Julian Shapiro Profile picture
I deconstruct how things work—like writing and storytelling—and share my learnings along the way. Writing: https://t.co/LzP2yuqbTT Work: https://t.co/92INAHDjcy.
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15 Jun
I've helped 750+ startup founders.

I always try to ask:

"How did you come up with your idea?"

Here are their answers:
First, they most commonly say:

"Solve your own problems. Meaning, live on the edge of tech and see what issues you encounter. Then build a startup to solve it."

I agree, and I love that.

But it's not the whole answer you want.

Where do these problems actually come from?
I’ll start by defining what a good startup idea looks like to me.

It offers a meaningful benefit, such as:

• A big reduction of an intense/frequent frustration

• A big reduction in the cost of an expensive problem

• A big increase in how entertaining/emotional a thing is
Read 26 tweets
14 Jun
If you worry about your startup's competition...

I overcame that anxiety by writing this essay.

How to beat competition:
I used to worry about three competitive dynamics:

• What if competitors turn my business into a feature?

• If I don’t build this feature now, a competitor will and I’ll lose my headstart.

• What if my competitor's market dominance makes acquisition costs unsustainably high?
I reduced these anxieties by realizing this: 

*Customer retention is the antidote to competition.*

Because, when fearing competition, you're often fearing:

• Unsustainable economics
• Losing customers to competitors

The second one caused most of my stress. So I tackled it:
Read 15 tweets
11 Jun
What’s the most beautiful piece of writing you’ve ever come across?

Bonus points if you can screenshot a paragraph and share it below. I’ll consider including it in my writing guide.

Props to anyone who takes the time ❤️
I'll start with some great ones from last time:

From @amamyyang Image
From @VCFryer Image
Read 7 tweets
10 Jun
I've now written 30 Twitter threads.

I use them to log great ideas and everything that surprises me.

Here are my 9 best threads (on startups, writing, marketing):
Read 11 tweets
8 Jun
Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and Drake generate non-stop hits for years.

What are they doing differently?

Thread: How to generate way more ideas
I was watching a documentary on songwriter Ed Sheeran. In it, he described his songwriting process.

It struck me as identical to the process that author Neil Gaiman detailed in his Masterclass.
Here's the thing.

Ed Sheeran and Neil Gaiman are in the top 0.000001% of their fields. They're among very few people in the world who consistently generate blockbuster after blockbuster.
Read 17 tweets
24 May
How do you quickly grow an online audience?

Here's how I've helped folks do it.

A mix of writing, marketing, and startups:
One audience building approach:

• YouTube/Twitter for viral distribution
• Blogging for SEO distribution
• Newsletter for maintaining relationships
• Podcasts for deepening them

Twitter gets the word out.

Newsletters keep people around.

Podcasts help them better know you.
A question to ask when building an audience:

Are they following you for your mind or your labor?

• Labor: You're COLLECTING good content for them
• Mind: You're CRAFTING original content

Mind-followers are extra loyal. They're with you no matter what you do in the future.
Read 17 tweets
7 May
If you suffer from procrastination when writing...

I eventually overcame it.

How to make writing easier:
To start, I write the worst draft possible as quickly as I can.

Because almost all the work happens during rewriting anyway.

The greatest friction is in putting ideas down in the first place.
It's your first major hurdle: get a bad draft #1 done so you can spend 95% of your time rewriting.

That means, in my bad first draft, I use placeholders any time I'm stuck:
Read 22 tweets
28 Apr
When you follow someone on Twitter:

You choose who influences your thoughts.

Here are people I'm testing out this month:
Category: CRITICAL THINKING

@jeremygiffon

• The first of three of the most brilliant people on Twitter who have a criminally low amount of followers
• This guy's mind 🤯🤯

@lcrothlisberger

• Just like Jeremy, low-key one of the smartest people on Twitter
• She has great takes on critical thinking and behavioral psychology

Read 24 tweets
26 Apr
10 of my founder friends are forces of nature.

Their startups are now worth $400M+ each.

4 behaviors I've observed:
Effective people optimize for what compounds—not just quick wins.

They train themselves to get a dopamine hit when they help their future selves—even if they receive no immediate benefit from the action.

What compounds:

• Building audiences
• Relationships
• Investing $
In school, we learn by being curious and by accepting when we're wrong.

As adults, we forget we're still students—of life.

Effective people recreate environments where they're still told they're wrong:

They befriend blunt, independent-minded thinkers who'll call them out.
Read 9 tweets
21 Apr
I've decided I'm not starting another startup.

Thread: How to tell when you're working on the wrong thing.
Here's what happened. I spent an hour listing out everything I care about: 

Human connection, self-education, leverage, and so on. 

In the process, I surprised myself: for me, there's a much better way to achieve these goals than starting another startup.
So I'm sharing the framework I used—to maybe help others come to similar realizations.

Basically:

What should you actually be working on in life?
Read 30 tweets
11 Apr
Have you seen this bio on Twitter?

"Forbes 30 Under 30. 1M IG followers. MBA."

Here's why your eyes roll at this:
This thread introduces a mental model for spotting superficial credentials and avoiding superficiality yourself.
In that bio above, each of those statements is an attempt to signal one's ability and worth.

