Archive of Startups Pitch Deck and Airtable

As part of my job is related to building sales decks, I am intrigued to know what goes into pitch decks of successful startups. Thanks to this person here, a collection of pitch decks from successful startups was gathered and shared with the public. The common theme I notice is that every deck is set out to articulate on the problem, how the startup is positioned to solve it, how big the market is and as much information on the near/long-term plan. Though some decks use more visuals than others, the theme remains quite consistent. 

Airtable

On a side note, the link should give you a glimpse of how versatile Airtable is. It is a combination of database and Excel. It has some features that Excel doesn’t such as various data type options for a cell, the ability to attach files in a cell (PDF) and different views (grid view or gallery view). You can create forms whose input will be populated into the sheets, just like a database. I was involved in a small consulting project for a local NGO and we recommended Airtable to the them after a demo. Our professor, team and client were satisfied with the functionalities of Airtable. 

Not so long ago, they reached more than $1bn in valuation. So apparently they are doing very well for themselves. If you look for a quick solution to your ordinary, but inefficient spreadsheets, Airtable may be worth a try. 

Mapbox – Two ways to show a map

For the past few months, I have been charged with visualizing data onto maps using either Google Maps or Mapbox. I chose the latter. After days and nights of struggle, I am pretty close to the finishing line and have gained quite a bit of experience in Mapbox that I want to share. 

Long story short, to map data onto maps, you need to structure data into a specific structure called GEOJSON. It looks like this:

You can put anything in the “properties” key, but the rest essentially have to follow the above format. The coordinates will be used to locate markers or data on the map. 

Let’s say the data that I want to map has 6 different mission areas (see the screenshot above) and my job is to map them onto the map in 6 different colors. 

I have an array that contains 6 different mission areas like this and 6 different colors representing those areas

var missionarea = [area1, area2, area3, area4, area5, area6]
var colorcode = [color1, color2, color3, color4, color5, color6]

One layer approach

#create a map canvas

var map = new mapboxgl.Map({
    container: 'map',
    style: 'mapbox://styles/mapbox/light-v9',
    center: [-96.797885, 39.363438],
    // initial zoom
    zoom: 3.3
});

#load data and create the layer

map.on("load", function() {

    map.addSource('communityData', {   #name the data as communityData
        type: 'geojson',
        data: communityData, #this is the name of your GEOJSON
    });

    map.addLayer({      #add the layer
        "id": "commMap", #your single layer's name
        "type": "circle", #meaning that each item will be a dot
        "source": "communityData", #the name of your data assigned above
        'layout': {},
        'paint': {
            "circle-radius": 8,
            "circle-opacity": 1,
            "circle-color": {
                "property": "Mission Area",
                "type": 'categorical',
                "stops": [ #assign color to respective mission areas
                    [Missionarea[0], colorcode[0]],
                    [Missionarea[1], colorcode[1]],
                    [Missionarea[2], colorcode[2]],
                    [Missionarea[3], colorcode[3]],
                    [Missionarea[4], colorcode[4]],
                    [Missionarea[5], colorcode[5]],
                ]
            }
        }
    });
}

Multiple Layers

In this example, I’ll label each map layer as “show0”, “show1″…”show5”

var showlist = [] //the array of layerIDs, used to categorize layers
var base = "show"
for (var i = 0; i < Missionarea.length; i++) { //populate showlist array
    var text = base + i
    showlist.push(text)
}
var map = new mapboxgl.Map({
    container: 'map',
    style: 'mapbox://styles/mapbox/light-v9',
    center: [-95.957309, 41.276479],
    // initial zoom
    zoom: 6
});

map.on("load", function() {

    map.addSource('communityData', {
        type: 'geojson',
        data: communityData,
    });
    //*********************************** Load partners *****************************************************

    communityData.features.forEach(function(feature) {
        var primary = feature.properties["Mission Area"];
       // iterate through the mission area array
        for (var i = 0; i < missionarea.length; i++) {
            if (primary == missionarea[i]) {
      // assign a name to each layer
                layerID = showlist[i];
                if (!map.getLayer(layerID)) {
                    map.addLayer({
                        "id": layerID, #layer's name
                        "type": "circle",
                        "source": "communityData",
                        "paint": {
                            "circle-radius": 8,
                            "circle-opacity": 1,
                            "circle-color": colorcode[i], #color
                        },
                        "filter": ["all", ["==", "Mission Area", primary]]
                    })
                }
            }
        }
    });

Which approach is better?

