My first book, The Cold Start Problem. Plus Clubhouse, and more. It’s 2021, and I’m back! at andrewchen


Above: One of the final book cover designs I’m considering!

Dear readers,

So, you may have noticed that I’ve been away from writing for a bit. Actually for almost a full year. But I have an excuse! After nearly three years and many late nights and long weekends, I have an announcement.

My first book is dropping in late 2021, called THE COLD START PROBLEM, published by Harper Business.

You can pre-order it here on Amazon »

😎😎😎

I’ll have a lot more to announce about the book soon, including bonus material, add-ons, and more.

This is my first book, and… wow. My tldr; on the experience of writing a book is: OMG IT IS SO MUCH WORK. It started out benign — I thought it would be fun to do a little research to explore doing a book, and interviewed friends from Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Tinder, and many more interesting companies. 20 interviews eventually turned into nearly two hundred.

I became obsessed with a topic that emerged. The products that most intrigued me in the tech industry are marketplaces, social networks, messaging apps, workplace collab tools, etc. — that can grow and grow. These products have network effects, but are unusual for how you start them. There’s a “cold start problem” when a social app launches and no one’s on it! You need a critical mass to make it functional. I started to organize all the stories I was hearing and organize them into a framework. It was an attempt to understand and process my own experience at Uber, and how it fit into the rest of the industry.

Eventually, I wrote an outline of what I wanted to put together as a potential book. Just the outline was 30 pages… gulp. Then came the writing. A lot of writing. Then even more writing. I did some of the writing in warm, sunny places like Miami and Cabo. But a lot of it was done on my sofa. It was a lot. Then COVID. Then writing from a van, driving across the country, while avoiding people, but still writing. And in fact, I’m still in the middle of fixing sentences and polishing what’s left, but it’s nearly done at over 300 pages. I’m starting to look at potential book covers (one of the candidates above) and I’m very excited for y’all to read it — much more on this soon.

This isn’t all that I’ve been doing in the last year. In other news, I recently led a16z’s investment in Clubhouse and joined the board of directors. Clubhouse is a new audio-first social network — definitely worth trying out. I mention it because I’ve been learning a ton from being involved — about growth, metrics, viral loops, and much more. From a growth perspective, it’s an incredible expression of network effects. It grows explosively through viral loops — it’s been a top app in Europe for the past week, and recently just landed in Asia, growing quickly — and also has increased its engagement as the network fills in with more diverse content creators. I’m learning a ton and am lucky to be working with Paul and Rohan, Clubhouse’s founders. More on this in the future.

Besides the new book and Clubhouse, I’ve also been sheltering at home in the Bay Area like most of you. OK, not quite true. I did take a long trip around the US recently in a van — that was fun. Check out some pics over here. I drove, wrote, and did Zoom calls for almost 3 months.

And finally, I just wanted to say: I’m back! Now that I’m starting to wrap up on the book, I’m going to return to a much more frequent writing cadence. Thanks for your patience, and I hope to begin writing a lot more coming up.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

San Francisco, CA

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