Look For The Use Cases

February 2005, two weeks before my move to New Zealand. I had finished up at my day job and was looking for something to do, so I scoped out the Gigs section on Craigslist. And there it was: “Gig: Chauffeur for the NBA All-Stars.”

I signed up immediately. They gave me a pimped-out SUV and told me what to wear (jacket and tie with a half Windsor), and I drove LeBron around Denver.

It. Was. WILD.

Screaming girls clawed at my windows from one side of the car while the players got in from the other. I saw Manute Bol in person -- he looked like a real-life special effect. I was diligent and proactive, kept my car clean and my mouth shut. And I learned.

One of the biggest things I learned was that I did not exist. Case in point: I drove Manu Ginóbili, an Argentinian shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs.



Now, my mom was raised in Argentina. I still have family there. My oldest friends are from there. It’s another home for me.

So, naturally, I was like, “Oh, an Argentinian dude! We’re going to be best friends!” I got all excited. I had a CD playing (it was CD days) of Sui Generis -- the Argentinian Beatles. I welcomed him to the car with a smidge of castellano, aka Argentinian Spanish.

And… nothing. Not a flicker of recognition. Not an hola or a gracias.

Other times people would be sitting in the backseat musing about whether Denver had restaurants or what the weather was like or whatever (this was pre-smartphone), and I would be thinking to myself, “There is an actual human person from Denver not three feet away! You could just ask!”

During the five days I was chauffeuring, the only people who talked to me were an NBA alum who was competing in the Masters and his wife. As far as everyone else was concerned, the car drove itself.

So years later, when people were saying that nobody would use self-driving cars, I knew it was BS. As far as the people in the back of my car were concerned, the car was already self-driving. And by the time the autonomous vehicle conversation hit the zeitgeist, Uber had already trained us all: hit the button, get in the car when it pulls up, and never talk to the person behind the wheel.

Autonomous vehicles may not yet have the technology solved, but they’ve got the use case. If the tech can be worked out (a big if), self-driving vehicles will become the norm.

On the other side of the equation, we’ve got virtual or augmented reality. Back in February, the week after Apple launched the Vision Pro, I wrote that the company wouldn’t be able to overcome the dork factor. In April, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple had cut shipments by almost 50% and now expects Vision Pro shipments to decline YoY in 2025.

The consumer use case isn’t there. As Kuo writes, “VR is also a niche market, but at least there are proven successful applications (games), and trend visibility is better than MR [mixed reality].”

Crypto’s absolute biggest challenge to date has been finding any convincing use cases. Gen AI has use cases, but doesn’t yet have the reliability or accuracy to support most of them at scale. (The problem there is that it often seems so close… Surely if I just modify my prompt just that tiny bit more, I’ll get the result I need?)

17 years ago, Marc Andreessen wrote that what matters in business -- in startups specifically -- is not the product or the team. The only thing that matters, he argued, is market. Are people ready to buy what you’re selling? Are they interested? Excited? Do they have the money? Is there a use case?

Without the use case, it doesn’t matter how awesome your Vision Pro ski goggles are. They won’t sell.

Look for the use cases. That’s where you’ll find the gold.

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