My (and hopefully your) Brain on Apps

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Treat yourself with these three brain healthy apps

Given that I just wrote a post saying how I’m not a product guy, I figured I’d go ahead and write a post about three awesome apps I use and I think you should give a go as well.

Note: I don’t work for/with any of these companies. I just think they’ve produced apps that are genuinely helpful for brain health. Across the three apps, I currently spend $40 per year. Max I see that going to is $100/year, tremendous ROI for me.

Enough about me, let’s get to the apps.

First up, Brain.fm

https://www.brain.fm

Brain.fm logo (I’m already happy)

This app, brought to us by Adam Hewett and team, applies years of clinical neuroscience research to build instrumental and natural playlists (no lyrics) to help you get shit done, turn inward or wind down. They have some of their published research on their website, which is pretty cool.

I was introduced to Brain.fm only a week ago, and while I’ve only tried the Focus track so far (and only the web app), I’ve got to say I’m addicted. My theta waves have been jammin’!

I was superflowing Sunday-Monday, without a wink of sleep Sunday night. At times, I was creeping myself out, but I just kept going with it. I was in a hyper-productive flow state, where all I wanted to do was keep cranking out work. The level of audio self adjusts, frequencies vascillate and I feel like I need to join a drum circle somewhere sometime soon.

Now, I’m sure the Brain.fm would not endorse or condone that, nor did my wife, but I was IN THE ZONE, creating like a madman. When I show my wife this blog post, she will know with certainty that I am a madman. Any skepticism I may have had (“can’t I just do this on Spotify?”) was completely eradicated. No, I can’t just do this on Spotify and neither can you.

You must give them a try, and let me know your results. I see this app as having Viral potential, not network effects, but aggressive, experience-driven word of mouth. I’ve told no less than 20 people in the past 48 hours. Back to my wife, she’ll be hearing me pitch this for the next month no doubt.

Confession: I’m listening to Brain.fm right now, could be a long night…

Next up, Calm

https://www.brain.fm

focus on your breathing

I’ve been using calm.com since December 2015. It’s the only guided meditation app I’ve tried. My wife has also taken it up. I’ve bought it for a couple of friends and recommended it to many others.

Since December 2015, I’ve logged 30h 17m of mindfulness meditation in 155 sessions. I have my streaks and my dry periods, so my consistency is lacking. (e.g,. 18 sessions in February and so far only five sessions in March. Lack of consistency aside, I can’t imagine not having Calm to call on. Without it, my meditation practice would be much more irregular.

Calm has a bunch of 7-day tracks you can undertake: anxiety, sleep, focus, happiness, gratitude, self-esteem. I’ve completed all of those except for stress and sleep (b/c I don’t really sleep anymore now that I have Brain.fm…)

They also have open and timed meditations, body scans and a bunch of other themes for which you can download sessions ranging from 5–60 minutes. Their guide, Tamara Levin, has a very comforting voice and is quite good at getting me to focus on my breath.

Recently, they’ve launched bedtime stories. 30-minute stories read by different narrators. So far, I’ve listened to the Velveteen Rabbit (fell asleep halfway through, success) and The Ugly Duckling (made it all the way through). Cool way to unwind, and doesn’t have to be in bed.

Only thing I wish about Calm is that they had more 7-day tracks. I prefer the build up as compared to one of sessions. My way around this recently has been to just follow their Daily Calm, which is a featured session every day. Routine is easy (if you adhere to it, which I have not been doing): go into a room with a door, shut it, sit down, put your headphones in, open the app, click on the Daily Calm, and be mindful for 10 minutes. Then, go about your day or night. Thanks Calm team for putting out a well-designed, genuinely helpful product!

Closing it out with Dabble.me

https://www.brain.fm

Free private journal

My good friend and former Co-Founder Paul Arterburn is the builder of this free private journaling service app. You can read why he built it here. Paul’s a one-man band and he’s produced a very low friction app to adopt and begin writing.

At the beginning of 2017, I set myself a calendar reminder for 3x/week to journal. Dabble.me is how I’m sticking to that commitment. So far, I’ve penned 18 entries in 2017, compared to 14 in all of 2016.

my 3x/week calendar reminder

I get my reminder, go to dabble.me and click ‘Write’ in the top nav. It opens up a text editor in app and I’m off to writing my #journal (it has tags), which makes it nice and searchable. All entries are encrypted so I have peace of mind that Paul’s not going in their and reading my crazy thoughts.

In the app, I can also see a calendar view that has my entries that I can click right into should I want to revisit. Great tool that’s helping me stay steady with self-reflection. Thanks Paul!

