whatever random BS is giving you grief and slowing you down.

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