5-Bit Friday’s (#7): Weekly snacks from the startup/tech universe
On big picture ideas for 2023, UGC vs AIGC, 10 fascinating use cases of ChatGPT, lessons on global reach from MrBeast, and how Meta builds product.
Hi, I’m Jaryd. 👋 Every other week, I pick one startup/company you probably know, and do a deep dive on how they kickstarted their growth, and drive growth today.
Plus, every Friday — I bring you 5 short-form insights and takeaways from the startup/tech universe. (this!)
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Happy Friday, friends! 🍻
First week of December done and dusted already.
Quick note — I’ll be taking some PTO from next week as I go back to South Africa for a bit (I fly tonight actually). I’ll send an update next Wednesday.
Here’s what we’ve got this week.
UGC vs AIGC (User Generated Content vs AI Generated Content)
Let’s get right to it.
41 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2023
As we approach the new year, I thought this piece was particularly relevant. I’m not really one for predictions — because I think we’re terrible at guessing the future — but I enjoyed the read and thought, at minimum, it’s interesting to see what a collective of other experts are thinking.
This is an annual piece that LinkedIn curates. It’s a long read…so here’s my bulleted summary of the big hypotheses for you. Some interesting why nows to think about. 🤔
Note: Feel free to just scan the headings for the idea, the bullets are there for anyone wanting a bit more context.
1. Hybrid work will be here to stay
Remote job postings are dipping and while only 15% of jobs in the US offered remote work in October — those jobs attracted more than half of all applications.
Hybrid is the solution, and companies will need to adapt to their employees needs to attract and retain talent.
2. Companies will say farewell to expansive, sprawling headquarters.
With hybrid and remote work, big corporate office will soon become a rarity.
Meta, Lyft and Salesforce, are already beginning to downsize .
It’s predicted that the value of office real estate will decline by as much as $450 billion.
3. AI will gain multiple "senses"
Multi-modal AI applications will allow AI systems to process audio, visual and language data in combination with and in relation to each other in highly sophisticated, intuitive, and nuanced ways.
Think Netflix creating a whole new film based on your preferences, vs just surfacing recommendations.
4. The age of the tech CEO hero will come to an end
Trust in big tech CEOs is trending downwards.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer reveals that people still look up to business leaders, but they are largely disappointed with their leadership.
5. A global recession is likely — but it won't last long.
U.S., China and the euro area economies are slowing sharply.
And while 86% of CEOs detect a recession on the 12-month horizon, 58% say they expect it to be mild and short. i.e this isn't 2008.
6. In-person and online retail will tie the knot
The past 30 years have been tough for retail real-estate due to overbuilding and the rise of e-commerce.
But with flatlined e-com growth, online-only brands will look to boost sales by going physical.
In this new omnichannel era, it won’t be competition between online and in-person retail, rather a blending of the two.
7. Cities will feed themselves
Climate-controlled indoor farms — or vertical-farms — are warehouses converted into growing spaces for crops.
They have key advantages like growth year-round, producing more food on less land due to stacking, and less vulnerability to pests and weather.
By 2030, this AgTech industry could we worth $33b as more people move to urban areas.
8. Crypto, facing a trust crisis, will confront its biggest hurdle: widespread adoption
Dramatic failures like November’s collapse of crypto exchange FTX, security flaws that have led to breaches and quasi-ponzi schemes that drive speculation in a cryptocurrency – and ultimately its collapse – set adoption back.
Given the current economic climate, companies will not make risky bets on crypto – but they will slowly lay the groundwork for crypto adoption.
9. The healthcare worker shortage will grow, and we’ll turn to tech for help
The world is running low on healthcare workers and it’s estimated we’ll need an additional 10 million clinicians by 2030.
Expect hospitals, tech firms and government agencies to come together to address this shortage in two key ways: by sharing the limited staffing resources and using tech to provide for patients (i.e virtual care, remote monitoring) and train new healthcare workers (i.e VR).
10. We’ll focus on when — just as much as where — we work
Employees will continue to push for more flexibility in 2023, ultimately breaking free from the 9-to-5 workday altogether.