If the intention is just to show the dots, there is no difference and it depends on personal preference. However, if your code gets more complicated and as in my case, I had to create at least 6 filters on the map, things will get messy and one approach will no longer allow you to do what you want. Unfortunately, I don’t have that much experience yet to tell you more and I personally believe it’s a case-by-case thing. 

Holiday shoppings, investments and personal finance

I felt pleased with myself that I didn’t buy anything from the Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness. Not that I didn’t have any reasons to. My phone is 5 years old with multiple cracks on the screen protection. My Mac is 6 years old with some cracks on itself as well. And who knows what kind of needs could have hit me the seconds I browsed those websites? We all want another pair of shoes. 

Some of the people I talked to didn’t buy either. I think that we live in the time of surplus supply. Manufacturers keep producing in quantity and variety. To shorten the sales cycle, they cut the time to market and also the price to get a bit deeper into our wallet. Hence, it seems that discounts are all year around. Personally, I wasn’t impressed by any discounts during the very last holidays. The discounts seemed like any that I had seen before. Plus, I resisted the temptation to buy things that I didn’t actually need. It was not easy! 

Imagine the money you saved from not spending on things you didn’t need during the holiday. Instead, you invested the money in the stock market. For the past month, a lot of tech stocks plummeted. Apple lost almost $200 billion in market valuation, for instance. Some turned around and recovered pretty fast such as VMWare. As a result, the investment could have netted you a reasonably good amount of money. If you invest in the stocks and hold them for a long time, the compound interest can lead to an even bigger return, provided that, of course, the stocks perform well. 

I stated before that personal finance should be mandatory at schools. The earlier kids can learn about it, the better. Look at this tweet below and you’ll know what I am talking about. Even if you are suspicious of the figures, do your own research on poverty in the US or student loans. 

Matt Damon: It won’t fill you up

My weekly schedule now includes 20 hours as a Graduate Assistant at school, 20 hours of internship, two Capstones which include hours and hours of in-class sessions, team meetings and individual work. Needless to say, I feel pretty much drained and can’t wait to see out the semester and my degrees. 

For some reason, I came across the below interview by Matt Damon. I saw it the first time almost exactly a year ago, the time I was trying to find a way to be happier in life. It was a great coincidence. Today, I saw it again on my YouTube timeline and it was a nice reminder. Listen to what he had to say about his Oscar win


Even though I sleep for only 4-5 hours a day and every morning I feel like crap, there may be a chance that I won’t feel as happy after graduation as I think I will now. There is a chance that grinding for hours like I have been doing is what will make me happy. There is a chance that learning new stuff and doing meaningful work every day like this will make me happy. Who knows?

Nonetheless, have a listen. You may like it as I do 

Informative newsletter and tech sources

Where we get information matters. As there is so much information/noise floating around, a good curator and/or a great content provider has become increasingly important, at least to me. Here are a few of my go-to sources every day. Keep in mind that these are related to business and technology, two areas I am invested in. 

CBInsights

It offers deep-dive reports into technology and business. There are many free reports that can be downloaded or consumed immediately on site. What I like about CBInsights is that their researchers really roll up their sleeves in their work and offer great insights, sometimes from a surprising angle. Their use of visualizations such as tables, graphs or mind maps is pretty rad as well

The Hustle

It’s a newsletter on business and tech. Apart from offering what news you should know at the beginning of a day, The Hustle has a great team of copywriters. Their witty and funny writing is what hooks me up. The newsletters don’t have the same level of deep investigation as CBInsights does, but if you want a skim of what is going on out there in business and technology, it’s pretty good. Oh, if you want to do some B2B marketing, it can be a promising channel. I have seen Airtable, Microsoft and Salesforce sponsored content by The Hustle

Morning Brew

Same as The Hustle. I consider The Hustle a tad better & funnier. Still it’s worth giving Morning Brew a try

Ben Evans newsletter

His newsletter is on a weekly basis. It’s a collection of articles in technology and business that he thinks are important. 

