Episode 36: Building a Web3 Unicorn with Lorien Gabel (Figment)

Lorien Gabel is the Co-Founder of Figment Network. He holds an LLB from Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

In 1994, at the age of 24, 6 months into practicing law, Lorien quit to help his brother Matt run a bourgeoning internet company, Interlog. Over the next four years, they managed the growth of Interlog to over 150 employees, 65,000 customers and profitability. It was later acquired by a large multinational telecommunications company.

Key takeaways

  • “Be an anti-institutionalist. Be a skeptic.” The goal is to find solutions to problems that institutions and crowds overlook.
  • Blockchain is a counter to over centralization by the government.
  • There will be an infinite demand for block space in the future. We’re going into multichain world. The question is, will there be 10 or 1000 blockchains.
  • Be intellectually curious because this will take you far especially in crypto.

Starting Figment

Lorien was intellectually intrigued by crypto but didn’t want start mining Bitcoin because he found it boring. So instead he attempted to start a crypto fund, but people didn’t want to give money to an inexperience investor. However, the people found his platform interesting and were willing to fund it.

This led to co-fouding Figment and betting on Proof of Stake (POS).

In the early days, it was not obvious that POS would be successful. But now we’re witnessing many newer cryptos launching on POS.

Since launch Figment has entered unicorn status with over 125+ employees.

Why Crypto?

There is an over-centralization problem both in tech and government.

We see this in the continued de-dollarization for countries who thought they owned their dollar reserves. Or the recent example of the broken financial system in Canada, where certain citizen bank accounts were frozen. The marriage between governments and large institution is evidence for finding a better alternative.

This lack of ownership is an example for why cryptos can counter over-centralization.

Advice for people wanting to join crypto

Understand that both web2 and web3 will co-exist. There some projects which makes sense for web2 and not web3. Recognize this and it will help you wade through the noise.

Figment hires people who are not only talented and skilled but they have to demonstrate intellectual curiosity for the space. It’s intellectual curiosity that drives innovation. Hence in such a new space like crypto, it’s a must-have.

Learn about the space by doing things. Having skin in the game is the fastest way to increase speed of learning. Start with places like Rabbit hole where you can earn tokens through on-chain activity.

You can listen to the full episode in the embedded podcast player.

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Thanks to IJ Makan for helping write the episode summary.

Ep 22: Why Startups Fail with Tom Eisenmann

9 out of 10 startups fail. This is a gloomy number. However, it has never stopped entrepreneurs from hedging their bets to create successful companies.

And I want to help entrepreneurs, whether they’re first, second, or third-time founders, increase their odds of success.

So this week, I talked to Tom Eisenmann about his new book, Why Startups Fail: A New Roadmap for Entrepreneurial Success. Tom is the Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and holds the Peter O. Crisp Faculty Chair at Harvard Innovation Labs.

Tom shares his insights into why startups fail and how they can avoid them. It’s important to remember that these are not the only reasons why companies fail. But they are often why most startups fail.

Why Early-Stage Companies Fail?

1. Good ideas, bad bedfellows

Ideas are easy, execution is hard. If you assemble a bad team–team includes founders, early team members, and investors–it doesn’t matter how good the idea is you’ll run into serious trouble. Companies fail because they never got around to building a solid team that can execute.

2. Good team, bad idea

This is the opposite of (1). The team is star-studded but they never find a good idea or find product-market fit. As result, VCs lose faith and the startup runs out of money.

3. The false-positive

Early adopters are important to startups. They can help shape the trajectory of the company. However, single-mindedly focusing on early adopters can create products that are too complicated for mainstream users. A company that wisely avoided this was Dropbox.

Why Late-Stage Companies Fail?

1 of out 3 Series C companies and beyond don’t become profitable. So what are some ways to avoid failing as a late-stage company?

1. Speed trap

Growth is good, and learning to control that growth is crucial. Many companies fail because they grow too fast and their unit economics struggle. Additionally, clone products start eating away at their market share.

2. Help wanted

An early-stage company is dramatically from a late-stage company. Failure to make that transition can be detrimental. Companies need to find experts when transitioning to late-stage, otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster.

3. Cascading miracles

A company requires multiple things to go right for their product to work. If one thing goes wrong, then the whole thing crumbles. So with each additional variable, it increases the odds of the product failing.

Bonus takeaways

Don’t skip the research, if you’re early stage. Talk to at least 20 people in your target segment, and find out what their pain points are.

If you’re a late-stage company, before you press the pedal to the metal find out what the speed limit is. Ask the following questions: Is the company is ready to scale? Do we have the team and the system to scale?

Often times, we only hear about successful companies because of survivorship bias. Tom sheds new light with Why Startups Fail. I recommend every entrepreneur read and absorb the lessons in this book.

If you prefer, you can listen to the episode in the embedded podcast player.

In addition to the above Youtube video and embedded podcast player, you can also listen to the podcast on: