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The Signal

Business analysis and trends to help entrepreneurs like you stay ahead of the curve

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Date Published: 
June 8, 2020

Hello Everyone!

This week, we're going in on transparency. Specifically: Data transparency. There's a lot of money to be made.

Ask Richard Barton, founder of Expedia, Glassdoor and Zillow. The common denominator? They all made information publicly available where it was previously guarded by gatekeepers.

All three companies are worth US $1 billion+.

  • Expedia is a public company now, with US $12 billion + annual revenue.
  • Glassdoor was recently (2018) sold for US $1.2 billion.
  • Zillow's 2019 AR was US $2.7 billion.

In the spirit of transparency. Here are this week's numbers:

  • New members: 39
  • Open rate last week's edition: 56.0%
  • Click rate last week's edition: 29.2%.

Something seems to be working.

Remember: If you're not consistently seeing my emails, please add this email address to your address book. (Link at the bottom of the email to do that with one click)

🚀 Startup Labs

// A business idea, discussed

✅ Making information free and readily accessible

Richard Barton unlocked information that was previously held by gatekeepers:

  • Glassdoor gives people information on what it's really like to work at a company. Previously, only employers knew that information and employee's were unable to freely express themselves.
  • Expedia was successful because it put information about the cheapest way to travel in the consumer's hands. Previously, you just had to trust that a travel agent was acting in your best (and cheapest) interests.
  • Zillow removes the most difficult part of home-shopping: Making sure you're getting a good deal. It does it by giving you information on the real estate industry as a whole. Previously, only real estate agents had access to transactional data like that.

⚡ The opportunity: There are so many. Find an industry which would benefit from greater transparency for consumers.

Here's one we'll be discussing today: Where does our food come from.

People are more conscious than ever about what food they're consuming. The modern consumer wants free-range, organic, free from pesticides, non-GMO food.

The problem is, it says free range on the package, but how do you actually know if it is, and what standard of 'free range' it is?

For example: In the US, free range eggs can be marked as free range as long as the hen's have access to an outdoor area. There is no stipulation on the amount of time they spend outdoors and this is poorly (or not at all) regulated.

So what you think is a healthier, more ethically sourced 'free-range' egg, is actually not all that different from 'grain-fed' or other options.

💥 Features:

Create a supply chain accountability service which allows consumers to have insight into exactly how their food arrived on the table.

  • All information should be available by scanning a product's barcode.
  • Each farmer/producer would have a profile with their list of products and who they supply to.

What you'd have to check:

  • What each product's estimated carbon footprint is.
  • Who the farm owner is (corporate owned or local farmer).
  • Pictures of animal pens/living conditions (for the case of meat and dairy farmers).
  • Random 'drop-ins' and verification of stipulated conditions. Testing of products for pesticides, fertilizers etc.
  • Standardized 'trust' rating system which shows how trust worthy the farmer is and how forthcoming with information they are.
  • Standardized 'eco-friendly' rating system which has a list of criteria for farming in a ecologically-responsible way.
  • Quick 'buy-guide' rating. Answers the question of "Should I buy this product" for the consumer as they scan a barcode.
  • Down the line: A marketplace which cuts out the supermarkets. Allow consumers to get in touch with their favourite producers and buy direct.

👨‍💼 Players:

  • Farmers.
  • Conscious Consumers.
  • Supermarkets.

🚀 Gameplan

  1. Find a dedicated base of conscious consumers. Think about your target market. Define your customer very specifically.
  2. This will take a decent amount of ground work to started, so validating the demand first is crucial. Do that by finding where your customers hang out (local markets, appropriate sub-reddits, hydroponic courses, nurseries etc.) and speak to them. If you can speak to 50 people, you'll have an excellent idea of what they want, what they'd pay for and what an MVP should look like.
  3. Collect contact information!
  4. Once you've found your tribe, start working on farmers. Speak to local farmers with best practices. These are farmers that are actually farming ethically and would have no problem being transparent with how their food is produced. Make it super easy for them to upload their information/keep up to date.
  5. Start with a manual system where farmers start creating profiles on your website. Index by the brands that they supply to. Consumers are able to manually search for local brands and the farmers are listed with their profiles. You can do this easily on Webflow.
  6. Once you've found traction and have a user-base, build the tech to match your farmer/supplier repo with scannable barcode information. Consumers can scan products directly in-store while buying and choose from the best. This is where the "Should I Buy" feature comes in.
  7. Charge a subscription fee to consumers first. Once you've got traction (1000+ users), you can start lobbying supermarkets to have a 'x brand trusted' section where consumers can shop local, ethical, healthy brands.
  8. When you've got a big enough customer base, you can use it to leverage other farmers who are 'borderline' in their practises to become compliant and make the whole industry more competitive, and better for the consumer. Supply and demand!


