@andrewchen

Get the newsletter · Featured · Recent

My first book, The Cold Start Problem. Plus Clubhouse, and more. It’s 2021, and I’m back!


Above: One of the final book cover designs I’m considering!

Dear readers,

So, you may have noticed that I’ve been away from writing for a bit. Actually for almost a full year. But I have an excuse! After nearly three years and many late nights and long weekends, I have an announcement.

My first book is dropping in late 2021, called THE COLD START PROBLEM, published by Harper Business.

You can pre-order it here on Amazon »

😎😎😎

I’ll have a lot more to announce about the book soon, including bonus material, add-ons, and more.

This is my first book, and… wow. My tldr; on the experience of writing a book is: OMG IT IS SO MUCH WORK. It started out benign — I thought it would be fun to do a little research to explore doing a book, and interviewed friends from Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Tinder, and many more interesting companies. 20 interviews eventually turned into nearly two hundred.

I became obsessed with a topic that emerged. The products that most intrigued me in the tech industry are marketplaces, social networks, messaging apps, workplace collab tools, etc. — that can grow and grow. These products have network effects, but are unusual for how you start them. There’s a “cold start problem” when a social app launches and no one’s on it! You need a critical mass to make it functional. I started to organize all the stories I was hearing and organize them into a framework. It was an attempt to understand and process my own experience at Uber, and how it fit into the rest of the industry.

Eventually, I wrote an outline of what I wanted to put together as a potential book. Just the outline was 30 pages… gulp. Then came the writing. A lot of writing. Then even more writing. I did some of the writing in warm, sunny places like Miami and Cabo. But a lot of it was done on my sofa. It was a lot. Then COVID. Then writing from a van, driving across the country, while avoiding people, but still writing. And in fact, I’m still in the middle of fixing sentences and polishing what’s left, but it’s nearly done at over 300 pages. I’m starting to look at potential book covers (one of the candidates above) and I’m very excited for y’all to read it — much more on this soon.

This isn’t all that I’ve been doing in the last year. In other news, I recently led a16z’s investment in Clubhouse and joined the board of directors. Clubhouse is a new audio-first social network — definitely worth trying out. I mention it because I’ve been learning a ton from being involved — about growth, metrics, viral loops, and much more. From a growth perspective, it’s an incredible expression of network effects. It grows explosively through viral loops — it’s been a top app in Europe for the past week, and recently just landed in Asia, growing quickly — and also has increased its engagement as the network fills in with more diverse content creators. I’m learning a ton and am lucky to be working with Paul and Rohan, Clubhouse’s founders. More on this in the future.

Besides the new book and Clubhouse, I’ve also been sheltering at home in the Bay Area like most of you. OK, not quite true. I did take a long trip around the US recently in a van — that was fun. Check out some pics over here. I drove, wrote, and did Zoom calls for almost 3 months.

And finally, I just wanted to say: I’m back! Now that I’m starting to wrap up on the book, I’m going to return to a much more frequent writing cadence. Thanks for your patience, and I hope to begin writing a lot more coming up.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

San Francisco, CA

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

The Adjacent User Theory

My top essays/tweetstorms in 2019 on product/market fit, investing, KPIs, YouTubers, and more

“Is your startup idea taken?” — and why we love X for Y startups

The Passion Economy (Guest essay by Li Jin)

10 lessons from a serial entrepreneur – Justin Kan, Atrium, YC, and Twitch

28 ways to grow supply in a marketplace — by Lenny Rachitsky, ex-Airbnb

Why startups are hard — the math of venture capital returns tells the story

The Podcast Ecosystem in 2019 – a16z’s 68 page analysis

The Dumb Idea Paradox: Why great ideas often start out by sounding dumb.

Announcing Pietra and a16z — my first ex-Uber investment!

What do you look for an investment? How long should a founder be without salary? And other Q&A

2018 essay collection on growth metrics, marketplaces, viral growth in the enterprise, and more (PDF included)

Silicon Valley network effects, OKRs for your personal life, and more: Podcast Q&A with Product Hunt

Consumer startups are awesome, and here’s what I’m looking for at a16z (70 slide deck)

What’s next for marketplace startups? Reinventing the $10 trillion service economy, that’s what.

How to build a growth team – lessons from Uber, Hubspot, and others (50 slides)

The red flags and magic numbers that investors look for in your startup’s metrics – 80 slide deck included!

a16z Podcast: When Organic Growth Goes Enterprise

a16z Podcast: Why paid marketing sucks, Network effects, Viral Growth, and more

Why “Uber for X” startups failed: The supply side is king

The Power User Curve: The best way to understand your most engaged users

DAU/MAU is an important metric to measure engagement, but here’s where it fails

Required reading for marketplace startups: The 20 best essays

Conservation of Intent: The hidden reason why A/B tests aren’t as effective as they look

The Startup Brand Fallacy: Why brand marketing is mostly useless for consumer startups

The Scooter Platform Play: Why scooter startups are important and strategic to the future of transportation

The IRL channel: Offline to online, Online to offline

How startups die from their addiction to paid marketing

Podcast Q&A: Dropbox’s viral growth, Uber’s tricky funnels, and future growth channels

Update: I’m joining Andreessen Horowitz!

Hello 2018! Books, essays, and more from the past year.

10 years of professional blogging – what I’ve learned

How to build a billion dollar digital marketplace – examples from Uber, eBay, Craigslist, and more

Startups are cheaper to build, but more expensive to grow – here’s why

This year’s top essays on growth metrics, consumer psychology, Uber, push notifs, NPS, and more

Growth is getting hard from intensive competition, consolidation, and saturation

Psych’d: A new user psychology framework for increasing funnel conversion (Guest Post)

Startups and big cos should approach growth differently (Video)

The Bad Product Fallacy: Don’t confuse “I don’t like it” with “That’s a bad product and it’ll fail”