Why Build When You Can Buy, GPU CapEx, Building in Public
June 2021 Investor Update
I sent an unedited version of this email to our investors on July 22, 2021. Periodically, I share an edited, time-delayed version of these investor updates.
Ask: Intro me to senior product designers
Why Build When You Can Buy? Synthetic Voice edition 💸🔬
I cut a deal with Modulate.ai to license 6 different synthetic voice filters to put into the Oasis app. Modulate is a Boston-based startup founded by recent MIT grads. It’s a 2-part deal:
iOS SDK Access – $X <––we are here
Commercial License – $Y for 1st year. $Z/year thereafter.
TBD if this will succeed. There’s a lot of technical risk.
Shaun & Louis are working on integrating into XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, which we suspect is going to be a huge PITA. Emil thinks the voice changing will create an unstoppable feedback loop. Personally, I’m eager to see it in action. ETA: 1 month.
However, if Modulate’s technology actually works, then we just accelerated our product roadmap by K+ months for $N. That would cover a single deep learning engineer working just X months!
This is the kind of bet I love to make: Huge upside, low downside.
$NNNNN of Not Boring 💰
Packy McCormick, creator of Not Boring & GP at Not Boring Capital, just invested $N into Oasis. Packy & I totally riff off each other in conversation. Working with him is an absolute blast. I am very excited about this.
Coming Soon: Data Center CapEx to Accelerate AI Research 💸 🏢 💽
Yousif is scoping out industrial spaces to build a small data center in SoCal. We budgeted $N CapEx for this project, but may come in substantially under that. Because we run AI research experiments constantly 24/7, buying state of the art GPU clusters is a MUCH better deal than renting them from AWS or even lower-cost Fluidstack.
If you’re curious, I can go into more detail on the economic calculus of why––when it comes to GPUs––buying is better than renting. LMK in the comments.
Guerrilla Capital: VC meets DTC 💰📱💃
In the future, the world’s leading companies will apply modern community management techniques to investor relations. It sounds obvious when you think about it, but investor relations at most companies is totally antiquated when compared to their marketing departments. With the rise of AngelList syndicates, RUVs, Substack, TikTok, Reddit & Twitter, it is now possible to build asymmetric, one-way trust relationships with capital owners of all sizes at real scale.
With $1k RUVs, startups will always be fundraising, often via SEC-sanctioned public solicitation, which AngelList’s RUV product supports.
If people are going to invest without meeting you in Zoom, then they are going to want to follow you across time. The Club FOMO Substack is my new project to gain us an internet following of investors. I may even experiment with buying subscribers via targeted ads. I wonder how much a prospective investor costs to acquire!
The idea is for the content to be fun, authentic and––most importantly––interesting. We are pushing the actual boundaries of human communication & interaction. We have a truly interesting story to tell the world! We have the opportunity to create a new form of mass-market entertainment that combines the lean-back experience of TV with the your actual money on the line experience of Robinhood. Here’s what that looks like to start
Investors Only 🦄🚀 – XXXX members
VIP club just for insiders to mingle with the team
Club FOMO 😎🔥– YYYY members, growing NN% weekly
window into the VIP club as corporate propaganda machine
If I’m right, these DTC IR efforts will give us a long-term edge in fundraising, recruiting, dealmaking & more. Why? Because we’ll have a guerrilla army of millions of engaged investors like you behind us. People who––against long odds––bet real money on our success.
I call it guerrilla capital. (Mao would be so proud!)
Elon & WallStreetBets have demonstrated the power of guerrilla capital in the public markets. Now it’s time for us to shoot our shot.
Fantasy scenario: In the future, instead of raising a venture round from an institutional aggregator of capital, we raise money from our guerrilla army of fan & followers via RUV.
Key Metrics as of June 31, 2021
Cash in Bank: $XXM
Monthly Burn: $280k
Headcount: 6 FTEs
Runway at current burn: AA months
Runway at planned burn: BB months
What I’m Reading 📖 📺
The Metaverse Primer by Matthew Ball
blew my mind!
Oasis version coming soon?
David Weekly & Adam K. for introing me to awesome designers.
Peter Miller for writing a patent application that nailed it on the very first draft.
Ben Narasin for inviting me to your awesome house party!
Sundeep Ahuja, Cindy Bi & Chris Wake for inviting their LPs to Investors Only 🦄🚀
Siqi Chen for listening to all my crazy ideas.