- Building Starcycle 💫🔨
- Hello world!
Meet Starcycle 💫
Hi there. It’s Jaclyn. Thank you for joining me on my newest founding journey.
Let me get right into it.
I’m building Starcycle, your AI cofounder —
The partner, second brain, and all-around toolkit you’ll need to get started on your journey into entrepreneurship and building your own business 💫
I’m so excited to introduce our very first test feature: Springboard, our AI business planner that helps you plan your first steps in starting your business, with help from artificial intelligence. It’s the easiest (and in my humble opinion, best) way to craft your business plan.
We are open for guinea pigs alpha testers ⬇️
Now, you’re getting this first email because:
— you signed up for the newsletter on our website at some point 💻
— you previously let me know that you’d love to stay in the loop when I’m ready to go public with what I’m building 💬
— you’ve already signed up to test Starcycle
— you’re a friend and I think you might be excited to hear about this (I hope) 🌹
(and if you’re receiving this email eight times, you’re my husband and I love you.)
That’s it, that’s the tweet!
Feel free to read on, though, if you’re interested in what has been happening, the Starcycle journey thus far, some musings and insights, my attempts at corralling my trains of thought, etc. At the very end, I share some ideas of how I could use your help, so feel free to just skip all the way down there too.
I’d like to warn you, though, that I talk (write). A lot.
So, without further ado, allow me to zoom out a bit —
What is Starcycle?
Starcycle is (or, at this stage, will be) your AI cofounder.
Need some help planning out the first steps of your business, or just need some words to put to your idea? Are you an aspiring CTO looking for your marketing match? Want to open up a coffee shop but feel like you can’t do it alone? Already a few years in, but just need to close a few knowledge gaps? Thanks to artificial intelligence and its immense potential to personalize, assist, educate, and automate at scale, Starcycle will be the only business partner you need as an entrepreneur, whether it be for a FinTech SaaS, dropshipping, coffee roastery, marketing consultancy, or charcuterie board planning company.
People always tout the benefits of having a cofounding team: surrounding yourself with folks with complementary skills, leaning on each other, and creating something greater than the sum of its parts. Most small and medium businesses (SMBs), however, don’t have that luxury.
99% of companies founded in the world are considered SMBs. Out of those, approximately 77% are owned by one person. That’s a lot of people trying to build Rome alone. (To give it some perspective, almost 300 million people around the world start a business every year!)
How did this come about?
Starcycle was founded with the goal to empower everyone to chase their dream.
I fundamentally believe that everyone is born with creativity, drive, and ambition — but opportunity is not equal, nor is it equitable. I was looking for ways to help people, with scalability and personalization at the very forefront.
The seed was planted in the eventide of my previous venture, when I was starting to see the writing on the wall. My co-founders and I simply could not agree on the direction for the company going forward, after a difficult few months and a dwindling runway.
At the peak of this existential crisis, I had a moment of clarity: how lucky am I to even have had this chance to (co)found my own business, to experience the triumphs and tribulations, to be able to say “what didn’t kill me will make me stronger,” to know that I can try again?
And for how many people would failure, or even getting started, never have been an option?
I knew, at that moment, that I had finally found my purpose. All my life, I have been fascinated by education and mentorship, and its power to change lives. With technology, now I could connect dots and effect change at scale. I didn’t know quite yet exactly how said dots needed to be connected, but I knew that was my mission.
I’ve always prided myself on my curiosity and the diversity and depth of my background, experience, and knowledge, and I could stitch all of these things together into my very own compass towards my North Star.
And thus, the initial idea for Starcycle was born.
After quite a few iterations (more on that to come), here we are.
Also, what’s with the name?
Good question. I came up with “Starcycle” because, during a brainstorm session, I forgot how to English — and so I searched “star cycle” in an effort to look up the life cycle of a star. Then I said to myself, “Actually, that’s kind of cool.” So there you go.
Also, if you were curious, the life cycle of a star is actually called a stellar evolution. Sounds like a sequel to A Star is Born, if you ask me, but starring (heh) Dolly Parton and George Takei going to space and nurturing a new generation of creative talent on Mars, or something. Maybe a crossover into the Martian cinematic universe somehow? I’m not a film director.
What have I been up to?
I have two philosophies when it comes to building:
I let the problem tell me how it wants to be solved.
I let the product tell me how it wants to be built.
I want to be clear: I’m not interested in building in AI ~just to have an AI company~ — it simply looks to be the best way technically for me to fulfill my mission of empowering founders. If there is a better way, I have no qualms in making a switch.
And to best fulfill my mission, I believe in building outside my bubble. Because it doesn’t matter if I think it’s the bee’s knees; if whoever I’m trying to help doesn’t believe it is, then I’m not doing it right.
So, to both of those ends, I’ve spent the last few weeks and months ideating, workshopping, talking to folks, and pivoting — multiple times. (Shout out to all of you who graciously allowed me to interview you and gave incredible, constructive feedback.)
Some highlights of what I’ve tried, learnings and conclusions, and why I did what I did —
What: After the initial picture of Starcycle was starting to take shape, I decided to test the waters: Armed with 18 pages of questions, I hit up a variety of folks, all dotted across the wide and exciting spectrum of education — mentors, mentees, college professors, students, academic program coordinators, high school teachers — for a series of conversations about entrepreneurship and education.
Why: There’s no better way to understand something than to go straight to the folks who live and breathe it every day. No one ever has the full picture, but if we make an active effort to stitch together a diverse range of viewpoints and experiences, we can get much closer.
