Ninjas and Robots

by Nathan Kontny

CEO of Highrise. Also founder of two YC companies. Engineer for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Makes the awesome writing software Draft.

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Not Wanted

Make something people want.
Paul Graham

I’ve made a lot of stuff no one wanted.

Trying to grow my first business, Inkling, I did what good Lean Startup followers would do. I turned some of our technology into a small “project management software” prototype and used Quora and LinkedIn to set up meetings with project managers.

One thing became clear fast. These project managers weren’t impressed. I was often told the prototype would need to do at least everything their current tools and processes already did, before they’d consider using it with their team. They were reluctant to switch.


There’s a great story in Esquire Magazine this month about the history of Irish whiskey. 130 years ago there were almost 30 Irish whiskey distilleries. Fast forward 100 years and there was just one: Irish Distillers Ltd (IDL). IDL was a hodgepodge of brands including Jameson and Tullamore Dew....

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Write Better Live Webcast: Learn from a Pro

On January 21, 2014 at 12:00pm Central, Draft is hosting another Write Better webcast.

This time the teacher is Jay Dixit, a professional writer and teacher with work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Slate, Wired, and Psychology Today.

Jay is awesome. He has a ton of experience and his students love him.

The event will be 1 hour. During the first 30 minutes, Jay will share some general writing advice. For the final 30 minutes, he will review a few writing samples - if you use this form to submit your work.

The Webcast is free, and all Draft paying members are invited. You’ll be emailed a link to attend closer to the event.

If you’d like your writing reviewed, please use this form to submit Draft share links to your work.

If you are a paying Draft member and can’t attend the event live, don’t worry, it will be recorded, and you’ll get a link to watch the...

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Draft Announcements: Better comments, collaborator reminders, and tables

Happy Holidays! Just a few neat things in Draft before the end of the year:

  • Comments!
  • Collaborator reminders
  • Tables
  • Email digests
  • Members Lounge invites


Gift Idea :)

If you’re still looking for a quick gift idea for anyone, don’t forget Draft Gifts. It’s a great way to support a writer in your life, as well as the future of the product.


Comments!

Comments have gotten a big upgrade.

You can now attach comments to specific lines and text in your document. Hovering over comments shows you the text the comment is about.

In comment mode, to create new comments, select some text, or place your cursor where your comment should be, and use the action menu to start a new comment.

Or the shortcut CMD+/ on a Mac or CTRL+/ on Windows.

A new comment box will open up in the right margin next to the context of your comment.

To enter comment mode and see all your comments, it’s just as before,...

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Draft Announcements: Gifts, Member Lounge, More Analytics and a Sneak Preview…

Hello. Here’s a Draft announcement handy for the holidays:

  • Gifts
  • Draft Member Lounge
  • Sneak Preview
  • Date & Time of Publishing Correlation Report
  • Folder Stats
  • Document Timestamps


Gifts

Now you can give a subscription to Draft as a gift to your family and friends. It’s really easy.

Here’s a link.

Or find the Gifts link on the Draft homepage:

Or the Gift icon in the left sidebar of your main document list:

You can send as big of a gift as you want, and you aren’t committed to any recurring payments.

Have Draft email the gift on the day you had in mind, or send it to yourself to email or print.

This is a fun gift for friends and family members who want to write more and write better, and helps support Draft’s future at the same time.


Member Lounge

I’m adding an additional benefit to becoming a Draft supporter. If you are a subscriber to Draft, watch your email soon for an invite...

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Marketable for Devise

If this person turns out to be our best customer, we want to know where they came from.

Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks

Marketable lets Devise users easily store where your user came from and where they were going in your Rails app.

Background

Mike McDerment is part of that small handful of entrepreneurs who have tremendously inspired my work. He started a web app, and even past 30 years old, was cranking away at in his parents’ basement for 3 years. Plenty of smart people told him what he was working on was stupid and would fail. And, yet, he continued. Today, FreshBooks is a very successful company.