To sum it all app, I’m fanboy’ing on these apps publicly with the hope that you’ll give them a shot. They’ve helped me out mentally for sure, and I am confident they have the potential to do so for you. They’re non-invasive, require a little bit of self-starting and continued effort (except brain.fm which is basically autopilot) and are really just out there in the vast world of apps to help people out.

If you have some brain apps you love, please share and tell me what you love about them.


Slack convo I had today about Brain.fm vs. Calm

@channel: check out brain.fm. I’m tripping off of it (not kidding).

2 replies
Paul Arterburn [1 day ago] 
@saaslender What are your thoughts between using Brain.fm and something like Calm? Replacement? Using both at separate times during the day?

They seem too similar to both exist in your daily routine. But obviously very different use cases. Personally, I feel really “calm” after 2 hours of flow…so it was somewhat meditative for me to use Brain.fm.

Brian Parks [13 hours ago] 
using both differently for sure. What I really like about brain.fm vs. Calm is its passivity. It’s much harder to proactively sit down and do a 10-minute Calm session (at least for me) as compared to just plugging in and letting Brain.fm do its thing. That said, I use them differently. I sit down with Calm to be mindful, to breathe in a quite room, for a short period of time. With brain.fm, the session is much longer and I go in with a different mindset (at least for the Focus aspect). I have not tried their relaxation/sleep tracks. Basically, Calm is proactive, guided, more micro-focused and much more time constrained (say 60 mins. max) while Brain.fm is passive, flowing, more macro and longer duration.

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How to Feed Your Inner Geek

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Step 1: Determine what kind of geek you are

I’m a business geek, not a product geek. I get more excited about business models than product roadmaps. I may have just confessed a sin in certain circles, but that’s the truth.

I’ve Founded and led a product company, Brandfolder. I did an ok job. You can read about my learnings as a first-time CEO here. I’m just not the guy to obsess over “product” or UX, pixels, architecture. I am definitely not a Product CEO.

I’m not the earliest adopter of consumer-facing products. I don’t pore over Product Hunt on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong: I like product, I just don’t love it. I know people who love it, and I’m just not them.

I like to create via business. I’m a Finance guy. I geek out on strategic finance: crunching out analysis in spreadsheets and thinking about business problems. I’ve been doing this for years, but it just occurred to me recently to really focus here and stop trying to be something I’m not, which I’ve done in the past.

For me, product is a hobby, it’s a nice to have. I like to tinker and mini-hack, brainstorm, provide input, evangelize and support. Building business(es) is a passion, something I must do. I love the ideation, the strategy, the putting together of the pieces, the results.

Step 2: Channel Your Geekiness

More recently I have founded my second company, Bigfoot Capital, a financial services firm focused on providing seed stage SaaS debt. I feel much more in my wheelhouse this go around and my excitement level is ramped up because I’m operating in my domain of expertise and passion.

It’s a full creative effort from product conceptualization and development (granted credit product, not software products), brand building and market development, customer targeting, acquisition and service, fundraising, risk management, the whole gamut of business building activities.

Many people would abhor spending their days doing what I’m doing to build this business, but I can truly say I’m excited to get up every day and start tackling a whole host of differing tasks, that require me to wear different hats. I get to be a chameleon in a specialized fashion. Now, I don’t love every single task, but I do the satisfaction of knowing the steps I am taking are business building steps. My business building steps.

Step 3: Geek Hard, Geek Often, Geek with Pride

Now that you’ve been self aware and done some channeling, keep it up. Create things that you’re excited about and put them out there for others to get value out of. My geek crushes: Tom Tunguz and Anand Sanwal. Consistently rigorous analyses, simply conveyed, and I can tell they both geek doing what they do.

So, what kind of geek are you? How do you geekshine (just made that up)? Who’s your geek crush?

Enterprise Sales Decision: Multi-year with Discounts vs. Single-year with expansions

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Not sure I agree with this, but it’s a viewpoint.

I ran across an interesting Quora question this afternoon (as I was supposed to be working on something else of course…). Jason M. Lemkin had, of course as well, already answered…

What are the typical discounts SaaS companies offer for a multi-year contract paid upfront for a 2, 3 & 5 year contract? (Five is a stretch.)

I decided to piggyback on Jason’s answer from a more analytical view.

Below my thoughts on the subject:

I think Founders and their sales execs. oftentimes operate w/o eyes wide open as to the true cash impacts of this type of decision. This is a decision pitting certainty (locked in cash/revenue) vs. opportunity (some cash received and potential to expand that).

Quantitatively, I like having a simple tool to call upon, so I built a model (Here’s the link to the Google Sheets file). You can play with this to truly see the cash impact of your decisions of single-year vs. multi-year and the discounts you choose to offer.