Flexible schedules can boost productivity by ~30%, and nonlinear workdays is already gaining steam among tech startups with distributed teams, and it will become key to retaining talent.
11. The school-to-work path will be turned on its head
37% of the top 20 skills considered necessary for the average job have changed since 2016. Colleges are struggling to keep up, and confidence in higher education has dropped sharply.
Companies and states have dropped degree requirements for some jobs, and other companies are providing education benefits as part of the job; in other words, work first, then get the degree.
12. We’ll turn to the sea to power our electronics
There is no clean energy revolution without minerals (like Cobalt, Nickel) — but we face a global shortage of these commodities.
Some companies are looking to mine these from the ocean, specifically, from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone — a 1.7-million-square-mile swath of seabed between Hawaii and Mexico.
But, conservationists warn that disturbing this pristine ecosystem could prove catastrophic — typical us.
13. Lab-based meat will hit more plates
We'll see a small handful of players selling a number of different cultured products in regulated markets, and will continue to see an influx of new companies starting up and joining the industry.
Cell-based meat will become big business, but it will take time for mass adoption in US supermarkets.
14. The U.S. will become a nation of renters and landlords
Even as home-buying demand sharply declines, inventory won’t rise nearly as much as it did in the last housing correction.
New property-management services and rental marketplaces are making it easy to rent your home out.
Twenty four months of low mortgage rates, in 2020 and 2021, will end up limiting the number of homes for sale in the US for the next 24 years.
15. Philanthropists will demand less – and trust more
Nothing interesting to really expand on here.
16. The side hustle will reign supreme
The gig economy has boomed over the past year and more people want to supplement main jobs that don’t pay enough or are unsatisfying.
~25% of Gen Z have a side gig, compared with 16% of all other ages. They don’t want a single professional identity, and as a money-motivated generation, they won’t rely solely on their employers for financial stability.
17. VCs will stop hunting unicorns and start searching for work horses
With borrowing costs rising along with economic uncertainty, VCs are reluctant to place huge bets.
Their message now is clear: The era of excess is over, and founders should put aside their unicorn dreams and instead look to create sturdy work horses that can survive troubled times.
18. Our old clothes will become big business
Over the past two years, the fashion resale market has tripled in value to about $120 billion and could eventually account for 40% of that global market.
We’ll see more fashion brands bringing resale in-house (good for sustainability and loyalty).
Vs building from scratch — many will partner with the growing number of "recommerce" startups to solve for backend services.
19. Cities will turn themselves into "urban reserves" to limit mass tourism
Global air travel has rebounded to nearly 75% of pre-pandemic levels.
But over fears of over-tourism, many inundated cities in Europe will push hard to stem the tourism tide.
In January ‘23, Venice will cement its status as an “urban reserve,” curbing its number of day visitors and requiring tourists to purchase entry tickets.
20. ...and we’ll think twice about traveling anyway.
In April, France said it would ban domestic flights between destinations that could be reached in under two and a half hours by train.
Such restrictions on the travel sector have gained broad support in Europe.
This might make jet-setting to places more difficult and change travel patterns.
21. Social media users will turn their back on the algorithm
A growing share of social users will turn to smaller platforms in 2023.
Sites like Discord, Mastodon Substack, and BeReal emphasize community building in private spaces which has fueled interest in these more intimate digital environments.
22. The metaverse revolution will go professional
Two of the most prominent metaverse platforms — Decentraland and Sandbox, with valuations of over $1 billion each — were revealed to have under 1,000 daily active users. And Meta’s Horizon World was so unpopular that even staff had to be pressured to use it.
AR and VR are a long way from mainstream adoption, but, it’s being used right now to train pilots and surgeons, and to design new vehicles.
23. Luxury firms will court the VIC (very important customer)
Brands like Chanel etc are expanding their appeal to an ever-wider customer base, with offerings that go beyond expensive products.
To keep their appeal and prestige for the top end of the market, they will place greater emphasis on hyper-exclusive propositions to retain the loyalty of their VICs.
Think invite-only boutiques, or in-residence experiences.
24. Money will rush into women's sports
Woman’s soccer is growing rapidly in viewership.
With rising engagement — brands are signing more partnerships and people are seeing the untapped marketing potential of other women’s sports.
