Discover more from The Stoic CTO
#6: Exploring online communities
Building, learning, and networking beyond geographical boundaries.
Last night, I attended Buildspace's top 32 final matchups. Buildspace is an engaging online community for founders & builders who are looking to build their next projects. The prize pool for the winners is $100,000. They are an alternative incubator modeled after Y Combinator and Pioneer. I wasn't there to build anything, but just there looking for the vibes while I was working my midnight shifts. If you missed it or are curious, you can look at their pre-recorded demo day.
As a founder, not being in the SF Bay Area right now have some downsides. After covid, many conferences, events, and communities that were previously happening online are getting offline. What once was accessible from anywhere across the globe is now location-locked. I've had a FOMO on not being in the Bay Area for the past few months. However, thankfully after a lot of looking, there are still a lot of online communities that are happening and growing.
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When I started my Y Combinator batch last year, everyone was fully online, and they did a fantastic job making sure the community felt vibrant. The Zoom calls are great, and the Slack channels are alive. We also have weekly calls with YC group partners and other founders in our batch. And every two weeks, YC would ask us to set goals and sprint hard to achieve those. One of the great benefits of joining YC is the batch and the community around it.
I love joining an online community like this, mainly because I want to:
Have a good environment of supportive peers from similar stages,
Have a forcing function and fast-paced experimentation cadence,
Join insightful events or online meetups,
Get inspiration on what cool stuffs people are building,
Meet and connect with new people.,
During YC, the weekly Office Hour & Experimentation cadence made my company's progress very fast. Mistakes that could take months to uncover only take 1-2 weeks during the batch. And the rate of learning progressed more quickly too. However, after my YC batch, there needed to be more cadence and vibe, and I looked hard to fill this. Fortunately, I found Transcend Network. It's a fellowship for founders working in education tech and the future of work. Transcend is selective in admitting members, not only based on their startup but also the values that the member may bring to the community. The program is well run, and I met and learned from many founders worldwide.
Which online communities to join
Here are some of the online communities I recommend and have participated in. Most of these communities are for founders, but some are suitable for engineers, engineering leaders, product managers, or anyone who wants to build and learn something.
Lenny Rachitsky's newsletter is the most well-known in the product world. Now he has branched off into Podcasting, which has been very popular. In addition, they have a very vibrant community in Slack for paying subscribers. The discussions there were enjoyable. And they have many internal self-organizing meetups, both IRL and online. (Cost: $15/mo).
This is a Slack community for engineering leaders founded by Michael Lopp. He's an executive at Apple and previously at Slack, Pinterest, and Palantir. He has written multiple books on engineering leadership and has been my role model for a long time. The Slack community here is free, albeit you need to apply first. The inside is very active and vibrant. And there are several self-organizing online meetups too. (Cost: free).
Daniel Vassallo is not an unknown figure if you are already active in the Twitter-verse. He has been viral many times, and the lessons he shared there are timeless. His Small Bets community is now 2,000 members and growing. I only joined a couple of months back and have been impressed by the quality of the people and the webinars offered inside. Unlike most others that require recurring payments, this community only costs a one-time fee, so you can pay once and relax for the rest of your journey. (Cost: $375, but sometimes there are seasonal discounts and purchasing power parity for developing countries).
Farnam Street by Shane Parrish is well-known for its Podcast, Books, and Blog. But the community doesn't get the attention that it deserves. It is aimed at high achievers and has many webinars and online meetups. Aside from that, you also get a lot of premium Farnam Street perks, such as the ad-free version of The Knowledge Project podcast, its hand-edited transcript, and subscriber-only content. (Cost: $149/yr)
Suppose you are an engineering leader or senior engineer trying to advance your career. In that case, Plato can be a fantastic community. The community is very well managed, and you can meet a lot of mentors there, both 1on1 or through group sessions. (Cost: $399/mo)
Reforge is also well-known among product and growth professionals. Unfortunately, the price is quite pricey, and you need to apply to join. The content and the live classes are super excellent and lively. However, the community (both on Slack and in the web forum) is not very active. (Cost: $2000/yr)
This community spun out of The Generalist Newsletter by Mario Gabriele. I really love his deep dive into intriguing companies around the world. The content inside is similar to Lenny's Newsletter but with fewer members (probably due to the high price). (Cost: $499/yr)
Twitter is the hub for any online community. The real-time and open nature of the platform makes it easy for people to join, participate, and group together into many niches. A lot of the online communities that I joined primarily came from Twitter. (Cost: free)
The online community for builders. I only joined as a spectator, not a builder, but the experience has been lit. Their Discord server is active, and so many people are building there. (Cost: free)
There are many more that I haven't joined, mainly because they have a high overlap with the ones I already joined or because they are costly (looking at you, Write of Passage). And I am a part of dozens of free Discord communities, but none really stands out yet.
If you want more are some other communities recommended multiple times by my friends:
Ship 30 for 30 (online writing)
Write of Passage (online writing)
Building a second brain (productivity)
Ness Labs (productivity)
If you have joined one of these and have some testimonials, feel free to comment below. And let us know too if you find other interesting online communities we can join.
If you are keen on joining online communities, especially the gated ones or those that require payment, here are some tips:
Do a lot of research on their content, members, and programs. To ensure that you get what you expected.
Read testimonials from existing members. It would be great if you know those people personally, or if not, then public testimonials on social media should be enough.
Know how active their forums are. The more active the forums, the more you can learn and connect with people.
Seek out a once-off payment/lifetime membership if possible. The recurring payment gets expensive if you are tight on budget
Interview on AIModels.fyi
Last week, I was invited to share my stories on AIModels.fyi newsletter. I shared
How Stoic philosophy influences my career
In startups, which are full of uncertainties, it helped me navigate through every obstacle that went my way. Even in engineering, where everything is supposed to be deterministic, chaos might happen. Computers are deterministic, but the humans using and building them are not. Knowing that there is non-determinism in engineering has helped me a lot in untangling and solving issues.
The story of building Akselito, my career-prep startup
I love teaching. And I have been teaching since I was in high school and in college. Mainly I taught algorithms and competitive programming. After graduating, I continued to do mentorships for students and young professionals who want to get started in tech or who want to work in Silicon Valley. Akselito is a productization of what I have been doing ever since. We built a platform for professionals to help others break into a better career, even in smaller ways such as reviewing resumes, doing mock interviews, and advising students.
What excites me about the future of AI
Amid the gloomy reports that AI might drive unemployment high, in the long term, given we do re-training and better education, AI can be a net positive force multiplier for the world's economic productivity.
Read the full newsletter here: Blending Philosophy and Startups: Interview with Tri Ahmad Irfan
The past 12 years have been an anomaly in the world's economy, a very long bull run where many good things happen. I studied and built my early career in this era. Seems that era is gone now. And I regret not writing and publishing more of what I learned. I regret not improving my English skills so that I can sell more confidently. I could've started a startup earlier and gotten all the learnings faster.
This excellent post by Louie speaks the truth. Unfortunately, when good times happen, people tend only to enjoy it, thinking it will never end. Wise men build optionality, especially when things are good.
One of the reasons I'm building this newsletter is to improve my thinking and communication skills. However, I am often stuck in the ideation phase. I just stared at the blank screen and had the blinking cursor stares back at me. Oh damn, what should I write about...
Thankfully this short video really helped me get unstuck. It provides 3 easy steps to generate endless ideas. This board explains everything, but you need to watch the video to understand how to read it.
If you can write and frequently write online, it will greatly help your career. However, the economics get really bad if you try to become a full-time writer. You must be at the top to make enough money to live. A very enlightening read.
See you next time fam 👋
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