About Me

Philip Cortes Co-Founded Meeteor.com.

Dual MBA/MA from UPenn.

Avid Ideologist.

This blog is my long winded startup post-mortem. 




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Talent Acquisitions

The NYT published an article yesterday on the wave of startup acquisitions being conducted simply to acquire the talent at the company.  

According to the Times, "companies like Facebook, Google and Zynga are so hungry for the best talent that they are buying start-ups to get their founders and engineers — and then jettisoning their products."

Why this may be a good move:

I know in the case of hotpotato, Facebook had a vision similar to Justin Shaffer's, and they knew that he and his team were the right people to execute on that vision.  HotPotato's product may not have been a perfect fit in its current iteration for the Facebook platform, so they just gave the team the resources and the venue from which to execute on their vision relentlessly.  

Why this might be a disaster:

Each individual at a startup is motivated by different intrinsic rewards of the job - it may be that they enjoy working in tight collaborative teams that iterate quickly.  It may be that they enjoy the problems startups face, and the adventure this represents.   By acquiring startups, companies are assuming that all of these intrinsic motivations will continue to be fulfilled, or at least placated by the money.  The problem is that money doesn't always make up for a reduction in intrinsic motivation for an employee, oftentimes it even has the opposite effect.  (Example: Churn rates for charities/non-profit organizations go up when they decide to pay their volunteers, instead of keeping the work pro-bono.  Once a monetary value is placed on work, people start to evaluate it extrinsically and not intrinsically).

Even for non-talent focused acquisitions, it's important to properly evaluate the motivations for the individuals you're hiring.  I've heard time and again that founders of acquired companies are simply  bidding their time to vest into their options - once those options grant, they're gone.   Properly evaluating the intrinsic motivations of the people you're acquiring may indeed cost Facebook, Zynga, and Google time, but it would ultimately save them a lot of money, both at the time of acquisition, but also in the long term as the team they acquire will stick around longer, and continue to innovate & excute at the same pace. 




Personality Impact on (Start-Up) Team Performance

So we’ve been looking into the “science of rapport” here at Meeteor, and thought we’d share some of our findings.  Everyone knows that personality has to have some form of impact on group effectiveness, but we wanted to dig into it a bit more.   We wanted to know what personality traits mattered, and what impact they had, specifically, on group cohesion and effectiveness.

 As most business school students would know, researchers have concluded that there are five basic personality traits (called the “Big Five”) that are common to *all* humans across cultures.    Those are; Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, Emotional Stability, and Openness to Experience.    

What we were curious about at Meeteor is the degree to which the Big Five can help predict team cohesion and proficiency.  The literature has slightly conflicting results, which we detail below :

Extraversion :   [Conclusion: No Correlation]

Recent findings have concluded that there is no relationship between the average extroversion of a team, and its performance.  Furtheremore, contrary with the notion that highly extroverted members would be complimented by lower extraverted members, the relationship between variability in team extraversion and team performance was also negligible.   

Conscientiousness:  [Conclusion: Positive Correlation]

Studies proved that the elevation of conscientiousness in a team was related to team performance.  Studies also found that variability in conscientiousness was negatives related to team performance, leading us to conclude that the more similar team members are the better their teams performance.  Therefore, it’s best to have a team with a high level of average conscientiousness with little variability between members.

Agreeableness: [Conclusion: Positive Correlation] 

Studies have found that there is a positive correlation between agreeableness and team performance, and that one disagreeable member can indeed disrupt the social harmony of the team.    There’s thus a negative relationship between variability in agreeableness and team performance – the more similar team members are in their agreeableness, the better they will perform. 

Emotional Stability:  [Conclusion: Variability in team may be a factor.  No correlation otherwise.  ]

Overall findings were that there is no relationship between emotional stability and overall team performance.  One study did find that in student teams, specifically, the more similar the group is in emotional stability, the better their performance. 

Openness to Experience:  [Conclusion: No Correlation]

We found no correlation between openness to experience and team performance.    


If you’re networking to build a team, you may want to keep the above personality traits in consideration..... 


Sources : 

Special thanks to Adam Grant  for his help in researching this issue!

Suzanne T. Bell, "Deep Level Composition Variables as Predictors of Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis" (Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 92, No3.  2007), pp 595-615.

Miranda Peeters, Harrie Van Tuijl, Christel Rutte, Isabelle Reymen, "Personality and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis" (European Journal of Personality, May 2006), pp 377-396.


