Don't drink your own kool-aid

Israeli electric car startup Better Place ate through $900M in funding and died. In his coverage, Max Chafkin writes this gem:

Entrepreneurs are frequently told not to drink their own Kool-Aid--which is to say, to remember that the stories they tell about how their products will save humanity are just that.

Privately, they are cautioned to focus on the small things; to make more money than they lose; to cut costs when needed; and, when necessary, to pivot to a more promising business. The caution seems especially important in a culture that increasingly celebrates startups, threatening to confuse their mythmaking with reality. 

This is very true, and startups die every other day of some form of this. The money comes tomorrow only when you perform. Even if it's easy now, it won't be easy forever.

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn on separating good and evil

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

One simple fix for American Express ReceiptMatch

It's always great when a big company innovates, but just like a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a little innovation can be that way for creating a million paper cuts of user pain. 

Here's one paper cut by American Express's ReceiptMatch service, that can take posts by email. But unfortunately, when its servers are down (and they are down often), the service just starts instantly rejecting email.

This simply isn't the kind of thing a normal software engineer would do. Emails queue by default, actually — and receipts are rarely so mission critical that I need 200 millisecond response times on my receipt emails. So just leave the email in the queue and process it when you can. 

A rare case of addition by subtraction — it's actually more work to send a rejection email than it is to let it sit in an email queue. That's the easiest thing in the world to do, and infinitely better than what they do now. 

The Mind of a VC: 10% lower working memory than average, 67% more risk taken

From the Prophecy Sciences blog:

Not-so-great memory— With so many things competing for our attention throughout the day, it’s a challenge for anyone to keep the important things in our working memory and the unimportant things out. VCs appear to have even more difficulty with this filtering, with our data showing a 10% deficit in working memory compared to everyone else.

Risk Seeking— Not everyone has an appetite for risk, preferring instead to go for small, safe wins. The VCs in our dataset had no trouble going for the big, uncertain gambles, making risky choices 67% more often than others we tested.

Prophecy Sciences is a YC company run by one of the smartest guys I knew at Stanford— he's a PhD/postdoc in Neuroscience and they're building technology for short sit-down cognitive tests that can tell a whole lot about people. It's already in use at hedge funds and professional sports teams to help build teams that work together better. 

Read the full study at Prophecy Sciences