• Forbes 30 Under 30
• 1M Instagram followers
• MBA

These signals, however, are vanity metrics—because each can be *gamed.*
Read 30 tweets
3 Apr
Elon Musk is on record that he makes decisions using the same technique as Jeff Bezos.

I found YouTube videos of them explaining it.

A thread on thinking more clearly:
This thread is about mental models.

Yes, Twitter has enough of these.

BUT, people never answer the question:

How do I use mental models for everyday decisions? How do I put them into practice?
Mental models are frameworks for thinking.

They simplify complex situations so you can reason through them easily.

They help you make good, long-term decisions without needing to know everything about a situation.
Read 54 tweets
29 Mar
I figured out how to avoid nearly all meetings.

My calendar is now free and clear 😂

There were 4 realizations:
Your perception of importance decays:

We think events are most important when we first schedule.

But, once 2 weeks pass, we realize they aren't critical.

Insight: Schedule non-urgent meetings as far out as possible. A week before the event, you'll often realize you can cancel.
On a call, when asked for a follow-up favor, I say:

"After the call, please email me what you need. We'll take it from there!"

Realization: They rarely follow up.

Which means the real-time favor they asked wasn't important to them. Which means I avoided unnecessary homework.
Read 9 tweets
27 Mar
Who's @Julian?

A thread on who I am and the weird stuff I spend my time on.
I care a lot about producing lasting work.

I spent most of 2020 rewriting the content on my website. Very little new content was produced.

The web has a lot of creators but very few caretakers.
Inspiration:

Some people act quickly when inspiration strikes. I'm the opposite.

I act late—once I realize my inspiration for that idea is not perishable.

If I'm confident the idea will stick in my head, it means I'll be happy iterating on it for the long-haul.
Read 14 tweets
21 Mar
I'm building a ranch in the middle of nowhere.

Four things make this possible:

• Remote work is here to stay
• Starlink satellite internet access
• Tesla Self-Driving
• Privilege to have the mobility

THREAD: Why am I leaving San Francisco?
Why I want to get out of a city:

• To be in nature—not a concrete jungle
• To roam around: dirt bikes and hikes
• Air quality
• Major cities are over-priced
• Quiet. When's the last time you heard nothing?

I visited NorCal and heard total quiet for the first time in 8yrs.
Two things make my move possible:

1. I don't need to be in-person for work.

2. SpaceX's Starlink is rolling out. It's fast Internet everywhere.

Starlink changes what's possible.

Bonus: If you live far outside a city, maybe Tesla Self-Driving can eventually drive you into town
Read 13 tweets
7 Mar
If you suffer from chronic procrastination..

I eventually overcame it.

4 things happened:
To stop procrastinating on new projects:

1. Justify to yourself that this is a great use of your time right now.

2. Demystify what the first steps look like.

3. Do a "sync session" with a friend ← Key

4. Consider the "Creativity Faucet" to overcome anxiety.
Step 1: Justification

We bail on ideas that we lack high conviction for. So, internalize the importance of a project before starting it.

You can do this by confronting the outcomes you care about when pursuing a project:
Read 18 tweets
26 Feb
I've helped probably 700 startups redo their websites.

These 4 marketing patterns stood out to me 🧙‍♂️
See the images below.

Notice how you're naturally drawn toward the call to action?

Decades of (marketing) psychology have shown that our eyes follow the eyes of others. ImageImageImage
I like seeing signup buttons that describe WHAT you get by signing up. For example:

• Read for free
• Create a meal plan

The default generic phrases are uninspiring:

• Get started
• Try now

Instead, remind people what's in it for them. ImageImageImageImage
Read 6 tweets
18 Feb
How can some people write so beautifully?

I think I've figured it out.

THREAD: The four elements of writing style:
Pardon me while I open a wormhole into your brain and thrust style advice into it.

See, that’s an example of style.

I could have just said: "And now let’s learn about style."
Four elements of style I'll cover:

• Your voice
• Your presentation
• Engaging the senses
• Engaging the imagination
Read 27 tweets
13 Feb
14 steps for acquiring your startup's first customers:
1. Pay to interview people who've successfully grown a startup like yours. You can find them via LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

2. Ask them which 3 channels (ads, SEO, etc.) you should prioritize for acquiring customers.

3. Ask for examples of companies who run these channels well.
Some channels to ask about:

• PR
• Ads
• SEO
• Influencers
• Sponsorships
• Organic social
• Word-of-mouth
• In-depth content
• Referral incentives
• Product-led invites (think Slack, Zoom, Dropbox)
Read 18 tweets
4 Feb
When you follow someone on Twitter:

You choose who influences your thinking.

Here are the people I'm testing out this month:
@sahilbloom

Brilliantly crafted deep dives into the fascinating parts of business history.

@kanjun

Her tweets are consistently thoughtful takes on topics I care about.

Someone who my IRL friends think of as "the smartest person they know."

Read 25 tweets
3 Feb
How to rewrite bad writing 👇

After rewriting 400,000 words on my site...

Advice for blog posts, tweets, emails:
Great authors’ first drafts are bad—no better than yours.

However, they aggressively *rewrite* those drafts.
Your first draft is for messily generating ideas.

Your second draft is for identifying the best ideas then making them resonate.

The enemy of rewriting is being precious about what you originally said and how you originally said it.

You need to be willing to destroy.
Read 31 tweets