How I “failed” at a YC startup, worked at early Stripe, and then raised $20M

Lessons (for those who don’t care for my rambling narrative account):

  • Figure out what great looks like.
  • You have to get lucky, but you also have to capitalize on the lucky opportunities.
  • It’s ok to miss out on your top choice. Your optimization function might be different in a couple of years.
  • It’s hard to spot great businesses, but if you can spot great people to work with, you can narrow the window.
  • Failing gives you better perspective than being told that you will fail.
  • Great engineers aren’t defined by years of experience. They need to care deeply about the…


If you are new to eBay, then you have your work cut out for you. Starting an ecommerce business is difficult. You need to build up reputation and industry-specific expertise. You need to know which products sell and when to launch promotions. It’s hard to build a successful business, but it has been done and people continue to succeed in the ecommerce industry. It takes hard-work, determination, and a bit of knowledge.

From my years selling on eBay and working at Zinc.io, I’ve compiled a small list of things that you should know before you embark on your selling adventures…


It was early in the morning, and what I noticed upon scanning my room caught me by surprise. I hadn’t given a good hard look at my room in months. That morning, though, when I actually spent some time to truly observe, I saw a mountain of things.

I spend more time in my room than any other place on Earth, yet I had failed to notice the slow accumulation of STUFF (Shit That U Fucking Forgetabout). It’s unsurprising, though. It’s all too easy to allow the familiar to merge and morph into new things without taking a second glance…


My generation adores Taylor Swift. She’s a millennial icon who seems to perfectly blend feminism and the traditional pop-star mystique. Cheerful and blithely enjoyable, Swift is idolized by millions. But to me, she hardly makes any sense. Her ideology is riddled with contradictions. Swift claims to be a feminist demanding fundamental change, but pop stars are built to be sweet, likable, and sellable: things that are significantly at odds with attacking the status quo. Taylor Swift isn’t any different.

Swift’s formidable social media presence is carefully groomed to appear candid. Taylor isn’t really a feminist icon looking to push through…


This decade has seen an unprecedented rise in the importance of productivity. To live a fulfilled life, you must accomplish great things at work. Your life is finite, so you shouldn’t waste a minute.

In this article, we’ll give you some great tips to increase your productivity so that you can get back to changing the world.

  1. Use Facebook keyboard shortcuts. I bet you didn’t know that Facebook even had keyboard navigation? Well it does, and it can make you at least three times as fast when browsing pictures from Aunt Grace’s wedding. Personal experience has shown that these shortcuts…


The other day, I walked by the front gate of one of the wealthiest parts of San Francisco. Houses in the area routinely sell for $10 million or more. When I peered inside the gates, I saw beautifully manicured lawns and sprawling mansions. What was surprising, however, was the absence of something from the scene.

When I looked in the garages of these mansions, I couldn’t find a single sports car. The vehicles ranged from luxurious to practical, but none of them were ostentatious. When I got home, I looked at an article detailing the vehicles of billionaires, and I…


When I was a kid, I would never highlight sentences or write in the margins of my books. I figured that I should keep my possessions in good condition. But I distinctly remember when I began writing in my books — it was eleventh grade and I had just finished my final exams. I was looking for something to read over summer break, and I happened to stumble upon a copy of Don Quixote, replete with underlining and notes in the margins.

As I began reading these notes, I felt as if a counterpart was reading Don Quixote with me…


When I first set foot in the Mission District of San Francisco, I had just stepped off the BART station at Sixteenth and Mission. The place wreaked of feces and urine. Beggars accosted me. It was almost midnight when I arrived, and a sense of fear crawled up the back of my spine. Although I only had to walk a couple of blocks to arrive at a friend’s apartment, I felt an anxiety that bordered on dread.

It was an inauspicious start to my acquaintance with the Mission. Two years later, I now set foot in the Mission almost every…


The other day, I noticed a peculiar thing: a disproportionate number of startup founders ride motorcycles. On the surface, it’s pretty odd. In fact, you probably don’t even believe me. You’re probably thinking of all your friends who ride motorcycles and all your friends who are in startups, and intersecting the two.

But anecdotal evidence seems to show that startup founders are much more likely to ride motorcylces than the average person. According to a US Census report, only 0.2% of people commute via motorcycles [1]. That means you’d only expect one person in a startup of five hundred people…


My New Years

Anti-Resolution

Why I’m not setting any goals this year

Every New Years, people talk about resolutions. They talk about the weight they will lose, the money they will make, or the wisdom they will gain. To most people, success is defined by the achievement of these goals.

I’m not so sure. And this New Year’s Eve, I tried something different. I deliberately did not set any goals. Instead of thinking about the future, I’ve been thinking about the past. I’m calling it my New Year’s Anti-Resolution.

Western dogma teaches us to think of time as a straight line, with us in the middle. We face the future and…

John Wang

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