Podcast Blurbs [Sleep, Discarding ideology, Common knowledge, Intuition, SaaS upsell]

Hidden Brain (11/14/17; Eyes Wide Open: Part 2)

(Matthew Walker, neuroscientist)

“If we didn’t need 8 hours of sleep a night and we could get away with 6, mother nature would have done away with 25% of our sleep time millions of years ago.  Because when you think about it, sleep is an idiotic thing to do.  You’re not finding a mate, you’re not reproducing, you’re not finding food, you’re not caring for your young, worse still, you’re vulnerable.  So, by any one of those accounts, it should be excised from the evolutionary process.  If sleep does not provide a remarkable set of benefits, it’s the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made…so, I know that you think you’re okay with 6 hours of sleep but trust me or not, and we know this to be true, that your subjective sense of how well you’re doing on insufficient sleep is a miserable predictor of objectively how you’re doing with too little sleep […]

We know that a single night of short sleep, and these are lab studies where you perhaps are limited to just 4 hours of sleep for one single night, the next day, that will drop critical anti-cancer fighting cells by 70%.  That is an alarming state of immune deficiency and it happens quickly after essentially just one bad night of sleep.  We also know from the associational evidence that insufficient sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, cancer of the prostate, and cancer of the breast.  And the link between the lack of sleep and cancer has since become so strong that the world World Health Organization has now classified any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen…in other words, jobs that may induce cancer because of a disruption in your sleep wave rhythms.  Denmark, based on the strength of the evidence, became the first country to pay worker compensation to women who had developed breast cancer after years of nighttime shift work in government sponsored jobs […]

Back in the 1980s when I went on holiday to Greece, there were signs in the shop store windows that would give the opening hours and they would open from between 10am to 2pm, and then it said ‘closed’ between 2pm to 4pm or 5pm, and then open from 5pm to 10pm or 11pm.  And it was so different from the way in which shops back in England would operate, where for the most part it was 9 to 5 hours, classic.  And of course what it was describing [in Greece] was this classic siesta like behavior.  Now, back in the mid-1990s, the Greek culture actually started to abandon the siesta like practice and a group of scientists from Harvard University School of Public Health decided to quantify the health consequences of this radical change in sleep practices…and the results were heartbreaking in the most literal sense.  What they actually observed was a 37% increase in risk for death from heart attacks across that six year period as a consequence of doing away with that siesta behavior.  It was actually particularly strong in working males, almost a 60% increased risk in death from heart attacks.”

Waking Up, Ep. #105 (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Matt Dillahunty)

Sam Harris

(on the good life)

“If you imagine a world of real abundance, like a world where we built the right AI that’s just pulling wealth out of the atmosphere and no one actually has to work anymore because we have machines that can build machines that are all powered by sunlight that do everything better than we can.  Now, why wouldn’t that be some kind of Utopia?  Well, it wouldn’t be a Utopia because we have these very weird emotions that make it seem like it would be wrong to spread the wealth around.  Most people are living as though they want to live in a world where there are a few trillionaires living in compounds ringed by razorwire and everyone else is starving to death…we have to find a new ethic whereby people’s purchase on existence is no longer justified by doing profitable work that other people will pay them for.  In a world of true abundance, you shouldn’t have to work to justify your life, you should be free to enjoy the wealth of the world.”

(on intellectual dishonesty)

“If you actually want to understand somebody’s position, then you will always be interested in their efforts to clarify it.  But what we’re noticing in our discourse, politically especially, is people don’t really want to understand your position.  They want to catch you saying something that can be construed in the worst possible way and then hold you to it, and then they claim to understand what you think better than you do…”

(on intuition)

“For me, intuition is when you can break down your knowledge of a thing no further, the step you take is intuitive.  So, if I ask you ‘how is it that you understand that 2+2=4.  At some point you were taught this but now you get it and can’t see it any other way and when someone says 2+2=5, that doesn’t feel right…it’s a mathematical intuition at this point, it’s a basic building block of anything…

Our knowledge of the world, our knowledge of causality, our knowledge of anything, our sense that the present bears some relationship to the past, all of that is cached out intuitively.  So, you can’t get away from intuition, everything is built on it from basic logic and mathematics on up.  But recognize that many of our intuitions are bad, they’re faulty, we did not evolve to have common sense intuitions about the way the universe works, especially at the smallest scale of atoms and at the largest scale of galaxies and especially across vast stretches of time…we know there are areas where our intuitions are very bad and we correct for them with other intuitions, like mathematical ones.  If we had a newspaper the size of this stage and we could just fold it in half again and again and again, and we folded it in half 100 times, how thick would the resulting block of newspaper be.  Well, most people imagine that you would be able to fold it in half upon itself a hundred times and they imagine something the size of a cinder block or a very large brick, but what you have in your hands is measured in light years.  So, that’s a very bad intuition that we have there but the intuition that allows us to recognize that it’s bad is this very simple mathematical operation of exponentiation.