Sponsorship deals for women across major U.S. sports climbed 20% year-on-year in 2022 — which kicks off a “virtuous circle”: More money ⇒ better quality sport ⇒ more viewers.
25. We will extract carbon dioxide from the air by just doing what we’re doing
We already have methods for extracting carbon dioxide from the air (i.e planting direct carbon capture installations and algae farms).
But, we’re seeing this tech come to electric cars already, and there are plans to bring it to buses, planes, etc).
Already, solar panels and street art paintings are absorbing carbon dioxide. And with fashion brands like H&M getting in on the act, we may soon be sucking CO2 out of the air with our clothes.
26. Neanderthals and other ancient human relatives will change how we think about medicine
People today carry a little Neanderthal DNA, making up a few percent of their genome.
This has been used to predict COVID susceptibility with accuracy — and we will see more use of this DNA to analyze immunity disorders.
We’re also using it to help understand and find treatments for Alzheimer's disease, autism and schizophrenia — which are effects of the evolution of the modern human brain over the past few hundred thousand years.
27. We’ll witness the first ransomware war
As Russia's conventional forces flounder, expect it to leverage ransomware gangs in a cyber war against the U.S. and other countries arming Ukraine.
A ransomware war could interrupt energy supplies, compromise military intelligence, disrupt business and government activity and send cyber insurance premiums soaring.
28. Taxis will take to the skies, for the wealthy
There are about 300 eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) designs in development around the world, and the industry has attracted more than $6 billion in private investment in the past two years.
The first commercial air taxi in the US is scheduled in California in 2025, and France is planning on using them for the 2024 Olympics.
In September, United Airlines signed a conditional $15 million pre-purchase agreement with Eve Air Mobility for at least 200 aircraft.
29. Schools will go big on tutoring to make up for pandemic losses
Students are back, but missed school time has led grades and performance to slip
Expect to see more virtual or quasi-virtual programs like TeachFX, Paper and Once, as well as nonprofit programs such as Reading and Math.
30. Companies will hold onto workers, downturn or no
Mass layoffs in March 2020 left companies scrambling for workers when the economy bounced back faster than expected — impacting sales, growth and market share.
More companies will attempt a strategy of holding on to workers despite slowing business — known as “labor hoarding” or “talent warehousing.”
31. Cities will turn to new – and very old – tech to beat the heat
It’s not likely that we can keep global warming within the 1.5 degree Celsius ceiling that we need to.
Expect to see cities embrace new solutions like using real-time data to identify hot spots in specific parts of cities, and solar paint technology (i.e sunscreen for streets).
Upgrading our buildings is another key approach, like with “cool roofing,” — i.e covering the tops of buildings with white or green roofs (i.e vegetation).
32. The working class will head for higher ground
Working-class people are slowly leaving coastal areas.
In an era of rapid climate change, being largely indifferent to storms and floods may become a bizarre new status symbol.
33. We'll be wearing mushrooms and seaweed
60% of the material we use to make clothing is plastic.
Designers and manufacturers are increasingly turning to plant-based solutions, making clothing out of algae, pineapple skins and mushrooms, among other novel ingredients.
Expect to see new fabrics with a higher proportion of bio-based materials that can break down more easily.
34. Nations will sidestep U.S -China tensions and go their own way
Countries will attempt to bypass the conflict between the U.S. and China and create new alliances rooted in trade, transportation and technology development.
A growing share of countries will feel empowered to push back against new “Buy American” regulations in the United States and an increasingly authoritarian China, putting many of its Belt & Road Initiatives on hold.
35. Our finances will become boring (and that’s a good thing)
With all the volatility in equity markets and risky venturing into crypto, expect to see a resurgence of tried and true principles that have helped people build wealth for generations (i.e long-term investing, maxing the 401k, cash reserves) — the good boring stuff
Getting back to basics will foster strong financial foundations as we face economic headwinds in the new year.
36. We’ll learn to hang out at work, without the office
Hybrid companies will be intentional about how they use the virtual office — and try to schedule time for informal interactions – not just for the water cooler chat but also for learning.
37. The labor movement will surge, and employers will fight back
In the coming year, companies operating in the U.S. will look to reverse gains from recent protests just as workers seek to deepen them.
38. Menopause will become big business
The “menopause conversation,” which was long considered taboo and shameful, has been fueled, in part, by changing demographics.
The global population of menopausal and postmenopausal women is projected to grow by 47 million women a year, to 1.2 billion by 2030.
Menopause is fast becoming very big business. Brands will capitalize on the menopause market in 2023, and already there are more and more Femtech startups.
39. Mental health check ups will become the new annual physical
According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness in a given year. Yet there is an average delay of 11 years between initial symptoms and intervention.
Routine mental health screenings can make a difference, particularly for at-risk groups like young people and the BIPOC community.
40. More nations will give animals, trees and rivers the rights of people
Several nations have already granted rights to elements of the natural world.
In New Zealand, the Whanghanui river was granted personhood in 2017, meaning it can now sue those who pollute it
This could have major implications on how companies and governments operate.
41. We’ll see the formation of the next wave of game-changing startups
Half of the Fortune 500 companies were founded during economic crises.
Economic downturns produce surges of creativity, of rethinking assumptions, and they force companies to grow up on lean principles
Global connectivity, lower-cost, cloud-enabled storage and software, a generation of digital natives entering the workforce, and years of studying the lessons of Silicon Valley’s success will make entrepreneurship more accessible than any other time in human history.
Again — we’re generally really bad at predicting what’s going to happen. But I hope this summary of broad macro hypotheses was at least “good to know” and a thought-provoker/conversation starter.
⛏️ Source + dig deeper: 41 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2023, by LinkedIn
Speaking of new startups and the progress of AI…
UGC vs AIGC
If you missed this LinkedIn post by Andrew Chen earlier this week, it’s worth a read.
Honestly, it’s pretty dystopian.
He talks about how AI generated content is poised to massively disrupt the user generated content (UGC) landscape. While UGC has been a driving force in the success of many web 2.0 products, it has its own limitations such as the need for a value proposition to creators and the potential for a small number of creators to dominate the attention of users.
The last decade was defined by User generated content (UGC) and the next decade will be built on AI generated content (AIGC).
Web 2.0 harnesses users to create content - and that brought us the biggest products in history.
GenAI is reinventing the whole damn thing!
UGC requires a value proposition to creators. But they’re fickle, demand a cut of rev, and a small number drive all the attention. Furthermore, there a cold start problem - they won’t create content until there’s enough audience. But users won’t join until there’s enough content.
In the games sector, where I spend my time, the situation is even worse. Every gaming experience requires millions of dollars of content to be created by artists and 3D modelers. A product like Roblox or Minecraft, that allows sandbox play by users, tons of content must be built.
AIGC might upend all that. Its models are built on the content of users, but after it’s built, it can create an endless stream of content.
Imagine generative AI being able to create short form video so that a TikTok-like experience might be entertaining. Or memes, or tweets.
The first phase will be a hybrid. As we’re seeing on Twitter with chatGPT, initially you might have humans in the loop, so that it’s a hybrid of AIGC with human curation of interesting content.
This lets platforms form viral loops as humans share content, add commentary, etc.
But the next phase might be totally wild.
If AIGC gets good enough, why have creators at all? You could have a AI-curated feed full of AI generated content. Or within gaming, an infinite AI-generated virtual world with endless quests and characters. And the gameplay is emergent.
There’s a lot to figure out. Web 2.0 became very much around social feedback loops, to create a value prop for creators. And the design of viral loops, with addressbooks and invite mechanics.
AIGC will push our thinking in a new direction with big questions.
If AIGC commoditizes content creation, will the mobilization of curators and commenters be the next major thing? Viral growth might fully pivot from creators sharing their content to curators - how do you incentivize that?
What happens to the creator economy? Will humans always be in the loop as curators, or will fully AI-driven UX ultimately take root?
What will be the axis of competitive engagement between platforms if everyone can generate similar content?
What happens when movies, games, books can be created for 1/100th cost?
There’s so so much that’s about to happen in the next phase of the internet, and I’m thrilled to watch it unfold.
