Announcing Napkin Math Fiscal Year 2021

After a short break, Napkin Math returns with a new writer

TL;DR: Adam is moving on from Napkin Math, but the newsletter is continuing under Evan Armstrong. We’ll be doing entertaining and informative explainers on finance terms like revenue, cost of goods sold, net income, and more. Terms that have deep importance for application but are difficult to define. Your acronym is our opportunity. 


Hey everyone! Adam here. 

I have an announcement to share: I’m moving on from Napkin Math! It’s been awesome writing under this brand but the time has come for me to go in a new direction. But don’t worry: Napkin Math will remain in very capable hands. Evan Armstrong will now be taking over as lead writer and will be expanding the vision of this newsletter!

Dan, Nathan, and I launched Napkin Math in May of 2020 and it’s grown to quite the community of finance professionals. I’ve had a lot of fun researching and writing about all sorts of businesses, and also having conversations with many readers. It had been a great job because it allowed me to learn for a living.

But along the way, I realized I wanted to work on something of my own. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do next, but over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with several ideas, including buying a business, starting a business, or maybe continuing to create content. As soon as I settle on my next project, I’ll let you know. 

If you want to follow my future projects, you can sign up for my personal newsletter or follow me on Twitter. If you have a specific question / comment, feel free to shoot me an email at adamkeesling1996 [at] gmail [dot] com. (BTW: if you sign up for the newsletter, there’s a small survey at the end of the signup flow -- I’d really appreciate it if you took the time to fill it out!)

Even though I won’t be writing Napkin Math anymore, I wanted to make sure it continued on after me. So, I went looking for a writer who could build it into a special publication. I found Evan. You may recognize him from his recent piece on revenue. Outside of Every, Evan works in product marketing at a legal tech startup and is simultaneously pursuing a Master’s in Non-fiction Writing from Johns Hopkins. He brings a great mix of experiences having worked in venture capital, biz ops, and strategy at places like Substack and Stockwell. I’m excited about Evan and the future of Napkin Math! I’ll stay a subscriber. 

I’m going to give it over to him for a second to talk about what will be happening with the newsletter. 

Evan Armstrong: Thanks Adam! When I wrote my first piece explaining revenue for Napkin Math, the response was overwhelming. Many, many people expressed a desire for more content like it. That might be surprising. On its face revenue is one of the simplest concepts in business. But even though we use it every day, it turns out that there’s still a lot we don’t really know—even though we feel like we should. And it’s not just limited to revenue.

Most of us have a vague understanding of what terms like revenue, gross margin, or EBITDA mean. But very few of us can confidently discuss definitions. Even for those of us that can, an even smaller percentage can explain why those terms matter. Worse still, when you try to look this stuff up online, it is so incredibly dull it makes your eyes bleed. 

This cannot stand. 

Napkin Math is going to solve this problem. We’re going to offer intriguing, informative, and entertaining explanations of the fundamentals of business. I’ll start off by working my way down the income statement and explaining each term in detail. But then I will rapidly move to more esoteric but still important topics. Black Scholes models? Net Dollar Retention? Churn? Bring it on—your acronym is my opportunity. Expect these posts twice a month. 

But if you become a paid Every subscriber, you will get even more. I’ll be regularly featuring guest writers who are experts in finance or offer a unique perspective. And if you don’t get too sick of me, I’ll be writing a few additional essays that explore the interesting edge cases of business. As a sample, here are three that will release over the upcoming weeks. 

  1. Finance is a religion, not a science: We like to think of finance as a numerical, factual pursuit. If that is the case, why can no one agree on what things mean? 
  2. Community Adjusted EBITDA, in defense of Adam Neuman: Yes, WeWork was a wholly corrupt, starry-eyed disaster fueled by Softbank’s money. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t on to something with its infamous metric. 
  3. Qualtrics, the righteous deceiver: Qualtrics has executed one of the greatest product marketing strategies of all time. It has somehow changed boring surveys into “experience management.” How did this transition occur? How did this effort enable them to beat out competitors? Includes exclusive interviews with early-stage Qualtrics employees and their competitors at SurveyMonkey and Google Survey. 

If you want to understand how to get your projects approved, how to speak the language of business with confidence and zeal, or if you would just like to keep me from fulfilling the trope of a starving writer, please subscribe below. Your first month is only a dollar.

And with that incredibly subtle marketing pitch, I’ll sign off. I am so excited for the content to come. If you would like to contact me you can reply to this email or DM me on Twitter. I would also like to give a special thanks to Adam for making Napkin Math so great and for trusting me with its future.

-e


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