Conclusion: After 30+ hours of illuminating and thought-provoking conversation (plus many more hours of follow-up research and marinating), I came to the realization that while we all agreed that something was missing when it came to what is needed for folks to learn the skills necessary to be an entrepreneur, we all had different ideas on what exactly those things were — and how could I build a solution for a problem I couldn’t pinpoint? So I decided to…
What: My initial idea for Starcycle was to work on a choose-your-own-adventure-style game that would teach folks how to become entrepreneurs. Long story short: After extensive interviewing (see previous section), weeks of research, and more weeks of marinating and percolating, I had to move away from my original hypothesis.
Why: See rules #1 and #2 above: After weeks and months of ideating, I couldn’t end up shaking the feeling that it seemed to be an idea I was imposing on the ecosystem, instead of the ecosystem showing me what the problem was. Additionally, while I cobbled together promising research on microlearning and the benefits of hyperpersonalized education, I couldn’t quite articulate a very precise use case for aspiring entrepreneurs specifically — and more importantly, I couldn’t convince myself that this wasn’t going to end up with some very difficult problems around getting to profitability*. So, eventually, I decided to zoom out, reassess the problem, realign with my mission, and try again.
Learnings: It’s always difficult to hear people challenge your idea, especially if it feels like ugh, you just don’t get it. Which may very well be the case, in which case the takeaway is to either refine how the idea is communicated, or to reassess whether this person is in the target audience. Or, it could be that it’s not the right thing to focus on. In which case, then it would be the right thing to…
Conclusion: …PIVOT! I’m well aware that what I imagine, and communicate, as Starcycle currently is probably also going to change and evolve. And I, for one, can’t wait to see how this little star grows up.
Also, Sims 4: Dine Out is probably, quite literally, the best example of this right now, and they still cannot get it right**. So I’ll leave this idea to the pros (or future me).
*I have been advised by folks I trust that profitability, while difficult for many startups, is generally considered to be an even higher mountain to climb in EdTech, specifically relating to high CAC and/or lower LTV. I’ll let Brighteye Ventures talk more about this.
**Feel free to send me an email if you’d like to listen to my TED Talk on why the Sims 4, while a continuation (or desecration, depending on whom you ask) of a beloved series, is a fascinating and perhaps somewhat damning view of our relationship and definition of life and imagination.
You knew this gif was going to be here, didn’t you?
What: Prompt engineering is (for now) a delicate art; swapping a word, or rephrasing a sentence, can drastically impact the resulting output — tone of voice, length, accuracy, you name it. Version control — or at least my definition and use of it here — is to track all the changes I make to my prompts, why I did them, and what the outcome was.
Why: The best way for me to learn is through extensively documenting and tracking, then reviewing and reflecting. I’ve spent my entire career working off the back of analytics-driven insights and the story told by data (fellow marketing veterans rockstars survivors, rise up), so why not do that again?
Thoughts: Throughout my process, I found that there are about 5,000 tools promising to do version control for prompts, and about 0 of them optimized for anyone who hasn’t spent the past 60 years of their lives writing code. I ended up building my own system within Notion, although admittedly it’s a bit clunky and not exactly optimized. If there’s anyone who has found a good tool, or has magicked up the perfect sequence within Zapier, I’d love to hear it.
Conclusion: I cannot emphasize enough how valuable this is for anyone’s process. While we know LLMs are getting better by the day, there’s no reason why you can’t keep leveling up the way you work with them — and the best way is to keep track of your progress in similar ways that you track your fitness insights with your Oura ring, or your startup’s financial health, or…
Future Starcycle feature. You read it here first.
I’m not one to gatekeep, so if there’s anything in my process you’re curious about and you’d want to hear me share some thoughts, just reply to this email and let me know.
Why am I sending these newsletters?
A while ago, I had this idea that I wanted to build Starcycle publicly. Quite honestly, it’s a bit nerve-wracking, especially since approximately 750,187*** AI startups pop up on Twitter every day, but I’m stubborn and don’t do false promises. Oh, and I love to write. So, voilà.
***Numbers, just like ChatGPT’s prose, are not fact-checked for accuracy.
Can I share this with a friend?
I’d love that. Go for it.
Some intentions for next time around… 🤞
By the next time you hear from me, I hope that —
I have been accepted into YC;
I have 1,000 people on my waitlist;
I’m another 2-3 iterations ahead on Springboard;
I’m ready to raise a round backed by folks equally excited to change the landscape of entrepreneurship.
Ambitious, I know. But if you know me, you know I’m a woman of my word.
How can you help?
If you’re a social media kind of person, it would really help me out a lot if you’d be willing to hit follow on Starcycle’s fresh-out-the-oven social media accounts. They’re all linked in the footer of this email.
Sign up for our waitlist! I’ll pop another handy button just down below.
Try planning an idea (or 50) with our Springboard test feature once you get access. There’s a lot of refining on the road ahead, so it’d mean the world if you’re willing to try it out. And — perhaps more importantly — please fill out the feedback survey. That really, really helps.
I’m keen to continue refining Starcycle’s value prop and product offering/roadmap. Do you know a small business owner, or folks looking to launch their own business someday? I’d love an introduction.
I’m looking to validate, ideate, and defend what I believe is Starcycle’s vision and path ahead. If you have 20-30 minutes to ask me the tough questions, I’d love the challenge.
Last but certainly not least, if you know anyone willing to pitch in to help refine the product from a technical perspective, I’d love an introduction. I’d love to meet folks who are interested in working on GPT plug-ins and small-scale LLM applications. Do you know anyone?
Thoughts? Questions? Intros? Memes? Hot takes? Just reply to this email 💌
Oh, and I’ll try to keep these shorter next time.
It takes a village…. or a Squirtle squad.