Having investors is the worst.
No, I didn’t say “investors are the worst.” Not ours anyway. I genuinely love them. Everybody hugs at our board meetings.
Shortly after you get this email every Saturday, I write an even more candid one to my fellow fiduciaries, telling them about all the things I f—ked up last week, what I’m worried about, and why I’m excited about everything else. It’s equal parts self-effacing and chronically-optimistic.
I can be vulnerable because I trust them and I’m pretty sure they trust me. They’ve certainly put a ton of faith in me.
And that’s what kills me.
I can handle all the job stress in the world, making payroll, hiring the right people, firing the wrong ones, closing the big deal, giving the big speech. But the weight of someone else’s confidence, trust, and sacrifice – not to mention, millions of dollars – is a different ballgame.
I never had that problem in my first company. I lived with my parents and took out a small loan with a personal guarantee to get started. I thought that was pressure. Ha!
My wife is a big investor in CivicScience (as much as I am, legally). So are my kids. I could have a cushy 9-to-5 and a fat 401(k). But no. My family lives with uncertainty, day-to-day and year-to-year.
All of our employees are investors too. Each of them could make more money while working less elsewhere, assuaged only by the hypothetical value of stock options – a high-risk, high-reward bet on the vision and hope I sold them.
Or was it a bet on me? God, I hope not.
I don’t mean to sound narcissistic. But there are two types of entrepreneurs in the world: admitted narcissists and bold-faced liars. And I’m in the truth business, so you do the math.
The idea of failing doesn’t scare me. The idea of all those people thinking I failed them terrifies the living shit out of me. It’s in the back of my mind every day and every insomnia-laden night.
They don’t prepare you for that at entrepreneur boot camp or B-school. So, take it from me. If you’re sailing your own boat, think twice about dragging all those people on board with you.
Then, do it anyway. Because it’s worth it.
Here’s what we’re seeing right now:
Consumer confidence was completely flat over the past two weeks and it’s the first time we’ve ever seen that in 6 years of tracking it. A steep downturn in consumers’ enthusiasm about their personal finances was evenly offset by a nice buzz around the job market, housing market, and overall U.S. economy. I don’t know why but it feels like some kind of calm before a storm – good, bad, or otherwise.
Widespread student debt is shaking up the housing market. There’s a cute little narrative that says Millennials are renting apartments instead of buying homes because they like to be more urban and more mobile, with a smaller carbon footprint or whatever. Read this brilliant piece from Danielle on our team and you’ll see the real story. Millennials aren’t buying homes – at least yet – because they’re drenched in student loan debt. I’m no economist but that makes a lot of sense to me. All that money has to come from somewhere.
Paid streaming music, however, is slowly creeping into a new category of product adoption in the U.S. We should stress the word “slowly” but check out the chart below. The percentage of Americans who listen to a paid streaming music service (the blue line + the green line) has risen from 17% to 25% since 2016. Free, ad-supported services are losing share as a result. So is broadcast radio, but you already knew that because you haven’t been asleep for 20 years.
Meanwhile, personal budgeting apps like Mint are still waiting to go mainstream. Get used to me talking a lot about our new model for studying and predicting new product/tech adoption, which we’re unveiling at a conference next month. Personal finance apps like Mint or Acorns, for example, are mired in a low stage of adoption (about 6%) with only another 6% in the near-term growth segment. The apps are more popular among the younger set but may not be enough to disrupt the market. I give the advantage to the retail banks, long-term.
Millennials are going to kill late night television. Most Americans are night owls. We have been for a really long time. Then along came the Millennials, waking up early, drinking less, eating their avocado toast. And look what happens. The gap is closing fast. The percentage of Americans who identify as night owls has dropped nearly 10 points in 2 years. And it’s almost all from the 18-34 cohort. It’s certainly not me. I’m writing this at 1 am.
That might also explain why obsessive, daily coffee drinking is on the rise. This email usually goes out just before 7 am EST on Saturday morning and we typically see about 1/3rd of our total open rate by 8:30 am. That means a ton of you are morning people and I’m guessing most of you have a coffee within reach right now. You’re not alone. Fast approaching half (47% to be exact) of U.S. adults now drink coffee “every day, without fail” up from 40% just three years ago. Color me an outlier – a night owl AND addicted coffee drinker.
Our Most-Answered Questions of the Past Few Weeks
- Have you ever found out a colleague made more than you?
- New car smell: love it or hate it?
- Be honest: do you care much about how your lawn looks?
- Is it rude to bring a bottle of wine you brought to a party back home with you if it was unopened?
- Have you ever purchased a ticket from a scalper?
- Do you think emojis help or hurt people when it comes to expressing emotions?
Paul. The answer is Paul.
Hoping you’re well.