💫 Heartcore Insights
Welcome to the 101st edition of Heartcore Consumer Insights. Curated with 🖤 every two weeks by the Heartcore Team.
If you missed the past newsletters, you can catch up here. Now, let’s dive in!
Three Key Product Principles from WeChat’s Creator - Connie Chan
Throughout China, Allen Zhang is known as the “father of WeChat”. Zhang’s public persona in China has much the same cultural importance and weight as the American legacy of Steve Jobs. Zhang’s English Wikipedia article, on the other hand, is three sentences long.
Product managers throughout China have flocked to work at WeChat to learn from Zhang’s product acumen and learn from the product-driven (versus engineering or design-driven) environment he has built.
Part of the silence around Zhang has to do with the fact that he tends to shy away from the media, only speaking publicly once a year, at the WeChat annual developer conference.
Three key principles of Zhang’s product approach:
The user is your friend: the backbone of Allen’s product philosophy is thinking about users as his friends. This means designing products with sincere best intentions for the users and putting their interests above all others - even company stakeholders. “If WeChat was a person, it would be your best friend based on the amount of time you spend on it. So, how could we put an advertisement on the face of your best friend?” What this means to Zhang is that product design should not be reduced to “processes” that can be continuously optimized by data-driven teams. He believes there is an amount of whimsical inspiration that process optimization cannot solve for.
Technology is for efficiency: Allen takes an extreme view of the purpose of technology and its role in our lives: “People only have 24 hours in each day. The internet’s goal should not be to reduce our lives to spending all time outside of eating, drinking, sleeping, and digesting on our mobile phones.” He believes that the mission of technology should be solely to improve a user’s life and that the greater industry’s focus on time spent in app is flawed. “As a tool, WeChat must help users get the most useful information in the shortest possible time.” Zhang admits there are plenty of ways to increase use time, “but this would not sit well with users because it lowers their social media efficiency. We care about the question, ‘Are we the fastest and most efficient?’ This alone is the best tool.”
KPIs are secondary: one of the most shocking management ideas that Zhang holds dear is that over-incenting teams with KPIs is in fact counterproductive. Zhang’s team does track key metrics, but they are mostly observed and used as evidence in a supporting role rather than driving product strategy. Importantly, product strategy and performance evaluations are never defined in terms of key metrics. One could call it a “data-informed” versus a “data-driven” approach. “Our teams have developed the habit of thinking about the deeper meaning behind each function and service,” said Zhang. “If a function is done purely for traffic, and we can’t think of what value it brings to the user, this feature is problematic or not long-term.”
A strongly product-led philosophy driven by principles like these is not without its challenges. Critics say Zhang’s approach to thinking about product may not always be realistic in terms of company viability. But just the act of considering such product-led principled thinking can push us to new ideas, frameworks, and innovations, such as - in what ways can these principles be adapted for different business models?
Tech Founders, Don’t Be Afraid of Bio - NFX
There are too many great minds wasted on optimizing ads when they could be curing diseases, feeding humanity, or solving climate change. There’s plenty of space for tech entrepreneurs to come to bio and make an impact.
Here are the key skills and mindsets you need to become a TechBio Founder.
You have a network in tech. You need to build a new one in bio: the heart of a TechBio is scientific IP. If you’re a tech founder without a Ph.D. or scientific background, you might not be able to vet the scientific breakthrough yourself, but that shouldn’t stop you. Build a network of trusted scientific experts who can. That network needs to “bridge the gap of actual knowledge.” It’s not just about building relationships; it’s about finding the right expertise. These people should understand whatever field you are interested in better than you do.
Bridge the gap between “Tech People” and “Bio People”: there’s a massive advantage when people with different perspectives work together: they often find new ways to collaborate and make processes more efficient. “Software engineers come and sit in the lab and they see the mundane work. And when software people see mundane work happen more than once… we can’t tolerate it. So we immediately think about automation. In software we automate things – we make scripts and make life simpler. It frees up the scientists’ minds to think about other problems and challenges.” When you combine the two worlds, people learn from each other. Innovation almost always follows.
