Why I built GetData.IO

When training neural networks, until enough training data is collected there will be a period when the output of the neural network is full of false positives and false negatives (aka junk)

The same could be said of the human brain (a biological neural network), unless you have access to another human brain whose output you can totally trust and rely on, there will be a prolonged period when you fumble around while struggling to gather enough data to build a mental model of the new domain.

Based on my experience, the main challenge when breaking into new domains is that no pre-trained neural networks exists. During such situations, expect a prolonged period of confusion and fumbling around. Persistence (aka brute force iteration) is probably the only thing you can fall back on.

Thankfully, totally new domains seldom exists. Whatever “new domain” you think you are trying to break into, someone else is probably either doing it right now or has already done it.

That is why I built GetData.IO. It is to help people who need data to make good decision quickly find the data they need as well as people who might already have a trained model.

Founder University day 2021 May 4th

Precursor Ventures – Charles
Acceleprise VC – on sales process

  • Whitney Sales
  • whitney@acceleprise.vc
  • Enterprise sales early stage investor B2B space
  • @thesalesmethod

Whitney Graw

  • Becki Degraw
  • Wilson Sonsini, Partner
  • rdegraw@wsgr.com

Acrew Capital

  • Lauren Kolodny
  • Twitter @LaurenKolodny

Do fewer things in terms of revenue stream. Do them better and faster.

Give a great example of the solution to the problem that a user is experiencing

Don’t care about recognition on the Forbes list. Just focus on product, customer, revenue and team member

Show how business model and product strategy are closely linked are fit together.
Show how business model will scale to a 100 million dollars revenue in a year

How to get laggard industry to adopt the technology

De-emphasize do-gooder (save the world) stuff in the content. It does not seem profitable

Show traction earlier in the deck

  • brain treats companies with product and actual usage builds way more credibility earlier in the presentation
  • if don’t have customer but have demo, show how it works
  • if product is strong start with product, if performance is strong start with performance
  • show bottoms up business model
    • this is how we work
    • this is how we charge
    • profit margin??
  • Looking for net negative churn
  • Like easier bets and very focused
  • elegant and simple means scale
  • complex means founder might need to spend a few million dollars to figure out their business model
  • Sales process
  • problem solving
  • project management
  • the larger organization being sold, the more they want to be told what to do.
  • record your calls so that you can reference it later on for product development and education
  • work your network in the early days
  • use twitter direct messaging
  • for engaging engineers, you won’t be able to engage them directly.
    • use community development and content and APIS
  • handling price rejections
    • in early days not optimized for price
    • but to learn for use case
    • see early users for partners
    • use what you learn in the qualification and use that as reference for the price point
    • anchor to how much the problem is costing your company right now
  • let your early customers be your guide
  • Negotiating term sheets
  • Becki Degraw
  • Wilson Sonsini, Partner
  • rdegraw@wsgr.com
  • Types
    • preferred stocks
    • convertible notes
    • safes
  • components
    • Valuation
    • pre/post money valuation
    • option pool – dilutive to founders
    • liquidition preferences
    • board composition
    • stocket holder vetos/controls
    • investor rights
  • focus on how much you need till 12 to 18 months
    • the hiring plans
    • 90% shares
    • 10% option pool
    • help with negotiating the options pools
  • talk about how outstanding convertible and SAFEs are accounted for – pre-money valuation
  • Get legal council to prepare the cap table to see the dilution
  • preferred stock used to keep common stock cheap for employees
    • participating or non-participating preferred shares
    • participating gets to double dip after the preferred payout
    • usually only happens during down round or PE is involved
    • should not see it during initial round
  • Board
    • make sure to have odd number to avoid deadlock
    • smaller boards are good – keep it to as small as possible
    • hires or fires the CEO
    • financing transactions – new pool
    • M&A transactions
    • Series A – common should control board
    • Series B – more balanced board common and preferred
    • Seed round – 3 directors
    • Series
    • 2 common directors – 1.5X voting rights
    • 1 seed director
    • 1 preferred director
  • Preferred investors will usually ask for board seat
    • negotiate down to observer
  • Prorate or information rights are reserved to major investors – cross a certain threshold
  • Founder re-vesting
    • usually during Seed stage and Series A
  • If founder puts in money
    • treat that as convertible note and convert at the next round
    • demand note – to get paid back during the next round
    • totally ok if it is a small amount in there
    • 200K easy versus 2 million
    • If raising less than 2 millino USD just use convertible or safe notes for seed stage
  • Put founders on a vesting schedule for optics purposes
  • US investors only what to invest in Delaware LLC Corps
  • Vesting is important for protecting company against vagrant founders and employees
  • We are in a company/founder friendly market right now
    • investors are doing things we haven’t seem the doing in many years
    • putting down term sheets 2 months ago with nothing
    • need to get in earlier and earlier to beat the valuation from investors
    • create hype and interest
  • For small financing round – seed round
    • small amount of money
    • Use YC safe note
  • Million dollar Marketing campaign
  • Unit Economics
  • creative testing
  • Landing pages
  • media buying
  • metric
    • Cold traffic needs to convert at 2%
    • CPM needs to be lower than 20
    • Ads click through rate > 3%
    • CPA 1.8
    • gross margin needs to be 70%
    • COGS less than 30%
    • 4000K impression
    • 5% add to cart
  • If has no prior competition – make really good videos
  • GrowthUniversity.IO

