Essentialism for founders

Over the weekend I finally got round to reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less after three friends, all startup founders, recommended I check it.

Essentialism is an in depth look at what happens when we put more energy into one thing instead of everything, both in life and work.

To expand, only a few things are vital to our goals and well-being, and everything else is unimportant. By focusing on these few essential things and learning to do better by doing less, we can craft a life that is far more productive and fulfilling.

All of us are busy and I’m sure we are all constantly trying to find areas in which we can reclaim time, making our days more productive and, at the same time, allowing us to focus on things that matter — to us. Two CEOs that have integrated essentialism well are Jack Dorsey and Peter Thiel.

Jack speaks about being an editor at Square and Twitter. So rather than constantly adding more and more to his set of responsibilities, he instead chooses to cut things out whilst empowering his team to do more of the creation.

I’ve often spoken to the editorial nature of what I think my job is, I think I’m just an editor, and I think every CEO is an editor. I think every leader in any company is an editor. Taking all of these ideas and editing them down to one cohesive story, and in my case my job is to edit the team, so we have a great team that can produce the great work and that means bringing people on and in some cases having to let people go. That means editing the support for the company, which means having money in the bank, or making money, and that means editing what the vision and the communication of the company is, so that’s internal and external, what we’re saying internally and what we’re saying to the world — that’s my job. And that’s what every person in this company is also doing. We have all these inputs, we have all these places that we could go — all these things that we could do — but we need to present one cohesive story to the world.

Peter Thiel takes it one step further with his “one thing” management strategy (used in the early days of PayPal) where each individual employee was given a single variable to optimise (improving page load time, increasing user base, increasing adoption of a single feature, etc.) which was then used as the sole performance review axis 3–6 months later. The most important benefit of this approach was that it compelled the organisation to solve the challenges with the highest impact.


Without this discipline, there is a consistent tendency of employees to address the easier to conquer, albeit less valuable, imperatives. As a specific example, if you have 3 priorities and the most difficult one lacks a clear solution, most people will gravitate towards the 2d order task with a clearer path to an answer. As a result, the organisation collectively performs at a B+ or A- level, but misses many of the opportunities for a step-function in value creation.

Throughout the book I was reminded of one technique that I’m currently trialling — the Pomodoro Technique. An exercise of “time boxing” tasks meaning that you are highly focused on one task for a set amount of time. It stops you mindlessly swapping between tasks — giving focus. It’s surprising how much this is already benefiting me.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • When we push back effectively, it shows people that our time is highly valuable. It distinguishes the professional from the amateur.
  • His stress went up as the quality of his work went down. It was like he was majoring in minor activities.
  • Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.
  • If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will.
  • Warren Buffett — He owes 90% of his wealth to just ten investments.
  • The 90–10 model for making decisions. You can apply to just about every decision or dilemma. As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0.

So remember, less but better.

Some thoughts on VR

It’s predicted that 14 million VR devices will be sold in 2016 1.

I’m excited, this means 2016 will finally be the year virtual reality reaches mass market.

Goodbye real world!

Simply download, plugin and experience whatever world you’d like to be fully immersed in; that is, if we get beyond the motion sickness!

At this very moment I’m able to zip-line across the canopy of the Amazon rainforest, experience a movie as if I’m the protagonist, play a first-person-shooter, experience a battle like never before, buy a car or view a home remotely, remove the need for unnecessary travel and attend a conference.

Imagine what we will be able to do in 6 months! Like I said, goodbye real world.

In my opinion, we’ve already passed the tipping point. The hardware and underlying technology are all now at price points that make mass market appeal inevitable – £10 from Amazon and away we go!

One large proponent for the pace in which we have reached the tipping point is Google. They created Google Cardboard and showed us that the device we carry around with us all day, when inserted into a piece of cardboard, makes for a pretty decent doorway into a crazy new world. They planted the seed amongst a whole bunch of early adopters who made it easy to say to their friends “check this out, it will blow your mind”, and from there the momentum has grown.

Coupled with Google Cardboard, the VR ecosystem of 2014/15 also spurred the market on, which is now more vibrant than ever. Facebook-owned Oculus, HTC, Samsung and Sony have all jumped in with both feet. With this brings R&D, platforms, capital and consumers. With all of these intersecting, it’s no surprise that developers, graphics artists, 3D modellers, camera manufacturers, and investors have all flocked to the space.

In the short two years since Oculus was bought by Facebook for $2 billion, we have an ecosystem that already looks quite competitive:

VR Ecosystem

Getting VR beyond a niche for gamers will be an important next step for the overall ecosystem and move it from being $xx billion per annum market to being a $xxx billion. Once mum and dad start using the VR headset they once bought for their son to play Call of Duty to look around a house they want to rent, we will know we have hit mainstream.

All-in-all, I think we’re in for a pretty exciting 2016. It’ll be the year in which we re-engage with our imagination and are taken to worlds far away, all from the comfort of our own home!

Update on miDrive

Lots of exciting things are happening at miDrive!

We recently relaunched the entire platform. It’s now more focused on the miDrive Curriculum and Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) matching so that we have the highest impact on reducing the number of serious and fatal road accidents involving newly qualified drivers. Put succinctly, we’re focusing on how to make learner drivers safer drivers, rather than just passing the driving test.

At the moment we’re only in a number of UK cities, but we’re rapidly expanding. Be sure to check out, our learner apps (on Android & iOS), and our new theory apps (on Android & iOS).

Update on Peeky

Some of you may know that for the past year or so I have been working on an app called Peeky. Version 1 was well received; reaching top spot on Product Hunt‘s weekly leaderboard, as well as being featured on sites like BetaList.

Over the past year or so things have been quiet. We have been working on raising funding, as well as negotiating a potential acquisition offer. Now that things have settled down, we’re more confident than ever that Peeky brings something unique to sharing photos & media amongst friends. The general premise is, only the first 10 of your friends get to see the image. We are submitting an update to the app store today, with plenty more on the roadmap.

New year, new blog

Thanks so much for visiting my personal corner of the web. I want to kick off 2016 with a refreshed look and feel, hence the new design. Over the course of 2016 you’ll find me writing about startups, investing, personal development, and economics. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter in which I share the links and thoughts that I have stumbled upon that week. Thanks again for stopping by, and please let me know if I can help with anything — hopefully you find something on here useful!

Posted with ❤︎ from London
© Scott Taylor
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