Ben Thompson’s Stratechery

It’s a highly regarded website on strategy and technology. There is a paywall to his daily content, but his weekly content, I believe, is free. You will learn a lot from Ben as many others, including some famous names in technology, do. 

ARK

A friend suggested this one to me a few weeks back. I am still pretty new to it. But if you are a fan of cryptocurrency, AI, machine learning, industrial innovation…it is worth a read

Thanksgiving

In Vietnam, we don’t have Thanksgiving and it’s not a big deal in Europe either. So it’s a new concept to me. Nonetheless, I feel very thankful to America and what I have had for the past 2.5 years. 

I came here for more education, especially on the technology side, and a chance at a better life and career. In about 4 weeks, this Vietnamese will graduate with no student loan whatsoever. It’s all thanks to the school and the opportunity it’s given me. 

My first internship in the US was at an e-commerce website based in Omaha. It was an SEO position. Though I knew conceptually what SEO was, I had had little experience in both SEO and e-commerce. Yet, they took a chance on me and while it lasted for 10-11 weeks only, I picked up something along the way that proved to be useful later on. 

My next internship that has been going on for 1.5 years is at a technology company. The position advertisement was labeled Graphic Design, but the job description sounded an awful lot like one of a marketer. I applied and got an interview. It went well and I got the job. My boss later told me that she and the VP of Sales and Marketing agreed that even though I wasn’t exactly what they were looking for (someone with more design skill) and they didn’t know yet how I could fit in, they determined that I would come on board. 

Plus, I have met some great folks at school and forged friendships that would last for years to come. 

So I am pretty thankful for everything America. 

Fernando Alonso

The final race of the 2018 Formula 1 season will be this Sunday at Abu Dhabi. It’s also the final race, possibly ever, of one of the greatest drivers who ever drove a Formula 1 car: Fernando Alonso. Tributes of the man by news outlets have already begun. Though there are still a few days away, I already have goosebumps and feel a bit sad. 

Alonso is a two-time world champion from Spain. Even though his race wins or pole laps never fully reflect the talent of the man, he is well-regarded on the paddock and more than 10 years of watching the sport, I have never heard or read even once that his talent is ever doubted. All I have read is one of the greatest drivers in the history whose career is littered with driving the wheels off his cars, taking a car’s capacity beyond its limits, ill-informed decisions and utterly bad luck. 

I was super elated when he decided to drive for Ferrari, my favorite team. He won in the first ever race with the team! The first 3 years, especially 2010 and 2012, were remarkable and bittersweet. He and the team lost two championships on the final race twice and through bad luck despite having an uncompetitive car. Per BBC in their 5-part story on the man

In the fourth-fastest car, Alonso led the championship for much of the season, taking three outstanding victories along the way in Malaysia, Valencia and Germany. He was overtaken by Vettel in a burst of four consecutive wins by the German in a run of races in Asia in the closing stages of the season. But Alonso lost the title only because of two instances of bad luck.


He was taken out at the start of both the Belgian and Japanese Grands Prix: in Spa by Romain Grosjean’s flying Lotus after the Frenchman tangled with Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren; at Suzuka when the front wing of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus punctured his left rear tyre.


Had only one of those incidents not happened, Alonso would have been champion.

The two championships lost in 2010 and 2012 sadden me to this day. I cannot re-watch the final races of those two years again ever. It’s just too difficult to take. 

Though in the middle of two Capstones, I cannot wait to watch, for one last time, one of the greats. Hopefully his McClaren will give him and all the fans, myself included, two hours of Fernando Alonso. 