Advice from Johnson on fund raising

Entrepreneurship is much like playing competitive basketball where it is becomes more mental competition and less physical competition as the game wears on. There will be phases during the fund raising process when you get so much external rejections and internal failed experiments that you starting thinking “am I just being a con-artist” when entering into the next fund raising session.

The real work of the entrepreneur is the mental exercise. Do not let external rejections and internal failed experiments cause your conviction to waver. Let the investor deal with their job (where to park their cash) and the management deal with theirs (how to use the cash). Your job one and only job is to convince the investor to part with his cash so that you can pass it to the manager to use the cash.

Do not confuse the roles of Entrepreneur, Management and Shareholders

  • Entrepreneur: role is to acquire external resources required to grow the company
  • Shareholder: role is to keep watch over security of the capital invested and have it grow
  • Management: role is to ensure the externally acquired resources get put to proper use with minimal wastage

When in fund raising mode, do not emotionally entangle yourself with “being accountable/responsible” for the funds that will be acquired externally to be put to good use internally. Just dealing with all the multitudes of external rejections during the fund raising exercise is in itself already a Herculean chore. There is no reason to self-sabotage by causing yourself to waver from your conviction by further introduction of self doubt during this critical process.

There is a difference between marketing the product and marketing the company. Products are marketed to customers while the company is marketed to the investors. The three classes of investors:

  • Angel investors – buy the story
  • Venture Capitalist – structured as a fund to ensure compliance with governance
  • Private Equity – late stage fund to get the company ready for IPO
  • Public offering – the general public as well as trust funds

The important thing during fund raising is to rapidly filter out the naysayers and frame a story that will excite the remaining investors to want to part with their cash. Do not waste time with the naysayers.

It is unlikely that you will be able to haul in all the capital you need in one shot. Just figure what story you need to tell to the next person to pull in the resources necessary to snowball the idea bigger and repeat that process until the entire idea gets fully realized.

Ideas/ brain child a fragile creatures that need to be protected and nurtured by the founder.

People who started companies but only have experience working in technical functions will under appreciate the importance of story telling. These companies will ultimately fail. They do not see all the marketing the partners in the company did to get it off the ground initially. People who started companies but do not attempt to build up the company in fear of failing are people simply just trying to find a job for themselves. They are not entrepreneurs but self employed.

The reason why entrepreneurs like to hang out with other entrepreneurs is that they feed off each others energy. And that is crucial for the mental game that they have to deal will on a daily basis. The most classic example is Steve Job’s reality distortion field.

There is one fundamental difference between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos is from the investment banking background, since series A he constantly tweaks his story to the tune of the market to get the resources the company he require. Whereas, Elon Musk was so strong in his belief and charisma that right out the gates he was able to create a cult following around his company while polarizing all the naysayers. These two approaches are reflected in their companies share prices with Tesla being really really turbulent.

Weekend insights with Jerry and Liza

On the drop shipping market segment

Drop shipping segments – homogenous or differentiated products.

Africa e-commerce is a strong trend.

Value of a software company is how deeply it goes into implementing support for a use case.

Fund raising and valuation

The story and business case determines how valuable a company will become.

There are more investors chasing after limited number of experienced founders. This explains the reason for ultra high valuation.

PR and personal network helps generate warm introduction to VCs

Investors are biased towards founders who graduated from prestigious universities

The best founders are those who are willing to slog working on the same problem day after day without giving up.

