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Even as I am celebrating yesterday’s news that Pfizer may have developed an effective Covid19 vaccine, I thought this would be a a great time to reflect on the challenges ahead and on the things we can learn from other epidemics.

As it happens, I have spent a significant part of my career on the frontlines of the HIV epidemic, mostly in Eastern and Southern Africa.

While HIV is different in so many ways from a respiratory pandemic, there are a few fundamentals that these two epidemics (and maybe any epidemics?) …


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Innovators gonna Innovate

I have spent a big chunk of my life among innovators. Most of them are ridiculously predictable in their mistakes .

There is one mistake in particular that every single innovator I ever worked with made at some point, yours truly included.

If you are an entrepreneur, bringing innovation to market, do not make this mistake.

*Do not try to innovate in every aspect of your business.*

Follow the Playbook

As you are bringing your innovation to market you will encounter many problems that are actually solved.

Millions before you have trialed-and-errored them into conventional “good practices”. There are playbooks for these problems and it is almost guaranteed that just running the playbook will give you better results out of the box than your very innovative solution. …


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The Thing About User Interviews

Impact or no impact, if you are building something you need to make sure people actually care for it. It is important to remember there is a HUGE difference between these three things:

  1. People saying they want something;
  2. People saying they would pay for something; and
  3. People actually paying for something;

Point 1 and 2 above are dangerous traps in product-market-fit. The graveyard of products that never took off although they were built on clear evidence of 1 and 2 above is vast.

Everyone who knows about building products will advise you to spend time doing user interviews. And that is solid advice, except that point 1 and 2 cannot be avoided through user interviews alone. …


For those who don’t know, Coinbase is a company that for the last several years has lead the charge for mass-adoption of crypto.

They have built a a businesses offering simple, easy ways for (mostly US-based) regular people to buy and hold Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

While their approach can be simplistic and overly-centralized for the taste of some of the more radical blockchain enthusiasts, anyone who truly cares about the values behind crypto has been rooting for Coinbase. The importance of mass-adoption is one of the very few principles with which most people in the blockchain space agree.

A Brief History of Crypto Activism

The crypto world, such as it is, is the very product of activism. …


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As a tech entrepreneur preoccupied with the impact of my work I love simple mental frameworks that provide perspective. One of these frameworks is the Thermometer vs. the X-Ray machine.

It helps of course that one of the products that I am working on is a public health tool, with striking similarities to a thermometer, but this framework helped me with other products I worked on over the years and I argue it is useful to anyone building any products.

Ask yourself this: is what you are trying to build more like a thermometer or more like an X-Ray Machine?

The Humble Thermometer

Consider the thermometer. …


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A few weeks ago I went to see a doctor for a small thing. This is how the whole thing went down:

  • First I asked around in my circles about a good doctor; I got recommendations, some of them conflicting;
  • Then I called a few of them up — after 30 mins listening to various versions of the same music, I managed to get a booking — 3 weeks from then, at a time that was inconvenient but manageable. …

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📷: Rodrigo Kugnharski

At every given point throughout history, things have been happening that ended up shaping the world and define the future as we know it. While these things and their impact are obvious with hindsight their impact was not so obvious at the time.

RELATED: Why It is so hard to read a trend

Historically, these future-shaping things have included violent, brutal events — the French Revolution or WW2, for example. Other times, they included technology innovation — the printing press, or the internet, or antibiotics.

Or they have been simple demographic facts — population growth, for example. Or migration.

Back in the days of horse and cart, an event had to be extraordinarily powerful to affect the entire world. Today? Different story. Everyone is connected, real time and consuming information continuously. A lot more things are shaping the world, much faster. …


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Make no mistake. We are in the midst of a super-crisis.

While no-one really knows how any ongoing crisis will turn out, there are some things that apply to all crises.

Here a few pointers from someone who has been at the center of a bunch of big crises over the last 2 decades:

1. Don’t trust experts

Confusion. Uncertainty. It’s tempting to think there is a Gandalf out there to guide us. There isn’t, friends. In fact when the crisis is profound, deep expertise turns out to be a liability.

RELATED: This Expert got everything wrong about the Internet

2. Understand that everyone is lost

Are you confused? Angry? feeling powerless? Welcome to the club. …


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Photo: Tim Mossholder

This is a great time to start a business. Here is why:

The ongoing pandemic has delivered a huge blow to the global economy. Businesses — large and small — have seen much of their markets wiped out overnight.

Many will not make it out of this crisis. This includes market leaders, long-tailers and everyone in-between.

As tough as this realty is for incumbents, it is a big opportunity for new entrants in any market and in particular on markets that have traditionally been over-saturated and highly competitive.

When a market is highly competitive, that is a sign of a real need that people are willing to pay for to satisfy and it is also a sign that the cost of entry for businesses is relatively low. …


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The highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kidding nobody about where it goes
I’m sitting down here in the campfire light
Searching for the ghost of Tom Joad

Bruce Springsteen — The Ghost of Tom Joad

The Truth about Changing Minds

When was the last time you had a civil exchange of ideas with someone who had a different perspective on things and one of you went:

Aaah, yes! I see now. I was wrong all along. I have now changed my mind.

Chances are, it’s been a while. And if this ever happened, you should know that was an outlier.

Above a certain age, people don’t change their minds. …

About

Iulian Circo

Full stack impact entrepreneur. 🚀

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