— Andrew Chen, Partner at a16z
Here’s one readers comment…he’s not wrong 🥲
Why not let AI handle the consumption as well as the generation? Let it entertain itself. We don't need all this useless content. We need to get busy saving ourselves. — John McTigue
There’s a pretty interesting split of opinions in the comments if you’re interested.
⛏️ Source + dig deeper: Andrew Chen via LinkedIn
Otherwise — here’s some more on AI and an eerie (not so unfeasible) future.
ChatGPT — some fascinating use cases
Sigh…another ChatGPT post.
If you haven’t heard…
ChatGPT is a large language model (LLM) trained by OpenAI that's capable of generating human-like text in response to user input and remembering what the user said earlier in the conversation so it can make follow-up corrections.
It’s fine-tuned from a model in the GPT-3.5 series, which finished training in early 2022.
Here’s some interesting things it can do:
Remembers what user said earlier in the conversation
Allows user to provide follow-up corrections
Trained to decline inappropriate requests
Challenge thinking and assumptions
And some limitations:
May occasionally generate incorrect information
May occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content
Limited knowledge of world and events after 2021
I came across a post by Tobias Zwingmann — where he summed up his research on the top use cases of ChatGPT. Here’s what we found.
AI is scary, but flip, this stuff is so interesting to see.
1. Use ChatGPT instead of Google search:
2. Use ChatGPT to explain complex algorithms in any teaching style you want:
3. Use ChatGPT to create prompts for DALL-E/StableDiffusion
4. Let ChatGPT help you build apps from scratch
5. Let ChatGPT explain scientific concepts
6. Stich cloud services together
7. Write recipes
8. Solve homework assignments
9. Write humorous stories
10. Skip StackOverflow and go directly to the answer
You can learn more about ChatGPT here.
A lesson on global reach — from MrBeast
With all this talk of AI and the competition it stirs up for UGC — I struggle to see how it could ever replace the type of human content creation done by creators like MrBeast. Maybe I’m in denial.
MrBeast — AKA Jimmy Donaldson — is one of most popular creators right now, with over 116M subscribers and fastest-growing channel in the history of the platform
He innovates by creating new formats of content that are based around money and philanthropy — like his (insanely realistic) recreation of Squid Games that cost over $3.5m to produce.
The Squid Games challenge (below) was the first video I watched of his…and I ended up getting sucked into an hour rabbit hole of MrBeast videos last night. His stuff is addictive.
Jimmy is crushing the space — and after procrastinating for an hour, I did a quick search to see if anyone has written about any lessons we can learn from how he’s become so successful.
Turns out, lots of people have.
Here’s one article I found interesting around what brands can learn about global reach.
While MrBeast’s videos may seem like they’re all in good fun, there’s a serious business strategy behind them. You see, Jimmy understands that YouTube is a global platform with users from all corners of the world. And while his early videos were popular with English-speaking audiences, he realized that if he wanted to take his channels to the next level, he would need to start producing content that was localized for international audiences.
— Phase, What Brands Can Learn About Global Reach from the Best-Paid YouTuber
Cast the widest net, catch the most fish.
A large part of his success can be attributed to his global expansion strategy, which relies heavily on localization. Simply put, this is the process of tailoring content to the expectations, habits, and needs of a specific market. This can be anything from translating text into different languages to using culturally-relevant references and humor.
Localization doesn’t simply mean translating the words in your videos—it’s about understanding the nuances of different cultures and how to appeal to them. And it’s a strategy that has paid off big time for MrBeast.
Jimmy has localized this by creating separate channels for different languages.
MrBeast’s success story shows us that localization is a powerful tool for expanding the reach to foreign markets and driving global revenue. His empire has exponentially grown thanks to his ability to connect with international audiences on a local level.
When you create content that is relevant and relatable to your target audience, you build an emotional connection with them that goes beyond language barriers. You create a bond that can lead to lifelong customers and fans. The great thing about localization is that you don’t need to start from scratch in every market—you can adapt your existing content to fit the needs of different cultures.
— Phase, What Brands Can Learn About Global Reach from the Best-Paid YouTuber
So, how can you start working on a localization strategy?
