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Leverage, Truth, and Fear

Patrick Campbell

Founder & CEO @profitwell (formerly named @priceintel). Customer Rules Everything Around Me (C. R. E. A. M.)

Boston, MA
Patrick Campbell

This is a talk about what Patrick has done that has worked well to grow his company, ProfitWell. Their core product is free financial metrics for subscription businesses which feeds several products that help businesses make more money.

TODO: revenue graphs

Finding Leverage

There are two schools of thought in startups: "do things that don't scale", and "work smarter not harder." Neither are right most of the time. Few of us have a solid framework for evaluating leverage.

Instead of a framework, we go through "the freakout cycle of executive emotion." That looks like:

0: Bad thing happened
1: => it must be important! (FUUUUUUCK)
2: => guess and check (put 9s at the end of prices?)
3:   it didn't work => GOTO 1? ELSE we're going to fail D:
4:   it worked! => we solved it!

Here's a better model:

0: Bad thing happened
1: => Is this important?
  => no, do nothing
  => yes (fuuuuuu...)
    => think, decide, and act
    => monitor and adjust

Problem > Cause > Solution

You can't solve a problem. World hunger and gun violence are problems, but they can't be "solved" - it's a symptom of something that's happening. You can solve a cause.


An acquisition model isn't a revenue model. Think about freemium as a premium ebook.

Fore more, check out Profitwell's Freemium Manifesto

Seeking Truth

Register your emotional response to these:

  • Founders who sleep less than 5 hours a night grow their companies slower than those who sleep 7-8 hours.
  • Companies with institutional funding have higher churn rates than those that are bootstrapped
  • Founders with hobbies and who score high on work/life balance grow slower (you might feel worse about this)
  • Remote companies grow slower than local companies (now you want to murder me, right?)

You probably had no problem with the facts and source when hearing statements you agree with. When something supports our view, we don't question it. If something attacks our view, we feel attacked. This is known as the Backfire Effect.

As a founder, you need to be conscious of this logical fallacy.

How do you combat that? Assume best intentions, and that you might be wrong. With ideas you've already accepted, try Red Teaming by considering how you may be wrong.

Controlling Fear

If you're not a sociopath, you have some fear associated with your business. Fear is a part of life, and it's a good thing if it's coming from the right place.

Tactical Detour

Talk to your team 5-10x more than you do right now.

Write "If I die" google spreadsheets of every part of the organization (ProfitWell now keeps that in Notion).

Contact Patrick at pc@profitwell.com.

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