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Reaching Your Peak and Maintaining Vision

On 22, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Productivity | By Daniel Kao

In the past, I’ve written about how to get through unproductive slumps in your days, and how to maintain vision over many days.

Today I’m going to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum: What happens after you achieve something so great and are unable to top it?

Imagine being an astronaut who was part of the Apollo program in the 1960s. After preparing years for your great space expedition, it finally happens. You take a trip to the moon, see the famous view of the earth as a small blue marble with your own eyes, collect some samples form the surface of the moon, and then return home to earth.

How do you reintegrate back into what life was before after such an experience? It’s a general challenge for people who reach the top of their game to maintain vision and continue on. We find that many athletes, astronauts, entrepreneurs, actors, and otherwise aren’t always satisfied after their accomplishments. They’ve accomplished their impossible life dream, but something doesn’t sit right. Some of them find themselves depressed, lost, and unfulfilled.

You may not have gone to the moon or sold a company for millions of dollars, but I’ve found that to the extent you’ve set your dreams is the extent that achieving dreams will produce this effect.

It’s easy to think that you’ll be happy after you achieve x or y, and then spend years working to get there, only to find that reaching that point leaves you still unsatisfied.

The point isn’t to find satisfaction in the achievement of your dreams, but to be satisfied as you live on a daily basis.

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Uncovering Secrets – Mindsets Toward Building the Future

On 17, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

In his most recent book, Peter Thiel talks about secrets. Secrets in the sense of truths that have not yet been discovered that will help the human condition. These are secrets that, once discovered, will give a lucky researcher or entrepreneur the ability to capitalize on their secret.

It’s easy to believe that there are no more secrets in the world, that what we see and experience on a daily basis is about as good as it gets. But as Moore’s law (that processing power for the same price point doubles every 18 months) suggests, technology, and innovation as a result, will only increase at an exponential rate.

People who believe that there are no more secrets to be discovered find themselves in a fixed perspective when it comes to the world. They do not see how things can get better, and so they don’t try to improve them. Most people fall into this category, as they simply do as their told and build their life in the constructs of today and not for what the future will be.

Next, you find people who believe that society is not a static construct, and that innovation is happening incrementally. These people will generally look at the past, and linearly extrapolate what has happened in the past into what will happen in the future. These people usually will think in terms of how much improvement has happened between yesterday and today, and predict that tomorrow will increase the same amount.

Last, and most uncommon, you find the people who seem to be completely out of their mind, but these are the people who truly understand exponential thinking and looking to the future. These people understand that the future will be full of things that are completely unimaginable in the present, and that preparing for the future is not merely adding previous rates of change. These are the people that will dig for the secrets, and test what they hypothesize.

Think about this: how many people today sit around discussing the billion dollar ideas of the present, and dream about how they wish that they were the ones to have come up with these ideas? How many people look back at the markets 20 years ago and introspect on how easy it would have been to start a company at that time? Unfortunately, most people do this.

They do this in a way where they completely ignore the present, and the mass amount of secrets still yet to be uncovered. I bet that in 20 years people will be looking back at the 2010s as such an easy time to start companies and build their ideas.

Here’s a secret: there are still infinite amounts of secrets to uncover.

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No Comments

In Podcast

By Daniel Kao

BrightEyes Podcast Episode 1 – Tiffany Stone

On 13, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Podcast | By Daniel Kao

I’m extremely excited to announce something that I have been working on for the past couple of weeks.

Ever since I started diving into the world of podcasts about a year ago, I’ve wondered what it would be like to host my own.

As a team member of BrightEyes, a study tour program that provides undergraduates at UCSD with the opportunity to experience an industry firsthand, I’ve decided to leverage the BrightEyes platform for my podcast. In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing one of my mentors and the founder of BrightEyes herself.

Tiffany is the founder of BrightEyes, Marketing Coordinator at Sols, UCSD Alumni, among many other things.

The BrightEyes Podcast is the official podcast for BrightEyes. Tune in every month for a new podcast! The podcast features various individuals part of the BrightEyes community. BrightEyes team member, Daniel Kao, will be joined by founders, investors and various industry professionals to chat about college to real world transition, career development, industry trends and startups. Visit our site ( to learn more about the program and what’s next!