🛠️ Skill Builder

// A byte of information to build your skill set

This starts a series of Skill Builder's which will be on Business Growth. Over the next 10 editions, we'll be covering a unique skill which you can use to get new customers.

💌 Cold Email

Cold emailing is still the most cost-effective way of getting in touch with important people who would otherwise be unreachable.

How does it help you get more customers? Well, sometimes those customers are already being served by another complimentary company who's distribution you can leverage.

To do that, you need to strike a partnership with that company. Cold email is a great way of getting in front of the people you want to talk to.

Here are 4 steps to getting in touch with anyone you want to via cold email:

  1. Research. Find out who they are and what they like. Do some stalking. Read their social profiles. Interact if possible. Twitter is great at this.
  2. Find their email. Web-scrapers are a good option for lots of emails. There are also Saas options available which help you get people's email addresses: and are good options. You can also just test guess, most companies have some variant of [first name] @ [their website domain].[their domain extension]. Or you can use advanced Twitter search to see if they've listed it on there before.
  3. Write the email. Using your research from one, get their attention. Below there are tips for writing cold emails which get answered.
  4. Pester Persist. It can sometimes feel like this, but you've got to do it. If you stick at it, and follow up persistently you're going to get results. Busy people ignore what look likes flash in the pan marketing. If you email them three, four, five times they're bound to eventually pay you some attention.
Tips for writing a great cold email

[1] Getting their attention. Say something outlandish and out of the ordinary. Don't be normal.

[2] Be succinct. Get to the point. Use short sentences and bullet points.

[3] What's in it for them? Don't force your will onto them, what are they going to get out of this?

[4] Use your research (See step 1 above).

[5] Write like a normal person. Don't be overly formal.

🎤 From the Founder's Mouth

// A valuable piece of advice from someone who's done it before

You would have heard this countless time's thrown around in entrepreneurial circles: "Never trade time for money".

However, there are times when you should.

Nathan Barry, gives us 5 times when you should absolutely trade time for money:

[1] When you are just getting started. Early in your career, the important thing is to make enough to pay rent and buy groceries. Don’t look down on any job that allows you to do that. 

[2] When you are learning a new skill. If you can get paid to learn a new skill that will grow your earning potential you absolutely should! 

[3] To save money to launch your next venture. It always takes time, money, or both to move to move up to a better way of earning a living (starting a business, selling products, etc). 

[4] To build relationships and find mentors. The right people will shape your mindset and opportunities. You should absolutely trade time for money if it means expanding your network to people who can help you jump to the next ladder. 

[5] When the work is rewarding and meaningful in its own right. If you found work that is meaningful and fulfilling to you, you should do that work. Even if some expert says you shouldn’t trade time for money.

A lot of money is far from the only kind of wealth.
Nathan Barry, founder of Convertkit

You can read the full article here.

⛹️ Yes Coach!

// Something you can do right now to improve your business

Take a step back.

As a founder (especially in the early days when you're sometimes a one-person team), you can get stuck with your head down trying to run your business.

Removing yourself from that periodically allows you to assess your businesses trajectory and answer these important questions:

  1. Am I still serving the customer I started this business for?
  2. Is my product solving a burning need/desire?
  3. Am I spending the majority of my time on things that are moving the needle?

If you can't do it, get a trusted advisor/friend to.

🖱️ Clickworthy

// Valuable tidbits from around the interweb

💥 9 Growth levers that Zapier pulled to get to $50m ARR while fully remote

📈 A guide to how 10 people generated of 5K LinkedIn leads in a month (with the tools they used).

🚲 Is Peloton going to compete with Netflix soon? This is an interesting take on how the social fitness company might be in the not-so-near future stealing a chunk of Netflix's market share. Another interesting sub-reddit on the future of Peloton here.

📅 Some startup inspo: This guy's starting 12 startups in 12 months.

🧰 Here are 81 tech tools for non-tech founders courtesy of

🍔 Something completely off topic (which you all seemed to like last time I mentioned it): I tweaked my home-made vegetarian burger recipe this weekend. They're delish.

👋 The End Notes

// I know, I know. I can almost hear you saying "Don't go, don't go."

That's it for this week. Hope there was some value in there for you.

How did you find this edition?

👍 YES - I liked it
〰️ MEH - Average
👎 NO - Almost no value


If you've found this interesting, valuable or entertaining, a few of your friends might too. Please forward on to them. Seriously, please do. I'll say a very nice thank you.

See yah next week, thanks for reading!

- Simon