On human resourcing

Engineers from second or third tier universities tend to be better hires. They have less feelings of entitlement and are more likely to have background of hardships and struggles.

The sales process:

  • Step one: generate sales lead list – GetData.IO’s core competency in web scraping means we do not need to by databases but just find websites where leads exists. Hunter.IO is a good service for resolving email addresses of companies
  • Step two: outreach – AB testing outreach email messages
    • GDPR dictates that only work emails are allowed for such campaigns
    • Utilize Calendarly to schedule meetings
    • At this point emails to closing rate is around 1%
    • Find iteration that drive opens, reads and appointment scheduling
    • Figure out the email cadence
    • Once that has been locked down start automating it using sales automaton tools like
      • PersistIQ
      • SalesLoft
  • Step 3: follow up conversation
    • Craft up sales script to close through iteration
    • Find out all the different variation of rejections
    • Learn how to manage them
  • Step 4: closing
    • Learn about actual enterprise problem
    • Learn about budget
    • Find a price level that works.
  • Step 5: Onboarding
    • Deploy success team to onboard the customers
    • Successfully onboarded customers will be more likely to retain and less likely to churn.

Industrial benchmarks for cold emails

  • email open rate: 15%
  • open to click through rate: 2%
  • landing page to booking a meeting: 5%
  • book a meeting from cold lead: 0.0015%
  • USD0.03 per lead = USD100 to book a meeting ( 0.01 / 0.0015% )
  • Versus Google = (USD1 CPC / 5% ) = USD20 to book a meeting

GDPR does not allow use of personal emails for cold email campaign.

Lead generation process

  • Buy databases to fill the top of the funnel for cold email campaigns.
  • Buy ads to fill up the funnel from Google and Facebook

Balancing features on between power users and general masses

Observations for the day: After studying the behavior of more than 3000 users over the past four months, I conclude the level of abstract thinking required to understand how this one single button works is too complicated for 99% of users to grasp.


Only nerds/power users who are already familiar with the notion of the schematic web would get excited when they see this button.


Building a UX that caters for the general masses as well as the few power users is challenging. Too much stuff for the power users and the general masses will feel overwhelmed thus shy away from the tool. Too little stuff for the power users and they will feel frustrated for not being able to realize their vision of what they intend their tool for.


At this point I am opting to hold off implementing some of the functionalities that I (the ultimate power user) personally need from this tool. Or if I did, more as an Easter Egg like feature that you would only find if you go hunting for it within the tool. This is to avoid forcing the general masses to think too much. People do not like being forced to think.

When the tool is too “powered up”, you see lowered percentage of newly registered users making it to the magic moment. To know this, you will need to maintain historical records of your activation rates.

When the tool is too “weak”, your power users all complain about the same missing stuff.

An evening of insights with the Hutters

The optimized route for a startup is to first deploy a small skeleton crew to focus on mining for the insights on human behavior with cheap experiments that will support a viable business model before raising money and scaling up the operations.

Big organizations tend to forget the insights that lead to the founding of the company. That is how large companies get disrupted by new entrants who “rediscover” them.

If there is a company out there that is solving a problem you are trying to find a solution for but you cannot think of it off the top of your head, they might as well have been dead.

What you think might work will usually not. It is only when you land up in a promising domain and start mining for insights in that domain do you start finding ones that are useful for building a company with.

Screenwriting is probably the only occupation where you can envision how all the moving pieces fits together while you are lying in bed. Writing a business plan is a very useless undertaking because unless you have tested your business model to get actual market response, you will not know if it would work or not work. This is much of other inductive processes where much of the building blocks required to work are out there in the environment yet know and to be discovered.

Do not be fixated on what should but be instead embrace on what is and work for there when it comes to human nature.

Humans are motivated beyond pain and pleasure.

No one has considered hyperlinks themselves as important data elements.

It is usually the simplest actions backed by the most fundamental insights that drives the largest consumer adoption.

People feel that sense of accomplishment when they gather stuff thanks to our hunter gathering roots. They might not even need it at the end of the day.

Social book marking just died when most of their operators pivoted away from the central idea in 2005

  • Stumble upon
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Pintrest
  • Trello

The mass adoption of Slack and Quip might be a great channel for growing such an idea again but for the enterprise space.

