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Welcome to @embot.blog! This is an archive of things I’ve learned exploring the worlds of movies and technology over the last 20 years. I like to think of myself as a modern-day Alexander von Humboldt, the 18th-century nature researcher, and explorer who went to parts unknown to better understand and document the unseen systems that underpin our experiences of the natural world. I’ve approached my career similarly - an intrepid explorer determined to understand the unseen systems that underpin collaborative work environments and identify what makes things tick.
The biggest differentiators between companies that succeed and those that don’t are these unseen systems, otherwise known as Operations. Companies fail for one of three reasons - because they have a lousy product, because they have intense competition, or because they can’t operate. I know a little about one and two, but my true expertise is in the third. It also happens to be the most important - you can operate into building better products, and you can out-operate intense competition and beat them. On the flip side, even if a company has outstanding products and no competition, they cap their success by operating ineffectively, burning through cash and people on the road to average.
Over the last twenty-ish years, I’ve had the opportunity to work as the lieutenant to titans across movies and tech, and those with titan ambitions. I’ve been in “the room where it happens”, over and over again, as we’ve developed major movies and TV shows like The Chronicles of Narnia, Prometheus, and Breaking Bad, and iconic products like Instagram. I’ve seen firsthand how to manage movie sets of thousands of people and how to build a platform for billions of users. I’ve worked closely with great operators, building generation-defining businesses. And I’ve worked alongside ones who’ve tragically mismanaged a promising idea into the ground. I’ve learned that operating well is a company’s single-most competitive advantage and, along the way, I’ve developed strong opinions on what to do (and, in many cases, what not to do).
I won’t be writing about the iconic people I’ve worked with - I have too much respect and admiration for them and the incredibly difficult jobs they have as creatives, founders, and CEOs. But I will share what I’ve learned, the frameworks I’ve discovered and applied, the problems I’ve been part of solving, and how we solved them. Eventually, I want to productize these learnings into a system that can operate a company better than a person can. But, for now, I’m going to start by writing about and sharing them for the founders and CEOs who don’t have an @embot, and the people who work with them. I hope I can help you operate your most worthy and outlandish ideas into successful endeavors.