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A master plan 🔭 - Vectr Weekly #2

Gazing off into the distance...
July 22 · Issue #2 · View online
Vectr Weekly
Gazing off into the distance…

Trip to Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia
Trip to Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia
Good afternoon everyone! :)
One of the entrepreneurs we admire greatly is Elon Musk. Not simply because of what he’s accomplished, but rather for his ability to execute on a massive long-term vision by breaking it down into digestible pieces. This is evidenced by the Tesla master plan. The ambitious long-term vision is to accelerate a transition from a hydrocarbon-based economy towards a solar electric economy. This vision was broken down into the following steps:
  1. Create a low volume car (Tesla Roadster), which would necessarily be expensive.
  2. Use that money to develop a medium volume car (Model X, Model S) at a lower price.
  3. Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car (Model 3).
The first 2 steps have been completed with the third still underway.
We’re huge believers in this approach, and as such, have been doing some thinking about our own master plan. There is much fine-tuning to be done, so bear with us.
Last week, we told you about our two core principles: 1) we believe that asking questions is undervalued and often discouraged, intentionally and unintentionally; and 2) the ability for people to tap into their networks for knowledge and information is paramount. And we’ll bring these principles to the world as follows:
Step 1: focus on education
The thesis is that, if students are asking more questions, thinking from first principles, and actively engaging in the learning process, we might be able to drive better outcomes and better prepare students for an age that demands constant learning. And if we can empower and inspire people to ask questions in the earliest days, the hope is that it will then bleed out into the rest of their lives.
Step 2: the enterprise
Before we explain how we plan to address this market, let us provide a couple examples that elucidate why we believe this to be of critical importance:
  • I was recently speaking with a woman that works at one of the leading consumer internet companies of our day. She describes the culture as misogynistic and male-dominated. Men are constantly interrupting women during meetings, speaking down to them, and raising their voices when frustrated as if speaking to a child (not that yelling at children is a great strategy). And due to the fact that there are never consequences for this type of behavior, and that most positions of power are occupied by men, there is very little recourse for female employees. Of course, there’s always HR, but people often fear that step for reasons like possible retaliation, being labeled as a troublemaker, or simply being ignored. The result is that complaints are often kept private and never see the light of day.
  • Another friend was recently a part of a technology IPO. Unfortunately, the IPO valuation was lower than the private market valuation at the last funding round. In fact, the valuation was lower than the total amount of venture capital raised by the company. That’s a scary spot to be in for an employee. Often times in these type of scenarios employees are left with nothing due to special investor terms (e.g. ratchets - a term whereby, if another investor later pays a lower price for shares in a startup, the investor that bought shares earlier with the ‘ratchet’ protection gets a price adjustment to that lower price; liquidation preference - determines the order in which investors/shareholders are paid during a liquidation event). But my friend wasn’t sure who to ask about this. Should he ask his boss? Go to HR? Ask the founder during all hands? In the end, given the uncomfortable nature of the questions and being unsure to ask, he ended up not asking at all.
These are only two small examples, but there are a whole host of others that tell us that there is a clear need in the enterprise. Asking questions can be scary and intimidating. You’re not always sure who to ask. Given organizational inertia, it might even be considered as disrespectful or insubordinate to ask questions. You might hear things like “This is the way we’ve always done it,” and “don’t rock the boat.” We hope to change that.
Step 3: the world
We don’t mean “the world” in a hubristic sense. But rather, we have this concept that we call “the world” within Vectr. That is to say that, everyone exists as a part of discrete networks, but these networks simply expand outwards as a series of concentric circles. In education, for example, you might be taking an economics class, as part of a finance major, within the business school, that rolls up to the larger university. The university would be “the world” in this example.
So Vectr is really about knowledge sharing and access to information in the broadest sense. And we can leverage the latest advancements in machine learning and natural language processing to provide better access to information, both within and between networks.
And now things start to get really exciting! If you take a step back, not thinking of Vectr as a web app, mobile app, or any single type of software product, but simply as a conceptual way to empower people to ask questions and receive an expert response, you can start to understand why thinking about this gives us goosebumps. At this level, you might think of Vectr as an AQI, or an “asking question interface” (our version of an API - pretty creative, huh?? 😂 😂). The interface is not necessarily a UI as we know it, but an AQI. Send a text message or ask a question to Alexa/Cortana/Google Assitant > select a network > speak/write your question! Then perhaps you get a call back/text message/voice response when there is an answer. Voice, text, snail mail, physical Vectr booths… whatever. Huge opportunity to get creative and utilize any communication channel. And then we hook up to a translation API! Now a farmer in Cambodia can ask questions on agricultural best practices to an experienced farmer in California (very real example, Jake’s uncle lived in Cambodia for three years and said they had a long struggle period simply because they were planting their crops in the wrong direction). The translation works both ways. The guy from Cambodia only sees/hears the exchange in Khmer and the guy from California in English.
It may seem far out, but that’s the vision. And we’re incredibly excited to give it our best shot!
Finally, a question:
If you take a scroll through your Instagram/Facebook feed, what percentage of the posts are “selfies?” What does that say about our society?
More to come on this question in a future issue.

Stay curious!
Jeremy & Jake
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