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Nathan Baschez: A Deep Dive on Business Strategy

Daniel ScrivnerLast Updated: September 10, 2020

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“If you have weak, scattered, or non-systematic observations about the market driving your decision making process, you can make some pretty bad decisions, even if you get all the strategy concepts right.” — Nathan Baschez

In this second episode of Outliers, I sit down with Nathan Baschez (@nbashaw) to discuss his startup and tech successes and failures, his writing routine, and his thoughts on business strategy.

Nathan Baschez is one of the world’s leading thinkers, researchers, and writers on business strategy. He is the Co-Creator of Product Hunt, which secured $6.1 million in funding and earned the Crunchie Award of “Best New Startup of 2014.” He spent time at General Assembly and Substack before launching Hardbound, a visual storytelling platform. Nathan now spends his days analyzing businesses and sharing his findings in the newsletter Divinations, which is part of Everything, a paid newsletter bundle he’s building with Dan Shipper.

Topics Discussed

  • 00:01:47 – Nathan’s early career, including co-creating Product Hunt
  • 00:07:04 – Creating Hardbound
  • 00:19:51 – Nonfiction books as a form of secondary education
  • 00:22:12 – Learning from losses and changes at Hardbound and Substack
  • 00:26:52 – How Nathan became interested in and focused on business strategy
  • 00:31:30 – Applying business strategy to personal life
  • 00:35:19 – Feedback loops in business growth
  • 00:37:55 – Models for thinking about business strategy
  • 00:49:40 – Nathan’s research and writing routines
  • 00:58:05 – Mental models and frameworks Nathan refers to most when writing about a company or industry
  • 00:59:49 – Advice for young people aspiring to be strategic leaders

For more, explore the full transcript of this episode. Transcripts for all episodes can be found here.

Links from the Episode

Recommended Reading

Key Insight

Business strategy, or as Nathan describes it, “the art of making decisions,” is of ultimate importance when launching and building a business. It’s important to understand the business landscape around you, much like how teams prepare in football—watching replays, knowing the coaches and players, and understanding the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Actionable Ideas

  • “I think there are a lot of startup founders who don’t pay very much attention to the strategy frameworks. They have a pretty simple view of, ‘OK, cool. I just need to solve a problem.’… I think you have a greater chance of success if you understand: ‘OK, how is this going to work as it scales? What are the advantages we really have? What are the accumulating advantages we have?’… These are the kinds of things that are really important to pay attention to and to be searching for.”
  • “Be more indulgent than you think you should be. I think people have a mindset of being really diligent where they’re like, ‘I need to do this, so I should do it…’ And you definitely need a lot of that—you need a lot of discipline… But at the same time, you need to balance it with, ‘This is a little different than what we were originally thinking, but this could be really good.’ Allow yourself to go there and maybe just give yourself permission to try it and think, ‘I’m just going to spend an hour on this, and we’ll see.’ That’s where all the good stuff comes from.”
  • “Create your own stuff, because it’s a way to jump the line. It’s really hard when you’ve not created a lot of stuff of your own that’s become successful independently for people to look at you and want to take a bet on you. But if you’ve done that before, then people are like, ‘Oh, this person can make things that turn out to be really good, so I trust them.’ That’s a permissionless way to demonstrate you’re worthy of responsibility.”

On Outliers, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they’ve mastered and what they’ve learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today. 

Explore all episodes of Outliers, be the first to hear about new episodes, and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

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