Nicholas Chirls

My very occasional blog…

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My Time at Lehman

I started at Lehman Brothers on June 1st, 2007 as a first-year analyst. It was my first job out of college. Dick Fuld, the CEO at the time, publicly discussed “the road to two-hundred,” in which he would not retire until the stock reached $200 per share, almost three times the price when I arrived. Everyone at the firm believed this as though it were fact – that there was something special about Lehman Brothers stock – it always went up.

I joined Lehman for a few reasons. The first was personal. My mother worked on Wall Street and passed away when I was a teenager. I felt, somewhat misguidedly, as though following in her footsteps would bring me closer to her. The other reasons were simpler. I had been interested in the stock market as a kid (though I went to work trading bonds and credit derivatives), I wanted to make a good living, and I thought maybe, just maybe, it would be a bit of...

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Humans are Underrated

Many people I speak to believe that machines will replace many of the common tasks performed by humans today, that software will eat the world, and that sophisticated algorithms will make the data around us more useful. I believe that over time these trends will play out with dramatic force. But not quite yet.

In fact, over the past year, I’ve come to believe that humans are more important for product development than ever before. This may seem glaringly obvious and of course The Times is On it. But I’m talking about humans as part of the product and community building process itself, something that goes way beyond enhancing algorithms. What I’m suggesting is that the most successful consumer Internet companies have to themselves be human, they have to have a soul, a core. The soul of the company must be reflected everywhere, in the product design, UX, copy, editorial, community...

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The 2013 Startup

I’m seeing a new type of startup emerge. This startup is not yet a company, but an experiment in its purest form. The founding team is very small, often one technical person. In some cases, the founding person is recently self-taught and is hacking something together because she needs this thing to exist.

I’m seeing a few of these new startups achieve early signs of traction and engagement. They’re slowly and deliberately building small communities or early customers. Some are even making money. In fact, a few of these startups are profitable (in the ramen sense).

Not surprisingly, VCs, seed funds, and angel investors are circling around these companies. But here’s the reason I’m calling them the 2013 startups: the founders are saying NO to the money. This is a fundamentally different strategy than the one I witnessed with many of the most sought after 2012 startups. The 2012 startup...

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