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👀 How Tim Ferriss Spots Billion Dollar Ideas Years Before Everyone Else

Tim's more than a great podcaster. He's a magician at investing in the best startup ideas. Here's how he does it.

☕️ Welcome back to Napkin Notes: our newly named newsletter (thanks to you) that digs into the nitty-gritty eartly stages of a startup idea, like the plumbing of framing of a new property before it grows into a mansion. 🏡

You see, sometimes the startup world can be misleading:

  • Reading flashy TechCrunch headlines

  • Watching everyone hit unicorn status

  • Seeing friends get Forbes 30 X 30 awards

With Napkin Notes, we wanna obsess about the beginning phase of building.

We want to speak into the first steps of scaling an idea vs waiting to see you raise $10m in funding before we cheer you on.

We wanna write deep dives that show you behind the curtain. We wanna reveal how founders find their big ideas, pounce on valuable opportunities and bring those concepts to market so you can do the same with your own big idea.

This is Napkin Notes, a newsletter produced by the Kernal Team.

And we’re absolutely fired up to get going 🔥

So let's boogie:

Here’s what’s on the menu today 🍽

  • 🥗 Tech news round-up

  • 🥩 How Tim Ferris spots startup ideas

  • 🍝 Some ideas to build that fit his framework

  • 🧁 Tweets of the week

📰 Tech News Round-Up: Everyone’s “working” from their cabin. Tesla hit $25B in Q2 revenue. CoinFund announced a $158M fund. FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off in Auckland. AI ethics are still heated. 18 new unicorns arose in Q2. Kim Kardashian raised $270m for Skims. Satya Nadella has made $1B+ in Microsoft comp. And surveys show 102% of you are hitting a patio this weekend. 🍻

In terms of other surveys, it sure was a close battle last week. But I think y’all picked one hell of a winner.👇

Napkin notes has a nice ring to it. And when we hit 1,000,000 subs, you will all be to thank 🙏

Let’s get this party started.

This week, we’re chopping it up with our boi T-Ferris.

Okay, he’s not really a homie and we didn’t really interview him face-to-face, but it’s Napkin Notes. So let your hair down and dream a little.

Something we wanna do more with this newsletter, now that you gave us a sexy new name for it, is show you the back of the napkin on how the best founders and investors operate. We’ll cover:

  • ways they think about building

  • frameworks they use to execute ideas

  • and industries they’re endlessly curious about

Nod your head if you like where this is going.

The first napkin we’re flipping over is from Theodore Ferris.

If you live under a rock and don’t know who the heck he is, we got your back. Remember, it’s Napkin Notes, we never leave a founder behind. Here’s why Tim’s worth listening to:

  • 📌 He’s an early-stage investor/advisor at Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ more

  • 📌 Authored 5 X #1 NYT and WSJ bestsellers

  • 📌 Has a podcast with 900M+ downloads

  • 📌 8th user of Kernal*

*lied about the last one, but even if he’s not a Kernal user, he’s still earned the golden globe of startup resumes.

P.S. Wanna snag a free copy of Tim’s 4-Hour WorkWeek book? It spent 4 years on the NYT Best Seller List and was translated into 40 languages. 📚

Now that you respect Tim’s street cred, let’s dive into the 3 strategies he swears by to spot great ideas.

Skim Matt’s tweet while we catch our breath and grab a sip of water:

A good example of #2 Tim mentioned in a podcast (what rich people do now that everyone will do in 10 yrs) was:

  • Back in the day, every big shot had a full-time assistant

  • Then affordable virtual assistants became all the rave

  • Today, AI services like ChatGPT are mini assistants to 100m+ people

More ideas that fit that framework include Uber (personal driver), Airbnb (cool homes), DoorDash (private chef) and many others. All of them gave the world what the 1% had.

A great example of #3 (where are people cobbling together awkward solutions) would be:

  • “ChatGPT for X” is disrupting all the new business verticals

  • Creator economy back-end support for the rise of influencers (classes, newsletters and hiring tools)

  • Healthier living/eating/exercising (Athletic Greens, psychedelic drugs, biotech engineering etc)

It’s really just for whenever you have 5+ Chrome tabs open on your laptop to solve a problem. When Tim sees that, he asks “Why can’t a startup turn that into one?”

After Tim finds one of these ideas, he goes deep with 2 close friends or thinkers he respects that are on the edge of that niche. He’ll:

  • go have convos with them

  • map out pros/cons/possibilities

  • and iterate on his thesis

Tim does this to get ahead of the idea before the rest of the world finds out.

As William Gibson said “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed”

This type of workshopping approach puts Tim well ahead of academics. Why? Cuz he’s doing the work, sparring with experts and mapping out the decades to come for the next big trend.

So there are the 3 questions Tim Ferriss asks to scope out high-potential startup ideas”

  1. What are nerds doing on weekends?

  2. What are rich folks doing now that everyone will do in 10 yrs?

  3. Where are awkward solutions being cobbled together?

Write them in your diary. Save them in your Notion. Tattoo it to your toes.

Then, GO BUILD something that answers them that Tim would invest in. (and CC us in your meeting invite)

If you wanna listen to the full Tim Ferriss interview where we pulled these strategies from, go find it here.

✨ Today’s Deep Dive is Brought To You by Notion

Ever heard of the $10B giant named Notion? Well, they’re awesome. Because they’re teaming up with us to give your startup 6 months of free and unlimited AI. Grab it here.

💡 Startup Ideas Tim Ferriss Would Like

Garb a chair and gather round 🪑

Based on Tim’s 3 points, we pulled together some ideas that hit the target. We did this b/c

  • one of you is likely besties with Tim

  • Tim’s EA may find this and intro him to one of you that posted the ideas

  • and it’s a great exercise to see the ideas in motion against his check marks

Startup ideas that could be what nerds are doing on weekends:
Startup ideas that explain what rich people do now that everyone will do in 10 years:
Startup ideas that turn a 5 chrome tab solution into one chrome tab:

So there you go. 15 startup ideas for free 99. Not a bad deal for opening a newsletter, eh?

Got a startup idea of your own you wish people could read about?

Share it by tapping below. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get the unbias feedback you need to go build it.

Liked the newsletter? We hope so. It took us 9 hours and 43 minutes to write it. Thank us for this labour of love by sharing it with a friend.

🐦 Tweets of the Week

A funny one to text your bestie and a serious one to text your co-founder:

💚 The Kernal Fam

P.S. You’ll love this list of 500 startup ideas. Grab it here.

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