The DL - Microsoft News, Mike Speiser's Playbook, and Obsidian Obsession, and Your First 1,000 Users





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September 28 · Issue #67 · View online
The DL
Welcome to The DL, a weekly newsletter about tech, startups, and investing in the Pacific Northwest.
This week’s issue covers all of the announcements coming out of Microsoft, Mike Speiser’s playbook, my new obsession with Obsidian, and how to get your first 1,000 users.
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Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft
Microsoft made a bunch of big announcements for both new products and existing products last week. Here’s a recap:
The biggest headline in gaming world last week was Microsoft’s $7.5B acquisition of Zenimax, the creator of games like Skyrim, Fallout, and DOOM. That’s a lot of money - it’s Microsoft’s third largest acquisition ever - and it should help sell Xboxes and xCloud, Microsoft’s game streaming service.
The announcement came the day before the new Xbox was available for pre-order, and it looks like gamers liked the news. Pre-order Xboxes are already sold out, and people are waiting for new ‘drops’ to get their hands on the next gen console.
Microsoft isn’t happy just getting exclusive games, looks like they want to have exclusive AI algorithms, too. The other big news last week was Microsoft got an exclusive license to OpenAI’s GPT-3 text generation model. (If you haven’t seen GPT-3 yet, here’s a long list of all the demos people have built with it. Click on any of them - all super cool)
It’s still not totally clear what “exclusive license” means though. Microsoft’s blog says OpenAI will continue to offer models via its own API, but Microsoft will “utilize the capabilities of GPT-3” in their other products and services.
Microsoft IGNITE
A lot of these headlines came out last week because it was Microsoft’s big partner conference, IGNITE. Here’s Microsoft’s summary of their key product announcements at the event, with a couple highlights:
#1 Ranked Employer Brand in Seattle
Hired, a tech job platform, published their ranking of companies that developers, PMs, designers, and data scientists want to work for, and Microsoft was named the top employer brand in Seattle! (Here’s the rest of the top 10)
The Mike Speiser Playbook
Kevin Kwok published a fascinating blog post last week on Mike Speiser, the VC at Sutter Hill Ventures who started Snowflake. If you haven’t heard his name before, you should definitely read this article.
Here’s a quick summary of how Speiser’s model works:
  • Over the last 10 years, Speiser has incubated one company per year
  • His model is to find 2-3 cofounders and be the founding investor and interim CEO
  • Typically, he will meet with hundreds of potential founders before deciding who to incubate a company with
  • For these companies, he spends two days a week working on customer development, hiring the team, and fundraising
  • This allows him to focus on the early stages of company development and hire amazing CEOs when the companies reach certain milestones
  • The core of his strategy is identifying markets undergoing a major shift and going all-in on the transition (e.g., cloud data warehouses)
  • 20% of his investments have led to $1B+ outcomes
  • Despite that track record, Speiser is less well-known than other VCs because his firm is less focused on generating inbound deal flow
Pretty awesome. You can be sure the VC world is keeping a close an on what he is working on next!
Obsessed with Obsidian
My Obsidian knowledge graph after one month
My Obsidian knowledge graph after one month
Roam Research, which raised $9M at a $200M valuation, with $1M of ARR was one of the hottest VC deals this year. According to The Information, they were rejected by YC five times, but now they have 100K+ users, including people like Patrick Collison and Tim Ferriss, so things are good!
Tech world is obsessed with note-taking right now, so The Information wrote a good article on all of the different note-taking apps. Over the last month I’ve started using an open source product called Obsidian (which they unfortunately didn’t cover), and I love it.
Now I have a much better workflow for how to take, process, store, and search for notes. And I feel like every note I take is growing my digital brain, so I’m always hunting for the connections between different ideas and discussions, which creates that pretty graph I screenshotted above.
What do you all use? Has anyone else tried Obsidian? Am I totally missing the boat by not going all in on Roam?
Other stuff Dan's talking about
👩‍⚖️ 538 on ideology - Fascinating data showing supreme court justices get more liberal as they get older, along with reasons for why this might happen. My favorite potential explanation was “the Cocktail Scene”
🤷 “Sure, why not?” - According to Protocol, this is Amazon’s new tagline for Alexa after they released a dozen new devices last week 😹. We’ve got ~5 Alexas around the house, but I wonder what the record is for DL readers…
🥇 Your first 1,000 users - Origin stories from the biggest consumer apps. My favorite one is Ben Silbermann logging Apple store computers into Pinterest and whispering, “Wow, this Pinterest thing is really blowing up”
🤫 State of Gen Z - Fun facts on who Gen Z is, how to talk to them, what their emojis mean, why memes are so important, and which companies they think are cool
Please hit reply! (Or subscribe or forward!)
About me: I work as an investor at Madrona Venture Group, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that has been early partners with companies like Amazon, Smartsheet, Apptio, and Redfin.
If you have thoughts, questions, or comments, hit reply! If you’re new, check out some of the DL’s top articles from the last few months:
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