Medley 271: Hacks, Testosterone, Investments, Addiction, CrypTip, Games, Relationships...

This is the Monday Medley, a newsletter that goes out, you guessed it, every Monday. I republish it here for sharing and referencing, but if you'd like to sign up you can do so right here:

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Happy Monday!

On Monday, Adil and I released CrypTip! It's a super simple way for creators to make a landing page to accept crypto donations from their audience.

And last Friday I published a piece on How Hacks Make DeFi Stronger, and the somewhat strange culture around hacks and exploits in crypto.

Alright, on to the Medley.

The World of Venture Health

This week I spent too much time trying to raise the alarm about a new "men's health" company being promoted by a group of influencer investors called Hone.

If you missed the saga, here are parts one, two, three, and four.

I try not to pick fights like this very often since they're exhausting and typically ruin my week, but this one felt important. Probably more important than calling out Soylent and Oatly.

The threads explain most of my concerns, but one challenge I didn't dive into too much is the problematic incentives around venture backed companies trying to tackle health problems.

Once a company is venture-backed, it has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders to do its best to earn them a return on their investment. And unfortunately, that often means prioritizing short-term profit over long-term solutions.

You don't see many ads for vegetables, meat, fruits, or rice. You see tons of ads for fake foods though. That's partially driven by the much higher profit margins those foods have because they're much more of a business product than real food is. Real food is a fairly low-margin industry, and cattle ranchers can't afford to run Hulu ads explaining the nutrient density of their grass-fed longhorns.

So when a company doing something like prescribing hormone therapy raises venture funds, it now has a duty to build a business that will earn those investors a good return. And unfortunately for a business like this, the way to get crazy revenue numbers and hit your growth targets is to get as many people on monthly testosterone prescriptions as possible.

I'm not saying that's what they're doing, but that is how the incentives work. It's the same reason Oatly is not incentivized to replace the canola oil in their sugary vegetable oil slushie with something better for you: the healthy oils are expensive.

There's another challenging incentive here that a friend pointed out: being founder-friendly. I put out a public ask for any of the investors to agree that Hone should demonstrate they're running an ethical business, and no one took me up on it. A couple deleted their tweets promoting the company, but that was it.

The problem with the desire to be founder friendly is that even if a company you've invested in is doing something bad publicly, you don't want to call them out for it. Doing so might make other founders think you can't be trusted as an investor, and you'll have less access to deal flow in the future.

To me this is kinda silly: all that will do is scare away unethical founders which you shouldn't want to invest in anyway, but the incentive exists regardless. There is a high potential future financial cost to being publicly unloyal to your investments.

I'm mostly ranting and don't have a great solution here. Scale is pretty consistently bad for our health: typically the bigger the company you're buying from, the less healthy the food is. And perhaps the same goes for other health optimizations too, that certain aspects of improving our health are extremely difficult to scale without pushing short term quick fixes.

But I do hope that other investors will think a bit more before promoting a company like this. A company whose marketing is focused on pushing Testosterone, who was seemingly unable to raise money from health investors, and whose original brand is littered with awful reviews, is not a company I'd want to tie my reputation to.

The World of Video Games

I really enjoyed Evan Armstrong's piece on how "Free to Play Video Games are Forced to Make Addicts."

One additional downside of this being the new default monetization strategy is that it seems to incentivize shittier games. Almost all of the popular mobile games are Pay-to-Win with tons of micro-transactions built in, and even big players who historically put out incredible RPGs like Bethesda or Rockstar are now focused more on MMOs where they can keep making money off their customers.

I really like what Apple Arcade is trying to do here, since they seem to be creating better incentives for games that aren't monetized through microtransactions. But I do wonder if it's getting harder to sustain a video game agency just on single-purchase games.

The World of Relationships

My friend Cat had a good thread on building happy relationships.

One point that stands out is thinking of the relationship itself as a third partner you're both taking care of. It's not just about taking care of each other, but also working together to take care of the relationship.

I find that kind of anthropomorphizing can help a lot with conflict resolution in general. Most people want similar things when you dig into it, and realizing that you both want similar goals but have different ideas of how to get there can usually reduce a lot of tension.

The idea of "user manuals" is a neat one too. This is something I encouraged at Growth Machine so we all knew how to work with each other, but it makes a lot of sense to do one in a romantic relationship too. Especially early on when you're still figuring each other out.

End Note

As always, if you're enjoying the Medley, I'd love it if you shared it with a friend or two. You can send them here to sign up. I try to make it one of the best emails you get each week, and I hope you're enjoying it.

And should you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way! I love finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.

Have a great week,

Nat

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