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by Ben Yu

Thiel Fellow. On leave from Harvard. Makes Sprayable Energy. I’m slightly back!

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The New Goto - Launching a Product on Product Hunt

By now, just about everyone in the world knows the power of social news aggregators - a must for launching a product is making an attempt to frontpage on HackerNews and/or Reddit. In some user acquisition/business models, the strategy sometimes revolves around doing solely that.

However, while HackerNews and Reddit are indeed amazing ways to get the word out about a product - they’re not explicitly designed for the purpose, and there’s a new player in the field that’s showing, in record time, the potential to rapidly overtake HN and Reddit as the goto for product launches.

I’ll have to admit - I was a little skeptical the first time I heard about Product Hunt. Ryan Hoover, the cofounder, had been a good friend of mine for quite a while before he launched PH - we used to blog together when he was back at PlayHaven - and when he first described it to me, it seemed like a stretch that PH...

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Life. It’s happening and going by.

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Six months since my last post, nine months since my last real post. June 7th, 2013. Hmm. We were getting ready to launch Sprayable Energy in August, and I was getting ready to go back to school for a semester. I figured I’d just take a short one month break, and then get back into the habit of blogging twice a week.

Lessons learned: It’s really easy to fall off the bandwagon, even for really strong habits. Falling off the blogging bandwagon happened despite me having blogged for a fairly long time with pretty solid consistency. It took a significant event for me to justify falling off the bandwagon consciously, but once that happened, it was pretty much game over.

This happened again just this past January - I’d been keeping a daily progress journal online for the past 551 days with only one short weeklong break during a cruise prior, and then I had to fly to New York for a weekend...

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Sprayable Energy, or Why I’ve Been on Hiatus

Gee, that was a bit longer than four months.

Four months ago, I penned my last post and then decided to go on hiatus for a month.

I guess I never really came back. Sorry guys! If you were curious what I was up to - well, it was Sprayable Energy.

This is a bit late notice too - by the time you read this, there will probably either be just a few hours left in Sprayable Energy’s campaign or none at all and you will have missed out on this opportunity and these deals forever. Again, sorry guys - I wish I was a better marketer, but clearly I’m not :).

Actually, we really aren’t good marketers. We somehow managed to raise over $160,000 on Indiegogo in about 40 days, which I suppose if extrapolated out would suggest that we managed to get enough traction to potentially sell well over a million dollars in revenue a year pre-product. Fingers crossed things go as well in reality.

So here we...

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150 days without videogames

As of today, I have gone exactly 150 days without playing a single video game.

This represents something of a minor miracle for me. This is almost certainly (I can’t say certainly only because of the addled memory I have from playing so many video games) the first time I have ever gone remotely this long without playing video games since I first touched the unholy blight that is a video game.

I used to read books as a kid. This was fantastic. My vocabulary, spelling, grammar, writing, and general language skills skyrocketed effortlessly. I probably became more intelligent and imaginative and creative. Reading fostered a fecund brain.

And then one day a flyer came in the mail, advertising a ridiculously cheap copy of Total Annihilation for whatever reason. My dad decided it couldn’t hurt to buy it for me.

How terribly, terribly wrong he was.

Really fucking terribly wrong.

But it wasn’t...

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For now

When I think about how fortunate I am in life to not have some terrible debilitating disease, to not be mentally retarded, to not be a starving African child, to not be terminally ill, and to otherwise be in the peak of physical and mental health and with unlimited opportunity on the horizon, there’s a caveat.

And that caveat is I am fortunate, ridiculously fortunate - for now. Tomorrow, the proverbial bus may hit me and I may be a quadriplegic. I could find out I have cancer, or some rare recessive late onset fatal disease. Who the fuck knows, I might even start growing a second skeleton.

This is what motivates me to work fast in life, and try to achieve success while I can, because I can now…and perhaps only for now. The future is never secure, and we never know what it’ll bring. Something about not counting chickens before they hatch.