Give this podcast a listen, and feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments!



Show Notes and References

  • Tiffany’s background (2:09)
  • How Tiffany began exploring careers in college (3:30)
  • Tiffany’s trip to New York and how that impacted her career (5:18)
  • How do you reach out to professionals? (7:02)
  • How did BrightEyes get started? What were the challenges in the beginning? (8:56)
  • The two years of BrightEyes tours, and the difference between them (11:52)
  • Where BrightEyes is headed in the future (15:45)
  • Self-awareness and the power of knowing yourself (17:52)
  • Networking is about adding value and building a relationship (21:05)
  • What it’s like to be on the mentor side of the relationship, and why Tiffany does BrightEyes (23:35)
  • What is it like to be a female in a very male dominated industry? (25:30)
  • What does success mean to you? (28:29)
  • What advice would you give your 10 year younger self? (31:10)
  • What daily routines are crucial to your life? (31:52)
  • Find out more about Tiffany @tiffanydstone,
  • Find out more about BrightEyes @brightEyes_news,

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The Psychology of Pitching

On 10, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

I used to be the shortest, weakest, and most annoying kid on the planet. I was extremely socially awkward.

I had no idea how to talk to anyone. Most of my attempts to make friends in elementary school turned sour, and it’s a miracle that most of my closest friends ever became friends with me. In fact, most of my childhood friendships started out with a great deal of conflict.

I never naturally picked up social cues, which has driven me to pay much closer attention in recent years, and construct frameworks for how I can present myself and interact in different social and professional situations.

In my years spent thinking about social constructs and how people interact with each other, I’ve found that time and time again it boils down to the psychology of how people see themselves and others, and how that influences the way that they think.

I’ve observed many things through people watching. Whether it be a teacher in a classroom, a family in a restaurant, or a boyfriend and girlfriend talking to each other in a cafe, it’s extremely fascinating to pick up on the body language, verbal language, and other cues that people give each other.

And as I’ve dived deeper into the world of startups, venture capital, and business in general, one aspect of social interaction that I’ve been studying more is the art of pitching.

Pitching is a very unique art for a number of reasons.

  1. Pitching is always about one party winning the other party over to their side to accomplish what they want. In other words, at the end of a pitch, either the salesman gets their way or the candidate gets their way. The best way to do this is by convincing the other party to get on your side, so that you both get what you want.
  2. There are many different approaches to convincing the other party to join your side, many of which are effective, and others extremely detrimental.
  3. There are also many defense mechanisms that people being pitched to will use in an attempt to maintain power.
  4. Pitching is an emotional appeal presented as a logical proposal.
  5. Pitching is an art loaded with underlying psychology, power conflicts, etc. that is difficult to observe.

Recently, in working on my own startup, my cofounder and I were introduced by Chase Jarvis to a book titled Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff.

The book talks in detail about many of the different frames when it comes to pitching and negotiation, and gives specific examples of how these frames come into play during a negotiation.

As I’ve begun implementing many of the tactics that Klaff mentions, here are my key takeaways.

  1. It is easier to do a pitch from a place of higher status. People want what they can’t have or what is moving away from them. If you pitch by begging and being needy, you put yourself in a beta position and are easily disregarded. However, if you explain that there are many people willing to take your deal, and that you only have a small window of time, they become much more interested and willing to negotiate.
  2. Don’t get bogged down into the details during the pitch. The analyst frame will suck all the energy out of the pitch, and turn it into a very dry and dead pitch session.
  3. Prize what you have to offer, add scarcity to make an offer more appealing to your prospects. Prizing can even mean limiting the amount of time you spend pitching, in order to communicate that you are in high demand and working with you will be valuable.

Those simple principles are enough to make any pitch a million times better.

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Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Take Risks

On 06, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

It’s generally believed for entrepreneurship to be a risky endeavor. After all, 9 out of 10 startups fail and are never heard from again.

I’d like to suggest the opposite.