Intuition gets stigmatized as a word but science is the product of intuition, every gesture towards knowledge is the product of intuition…my noticing whether or not your argument runs through is again based on logical intuition.  Intuition is this move that you can’t justify by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  If I said to you, ‘justify this idea that events need causes’, that’s an intuition that is deeply held and that’s the foundation of science and there are actually areas in science that seem to violate it.  And then we’re left actually not understanding what’s going on but we have other reasons to protect that area of confusion because, in the case of something like quantum mechanics, it had such predictive utility that even though we don’t have a clear, realistic picture of what’s happening, we have to say in some sense, the math works out and it’s right.  But these areas of science are less than perfectly satisfying because we’re struggling to form a picture of reality and we don’t have the right intuitions for it.”

The Tim Ferriss Show, Ep. 281 (Stewart Brand – The Polymath of Polymaths)

Stewart Brand

(on pragmatic environmentalism)

“I was part of the creation of the so-called moderate environmental movement in the ’60s and ’70s.  And a couple of things got brought into the environmental movement kind of by proximity and osmosis.  There was a leftist perspective that came in from the New Left at the time.  So, a lot of the environmental movement was knee-jerk anti-corporate, anti-business, and there was a lot of romanticism that came from the hippies – back to the land and a lot of that kind of stuff….and it turned into a lot of anti-technology and even anti-science.  ‘To be one with nature is to dissolve yourself in the nature that is already there, don’t fuck with it.’  And any kind of intervention or reliance on technology was regarded as a ‘techno-fix’ and therefore, contemptible.  That set of framings got set in concrete and greatly outlived their usefulness and started to get in the way […]

So in 2010, I came out with a book that was about the rise of eco-pragmatism that I called Whole Earth Discipline.  And it was looking at things that I thought looked like environmentalists just had wrong.  We had wrong that genetic engineering was a bad thing and GMOs were thought to be bad…nuclear was thought to be bad and when climate change came along and it was the shortest cut to really, really reduce emissions, it was discounted for reasons left over from an earlier time.  Cities were taken as the problem rather than the solution, but when you look at the demographics, cities are the solution, they’re the greenest thing that humans do…so, I think the environmental movements, to the extent it can even be called a single thing anymore, is catching up to the real world and it’s taking a whole lot longer than it would have liked, but I think reality, especially climate, is just going to keep hammering us.”

SaaStr, Ep. #156 (Most Downloaded SaaStr of 2017: David Skok, General Partner @ Matrix Partners)

David Skok

“…the first question I get from many startups is ‘well, wait a second, we’ve only got one product and it only costs $2,000 so how are we going to get more money out of those customers’ and this was actually the exact story at HubSpot…we had a single product that sold at $500/month and there was nothing to upsell there, so we couldn’t go back to the install base and get more money out of them.  So, the first thing you realize with this is ‘how do we sell something more to them’ and the answer is there’s two things you can do.  You can take your current product and have variable pricing axes, so even though they’re using the same product, you’re not selling them something different, you’re going to get more money from them as they use it more.  And so a good SaaS product will have at least one variable pricing axis and possibly more.

So, a common one you’ll hear is how many seats of people are using this, but in many cases that’s not a good metric because you don’t actually add more users but you can still be delivering more value, so in HubSpot’s case, they chose to pick the number of leads that are in the database as a good method for determining how much value a customer’s getting out of the system, so as you add more leads, you pay more money to them.  Dropbox, for example, uses the amount of storage that you’re using for increasing the amount you pay them…the important factor there is to look at your pricing scheme and ask if you’ve got variable pricing axes.  Don’t worry about doing this if you’re a very, very early stage company because in actually in truth, in the really early stage, you just want to keep things simple and sign up customers…

The second thing you can obviously do is you can add more products.  So you can have ‘Pro’ version and you can have an ‘Enterprise’ version and you can charge more money for those, you have different feature breakouts – those are more versions of your primary product.  And then you can have some add-on products, which are really cross-sells to different things, you’re selling them a reporting module.  I think ultimately when you look at mature SaaS businesses, even though customers may not love this, mature SaaS businesses probably have to break their products down into lots of different modules and price that way…

…there are two excellent predictors about whether you’re going to have churn or not…the first one is after the company has bought the product, they’re in a great mood and they’re willing to spend a lot of time learning the product and getting it going and if you successfully onboard them, you’ve got a great happy customer.  If you don’t successfully onboard them and you wait until you’re trying to get your renewal until to try to fix their happiness, it’s much harder because they’re not willing to spend their time, they’ve already had a bad experience with you…what that tells me is that you should implement a scoring system at the end of your onboarding period to get the customer involved to tell you how well you did your onboarding and if you didn’t go a good job, fix it then because that’s the time when you’ve got their attention.  And you raised the second factor…maybe more important than that onboarding thing, is that if your champion leaves the company and your product is not 100% sticky, then that is a huge predictor of churn.  So, one of the things your account manager wants to do is track whether your champion is still at that company and if they leave, you know you’ve got to do another selling job.”