This is his favorite race win and mine. A spectacular win from 11th position

Tool: Design Ideas in PowerPoint

A late night preparation for Monday’s work led me to the discovery of an interesting feature in PowerPoint. I have no idea how I got to have it on my Mac, but I am pleased that I do. 

Apparently, there is a Design Ideas feature in PowerPoint. After some text is added to a slide, the feature suggests ideas how to structure a slide. Below is an example I got

1st round of suggestions on a slide with simple text

The lock icon is suggested because of, I guess, my use of the words “encryption” and “security”. After I chose that particular design, the tool kept feeding me more suggestions based on what I chose

2nd round of suggestions 

This tool is not perfect, of course. Yet, it can be pretty handy to anyone desiring to deliver an effective presentation. It’s the whole point, isn’t it? Using visuals and effects to drive home the message, instead of a sea of characters and words. 

Book: Year of Yes

On my way to Austin last weekend, I had a few hours to waste while in transit and on the plane. If you are one of the normal folks, like I am, those hours are not particularly the time when we experience a spurt of efficiency in getting work done. So I took out my beloved Kindle and chose a book to read. Happy that I chose “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes. 

Having read business and science-related books for a while, I figured something like a memoir would be a refreshing change of air. Plus, I’d love to know more about the architect behind some of my favorite shows: Scandal and How to get away with murder.

What I like the book is its realness. Shonda’s writing is genuine that I got a feeling I was listening to her story in person. From her struggle as an introvert, self-awareness of the time when she got fat, the allergy with public events. You might find some parts a bit long-winded, but I guess it’s part of the charm. Other highlights for me are her Year of Yes concept, perception of motherhood and commencement speech at Dartmouth. It’s real. It’s rough. It’s honest. And that’s why it is appealing. 

Below is a sneak peek of her perception on motherhood.

“But being a mother is also a job, Shonda”. You know what I say to that? NO. IT IS NOT. 

Being a mother is not a job. Stop throwing things at me. Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is. You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation. Being a mother redefines us, reinvents us, destroys and rebuilds us. Being a mother yanks our hearts out of our bodies and attaches them to our tiny humans and sends them out into the world, forever hostages. 

Please don’t try to tell me it’s the most important job I’ll ever have as a way of trying to convince me to stay at home with my children all day. Don’t. The most important job to a woman who has rent, has a car note, has utility bills and needs groceries is one that pays her money to keep her family alive. Let’s stop trying to make ourselves indulge in the crappy mythological lady-cult that makes being a mother seem like work. 

Working or staying home, one is still a mother. One is not better than the other. Both choices are worthy of the same amount of respect. Motherhood remains equally, painfully death defying and difficult either way. 

I am not a mother, but she makes sense there, doesn’t she? Here is her awesome commence speech

Tool: Realtimeboard

I stumbled upon this tool while reading an article on TechCrunch. It’s an online collaboration tool with visual diagrams that users can use to generate ideas and present. Boards can be shared between multiple teammates; which I can will be pretty valuable if you love the power of collaboration and white boards as a brainstorming tool. At my company, the C-suite folks all have white boards inside their office to flesh out ideas. Some whiteboards are also placed in the hallways to keep everyone updated on the status of projects. However, physical white boards are physically limited and it can get tricky to engage multiple folks, especially from different offices.

Realtimeboard is your whiteboard without such limitations. The boards are infinitely large and can be zoomed in or out comfortably. The visual components are pretty straightforward and easy to use. Users can add links, comments and images at will. Furthermore, boards are accessible regardless of where members are.

Below is a board I am working on in a school project.

realtimeboard

As can be seen in the image, comments can be added in yellow boxes and links come with the logo of the website links. Nodes can be moved around or added easily. If you want to mimic the same map in, let’s say, PowerPoint, moving or adding nodes requires taxing extra work on moving the connection lines or arrows around. With Realtimeboard, such a requirement is unnecessary. Therefore, a lot of time is saved.

Export options are plenty: PDF, image, csv and so on:

realtimeboard_2

I am not an investor in this firm. Just a fan that wants to show some token of appreciation to a cool tool.