Ninjas and Robots

Figuring out what’s next. CTO/CMO of Rockstar Coders. Makes the awesome writing software Draft. Previous: CEO of Highrise. Also founder of two YC companies. Engineer for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

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What are you drawing, Lily?

I have more than a few friends who keep talking about the businesses they want to start. But every week there’s a new excuse.

They can’t make up their minds about the best credit card processing company, or the best blogging platform, website CMS, or shopping cart, or the best book that will guide them to success.

Of course, most people invent all these obstacles so they never actually have to start and risk failing. Their ideas can remain flawless dreams.

But others see the Ubers, Dropboxes, and Airbnbs, or whatever else is worth a billion dollars this week, and they think they need to create something as big, and as perfect.

Airbnb recently raised $450 million at a valuation of $10 billion. That’s an awfully big company to look up to.

But Airbnb was a mess when they started.

Paul Graham told them their idea was crazy.

And he was right. Airbnb’s idea wasn’t just crazy, it...

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Draft Announcements: a Chrome App, inline calculator, and more…

Hello. Here are a few new handy things in Draft today:

  • Draft Chrome App
  • Inline calculator
  • New document shortcut
  • Comment emails

Draft Chrome App

I really enjoy using web applications, but there are a few things I miss when a web application can’t be launched from your native operating system.

For example, I thought it would be great if I could use Mac OSX’s Spotlight to quickly launch Draft. Turns out you can have the best of both worlds with Chrome Apps.

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Now, if you have the Chrome App Launcher and you install the Draft App:

You’ll be able to launch Draft from places like your desktop, Apps folder, even Spotlight.

Inline Calculator

I constantly need quick ways to do things with numbers. For example, I’ll be typing an email and need to sum up some expenses or hours, but I...

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The Art of the Ask: How to Get on the PGA Tour or a Phone Call with Tim Ferriss

A story on getting what you want.

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10 Things I Learned from Paul Graham at Y Combinator

Given that I’ve known Paul now for over 9 years and been through YC twice, there’s a lot I’ve learned from the guy. Here are just a few of them…

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We all have something to say and someone’s attention we want. But our resumes and cover letters, or the websites we create to sell our products, most of it sounds the same as everyone else. No one notices, as we look like out of context dots in a children’s puzzle.

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A relative of mine was in town and I was brainstorming things he might find entertaining in Chicago. I mentioned the Art Institute, a beautiful museum with a famous art collection.

But my relative said, “We went to an art museum some years back, so it’s not something I have to do anytime again soon.”

By “years back”, he actually meant over a decade ago. And in other words: he’s seen one art museum, he’s seen them all. If you’re an art lover, you’re sad, but more than a few people reading this feel the exact same way as my relative.

And many share this point of view about something - some type of event or place that...

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How can I find someone to help me?

I’ve been running my own businesses for over 9 years. I helped start Inkling at the end of 2005 with Y Combinator.

One of my biggest frustrations was simply how little the company spread through blogs and news sites. I echoed the wants of every other entrepreneur. How can I get more press? How can I meet more bloggers who want to write about us? Do I need to hire a PR person?

We had a blips of press when we first started. But for 9 years in business, it’s a minuscule list.

Inkling has been able to stand despite the difficulty spreading the word the way I wanted, but I hated that feeling of being beholden to other people to spread what I was working on.

As I found myself dreaming of what I’d work on next, I was haunted with the struggle of finding people to spread my work.

In the late 80s there was a teenage actor who was doing well finding movie roles. But as quick as his...

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Draft Announcements: Better sorting, duplicate documents, and more…

Hi there. I wanted to let you know of a few new useful things in Draft:

  • Better sorting inside folders
  • Better sorting of folders
  • Duplicate documents
  • Image names
  • Search in more places
  • Import multiple documents - fixed

Better sorting inside folders

I had tried to make sorting inside a folder a little too clever. Originally, Draft would list documents inside a folder in reverse chronological order (by their updated time), but if you wanted more control, you could click a document in a folder and drag it to whatever order you wanted, then, the “manual sort” would automatically kick in.

But that was confusing, and didn’t work well enough.

So now, you can sort your documents in a folder three different ways that you can control explicitly:


The default sort is by time - the most recently updated documents are at the top.

The next sort - the up and down arrows - is your...

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How to get business ideas - remove steps

I see so many aspiring entrepreneurs stressed out hoping to find some spark of a business idea, but the common complaint is:

Everything good has already been done.

I used to feel like that too, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as simple as:

  1. Find a job people have.
  2. List out every step people take to complete that job.
  3. Remove as many steps as you can.

Look at measuring cups.

People have been using cups to measure things for thousands of years. And standardized measuring cups have been around since Fannie Farmer invented them in 1896.

You can’t possibly come up with a new idea for a measuring cup. Right?

But then someone does. A guy named Steve Hoeting was trying to come up with a new recipe for brownies, and realized he spent too many steps in the process reading the level of stuff on the side of his measuring cup. Could he shave steps from that process, by putting...

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A 40 billion dollar t-shirt

There’s a great lesson in storytelling from a talk Seth Godin made in 2013 at a conference named Inbound.

As he opens the talk:

We are right at the cusp of something huge.

I need to start by making an announcement, which is… Professional wrestling is fake.

Wait, what are we on the cusp of? But he goes into a thread about professional wrestling.

Then he does it again.

Inside this box is a t-shirt that at one point was worth 40 billion dollars. And I keep it there as a reminder to myself about what happens when you don’t see.

In 1991, I had access to the internet. I was using to work on cover stories…

Hold on. How was it worth 40 billion dollars!?

Then he does it again.

I was asked to bring: What’s your number one marketing shortcut?

But before I tell you that…

Seth is a wonderful writer and orator. You can learn a lot from watching him and this entire talk. But...

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How to get free, pre-released copies of your favorite authors’ new books

Ever find a brand new book on Amazon, just released today, and wonder how it already has all those reviews? Or glance at a book cover, and think, “this was printed before the book was released to the public, but it’s covered in testimonials from famous entrepreneurs, celebrities, and other writers.”

How do those reviewers get the book so early? How do I get in on this?

Here’s how I do it.

When we see a lot of other people looking at something, we become interested. It’s how our psychology works. So authors want their books surrounded with testimonials.

Publishing companies and their public relations (PR) staff do work to get those reviews. They’ll spread early editions of the book to other authors under that same publishing company, or mail it out to influential people in their rolodex.

But, I’m not a published author of a book, and I’m not famous, so I don’t have any PR person...

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