Combining Things To Create Serendipity
Steve Job famously once said: “Creativity is just about combining things.”
Each of us has something we can combine.
To succeed, we don’t have to be great at one single thing. Instead, we can find a path that suits our unique combination of skills, which can be our secret weapon.
This is a glimpse at two entrepreneurs on the path to achieving that magical combination. We hope that it will be helpful for your career journey.
Back in 2017, Fred took an MIT entrepreneurial class with Devin, one of Yishi’s co-founders at DeepBench. Fred was starting to write about startups, and DeepBench was his 4th feature article in Forbes. Through that article, Yishi & Fred became friends.
Zuo interviewing Daso:
Zuo: What are your key assets, and how are you combining them to achieve your goals?
Daso: My key assets today are my engineering background, my writing talent, and my entrepreneurial network. I’d like to use the assets I have to turn my network into a vibrant community.
I guess you could say that I’m at the intersection of media and community building.
I’m not sure where this is heading, but I want to keep exploring content creation and see where it takes me.
Zuo: What specific things are you doing today?
Daso: On the media side, I write consistently on Substack and LinkedIn, followed by Medium and Forbes. Community resources are a mixture of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Slack.
Right now, I’ve been using these media and community resources separately, or not in an integrated fashion. It’s been a decent arrangement so far, but through 2020, I had been working on making my Substack the central node where I funnel all of my packaged content to my subscribers and go from there.
Zuo: Where do you see this going?
Daso: In 2021, I’m laying the foundation for a “content stack” centered around startups. I want to produce a set of content for every founder I work with in the future.
That set of content would be pieces unique to each platform I can publish on: Substack, LinkedIn, Medium, and/or Forbes. This content stack is a way for me to reach a wider audience, and more importantly, provide a new way to examine the founders who go on to build billion-dollar businesses.
The eventual long-term goal would be to provide a more in-depth “ground-floor” look at what it’s like to build a startup from idea to IPO.
Daso interviewing Zuo:
Daso: What are your key assets and how are you combining them to achieve your goals?
Zuo: I have experience both as a startup CEO as well as a hedge fund investor.
- Leading a company is necessarily a social task. You have to work with others and creatively solve problems. You go narrow and deep.
- On the hedge fund investment side, it’s much more of an analytical, solo endeavor. It’s about pattern recognition across a wide breadth of the business. You go broad and wide.
Right now, I’m carving a unique path for myself — whereby I operate in a hybrid founder/investor role. I’m embracing the elements of both parts that appeal to my natural strengths and interests.
Daso: What specific things are you doing today?
Zuo: I created Optionality Partners, a startup studio, and I’m working on several projects.
Each arrangement and process is unique. In general, we start with the problem first, and we spend a lot of time exploring & validating the problem before we jump to any potential solution.
That involves some combination of talking to potential customers, running experiments, and then building a prototype — which generally comes last.
On the investment side, I have access to a modest amount of capital. But mostly, I invest my time to help entrepreneurs as a thought partner.
Mentorship & coaching is the centerpiece of how I operate. I help you set milestones and hold you accountable. But depending on the situation, I’ll roll up my sleeves and do the grunt work as well.
There is a famous saying, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and he will eat for life.” My philosophy is to do both. I’ll teach you how to fish as I pass the salmon to you.
Lastly, I’m also building my personal brand. In addition to Optionality Partners, I write a personal blog at YishiZuo.com — focused on investing, entrepreneurship, and personal growth. Not only does writing help me think, but it also leads me to meet interesting people.
Daso: Where do you see this going?
Zuo: Generally, I gravitate toward what feels right — it has to energize me. And so far, I’m having fun.
My short-term goal is to get a couple of projects to “ramen profitability.”
My long-term goal is to grow Optionality Partners into a holding company of profitable businesses. I would love to use that cash to keep building businesses, invest in more business and hopefully compound returns for the rest of my life.
Concluding thoughts from Daso & Zuo:
The more entrepreneurial you are, the more you have to do something unique that suits you. Finding that is not easy. It entails a lifelong process of discovery.
It can be scary, but we are all on that journey together.
If you are an entrepreneur at the idea stage or even pre-idea stage — consider Optionality Partners as an additional thought partner. Check out Fred’s Founder to Founder substack for case studies from successful VC-backed startups and get early access to his exclusive community of entrepreneurs.