The model is lightweight/generalized and certainly not perfect (feel free to make it better). Holler with questions/comments. I can’t speak to the sensitivities holding up in Sheets as I built in Excel and ported over for sharing.

Core drivers:

  1. ACV discount offered (%),
  2. Annual ACV expansion achieved (%) — assuming you’re not going multi-year contract) and
  3. Discount rate used for present value calculations to put single year vs. multi-year side by side. Assumed weighted cost of capital is 25%, really for Seed/Series A stage.

Cash up front from discounting is not always better, sometimes it is as you will see in the model. Of course, it’s all a negotiation, but I hope this lightweight tool helps you out.

Qualitatively, here are some things to think about:

  • Can you deploy the upfront chunk of cash now into identified opportunities
  • Are you giving up future upside? likely…
  • What gives you better leverage on all fronts? More cash now and a long-term contract or retaining optionality
  • Do you just need to WIN THIS DAMN DEAL?

Here’s my answer on Quora — https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-typical-discounts-SaaS-companies-offer-for-a-multi-year-contract-paid-upfront-for-a-2-3-5-year-contract-Five-is-a-stretch/answer/Brian-Parks-1

Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks,

Brian

Denver SaaS Stallions Meetup #1

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it’s subtle, wouldn’t y0u say

We had the first gathering of our Denver Stallions crew last night. The early days of our community are very encouraging. We’ve seen some good engagement on Slack, and now we’ve take it offline to the real world, all in less than two weeks!

If you’ve stumbled upon this and wonder what the hell I’m talking about, we’ve started a community for folks involved in SaaS businesses who are interested in contributing to cross functional, peer-to-peer learning and development. Quick blurb here.

The Recap

11 of us convened at 5:30 and I was the first to leave at 7pm. I consider that a success! That’s really the hallmark of a good network, one that can thrive without you (the Stallion bus factor is very low at an early stage).

I had two deep conversations with entrepreneurs of a different cut. I’ll cover one of those here and the other in a following post.

Conversation #1 with Royce: Engineer turning bootstrapped entrepreneur

Royce is an engineer with deep product experience across multiple startups. One has exited to a large strategic (company with $$$), one is tying the web together and another I’m not so sure about.

He’s at a point in his life where he’s interested in expanding his skill domain beyond engineering into the more business-oriented facets of business building (he’s considering an MBA in fact).

He is scratching his own itch as a father of a toddler that needs a nanny (he and his wife both work). He’s built a niche B2C product that has achieved initial traction in the form of organic signups. He has also hired a market-facing resource who is a well-known blogger in his space to help spread word about his produce.

As far as I’m concerned, Royce, should he choose, is well on his way to having not only a product, but also a business, he can grow in the bootstrapped manner he desires, here’s why:

  1. He Knows (and embraces) his role: Royce knows his highest value delivery is as an engineer, and he has already made a move on his own to engage someone who can help him with distribution (I don’t think he really appreciated this, but from my perspective he is already selling the vision and collecting people as a Founder)
  2. He’s thinking about what he wants: Royce is thinking long-term (next 10 years) about what he wants. In fact, he asked me out of the gates what my 10-year plan is, which signifies to me where his head’s at. I’m not going to say he has a crystal clear vision 10 years down the road, but the fact that he’s planning at that scale is cool and evident in the decisions he’s making (e.g. not taking money that has been offered to him, considering pursuing an MBA).
  3. He’s aware of and interested in complementing his weaknesses: Royce has an innate sense that he’s not the one to go market his vision to the masses. He wants to focus on engineering and product vision and is confident in his ability to deliver on these core aspects of the business. He’s already found someone in the space to help him out via his own hustle (awesome!) and just by being self-aware and real and voicing what role he really wants to play in the business and not pretending like he’s got it all covered, Royce has put himself in a position to be helped (basically he has a very targeted ask: “I need help with distributing this product”).
  4. He’s done his homework: We chatted about the market and the dynamics at play, and guess what, Royce already has organic signups from big-time players (who could really like what he’s building…). He mentioned that he noticed some signups happening across geographic markets and with known domains. When I say noticed, I mean he hadn’t looked at the app in 6 months because of having a baby, a job and a move into a new house. These things happen.

What doesn’t just happen, and what I want Royce to know, is ORGANIC SIGNUPS IN THE HUNDREDS WHEN YOU’RE TOTALLY NOT PAYING ATTENTION.

Bottom line: Great conversation with Royce and happy to report that he was having a probably even greater conversation with Paul Arterburn when I checked out.

In the meantime, if you, or someone you know, could benefit from some nanny-sharing, sign up for Royce’s app at pareday.com

SaaS Reads

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http://saasreads.top/

A minimalist website with top SaaS articles, newsletters, podcast and reports from Nikhil Vimal.

