🧔♂️Better late than never
A 2-week late newsletter with some musings from a train🚆.
Hamza here. Have to apologize for the missed newsletter and on top, a Saturday newsletter! I’m writing this on the train hurtling towards a nice weekend trip, after what seems like a consistent 100 KM/h ride in the past few weeks. Let’s get right into it:
🧠Hit the right nerve with your community
Building a product out in the open is often very tricky. Sometimes, you are excited internally about a feature, launch it, and then **crickets**: Nothing happens. Other times, you spend 5 minutes writing a LinkdeIn post and it takes off because you hit a nerve with your messaging.
I did a rudemintary analysis of my LinkedIn posts over the last few weeks to understand whether there was a method to the madness:
And indeed, there were a few patterns, at least for my LinkedIn posts: GIFs and clear illustrative images work the best (over videos and plain text). For example, check out my latest post: It took off because rather than posting the YouTube video I was referencing, I made a GIF of a relevant part of it, and then linked the video in the post, with a personal story behind it.
Doing a systematic analysis of what sticks and doesn’t can go a long way in making the right decisions, especially with regard to messaging and product development. LinkedIn is only part of the community effort, and using tools like Orbit and Campfire can really help being data-centric whilst developing for a community.
🧼A Brand Refresh
We’re now at a point in our journey that the we have too many things that need a refresh—the website, the docs, the blog etc. In fact, even the core messaging of ZenML is way sharper internally than what is presented externally. Therefore, we decided to take a step back and do a bigger redesign of our big public-facing touchpoints.
For this, we are partnering with MVST, a brilliant design-driven software studio that we’ve worked with in the past. We’ve been through many iterations with them now with low-fidelity wireframes and now high-fidelity ones. Soon, the development starts, so expect a way more beautiful ZenML public image soon:
We need your help!
One of the things on the website is going to be a testimonial section, like so:
We need to add a few testimonials here that are true and showcase why people love the product. If any of you reading this want to send over a quote and are willing to put your name on it publically, shoot me an email and get a chance to get featured on that part of our new website!
🍳Is a startup like a professional kitchen?
I like food (see how I’m described on our team page). I don’t know whether that’s growing up in a rich food ecosystem like Pakistan is the reason, but for many years I’ve enjoyed reading about, learning, cooking, and yes consuming a variety of food around the world. That has often left me with an outsider’s perspective of how tough it is to be good in the culinary world. A well-run kitchen can be one of the toughest places to work in, and it is often under-appreciated the amount of sweat and tears people in that world go through to get even a modicum of success.
While hard to compare, there are some parallels in the startup world. The obvious ones apply to a lot of disciplines in life—hard work, commitment, the uncertainty of success, etc. But the one I’ve felt the most nowadays is that most days in both jobs involve many pans in the fire. To name a few:
User outreach—Prioritizing leads, reaching out, convincing them to use the product. Getting truthful feedback and funneling back to the team.
Community engagement—Content creation and dealing with its response, engaging with people, and being authentic.
Preparing Events: Going to conferences and giving talks, getting the word out there, marketing, and endless demos.
Project management—creating a high-tech product in an unknown space with consistent uncertainty in engineering.
Operations: Dealing with issues like taxes, receipts, setting up the new office, procurement, etc. Making tough operational and strategic calls. Hiring.
Dealing with anxiety and social pressure: You have to sacrifice a lot of mind space to this job and you need to give yourself time to not lose sight of the bigger picture of life.
And of course often makes you feel like this:
But as in any well-run kitchen, there are things you can do to mitigate the above crushing you and your team:
Automate everything you can.
Set up clear processes and communicate them early.
Focus on one thing at a time, don’t overrun yourself or the team.
Have a clear division and ownership of duties—but do not confuse ownership with execution.
Trust the team, and the process. Let data guide the way.
Take breaks when you need them, and encourage others to do the same.
I don’t know if I’m the first to draw this comparison—surely not. I can tell you this much: When everything clicks, it feels amazing:
Have a good one, and until next time.
Have a question? Want to chat with me or the ZenML team directly? Join our Slack and send me a message! I’ll make sure to respond asap.