» businessLandon Howell | A blog about startup marketing

“Get rich slow”
posted on Jun 20 2020

I would *pay* to hear the conversations inside Wealthsimple when the tagline “Get rich slow” was proposed. It’s brilliant for a couple of reasons:

1. The tagline is funny. Fintech brands aren’t, and rarely have the opportunity to be, funny. It’s a surprise to the reader and a key differentiator for Wealthsimple.

2. The tagline also creates a point of positive friction. Users who want to invest a few hundred dollars in the hope of a quick return will definitely think twice about signing up for Wealthsimple. By “encouraging the wrong users *not* to sign up” — my words, not theirs — Wealthsimple increases retention (even in the face of lower acquisition) while lightening future customer service burden. The “wrong customers” are always service-needy and rarely pay for themselves in the time they require from customer service.

The daily work of leading
posted on Jun 9 2020

Just started Frances Frei and Anne Morriss’s new book Unleashed and it’s off to a great start.

…we discovered that the daily work of leading is much quieter and less dramatic than the leadership stories that had captivated us as children.


The practice of leadership almost always asks you to risk something, but it only sometimes requires a midnight ride or a clutch, buzzer-beating jump shot. And there’s rarely a crowd that goes wild when you get it right.

Frances lead the culture turnaround at Uber in 2017 and she’s a professor at Harvard Business School. I highly recommend listening to this 2017 interview and this June 2020 interview with Kara Swisher.

posted on Jun 3 2020

TikTok reached 1 billion users faster than any other social network.

I continue to be fascinated by TikTok due to its incredible consistency in delivering entertainment customized to each individual user in a manner that requires very little from each user.

TikTok’s artificial intelligence enables it to rapidly learn what you like without explicit input.

Zhang, ByteDance’s founder and CEO, has stated his primary strategy is to eliminate the need for search – how Google and Amazon serve their very profitable advertising products – and immediately serve users exactly what they want.

Josh Constine has some thoughts and an interesting story here on ‘Why influencers are replacing fans with cults’.

The fast feedback loops of micro-entertainment apps like TikTok let leaders quickly turn community input into fresh content that makes their cults feel seen. And by fostering a sense of fellowship through peer-to-peer communities, influencers can keep their cults satiated even when they’re not churning out videos.

I also recommend this wonderful, long piece by Turner Novak: The Rise of TikTok and Understanding Its Parent Company, ByteDance

Amazon fulfillment
posted on Jun 2 2020

Amazon is now the 4th-largest delivery network in the United States.

  • Amazon now operates nearly 500 logistics facilities in the U.S. covering 173 million square feet and another 1,100 globally that cover 262 million square feet
  • Amazon delivered 2.3 billion of the 4.5 billion parcels (58%) it shipped to U.S. consumers in 2019
  • Amazon’s 2.3 billion parcels delivered to U.S. customers represents 22% of the 10.6 million U.S. online retailer parcel deliveries in 2019
  • Free next-day delivery cost Amazon $1.5 billion in 2019
  • Internationally, Amazon handled 48% of its own deliveries—1.2 billion of the 2.5 billion packages it shipped outside of the U.S. in 2019
  • Amazon has invested $60 billion since 2014 in building out fulfillment warehouses, leasing airplanes and buying delivery vans
  • 97% of Amazon’s fulfillment and data center space in 2019 was leased
  • 42% of Prime members said Amazon orders have arrived more quickly over the past year compared with only 19% of Amazon customers who are not members of Prime

  • Remote working is the new normal
    posted on May 22 2020

    I love (love) working in an office, but I’ve also had the luxury of working remotely for two years with the option to go into an office whenever, however I please.

    Offices are necessary for some, preferred for many, required for most.

    From Matt Mullenweg:

    Sales during a pandemic
    posted on May 21 2020

    The salespeople who will win during lockdown/quarantine are those with the most empathy.

    Your prospective customers are stuck at home, working from home (most for the first time), many with children (who need quality time and attention), and all concerned with simply trying to stay caught-up in their responsibilities.

    They are attempting to balance personal and professional responsibilities and stress during a pandemic and record unemployment.

    “Circling back” to “see if you received my last email” isn’t empathy. Take an other-centered approach and throw out most of your old playbook and process.

    SMBs and Covid-19 Impact
    posted on May 19 2020

    Facebook surveyed 86,000 people who own or work at SMBs on the effect of Covid-19 on their operations.

    31% of SMBs have stopped operating in the last three months

    52% of personal businesses have shut down

    36% of SMBs reported conducting all of their business online (which is something Shopify and others have seen)

    74% of surveyed employees said they did not have paid sick leave, but that number jumps to 93% for hotel, cafe, and restaurant industries

    45% of owners/managers at small businesses said they’ll rehire the same staff when they reopen (yikes)

    11% of operating businesses predict they’ll fail in the next three months given current conditions (this seems unreasonably optimistic)

    There will be no “Silicon Valley exodus”
    posted on May 18 2020

    I originally shared the following on LinkedIn.

    – – –

    “Silicon Valley faces tech exodus.”

    No it doesn’t.

    San Francisco and Silicon Valley will continue to be the global startup and tech hub. It’s where the medium and large tech orgs are based, it’s where the VCs are anchored (or have a satellite office), and it has a massive pool of talent to fill all roles of a company of any stage.

    I’ve not even touched on the amazing weather, food, views, events, and the mix of cultures.

    The Bay Area is amazing. For every person wanting to move out, dozens are wanting to move in.

    The cost of living is high, but so are the salaries, the benefits/perks, the work experience, and the likelihood that you can not only find a tech company you love (and when you want to change tech jobs your options are seemingly endless), but a job that you love which *also* has a high likelihood of success (e.g. IPO).

    Also, this isn’t a zero sum game. The Valley/SF can be incredibly important *while* other cities also exponentially increase in their importance.

    We’ve already seen this happen in Boston, Seattle, Austin, and New York City.

    I’m typing this from Atlanta, an incredible tech hub that I moved to after leaving SF a year ago.

    A poll of U.S. SMBs during quarantine
    posted on May 12 2020

    Some interesting numbers from a poll conducted by Veem of U.S. SMBs.

    • 90% of small businesses are bracing for an economic slowdown

    • 81% of small businesses think COVID-19 could impact them for 12–16 months

    • 65% of companies said they had either submitted an application for the federal aid or planned to do so in the near future

    • 59% of companies are applying/have applied for loans

    • 52% of companies are cutting operational costs

    • 55% have already experienced some significant impact to revenue

    • 50%+ of companies reported moderate to high supply-chain disruptions as a result of factory shutdowns, border restrictions, and industry furloughs

    • 30%+ are now setting up regional supply chains or changing their supply chain

    • 30% are optimistic, taking the stance that they are better positioned to thrive in the current environment (e.g. ecommerce)

    • 13% of companies have not taken any measures to prepare for a slowdown

    • 54% of the companies are freezing hiring

    • 23% are downsizing staff

    • 18% said they plan to increase staff training and support

    Interesting notes from Spotify’s Q1 2020 earnings call
    posted on Apr 30 2020

    I was really interested to see Spotify’s Q1 2020 earnings in a world of stay-at-home and work-from-home. Some items and metrics that stood out…

  • Searches for “chill” and “instrumental” playlists were up, as 20% of consumers reported listening to more music than usual to manage their stress.
  • Decline in usage of car and wearable (because ain’t nobody commuting at the moment)
  • 31% in both MAU and subscriptions YoY
  • 286M monthly active users (up from 271M in Q4 2019)
  • 130M subscribers
  • This is wild: More than 70% of new podcasts on Spotify were created with Anchor. Spotify acquired Anchor in Feb 2019 for ~$150M.
  • 1 out of 5 users “engaged” with a podcast… which I feel is an incredibly vague way of saying “some people probably maybe accidentally clicked on a podcast or two but we don’t really have a ‘whoops’ metric yet do this is the best marketing term we could use.”