On speed and startups

I learned how to ride a bike when I was five, maybe six. It was a cheap bike, probably from Walmart. It had BMX logos on it and this soft padding on the middle bar held together by velcro. I don’t remember how I got it but it probably involved a lot of begging of my parents.

You see, up until then all I could do was walk. So imagine how I felt when I could conquer the streets on my bike. The speed was incredible. Everything felt right there. It was like flying, just you know, a little closer to the ground.

I remember my first accident. I wanted to be cool and make a sharp turn at speed while I skimmed the surface with my finger. I succeeded in the sharp turn but skimmed a little more than my finger. Of the two permanent scars I have on my body, pokemon #1 was collected that day. I scraped my knee so deep, it skipped the bleeding part and went straight to the burning sensation part. I think I cried, I don’t remember.

I took a break from riding. I was spooked and we had also moved to a new, hilly neighborhood. Days shifted from trolling the streets to pursuing more illicit activities. I made friends with a neighbor, Gavin. He was a couple years older than me and had access to a lot of cool shit. We shot squirrels with BB guns, lit fire crackers on green toy soldiers, fired model rockets with snails into the air (pre 9/11 times were different), burned ants with magnifying glasses (the smell is awful), and my favorite: lit the end of a red pipette attached to a WD-40 can and made the most epic flamethrower a kid could have.

I distinctly remember my first taste of high speed around this time. We bought a speedometer for our bikes (probably Hall sensor based) and broke 25mph going downhill. They say the boundary between fear and excitement is where you build your balls. Going down a steep hill that fast certainly did that. I wanted more.

I moved to the bay area in my mid 20s, around the time Lime and Bird came to town. These scooters were so fast and so light. I’d go all around town on them. I eventually bought my own scooter and later ebike, way before the craze started. They were great but I wanted even more speed. I had exhausted all my options; it was time to get on the road alongside cars.

PCX150. Tall windshield for extra style 😎

I bought a Honda PCX150 scooter. Topping out at 50mph with a quick pickup, this little guy was fantastic and my entry into maneuvering and cornering. COVID just started and the timing couldn’t have been better; everything was shut down except the roads. I learned how to read driver intent from tires, to constantly check my mirrors, and to listen to my surroundings. I was developing a skill, my happiest place.

God I love red

I couldn’t go on highways, though, so it was time for more. I got a Honda CBR500R motorcycle and man, did I feel badass. Red, big tires, and a loud exhaust. Topped out at ~100mph which was just enough to lane split on the highway. Yeah it was a motorcycle so everybody panicked but they got over it. You have to take a risk to do anything fun. So many people spend their whole life on the sideline. Pussies.

Anyways, you know where this is going. The Final Boss. The highest high. Enter…the Honda CBR600RR.

The red on white on black 🤤

A true super sport bike. 0 to 60 in seconds. Topped out at ~140mph. Just unimaginable speed, torque, and roar. I went on group rides, solo rides, and even contemplated track days. Moving between cars on the highway felt effortless. A slight twist released huge amounts of kinetic energy. Remember how I talked about biking is like flying? When you’re going fast enough where drag is your primary opposing force—on the road or in life—you’re flying.

Speed is the most important thing in startups when executing.

From the frontend, building a startup is the process of converging to a market truth that you’re simultaneously shaping your product to uniquely serve. The faster you move, the more experiments you run, which in turn help you converge to that truth quicker to serve customers.

From the backend, you move fast to maximize your runway—both financial and mental.

And from the middle, you move fast because speed begets speed which leads to momentum. And with startups, momentum isn’t just a state but a feeling. A contagious one that bleeds from sales to marketing to engineering. It bleeds outside too, to customers and investors alike. It is the flow state equivalent for a business.

So go fast and if you can, faster.

Shout out to Cissy Hu and Lisa Wehden for organizing the Writer’s Club, which is where this piece was written.

Written on April 9, 2023