Paypal’s Growth Story & Business Model

In my opinion, Paypal's business is worth studying for two main reasons. First, PayPal is one of the oldest fintech companies to have survived to date in the post-internet era, so it has democratized innovations as well weathered competition from other startups since its founding in 1998. And Second, it was founded by the members of what is now famously known as the Paypal Mafia, a group of high-impact individuals like Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, etc.   To add more weight to the two reasons stated above, what makes Paypal an even more fascinating business case study is that the...

How Wikipedia Works + Wikipedia’s Business Model

The proliferation of encyclopedic information can be classified into two eras: pre-internet and post-internet. Both eras gave birth to different models to create a knowledge repository and share it with a wider audience.   The earliest encyclopedic work to have survived until modern times dates back to the 1st century AD. Still, it was only after the advent of the printing press in the 15th century that encyclopedic knowledge was democratized. Most pre-internet encyclopedias, including Britannica, the earliest and the most famous Encyclopedia in the English-speaking world, had a similar operation style and business model.  As you can guess, they ran like more or less a...

‘100 ways to improve your writing’ Book Notes

Before I briefly explain the note-taking process, I want to introduce Gary Provost, the author of ‘100 ways to improve your writing.'  "Being a writer is not my profession. It is my nature," once said Gary.  His voluminous lifelong work is proof that the statement was not an exaggeration. Gary sold 22 (fiction and nonfiction) books to major publishing houses throughout his career, writing in almost every genre that the mind can conjure: How-To texts for writers, True Crime, Satire, Mystery, Romance, and more. Apart from writing books, Gary was also engaged in teaching writing, constantly honing his craft by helping...

How Tesla Disrupted the Car Industry and How it Makes Money

In 2016, 13 years after being in existence, Tesla made a one-word switch in its mission statement.  The old mission statement read, "Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable transport." The updated mission statement became, "Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."  I highlight this change because it opens up a different window to peek into the house of Tesla. The general perception built around Tesla is that it is a car company focused on speeding up our transition to electric or sustainable transport, but the mission statement change and newer product lines indicate that...

How Harvard Makes Money?

I'm going to throw you a challenge. Assume you have to start a university that would become the richest and the most prestigious educational institutions in humankind's history.  What plan of action would you create? What business model would you choose? How would you make it financially viable for the centuries ahead? A predictable approach would be to build a sustainable brand by providing top-notch education, establishing artificial scarcity by making applicants go through a challenging selection process, and ensuring students get placed in high-income jobs. In exchange for all of this, students would be willing to pay exorbitant fees.  But that's...

Telegram’s Founding Story, Business Model & Privacy Strength

With more than 2 billion monthly active users worldwide, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app. But Telegram, launched in 2013, around four years after WhatsApp, has been slowly and steadily covering ground.  More than 500 million users were actively using the service as of January 2020, with users increasingly flocking to Telegram after WhatsApp announced a contentious privacy policy update, forcing users to accept the updated terms until 8th February 2021. Due to the public backlash, WhatsApp eventually delayed implementing its new privacy policy until May 2021. Still, this entire episode injected life into the debate around which messaging app -- among WhatsApp,...

‘Company of One’ Book Summary

Originally a designer focussed on consulting, Paul Jarvis has written five books (including 'Company of One'), sold digital courses, and co-founded Fathom Analytics, a privacy-focused Google Analytics Alternative. His contrarian philosophy of purposefully staying small and questioning the conventional wisdom of building a big business empire has shaped Paul's long, successful, and personally meaningful career. In 'Company of One,' Paul shares the ideas behind his choosing this alternate path in business, and more broadly, in life -- a mindful approach based on designing work around life, not the other way around. Note: 'Company of One' contains 13 chapters but the book...

Slack’s Growth Story & Business Model

"I have never seen viral enterprise app takeoff like this before — all word of mouth," tweeted March Andresson in February 2014, six months after Slack launched in preview mode in August 2013. The tweet accompanied a slide from Slack's investor update deck. Slack is an embodiment of Silicon Valley's dream growth trajectory. On the first day of its preview launch itself, 8000 people requested an invitation to try out Slack. Two weeks later, the number had more than doubled to 15000.  In Feb 2014, when Slack dropped the preview and launched officially, around 16000 users were using the service daily. By the end...

Discord’s Founding Story & Business Model

Discord is a classic example of building a product to cater to a specific audience segment, only to find out other audiences you weren't initially targeting, finding value in your product, and using it. And so much so that, five years later, after its launch in early 2015, the discord team let go of its original identity, deciding to embrace the direction they were pulled into by users. Jason Citron & Stan Vishnevskiy, gamers themselves, originally built Discord for gamers. A typical user would be someone who played video games a lot, and while they were at it, used Discord to talk to...

‘The Everything Store’ Book Summary

Acclaimed Silicon Valley Journalist Brad Stone has been covering Amazon since its early days. "The Everything Store," is a result of Stone drawing upon his writing experience and interviewing numerous Amazon executives, with the blessings of Jeff Bezos. The book provides a comprehensive account of Amazon's growth from its 1996 inception until 2013, the year of publishing. Reading the book was fruitful because it gave me a window into Amazon's way of thinking & helped me understand Amazon's complex business by breaking it down into distinct components. I've structured my book summary such that it should do the same for...