This leads to my life motto, which is “Live...

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Desperation

There’s this interesting notion that desperation is the best thing that can happen to us. I just watched two movies for Mother’s Day with my mom - The Great Gatsby, and Iron Man 3. In a way, both were about desperation, but the last one explicitly, so I’ll start there.

Aldrich Killian, main villain, reveals that he owes his success to Tony Stark - after Tony rejected him and left him hanging outside on the roof after a party in Switzerland, Aldrich was driven to despair and desperation. After entertaining the thought of suicide, he suddenly comes to the revelation that he now has a driving force in life: to exact his revenge on Tony, and in his desperation he resolves to see his enmity to its end. So ultimately, Tony’s having left him with no where to turn was what made him into the very successful supervillain he is today.

Same bit of a story with Gatsby. Grows up desperately poor,...

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My fourth grade teacher did

Who took a chance on you? That’s the Startup Edition question for this week, and I love it.

Pretty much everyone ever has taken a chance on me, so I’m grateful to this question for finally compelling me to acknowledge and be thankful to all the people who have helped me get to where I am.

Here are a few of the entities that have taken a chance on me:

  • My parents, when they decided to nurture and feed me
  • Harvard, when they decided to teach me
  • The Thiel Fellowship, when they decided to invest in me
  • My cofounder, when he decided to work with me
  • My girlfriend, when she decided to love me
  • My friends, when they decided to influence and be influenced by me
  • Myself, when I decided to live on my own terms and run for my dreams
  • Startup Chile, when they decided to give us free monies
  • Svbtle, when Dustin decided to let me ramble on like an idiot here
  • The trillions of cells in my body, who decided...

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We aren’t born anything.

We’re made. And now,

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH

That’s my passionate battle cry for this post. I feel very strongly about this subject, as I firmly believe it is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Today we are going to speak about being ‘born this way’. Over and over and over again in my life I’ve encountered cases of people who believe they just are one way or another, and there’s nothing they can do about that. We’re either happy or sad, lucky or unlucky, impulsive, short-tempered, bad at sports, stupid, slow to get movies, shy, introverted, awkward, manic-depressive, emotional, logical, bad at math, intrinsically entrepreneurial or intrinsically not, risk-taking, impatient, nonconformist, and so on. You get the point.

God damn it.

I feel strongly about this because I used to be the exact same way. I thought we all just were as we were. I was a shy,...

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How diamonds took over the world

This is in response to Startup Edition’s prompt for this week: What is the single greatest startup hack you’ve seen?

Since I know nothing about startups or hacks or great things, I appealed to my cofounder Deven for advice. He suggested two things. One, the epic arbitrage that the Rothschild ‘bank’ engineered by strategically placing four brothers in different financial centers around the world and hiring the fastest ships to swap information before the general public could. Two, diamonds.

Since he said I’d have to read a giant book to learn about the Rothschild and I had about two days to write this post, I decided to go with diamonds.

This response interprets every aspect of the question loosely, but I think there’s still quite a valuable lesson to be found somewhere here in the rough. If you find it, let me know.

Behind the modest, lowly diamond lies pretty much the greatest...

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Why People Live

This past week I learned that I have some incredible readers on this blog. No idea why you guys read this piece of shit. But I’m glad you do. Thanks.

As somewhat promised, here’s a followup post to my Why Do You Live? post on Monday, featuring some of the fantastic responses from incredible readers.

First up, the fucking awesome Michelle Lara Lin, who I’m actually amazed I haven’t met yet. How does everyone not know this ridiculously cool person already?

I can’t admit I’m not biased in favoring this response because she’s an absurdist too and runs a blog called The Stranger, because I am. But notwithstanding, she wrote a amazing post below interspersed with amazing pieces of artwork, so. Read it.

Hello Ben,

I’ve always loved reading your blog entries, but this Absurdist one was a delightful surprise. Camus is my favorite author. He turned my life around and gave me the strength to...

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