My guest today is Michael Mayer, the co-founder and CEO of Bottomless. Here’s how the company works: After signing up with a subscription, you receive a coffee scale to sit on your kitchen counter. The scale uses weight to measure how much coffee you have at home, and once the bag is almost empty, a new bag of coffee is automatically sent to you. Right now, Bottomless is a coffee company. But it becomes much more interesting once you think about items in your kitchen that could sit on a scale and be replenished whenever an item is low. Things like peanuts, tea, and cereal. Over time, Bottomless learns your coffee preferences and sends you personalized selections.
I’ve been following Michael for a few years now. For years, I followed his pseudonymous accounts on Twitter, and didn’t even know who he was. This episode explores business from a variety of angles. Michael talks about how he thinks about marketing at bottomless, and the accumulating advantages that drive the company. He also talks about what he learned at YCombinator, why startups that move fast have such an advantage, and how to think about execution in a fast-growing company. Five years ago, Michael was a dish washer. Then he worked at Nike before receiving funding from YCombinator and starting Bottomless. Please enjoy my conversation with Michael Mayer.
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2:05 The inspiration behind Bottomless. How Michael reformulated coffee supply and demand as an information problem. How advances in computing and the internet are really advances in legibility.
08:18 The original vision Michael brought to Y Combinator. Bottomless’ marketing plan. Why to buy fresh coffee and grind yourself.
15:50- How Michael’s tech and coffee journey are connected. How to find luxury in inexpensive packages. How many luxuries are just resource intensive.
22:23- What surprised Michael about working with Y Combinator. How the thinking needed in a company gets baked in with the first vector, but extreme execution is what makes success.
26:57- How execution informs Michael’s strategy. Why Bottomless and David strategize on Sunday and execute the rest of the week. How making more decisions more quickly is better than making perfect decisions slowly.
30:30 Michael’s 10-minute interview to get into Y Combinator. When to think, and when to act in your business. Why mistakes are penalized in school, but some of the best things that can happen in life.
37:09 Why to write pseudonymously. What Michael has learned from Paul Graham. Why Bottomless has outsourced a lot of marketing recently. Michael’s experience watching product development while working at Nike.
46:35 Why Michael believes the best people to be doing product development are also doing the operations and customer support. Why status and hierarchy get in the way of running a good business. Why market research should be satisfied by your customer service.