A successful framework distills the complex, and in that synthesis, gets to a timeless insight. That’s always my aspiration, to varying degrees of success.

Here’s a running list of frameworks I’ve written on a range of topics.

Recipes to build enduring, mass-market businesses:

For any consumer startup that works, hype — the moment, either organic or manufactured, when the perception of a startup’s significance expands ahead of the startup’s lived reality — is an inevitability. And yet, it’s hard not to view hype with a mix of both awe and fear. Hype applied at the right moment can make a startup, while the wrong moment can doom it.

As tempting and sexy as hype may be, I’m a believer in avoiding it as long as possible. This may seem counterintuitive. …

Benchmark is thrilled to announce Miles Grimshaw has joined the firm as our newest General Partner.

At age 29, Miles has emerged as one of the world’s great venture capitalists, embodying the early-stage focus and company building purpose that defines Benchmark.

Miles’s fiercely independent thinking has allowed him to identify the early potential of some of the breakout companies of this era, including Segment (acquired by Twilio for $3.2B), Benchling, and Airtable, investing in each of these companies before they had 30 employees. Miles cold-emailed Benchling CEO Saji Wickramasekara when the company had zero revenue and a few hundred users…

The #1 question I got after publishing my Hierarchy of Marketplaces series is how to know if you are on the right track in Level 1 as you wait for your cohorts to mature, and whether you can use Net Promoter Score (“NPS”) to measure happiness. Honestly, I’m skeptical of NPS’s utility. Instead I recommend measuring your funnel to what I’ll call “Happy GMV”. Below I describe what that is, and then elaborate on why I’m over NPS.

Happy GMV

As you wait for your cohorts to mature, start by asking yourself “what is my best guess at the buyer…

If you’ve read Level 1 and Level 2 of my Hierarchy of Marketplaces series, and are biting at the bit to go big, Level 3 is for you.

Level 1 and Level 2 were all about single-threaded focus. If reaching Minimum Viable Happiness is hard enough, reaching the second happiness threshold that gets the market to “tip” in your direction is even harder. You need incredible focus to achieve both.

If you’re ready for Level 3, your cohorts are performing stronger and stronger, and you are seeing more and more organic growth. Congratulations, the market is tipping towards you. …

In the Introduction and Level 1 of the Hierarchy of Marketplaces, I laid out the core insight that drives the hierarchy: that the tireless pursuit of happiness (not GMV) is ultimately what distinguishes the marketplaces that endure.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t pursue growth when building a marketplace. Indeed, to increase happiness marketplaces need to grow. But the growth must be in service of increasing happiness. This is what Level 2 is all about.

If your goal in Level 1 was to kickstart transactions and reach “Minimum Viable Happiness”, Level 2 is about reaching a new happiness…

A few years ago, I published a framework I called The Hierarchy of Engagement (Version 1, and updated “Expanded” Version) which synthesized my thinking on how to build enduring consumer products. The Hierarchy of Marketplaces synthesizes my thinking on how to build enduring marketplaces.

Marketplaces that are able to scale the hierarchy build dominant “winner take most” value. What is required to get there is a focus not on GMV, but on creating happiness.

The marketplace that wins is the marketplace that figures out how to make their buyers and sellers meaningfully happier than any substitute. …

Social distancing has dramatically changed how we spend our time. With all in person gatherings canceled, people suddenly have a lot more free time on their hands. New and incumbent consumer internet companies are racing to claim that time.

As an investor in and lover of consumer products, I’m incredibly excited by the opportunities this window represents. But I’ve also asked myself what distinguishes a consumer startup that will not only thrive during a time of social distancing, but after? This is how I think about it, and some advice to consumer founders out there.

Introducing a Rocks, Sand, and Water Framework for Attention

We always talk about consumers’…

One of the questions I get a lot is, “Is there any white space left to build a consumer marketplace?”

I get it. Name a category or vertical and you can probably think of a company that is either a) already there, or b) seemingly in a better position than you are to capitalize. Which is why, if you define “white space” as a big, wide-open, untouched area of opportunity, it will seem as though every “space” is already taken.

What so many people forget, however, is that many of our current incumbents actually disrupted the prior incumbents. Airbnb launched…

In 2011, Grubhub* was one of the most innovative companies in the world.

The company had just successfully raised $20 million to expand its operations all across the United States, and a year later they would raise another $50 million. By 2014, the small food delivery startup would merge with SeamlessWeb and hit the NYSE with a valuation of $2 billion and go on to seemingly secure its dominance of a category of dining that hadn’t existed before: technology-driven food delivery.

Five short years after Grubhub’s iconic rise to becoming a public company, Vox reported at the start of 2020…

Sarah Tavel

native new yorker, SF-resident. general partner @benchmark. formerly product @Pinterest. originally blogging at www.adventurista.com.

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