Mike is a huge proponent of tracking where your customers came from and where they were going. With this data, you can figure out what kind of marketing is working and what’s not.

By “marketing”, I’m referring to everything related to getting customers, not just spending money on...

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Skip Class

Someone asked me the other day if he should get a job to help acquire the skills needed to run his own business or just jump in and start.

I’ve written before about getting crappy jobs to help learn more about specific industries and problems people have. For example, if you want to create a photography website - some kind of Flickr competitor - it would behoove you to work as an assistant to a wedding photographer even if it didn’t pay well. Learn how he or she does their job. How they take good photographs. How they deal with emergencies when a camera doesn’t work. How they make a couple happy on such an important day. Those are examples full of potential insight to build a business for photographers.

But many of us think we need corporate jobs to learn how to scale servers, charge customers, or make things look “professional” before we can start our own business.

That’s not how...

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Draft Announcements: Team Folders, Import/Export updates, and NaNoWriMo support.

Happy Halloween!

I’ve got some fun Draft things to announce. Two big areas of focus were improving collaboration and providing more tools to help people use folders, especially for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, which starts tomorrow). Here we go:

  • Team Folders
  • Import Multiple Files
  • Export Folders
  • Beeminder Integration
  • Firefox on Windows

Team Folders

You can now share an entire folder with collaborators. Just look for the share buttons next to your folders:

Share a folder with a list of email addresses or grab a link to send to whomever you want.

What’s great about these Team Folders is that you don’t have to send around Share links anymore to the documents inside. Your collaborators sharing a folder will automatically get updates of your documents or any new documents you create. You’ll get their new documents as well. Any edits they make to your documents will...

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No one listens to me

Last week I wrote about not going to an Ivy League school, and not having any money, and definitely not having any connections.

Some people mistook my post as advice to be the loudest one in the room. But that couldn’t be further from a description of me and what I’ve done to get people to listen.

I don’t like cold-calling. I’m shy. I’m introverted.

What I wrote last week was to remind us of the people who are eager to help; you just need to ask.

I’m also reminded of something else that’s helped me make connections when I wasn’t even trying to make them.


We didn’t work on the Obama re-election campaign for the pay. Many folks working there could have easily gotten paid twice as much working somewhere else. And, we definitely didn’t do it for the long hours or the 7-day-a-week work schedules or the poorly maintained bathrooms or the malfunctioning air-conditioning.

But one of the...

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I don’t have any connections

I picked up a book recently with an overwhelming majority of positive reviews, but a few negative ones like this:

It’s great to be presented with new ideas for raising capital and meeting contacts, but as an Ivy League graduate, and a former wall-street analyst I think it’s fair to say the author’s contact book and access to resources is a little different than ‘most people’.


I can relate to the reviewer. When I got out of college, I had a lot of ambition, and wanted to start a software company, but… I didn’t come from money or go to an Ivy League school. I didn’t even know how to make software. And I sure as hell didn’t have any connections.

I suck at networking. “Never eat lunch alone,” the book says. I always eat lunch alone. I love it.

When I went to the first Startup School hosted my Y Combinator, all these brilliant kids from Stanford and MIT were in the crowd. Great people...

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Draft Announcements: Job Board, Draft Sites, Editor Flow, and more.

Hello! Here’s another round of some cool new things in Draft:

  • The Draft Job Board
  • Draft Sites
  • Editor Flow
  • Import public urls
  • Autocomplete names
  • PDF exports
  • Count selected text

The Draft Job Board

Two of the proudest moments of my life were helping a couple friends find new jobs. Work is obviously important to us, and to be a tiny part of helping people with that process was incredibly rewarding. I want that to continue.

So today I’m launching the Draft Job Board.

It’s simple. If you are looking for a great writer or editor, the community using Draft is full of them and the job board would be a great place to connect. If you’re a writer/editor looking for work, I’m really hoping this is a handy resource.

One problem I have when using job boards to post jobs is the upfront cost of the post. It might cost me $400 to post a job on a developer job board, but even if I don’t find...

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