The "Dirty" Secret of High Performing Product Teams

💡JC's Newsletter #81

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In JC’s Newsletter, I share the articles, documentaries and books that I enjoyed the most in the last week, including a must-read. 

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👉 Scaling Product Delivery: The "Dirty" Secret of High Performing Product Teams (Reforge)

On the importance of having big bets over and over: 

  • Companies need to ship big bets over and over in order to create step changes that help them scale.

  • One of the most underrepresented tools in the tool belt right now is being able to build, orchestrate, and manage a system that enables teams to accept and manage the uncertainty of high risk, high reward bets.

Being flexible on the “tools” you use to solve problems: 

  • High-performing product teams don't religiously subscribe to one tool for all problems. They recognize that through a company's lifetime, different problems arise that each requires a different tool.

Portfolio thinking at different stages:

  • Series B+​ - Many companies around the Series B stage finally get the financial and human capital to pull off multiple major initiatives at the same time. 

  • Series D and Beyond -​ In late-stage private companies, there typically comes a time where you need to start expanding your portfolio of products.

How to approach complexity: 

  • Manage The Complexity, Don't Try To Remove It. There will always be a level of uncertainty involved in executing innovative and uncertain strategic ideas. Creating product-changing wins involves taking higher-risk, longer-term bets. Instead, you need to ​accept the uncertainty by building processes that mitigate this complexity, increase conviction, and reduce risk over time.

  • There also needs to be a deliberate focus on finding new insights during development and having a way to accept and incorporate these new learnings.

  • Having A Tolerance For Misfires. make a mistake, or have misfires. But that needs to be OK.

🏯 Building a company

In addition to selected articles, I share one of Alan's leadership principles every week - the same one that I share internally every Wednesday.

👉Alaners are biased to action

  • We try new things and know how to follow our intuition: In our business, the risk of not trying a good idea is far more damaging than the risk of trying something that doesn’t work. But most people are criticized for what they do rather than what they don’t.

  • At Alan, it is the default that the status quo is a bad thing; instead of justifying why something should be done, the burden of proof rests on those who believe things should remain the same.

👉 How Hip-Hop Helped Cash App Grow Faster (Trapital)

  • On Cash App Fridays, the mobile payment app users can log on Twitter and reply to @CashApp with their $cashtag for a chance to win prizes that range from $100 to $500.

  • In 2019, the company spent an estimated $60,000 on Cash App Fridays. In return, it earned much more in heightened brand awareness and earned media. This strategy translated well to hip-hop, where rappers use the app to give money to fans. Cash App has now been name-dropped by over 200 hip-hop artists.

  • In 2018 it teamed up with Travis Scott and Lil’ B. In December, it got together with Snoop Dogg. Each of them used the app to give away money. The company acquired customers through the rappers’ social media followings at an extremely low cost. Free money is an easy sell, and it doesn’t take that many customers to justify the cost. That’s well worth $100,000 for both La Flame and Cash App.

👉 Ordinary Words (FS | Brain Food)

  • "I try to write using ordinary words and simple sentences. That kind of writing is easier to read, and the easier something is to read, the more deeply readers will engage with it. The less energy they expend on your prose, the more they'll have left for your ideas."

🗞In the news


👉AWS CloudFront Functions, AWS’s Data Residency Whitepaper, Muddles and Mirages (Stratechery)

  • In short, Amazon’s response to concerns about data sovereignty is that being concerned about data sovereignty implies a lack of understanding about the tech involved, because hyperscale providers, particularly once you understand the underlying economics and incentives, are clearly the safest solution. In other words, “trust us.”

  • The problem for Amazon is twofold: first, being technically right is very different than being politically right. Second, Parler happened, and countries all over the world were watching; AWS’s claims about having incentives that always align with the interests of foreign government and companies ring a bit more hollow than they did before.

  • Amazon’s arguments are about tech and economics; what is implied is the bet that politics won’t end up mattering for most use cases for most companies. It’s a reasonable bet, that very well may win in the long run, and it’s also the reason to argue that Cloudflare is overhyped; in this case the question is less about companies and more about the macro environment and what happens to the Internet going forward.

👉What Tinder learned from Fortnite (Platformer)

  • For developers, the challenge in pushing in-app events is that their success typically hinges on having (1) a massive install base that (2) has push notifications enabled. Otherwise, how does anyone find out about your big event?

  • As of this month, they have some new options on iOS. 

  • Apple said it would begin to promote in-app events directly from the App Store

  • Users can learn more about the events, sign up to be notified or quickly join the event, if it’s happening now. They can also discover events with personalized recommendations and through App Store search.

🏥 Healthcare

👉Microsoft Buys Nuance, Understanding Nuance, In the Loop (Stratechery)

  • Nuance is at its core a conversational AI company.

  • Our Dragon Medical One platform alleviates those burdens by allowing physicians to verbally capture their patients’ clinical stories any time and from any device

  • Dragon Medical One does is let doctors dictate their notes instead of typing them

  • Nuance’s focus has led the company to the next step beyond dictating post-consultation notes: taking notes directly, as the consultation is happening. The product is called Dragon Ambient eXperience.

  • Ambient Clinical Intelligence (ACI) uses ambient sensing technology to securely listen to clinician‑patient encounter conversations while offering workflow and knowledge automation to complement the EHR. Exceeding the capabilities of a virtual or on‑site scribe, the Nuance Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX), innovated by Nuance and Microsoft, promotes a better patient experience by accurately capturing and appropriately contextualizing every word of the patient encounter and automatically documenting patient care without taking the physician’s attention off the patient.

👉Indian health insurance startup Plum raises 15.6 million in Tiger Global-led investment (Tech Crunch)

  • Plum offers health insurance coverage on a B2B2C model. The startup partners with small businesses to provide health insurance coverage to all their employees (and their family members), charging as little as $1 a month for an employee.

  • Plum offers its partnered client’s employees the option to top-up their health insurance coverage or extend it to additional members of the family. Unlike its competitors that require all the premiums to be paid annually

👉One Medical to acquire Iora Health in $2.1B all-stock deal (Fierce Health Care)

  • Through the all-stock deal, Iora Health shareholders will receive 56.1 million shares in One Medical, or about 26.75% of the combined company.

👉Amazon just signed its first employer client for its medical-care business  (Business Insider)

  • Amazon Care is already seeing employees from Precor, a fitness company recently bought by Peloton.

  • Amazon will be paid based on how many people are using the app, a person close to the matter said.

👉SoftBank-Backed Alto Is in Talks to Merge With Gores SPAC (

  • Alto Pharmacy, a startup that specializes in same-day delivery of prescription medications, is in talks to go public via a blank-check firm affiliated with Alec Gores, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

  • Alto is projected to deliver revenue of about $700 million in 2021,

  • A single Alto distribution location delivers to the same area as about 400 chain pharmacies, its website shows.

💚 Alan

👉 Q2 2021 - Letter to shareholders (Alan Blog). 

  • We share our progress quarterly. As such, we have published our Q2 2021 letter to shareholders.

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