On making small bets

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On making small bets

I want to start making more small bets.

Here's how Daniel Vassallo describes the concept.

There are a few key ideas here:

  • Small bets also mean quick, by default. A small bet should be measured in hours, not months.
  • Small bets capitalize on leverage. Creating an NFT collection over the weekend is one example that could 100x in value. Just like publishing daily TikToks increases your likelihood of virality. The upside must make any small bet incredibly attractive.
  • Successful bets should stack upon one another. Vassallo's Gumroad product hit 6 figures in under a year. His second one in under a month.
  • Finally, small bets are not exclusive. The whole idea of creating a portfolio is so that any one can succeed and cover the cost of 100 failures. Think venture capital or index fund investing. If you play a big enough game of numbers, you're bound to discover a few winners along the way.

What should small bets look like?

I've been circling around the question often. For Vassallo, who is one of the most public examples of this ideology, many of his bets have been digital products: PDFs and courses.

For Ness Labs founder, it was publishing daily content (in a language she was still learning at that!) to find what stuck and stack from there.

For others, it's a way of cycling through as many different disciplines as possible to see what rings true.

Small bets:

  • Are finite projects with clear boundaries. Once a PDF is finished and published, that bet is done. You can iterate on it in the future, but mostly as a sunk cost (unless its part of another bet).
  • Are public-facing. For a bet to be successful, people have to be able to interact with it. Whether that means purchasing your creation or experiencing your content. There has to be an opportunity for outsiders to say Yes, I want this or No, this is not for me.
  • Are disconnected. Just because they can be simultaneous and stackable does not mean they have to be related at all. Your small bets can be digital, physical creative, entrepreneurial, and any combination of the sorts. The wider your net, the more interesting things you may catch.

The difficulty of making small bets

First, it can be difficult to release public things that are, by your own standards, less than great.

One of Gary Vaynerchuk's most prevalent arguments is that it's not our job to decide what the market wants. The market decides.

Our job is merely to create, publish, and share.

I'm reminded of Doggface208 who, after having his truck break down on the side of the highway, decided to make light of the moment by filming a TikTok of himself skateboarding home while drinking cranberry juice.

No script. No planning. No grand funnel scheme.

Just a moment.

A moment he decided to invite others into, therefore making a small bet.

Perhaps someone else would enjoy experiencing this moment with me.

As it turned out, tens of millions did.

My first small bets

These are the bets that first come to mind:

  • Livestreaming. I lowkey hate video editing 😅. It's very time-consuming. At some point, I fully expect to just hire this element out - but I haven't been consistent enough to justify the expense. Live video offers an easy way to utilize this medium minus the editing. (I've already set up my Streamyard account for this bet).
  • Daily writing. My day job is to produce excellent content for the Ghost blog. I love it, and I'm proud of what we've been able to put out thus far. But I know there's no reason I can't copy what Ness Labs did and give myself 1 hour every morning to "brain dump" onto this website. It might even help me write better content since the fluff has another place to go.
  • Micro products. I'm currently obsessed with Ben Thompson's theory of unbundling. I think I can use this to deconstruct some of the biggest courses, books, etc. into micro products priced <$100. Will probably use a tool like Gumroad to deliver these, since people are more used to that interface than a full-out Kajabi sales page.
  • Growth hacks. I know this can be a cringe-y word, but what if it wasn't? What if it simply meant having fun with the top part of the funnel (i.e., discovery)? I want to grow my email list to 6,000+ subscribers within the next 12 months, and I want to enjoy the road to get there.

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