Startups are risky, but successful entrepreneurs are not risk-tolerant, they’re risk-adverse. Startups have way too many moving parts and challenges for someone to simply take a risk and hope they get lucky. If you simply take risks, you’re bound to fail.

Successful entrepreneurs take the time to think about all the different moving parts, and know how to mitigate the risks.

The naive entrepreneur simply builds a product and launches it hoping that people will come to them and begin using their product. The successful entrepreneur, more often than not, already has done market research and knows exactly how many people will use his product before even launching it.

And when it comes to dealing with the unknown, they have an ability to calculate exactly what the risk is, and understand all the implications of the risks. Successful entrepreneurs might launch things as a test, but often already have plans for what to do in the likely case that their experiment fails.

It’s easy to think of successful entrepreneurs as people who just got lucky and made it, but it’s rarely the case that one swing knocks the ball out of the park.

If being an entrepreneur isn’t about taking risks, it leads to the conclusion that entrepreneurship can be learned and systematically achieved.

It boils down to an understanding of your product and of the market that you are in. If you truly love your product and have taken the time to get to know your customer and the space you are in, you’ll be able to quickly pinpoint your customer’s dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

So don’t just take a huge risk. Think it through, test it, but be unapologetically brave and don’t second guess yourself.

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Listening to Other People’s Ideas

On 01, Oct 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

The other day, a friend pitched me his idea for a startup.

In fact, I hear many ideas from friends all the time. Some of them are great ideas, others not so much. But in the spirit of being truly helpful, I’ll never outright state that an idea is a “good” idea or a “bad” idea. It’s much more helpful to analyze and take a stab at predicting challenges and strengths of that particular idea.

In my experience, this are the most recurring challenges that come up in other people’s ideas.

  • Not understanding the difference between features and value – I’ve found that many people often think of products or services with a ton of features without really thinking about what value it adds to the customer. For example, a feature for a service can be a lower price, faster process, etc while the value is something along the lines of helping people be more efficient, introducing them to the people they want to meet, etc. When looking at a product or service from the angle of understanding value, you can much better identify your target audience and segment the market.
  • Not using the pay-certainty technique – In order for a business to be sustainable, it has to be profitable. (unless you’re doing a labor of love out of the goodness of your heart) Profitability is a big challenge, especially in a world where everything is accessible online and online is free. As Ramit coaches, the pay certainty technique is nothing more than looking at your audience and asking 1. does this person have the willingness to pay and 2. does this person have the ability to pay. Those two questions, combined with pricing psychology and market size determines how much revenue and profit an idea can generate.
  • Not knowing why they are uniquely equipped to solve this problem – Anyone can come up with an idea for a product. I think of multiple ideas everyday. But the reason I don’t pursue 99% of my ideas is that I know that someone else can do it better or someone else is doing it better. In order to build a successful business or product, it helps for the entrepreneur to have the right credentials, meaning the combination of experiences, connections, or otherwise that will propel them to success.
  • Not being practical enough and knowing how to test their ideas – Generally, I have not found that people have a hard time dreaming big enough for the vision of the endeavor. However, much more common is not being practical on a day to day basis and focusing on the things that truly matter. There are a million different things that startups can spend their time on, but there are very few things that ultimately is worth a startup’s time. The core thing that a successful startup needs to do extremely well is building a product that adds immense value to the customer. I like to ask myself what I’m doing on a regular basis improves the customer’s experience.
  • Not being clear with what they want – Fuzzy goals breeds fuzzy results. If you aren’t clear with exactly what market you want to be in, exactly what value you’re adding, and exactly how you want to grow, it’s hard to know which opportunities to take when they present themselves. It’s easy to get caught up doing a million different things that don’t really matter, and it helps to identify the exact things and opportunities that a company will take before they even present themselves.
  • Not understanding the challenges of scale – There are many things that don’t scale. For example, personally emailing every single customer that buys your product. This may be okay in the beginning, but quickly begin consuming way too much of your time as your product becomes more popular. Knowing how and when to scale is crucial to tapping into exponential growth.

Just a couple thoughts. Many of these are challenges of my own, and as I ask others these questions, it often helps me solidify the answers when it comes to my own ventures.

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