My friend Paul Arterburn shared this great resource in our SaaS Stallions Slack Community (click that link to apply to join if you’re involved in SaaS in some capacity).

For me, it’s an alternative to finding these resources myself and using Pocket to read them later. My hope is that SaaS Reads can effectively be my Pocket for this content.

Nihkil’s project is currently doing quite well on Product Hunt. Upvote it here!

It’s fun to be at (and support) the YMCA

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I joined the Denver Metro YMCA about 16 months ago, right around the time I got married actually. There was no way I was going to slip into #dadbod (I’m not a dad) at age 33. I want to tell you a bit about my Y experience, and I hope it resonates with you and motivates you to support a wonderful organization that is completely dedicated to serving communities across our country.

If you want to skip my story, feel free click on the button below to make your tax-deductible donation to the Denver Metro YMCA. It’s very much appreciated by many!

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Why/How I Came to the Y

I joined the Downtown Denver Y to get back into the habit of regular exercise involving weights and cardio with a workout partner to whom I would be accountable.My good friend Nic Gray, a long-time Y member since his childhood, brought me in the door.

Nic is an Army vet (tank gunner) and tech CEO with a respectable commitment to physical fitness and a strong belief in its mental benefits. I had been a member at a yoga studio for a while, which was great (a bit spendy), but I was looking to diversify my exercise regimen into weights and cardio.

The Downtown Y had the right price (~1/2 what I was paying for yoga), the right location, smack dab downtown and the right product offering (exercise floor with lots of cardio and weight machines along with free weights, gym for basketball, dedicated classrooms for yoga and other programming and a locker room stocked with towels, steam room and sauna, all for $50.

What I’ve Gotten Out of It

Now, that I’m 16 months into my membership, let me tell you how’s it working out. I have been more committed to my physical fitness and my steam skills are top notch. I have Nic, the Y and myself to thank for that, but I really want to mention the other ancillary benefits I’ve received from the Y. So, here they are:

  • Community (the people)

    I’ve made a lot of new friends at the Y. I use the word ‘friend’ intentionally. These aren’t just acquaintances or passers-by. These are people I genuinely care about and who I feel care about and for me. My new friends range in age from 22 to 75 and come from all walks of life. I enjoy running across them when I’m at the Y, grabbing breakfast with them, and volunteering with them. They’re a new and diverse social group I didn’t have before.

  • Opportunity (to give back)

    About 9 months ago, I joined the Board of Advisors for the Downtown Y. For me, the Board is a vehicle providing me the opportunity to deliver impact both at the Y and well outside its walls. I also have a platform to engage others who can support the Y’s mission of offering programs and facilities that help healthy spirit, mind and body for all. I put for all in bold because I feel everyone should know that:

THE Y LITERALLY DOES NOT TURN ANYBODY AWAY. ALL ARE WELCOME AND THE Y FIGURES OUT HOW TO MAKE IT WORK. IT’S INCREDIBLE AND YOU CAN BE A PART OF SUPPORTING IT.

I am raising money for the Y’s annual campaign, so the Y and all of its supporters can continue delivering on this incredible mission. My goal is to raise $5,000. Will you help me get there? Just click the button below. It takes 30 seconds.

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  • Donation Details (what your money supports)

Your tax-deductible donation delivers real impact to thousands of people of all ages across Metro Denver. 0% of annual campaign dollars go to fund the administrative budget of the Y). All money is deployed into the community for awesome programs such as these:

  • LIVESTRONG at the YMCA – a 12-week exercise program and group talking sessions for cancer survivors, both those going through treatment currently and those who had made it through
  • Parkinson’ Disease Program – Helping those with Parkinson’s maintain muscle mobility and flexibility
  • Diabetes Prevention Program – Providing education and programming to combat the rampant rise of diabetes in our communities
  • Membership Scholarships – Remember, the Y turns nobody away. They deliver on that promise by providing membership scholarships for those who cannot afford to pay for a membership, so awesome.
  • Joy in Purpose (doing good)

I have an ongoing internal struggle around not delivering enough impact in the world. My wife is a teacher, so we know she’s a saint who helps people, but what about me? I’m a Finance guy who has done some volunteering and generally aims to help people out, but I lack regularity. And for some strange reason, finding volunteer opportunities has proven difficult (maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough).

Well, now I don’t really have to look at all, I just have to show up and sign up. The Y’s consistently helping out in a multitude of ways, and I now have confidence that I’ll be delivering regular impact right alongside it. If you want to get involved as a volunteer, check out the Y’s volunteer opportunities. That link’s only for Denver, but you can get nationwide or other localized opportunities as well. Just Google “YMCA volunteer opportunities.

Thanks for your support,

Brian