Bruce Barry and Greg Stewart, "Composition, Process and Performance in Self-Managed Groups: The Role of Personality" (Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 82, No. 1, 1997), pp 62-78.

Murray Barrick, Greg Stewart, Mitchell Neubert, Michael Mount,  "Relating Member Ability and Personality to Work-Team Processes and Team Effectiveness" (Journal of Applied Psychology Vol. 83, No. 3, 1998), pp 377-391.


Breakdown of Ad Revenue Generated / Employee

Found this and thought it was pretty interesting....Craigslist is just so simple, and continues to be so relevant. 



There's something to be said about finding a societal need, and fulfilling it in the most simple (read: less overhead) manner.

Cheers Craigslist!




Mr. Yunnus' Revolution - Microfinance and Its Many Iterations

Mr. Yunnus sure was onto something when he founded the Grameen Bank, the world’s first microfinance institution.  The concept that micro loans could have a significant impact on the well being and growth of a community was truly transformative, and many business models have since sprung from his first initiative.  Although Grameen founded microfinance it was Kiva that digitized the model, bringing peer to peer (P2P) lending to the 21st century. 

Other business models then built on both Grameen and Kiva’s revolutionary adaptations of microfinance, one of which was peer to peer credit loans.  On such adaptation is Vittana – a peer to peer lending platform focused on providing loans to students in developing countries.   I recently had the chance to have dinner with Mora Mcleon from the Africa America Institute, and she made an astute observation....Microfinance is a fantastic model for providing capital to communities seeking to develop, but in order for those communities to truly rise out of poverty, it is important to increase the level and depth of education.  The Africa America Insitute focuses on doing just that – providing capital to students in Africa seeking a higher education in business. What Vittana has done successfully, is adapted the micro lending model to a part of society that is usually forgotten as we view it as a public good – education.  

I would argue that loans to both micro enterprises AND education is necessary for the alleviation of poverty, and that both models are making great strides to simplifying the way individuals in the developing world can help. 

For those of us who believe that more should be done to tackle problems within our own country before we focus on the developing world, I have good news. LendingClub.com just scored 24.5m last week from Morganthaler, Norwest and Canaan.   This platform seeks to simplify the process through which individuals can loan money to one another, for anything.  We have Mr. Yunnus to thank for this revolution in lending, and I sure hope we carry this momentum forward.  


The Keyboard Is Overrated. There, I Said It. 

All this iPad discussion around it being a product focused solely on "consumption" of media has got me thinking....The QWERTY keyboard,  whether it's on an iPad or my laptop, is completely overrated.  I have been typing since the days of Apple IIe (oh Logowriter, how I miss thee) - and I just can't stand keyboards.  Sure, I can type 90 WPM, but that's with some serious focus, and reading pre-written text.   Let's face it, the problem doesn't lie with Apple, but rather with the tools we use to input data - the QWERTY keyboard and mouse were once novel, but their expiration is long overdue. 

Potential Breakthroughs : 

So I did some searching on the web, and unfortunately the days of cybernetics aren't quite here.  We have gotten monkeys to control robotic arms via chips implanted into their brains....which is pretty sweet, but not due for human testing for quite some time...(see more here)    

Conversely, Wash U has completed some interesting research reading brain waves (read: less intrusive), and apparently humans can learn to control video games after a few hours of training.  (see more here)

MIT, inspired from the Minority Report, has come up with a “glove mouse.”  (Didn’t Nintendo come up with that back in the day?  Anyways…)   You can see the glove mouse in action here – I’m not super impressed but it’s getting closer.  WE have to learn to interact with computers, media, and everything we “consume” and “produce” differently, and hopefully these are small steps in the right direction.

Far and away the most impressive technology I have found (if we can call it that), was invented by a company called Swype.   You might have seen their technology on the new Samsung phone commercials – they’ve created a platform where you simply draw a line between letters in a word, and they recognize what word it is that you’re trying to “swype” automatically.   You simply put your finger down on the first letter, and keep drawing a line around the keyboard, going from letter to letter, without lifting your finger until you’re done with the word.  Swype automatically recognizes what word it is that you wanted to type and enters it – apparently it’s pretty easy to get a hang of.   


All of these new technologies are going to have a hard time replacing the keyboard, it’s become part of how everyone learns to interact with the world, even at a young age.  (I was typing on a IIe by the time I was 7….)  The key to any of these new technologies is the adoption of young people – if they make it their defacto method of inputting data, then the world will change accordingly.

Not sure a three year old would be open to brain implants though….we might have to deal with Glove Mouse and Swype for now…