opinion

Let’s write about nothing for a second. Just nothing. No thing. Not a single thing. No themes, no story’s, no internal message. The porpuse of this text itself is pointless. Pointless means ‘without a point.’ Consequently this means that this text has no point. Well, that’s unsurpring considering that I’m writing about nothing.

Nothing = pointless?

If pointless things are things which have no point, does that mean a ball is pointless? A ball is spherical. A sphere has no points. What an interestingly uninteresting point I seem to have found.

If this text itself is pointless, which we already established, I would argue that if this text were a physical object, it would an object with a smooth shape. Surely, this text wouldn’t be a cube, since cubes have corners. And these corners are quite sharp, pointy.

Why is it so hard to write about nothing?
Well, really every word has a meaning, and a text is just a collection of words. Words which individually have meaning.
Imagine giving a monkey a tablet or a phone. Not just any tablet for phone. A tablet for phone with autocorrective features when spelling words. This monkey would then probably play around with the funny text screen for a while. At some point the monkey would have hit random letters in an order which would have produced one or more words.
As we previously establish these words would have a meaning, since every word has a meaning. Surely the monkeys’ text would make sense, in some way or another. But the interpreted meaning would definitely not be the intended message of the monkey. The intended message would probably have been something closer to ‘bananas’ or a rise of some planet or similar.

Is it impossible to write nothing?

Everything means something, except for complete gibberish. Right? Let’s try:

nijogsng nagi isd jasd jghw2wpd kswjnr jqqhdh kdjdmjdnf kfjdf j fhagaj p2lr jkfjg0 01.

Well that line felt quite meaningless. I simply hit random buttons so it must be meaningless right? Maybe not. I remembered to hit the spacebar multiple times. I seemed to hit the ‘j’ key more often than ‘u’ for example. So this output wasn’t truly random. And really, what is truly random?

This post is also available in audio-form.

A few months ago, I was lucky to be a witness of the rise and fall of a local coffee-subscription service. The concept was pretty simple: You pay a monthly fee of some 50 DKK (~8 USD) and receive a cup of coffee a day from your local barista.

The target consumer would be a hard-working 20-something person walking to their workplace in central Aarhus every day. Then, during their daily commute, they would be able to pick up their usual morning-coffee. All in all, helping them save a little money since they would buy a cup a day anyway and this option would be cheaper. The app would be supporting the barista by stabilizing their income stream in the form of subscriptions. At least this seemed like a concept that would make sense.

However, the business side turned out to be fallible.

Firstly, let’s look at what worked:

More users = more growth!

My introduction to this service came from a friend of mine. Someday, late summer, my classmate walked in with a latte in his hand and a complacent smile on his face.
“Dude, check out this coffee. I got it for free.”
This sparked my interest of course, so I asked him about this. He told me about the app, and an invite-a-friend-feature which gave a free week of membership to both you and the person you invited. Classic user-acquisition strategy for an online-platform, I thought.

The usual caveat of a ‘free trial’ is that it really isn’t free. You always give something in return, whether that be your credit card information or phone number. Basically, something to keep a hold of you once the trial ends, or to turn you into a sales lead.

-Coffee pal wasn’t like that.

Registering was as simple as giving an email. No credit card. The whole app was completely non-binding. Once I discovered that fact, I had to check it out. A guy invited me - I invited another guy, and within minutes I had 14 days worth of coffee. After a few days, hundreds of high school students had heard of the app and we were all restless to get a nice hot, free coffee.

Upon reading this, it should feel wrong to you. If you haven’t noticed the problem yet, let me explain:

Who cares about economics?

Lets look at this scenario at a simple level:

I registered myself, giving away:

  • An email address, some 0’s and 1’s (more or less free)

I received:

  • Coffee, a real physical product

The problem:

  • Nothing stopping me from creating multiple users, expanding my coffee-consumption to infinite levels!
  • Well, nothing except from ethics

A guy even went as far as to register with so many fake emails, that he could get free coffee every day for a year. A year! Imagine the guy on the other end paying for it all!

We’ve all probably heard it before: Grow your business first, then later, money will come. And let’s be honest. giving away free stuff works really well for growth.

But unfortunately, eventually, someone is going to pay for something. In this story it ended about a week later, when we entered a local cafe, asking for a free coffee with our app as usual. Though this time, we were told that the cafe had left the membership and would like us to stop coming around asking for free coffee.

Money, Money, Money

The lesson to learn from this story is very simple, and also very boring:

Think about revenue. It’s important.

It can be tempting ignore business thoughts and focus on scaling, but the business model is really the core of the business. Screw it up and you’ll be right back where you began. Or worse, you’ll be like the creator of this app: completely broke (and probably in debt).

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