Understand your (new) timelines: one warning: you can apply tech-style self-management, but don’t assume that timelines will be exactly what you predict. Sometimes, a scientist works on a project that should take two days, but it takes longer due to unpredictable circumstances. That’s just the process. There are unknowns, misunderstandings, and a lot of trial and error.
Biology is the most powerful technology on earth. But it’s being augmented with computing power, automation, and software. If CRISPR was the Nobel Prize-winning biological discovery that makes gene editing possible, it is tech-enabled platform companies like Mammoth Bio that make that breakthrough widely usable. Being the first to cross that bridge can be intimidating, but with a roadmap, it’s easier than you think.
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9 Tricks to Experiment with your Pricing Strategy
Control Your Growth, Control Your Future
Fintech Trends for 2023 and Beyond
The ROI of investing in #UX during a recession
Four Reasons Why the Hypercasual Gold Rush is Coming to an End
🇪🇺 Notable European early-stage rounds
Slay, a Germany-based social network promoting positive interactions for teens, raises $2.5M with Accel/20VC/Kima - link
Fractal Homes, a UK-based company making second-home ownership easier, raises $4M with White Star Capital - link
Oneleaf, a France-based self-hypnosis app allowing users to self-hypnotize for depression and anxiety, raises $4.6M with Kima/Raise/Frst - link
Seidr AB, a Sweden-based company building the next generation of mid-core cross-play games, raises an undisclosed amount with a16z - link
Anyfin, a Sweden-based fintech that aims to help consumers save money when refinancing existing loans, raises $31M with Northzone/Accel/Quadrille - link
Peppy, a UK-based digital platform helping employers give their people expert support, raises $45M with Albion VC/Kathaka/MTech - link
🇺🇸 Notable US early-stage rounds
Syky, a US-based luxury fashion platform for digital creators allowing them to curate, generate, share, and trade their fashion collections, raises $9.5M with Seven Seven Six - link
Goldenset, a US-based platform for investing in and supporting the next generation of digital creators, raises $10M with Lerer Hippeau/A.Capital/SV Angel - link
Digitail, a US-based all-in-one platform helping vets go digital, raises $11M with Atomico - link
Oula Health, a US-based health tech reimagining how women experience pregnancy, raises $19M with 8VC/Great Oaks - link
Living Carbon, a US-based company on a mission to fight climate change by genetically enhancing CO2 capture and storage in trees, raises $21M with Toyota/Temasek/Felicis - link
Small Door, a US-based membership-based veterinary care provider, raises $40M with C&S Family Capital/Lerer Hippeau - link
Sublime Systems, a US-based startup developing a technology to decarbonize cement-making, raises $40M with Lowercarbon/The Engine/ Energy Impact Partners - link
🔭 Notable later-stage rounds
Jokr, a US-based grocery and delivery platform providing hyper-local products, raises $55M with G Squared/Tiger/GGV/HV Capital - link
Osmo, a US-based spinout of Google Research trying to give computers a sense of smell, raises $60M with Lux/GV - link
Wallapop, a Spain-based hyper-local mobile marketplace for buying and selling secondhand goods, raises $81M with Korelya/Naver - link
Zopa, a UK-based fintech offering credit cards, savings, and loan products with low rates, raises $93M with IAG Silverstripe/Augmentum - link
DeepL, a Germany-based deep learning company for language translation, raises $100M with IVP/Bessemer/Atomico - link
Fever, a US and Spain-based platform for live entertainment discovery raises $110M with Goldman/Eurazeo - link
Paradigm, a US-based health tech rebuilding the clinical research ecosystem, raises $200M with ARCH Ventures/General Catalyst/Lux/GV - link
Heartcore Insights is a weekly newsletter covering notable consumer rounds and exits and top content in the B2C space.