How to localize
1. Establish clear goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness in new markets? Drive traffic to your website? Or boost sales in a specific country? For Jimmy, it’s increased exposure and video views.
2. Identify your target audience. Are you targeting a specific country or region? What age groups are you targeting? Are they primarily male or female? What language do they speak?
3. Research your target audience. What type of content do they consume? How do they like to consume it (e.g., text, video, audio)? What do they care about? What drives their purchasing decisions?
4. Set up the right processes, tools, and partners. This includes things like choosing the right localization and technology partners, setting up workflows, and establishing quality standards. MrBeast uses Unilingo TV for most dubbing, subtitling, and closed captioning services for his international channels.
5. Create localized content. If you already have existing content, see if there’s a way to adapt it for your target market. If not, start from scratch. MrBeast carefully selected the videos he thought would perform well in each market and had them dubbed accordingly.
6. Avoid common localization pitfalls. Some of the most common ones include skipping market research, failing to employ the proper tools, not relying on professionals to localize the content, lacking sensitivity to cultural differences, and underestimating quality control.
7. Measure your results. This includes things like video views, website traffic, engagement rates, conversion rates, and sales.
Not to bring up AI again — but dubbing is a really interesting use case here. I could see AI helping to make dubbing much better and more natural looking — which would create a ton of value of content industry. Credits to my brilliant fiancé Julia for thinking of that while we were watching Squid Games.
How Meta Builds Products
This tweet caused a lot of discussion when it was posted back in July 2021. Will Lawrence, author of Product Life and former PM at Meta — wrote a piece unpacking it and explaining the role of the PM at Meta.
Here he is with an intro:
Product managers at Facebook are responsible for two key outcomes: great strategy and great execution. A former manager explained this principle in a catchier way:
“The role of a product manager is to figure out what game we're playing and how we're going to play it.”
Strategy is choosing the game we're playing. It’s finding worthwhile areas to invest in and creating a compelling vision for how we can succeed in this game. A great strategy connects to the evolving need of users, aligns with the business’s direction and has a reasonable set of pillars to make progress.
Execution is how we play the game. It’s the day-to-day processes, decisions and actions we take to make progress towards our mission. Execution is what Ben’s tweet was referring to, so I’d like to spend more time here.
And according to him — great execution boils down to nailing two large categories of sub-tasks:
He goes on to say:
PMs are responsible for the outcomes of the team; the inputs are subjective. For example:
No one cares that you built a Gantt chart; they care that you delivered the project on time.
No one cares that you created meeting agendas, wrote weekly emails or created tasks; they care that the project had an impact when shipped.
No one cares that you wrote SQL queries because your data scientist was on PTO; they care that your goals were reasonable and achieved.
This understanding made me stop defining my role by the tasks I needed to do and instead focus on the output I was responsible for creating.
Let me be clear: PMs are 100% accountable for the results of your team. If your team fails to hit your goals, it’s your neck on the line
Here are some key points (in his words) from the essay:
PMs are responsible for the outcomes of the team; the inputs are subjective. Your goal should be to find the best combination of inputs to maximize the outcomes of your team.
The more senior a PM you become, the more impact you can have with strategy. Freeing your own capacity while not allowing outcomes to suffer requires meta-execution.
Regardless of your delegation abilities, you will stay accountable for execution.
Empowered product teams are responsible for outcomes, not inputs. This is why people take on tasks outside of their traditional roles (to support the outcome).
On an empowered product team, everyone thinks about the best way to improve the outcome. This may involve changing the inputs (ex. engineers drive parts of execution so PMs can identify the right areas to focus on).
The best way for a PM to help an engineer is to ensure they are working on the most impactful work.
Empowered engineers want to collaborate on product decisions. Driving execution is a great way to develop ownership and become included in important decisions.
PMs and engineers should work together to make sure that execution is well-handled. If there are gaps in the process, the PM should aim to fix them.
If you’re a PM — I’d suggest reading his full piece.
⛏️ Source + dig deeper: How Facebook Builds Product, by Will Lawrence
That’s all for this week 🙌 If you enjoyed this summary, please share it with a friend or two! And if you haven’t yet, hit subscribe to get more like this every week + this newsletters main deep dives.
See you next time! ✌️
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