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AI Summer, Startup Fundraising, E-Commerce Boom, and Going to the Moon

Tell your LLM to take a deep breathe for better results (for real)

Happy Monday 👋

Autumn is here in all its glory. It's been a minute since I last reached out. I've been dedicating my efforts to supporting B2B2C founders as they navigate the journey from 0 to 1. More on what that’s all about later note…

In this edition, we'll be digging into:

  1. AI Summer + Questions for your business and role

  2. Startup Fundraising

  3. Future of Work AI Report

  4. E-commerce + Going Full Ham on Shoppertainment

  5. A few interesting links

AI Summer Was Something Else… but what’s next?

During the AI boom, it was a real challenge totally absurd. The relentless influx of new research papers and developments felt like a never-ending marathon. As things settled, a pattern emerged: corporations seamlessly incorporated Chat-GPT wrappers into their existing products, leveraging their mature offerings and robust customer bases (data), that effectively blocked early-stage startup challengers. The genuine standout successes were those who approached the market with novel, creative solutions—something established players either couldn't or chose not to do because of their entrenched business models.

How did your experiments with Chat-GPT and AI fare?

Following the initial tsunami of disruption panic that swept through every sector, we're now encountering the authentic ripples that could signify the sunset of traditional google search.

Earlier this morning, Stackoverflow laid off 28% of staff after traffic had decreased by 50% over the last 3 years. Why? Developers have opted into using ChatGPT and GitHub CoPilot. This is the second round of layoffs within the last 6 months. Graph below

Google is massive, and doubt they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. However, the primary question I'd like to present to you, your role, and your business isn't just about contemplating what a direct competitor, a fledgling startup, or an AI-powered challenger might do. Instead, explore how you would thrive in a landscape with 10k new competitors, where customers have an abundance of options at their fingertips. What does your offering and business model look like? What significance do redefined partnerships have within your business?

Stack Overflow was easy to spot, but it appears that the majority of businesses have undergone rounds of layoffs, prominently slapped AI on their hero h1 homepage, integrated a basic Chat-GPT wrappers into their existing product suites, and have now settled into a phase of cruise control, at least for the time being. These “mid AI cruise control” companies are ripe for startup disruption. Taking a closer look, you'll find that the established companies at the forefront of AI innovation, such as Adobe with design, are the ones carrying the heaviest risk of disruption.

I might be wrong, but predicting a future with a substantially larger pool of competitors for each vertical (100x), far smaller companies, new innovative pricing structures, and unique collaborations could lead to significant benefits for customers, ultimately delivering the best possible solutions for them.

Startup Fundraising

In the midst of layoffs and startups winding down, checks are still being signed and cash is finding it’s way. Especially at Pre-seed. Valuations and trends below:


  • $7.5M median valuation cap with $466K raised

  • Drifted slightly downward over the last 60 days, but still the most active part of the venture market

𝗣𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝗲𝗲𝗱

  • $3.1M raised on a $14.4M pre-money valuation

  • Implied valuation increase of 1.9x from pre-seed

  • Median valuations are now close to 2021 levels, though number of rounds is far below peak

𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗔

  • $10.7M raised on a $39M valuation

  • 2.7x jump from Seed valuation

  • Basically flat from Q2

𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗕

  • $20.5M on $85M valuation

  • 2.2x jump from Series A

  • Actually a little decline from Q2

Future of Work

LinkedIn released a quarterly report that breaks down the intersection of AI and the world of work:

GAI (Generative AI) is taking off

LinkedIn members around the globe are going ape adding AI skills to their profiles than ever before. Top 5 LinkedIn Profile skill listing ranked by country below:

  1. Singapore: 20x

  2. Finland: 16x

  3. Ireland: 15x

  4. India: 14x

  5. Canada: 13x

Are individuals, or companies placing a higher importance on AI within the workplace?

Better Prompts by telling the LLM to take it’s time?