The success of YouTube can be speculated to be due to:

  • In baked flash media code into browsers
  • Increase in bandwidth
  • Delaying the payment of royalty fees and taking down of copyrighted contents
  • They got sold for 1.2billion but paid of 750million in terms of royalties

Mark Cuban is a fake billionaire for selling Real networks to AOL which eventually got shut down after six months. Reason for Real Network being empty is because while it looking really impressive on the outside, it did not capture any of the user behaviors.

People only build shared reality with others they consider part of their own tribe. They might interact with others who are not considered part of their own tribe but will not go about building a shared reality with them. This is how echo chambers happen.

Related readings

  • Tory Higgins, “Beyond Pleasure and Pain: How Motivation Works”
  • Tory Higgins, “Shared Reality”

Paid acquisition strategy review

The way MasterClass, Apple and SquareSpace execute their paid acquisition strategy is just a cut above the rest. The advertisement are inherent viral.

SquareSpace – John Malkovich Super Bowl 2016
https://youtu.be/LgQB9cIa0DE
SquareSpace – Jeff Bridges super bowl 2015

Apple: Think different 2013
https://youtu.be/5sMBhDv4sik

Apple: 1984 big brother
https://youtu.be/VtvjbmoDx-I

MasterClass – Hans Zimmer
https://youtu.be/yCX1Ze3OcKo

Advise from Casey Winters on SEO metric tracking for startups

For startups utilizing SEO as a acquisition model to focus on the following:

  • Utilize this formula to track performance: for all keywords ranked ( Ranking of site for keyword + Monthly Search volume of keyword )
  • User perceived wait time
  • Conversion rates from visits to registration

In a nutshell, to rank for more keywords via pages created instead of trying to optimize for specific keywords.

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui way of life

Shamanic world view

The practitioner of the shamanic tradition at once sees the world as it is as well as a manifestation of infinite energy that is is constant flux.

The sequence of four enemies a knowledge seeker must inevitably face

  • Fear: The fear of uncertainty and the unknown is the first enemy a knowledge seeker must face. As he progresses along his journey, he will be faced with fear over an over again. The work is to face the fear and keep moving forward in the question for knowledge. With time, this fear will dissipate and he will get clarity
  • Clarity: Clarity is a subtle enemy. Succumbing to this enemy means the inability to decipher real clarity from one’s egotistical illusion. The work is to constantly question the perceive clarity while moving forward in the quest for knowledge. With time comes true clarity which brings with it a lot of power
  • Power: Power is a very seductive enemy. With great power comes the temptation to abuse this power. Succumbing to this enemy brings around rampant destruction due to abusive use of power. The work is to constantly keep power in check while continuing the pursuit and application of knowledge. With time, comes the final enemy, old age.
  • Old age: Is an enemy that can only be conquered temporarily. The work is to constantly fight the desire to lie and rest. Yielding to this enemy will result in no further pursuit and application of the knowledge acquired.

Noteworthy plants

  • Jimson weed: Psychedelic to help you relive and see your past memories
  • Peyote: Another plant to aid in the communion with the spirits
  • Mescalito: Hallucinogenic drug made from the flowering heads of cactus

Observations at the heart of Permian basin

Office for the day. A proxy of view into the heart of the Permian basin as I get my car wheels aligned

The level of auto traffic along the Cedar Street, Pecos Texas is a very clear proxy on the health status of the US Oil industry.

Factors negatively impacting economic activities in the area:

  • US Elections: Oil companies operating in area put activities on hold awaiting for forthcoming mandate
  • Holidays: Demand for oil drops
  • COVID pandemic: Demand for oil drops

Responsiveness of lagging indicators:

  • Lag time between events and lagging indicators within the region is typically 24 hours
  • Layoffs can happen within 24 hours of environment triggers
  • Rapid hiring can happen within 24 hours of environment trigger
  • On occasions, rapid hiring and layoffs could happen simultaneously in different sectors

Qualitative background:

On mornings during times of Economic boom in the Oil industry, the Pilot center across the street could be observe lined with trucks rushing to fuel up as they go about transporting out their cargo to their destinations.

On such days, the empty parking lot in front of Custom Mufflers Tire Repair center could be seen filled up with trucks getting their wheels serviced.

With the election of President Biden, a bill was past that totally stopped all oil and gas related activities in New Mexico. This has resulted in the damping of traffic heading north along Cedar Street for the foreseeable future.