Check out this mini hack for AI prompting. If you want to improve LLM outputs, include this:

“Take a deep breath and work on this problem step by step"

Prompt for chatGPT

What? Google's most recent paper demonstrates a nutty 71% boost in accuracy when you treat your LLM with patience. [Link]


🔸 TikTok is Going Full Ham on Shoppertainment

TikTok is gearing up to challenge giants like Shopify and Amazon, and surprisingly, most North Americans are completely unaware. If you're involved in online retail, whether as a store owner or service provider, this is something you won't want to overlook. TikTok is making a big push for Xmas.

  • TikTop = shopping app. QVC to the moon!!! TikTok wants to replace Amazon as the goto destination for shopping. This isn't just a minor effort; it's a substantial initiative, and from my standpoint, they're staking their future on it. At first glance, it might appear ambitious or unimaginable. However, if you dissect other apps like SheIn (product, production, local factories, price, speed), and pair that with distribution (DAU + time on app), you can begin to envision the potential for explosive growth.

  • TikTok Shop built the entire ecom shop experience. This isn’t a lightweight UI wrapper with buy now and a 3rd party Shopify App. It’s a standalone shop with inventory, in-app influencer affiliate management, post purchase support, etc.. most of what you see within Shopify. It’s impressive, and TikTok ships.

  • They have a huge ass army building a juggernaut. Linkedin reports over 2k active employees related to ecommerce and the careers page lists 500+ job openings with ‘ecommerce’.

  • SE Asia, especially Indonesia, has served as a testing ground before expanding to row. The success has been so remarkable that the Indonesian government has intervened to regulate these endeavours. Why? To safeguard local business owners who struggled to compete with the pricing offered by Chinese sellers and factories. The plan was to ban intl products under $100. The story is still developing and will impact TikTok Shop GTM.

  • As TikTok emerges as a new player in the e-com market, it faces the challenge of establishing trust and reliability against Amazon and other trusted marketplaces. To achieve this, TikTok mandates that all sellers must operate North America-based fulfillment centers and commit to a 7-day delivery timeframe (buy to door within 7 days, full stop). Failure to meet these criteria will lead to customer refunds and instant account closure. They’ve been ruthless with no second chances. Their strict enforcement of these rules instills confidence in buyers, equating TikTok's reliability with Amazon's shipping times. (Won’t work well for dropshippers, unless you have NA fulfillment).

  • They've extended discounts of up to 50% to first-time TikTok buyers, with TikTok covering the costs. This provides an incentive for existing customers to make purchases through a new channel at a discounted rate, with no expense incurred by the merchant. Brands can leverage existing offsite distribution channels to encourage buyers at large discount rates, acting as a nice flywheel for TikTok.

Hit reply if you’d like me to do a deeper dive. Otherwise, to apply/start selling > TikTok Seller Center. And to learn more TikTok Seller Academy.

TikTok + Disney

Disney is looking for UGC, and TikTok wants to keep users in app. They’ve teamed up to build a Disney100 experience. Play here.

Users can acquire character cards by engaging in activities like watching and posting videos, as well as following accounts. This is baked right into TikTok (“All in place”) and seems like a pretty big deal. Check the video and PR below.

Luxury Slowdown

Are the roaring 20s over?

Perhaps luxury consumers are simply sobering up gently from a post-pandemic bout of consumption euphoria, when they decided that it was “better to enjoy life, rather than die rich”, as Luca Solca, an analyst at Bernstein, puts it. “It’s evident that the wave of post-Covid relief spending is starting to moderate and the luxury business is going back to being cyclical.”


🔸 Interesting Links

Margret Hamilton with her code she wrote for Apollo.

Wrap Up

What are you working on? Do you have a test build or something I can include in the next issue?

Thx for reading — have a great week!


P.S. Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Ready to grow your startup from 0 to 1 in less time? Let's chat. >> Schedule a call with me.

  2. Want an extra pair of eyes on your pitch deck?

  3. Are you an IC seeking your next adventure, or are you considering a side gig (because AI tools have given you more free time)? Fill out this form.

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Hi there! I help b2b2c startups go from 0 to 1 with resources, consulting, advisory, and writing, spanning product, marketing, team formation, frontier technology, and the good life. Prev helped 50+ startups and launched 20+ digital products. Although my perspective is universal, I mainly cover the frontier of North America and Southeast Asia.

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