Paul Fletcher-Hill is co-founder and CEO of the seed-stage company Veil, a betting platform where users created the markets. Growing up, Paul attended the Waldorf School of Baltimore, and he credits those formative years for giving him a lifelong interest in creative work—including his current passion for hip-hop.
The importance of thinking and acting iteratively. Often, people try to hit a home run when it would be much more helpful to break the problem into smaller chunks. With product development, for example, you can push a series of small updates, preserve optionality and collect the data you need as you go, rather than waiting six months to launch.
My co-founders and I were deliberately iterative when we started Veil. We were inspired by the crypto community and knew we wanted to build a company in this space. But we didn’t really know what we wanted it to be. So at first, we intentionally did not swing for the fences. Rather than jumping in with an idea that might not work for us, we launched a development studio where we focused exclusively on short-term projects. Nothing more than a month. That let us gather the information we needed about the space, and we were able to quickly learn what we wanted Veil to look like.
Know the difference between indicators of success and what I call lagging indicators of success, which are things like fundraising, PR efforts and getting a big office. I think it’s easy to confuse the two, especially for young founders like myself, because you see what success looks like at other companies and start to focus on creating that image. But really, those things should just happen naturally because you’ve already built something that’s working. The first priorities are the true indicators of success—product-market fit and users and revenue. If you’re improving those week over week or month over month, the rest will fall into place. If you’re not, none of that other stuff is going to make your company better.
If I could give one other piece of advice, I’d say that when you find people you respect and enjoy spending time with, and whom you work with effectively, there’s almost nothing that should make you give that up. I’m very fortunate to have that relationship with my two co-founders. We have started multiple companies together and actually live together as well as work together. There’s so much mutual respect and so little friction between us, and that’s enabled everything we’ve been able to accomplish with Veil.
Finding time to be alone. I realized recently how rare that was—if I wasn’t careful, I’d spend an entire week without a moment to myself. So I started creating opportunities, even just a few minutes in the car or a couple of hours at a coffee shop. It’s given me more space to just think.
I’ve also started bundling things that share context. In these early stages of Veil, I’m involved in so many different aspects of the business, from product and design to support to legal and compliance. A lot of people bundle meetings, but I’ve found it helpful to take that a step further and bundle my mental states. Scheduling blocks of time to focus on specific issues saves a lot of the emotional expense of switching context. I think I’m still just as helpful to the people around me, but I’m not being pulled in any given direction at any given time. I feel like I’m owning the day rather than it owning me.
I wish I were a better improviser. I was classically trained on trumpet as a kid and I’ve played some jazz, but I was always better at reading music. I also love hip-hop, a lot of which is about improvisation and flow and just letting things happen. I’ve tried to freestyle a few times myself, but I ran into a mental block. I tend to be very intentional about the words I choose, which is helpful for clarity in a lot of conversations but is obviously a hindrance in rap. I’d love to overcome that barrier and be able to appreciate music as a creator rather than just as a consumer.
Similarly, I wish I were better at foreign languages. It’s funny; I can pick up a programming language very quickly, but spoken language has always been a tremendous challenge for me. I feel like I’m missing out on parts of the human experience because I can’t engage directly with people who don’t speak English.
Right now I’m bouncing between Who is Michael Ovitz?, by Michael Ovitz; Thinking in Systems, by Donella Meadows; and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. I’m only a few chapters in on each. I recently finished Radical Markets, by Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl, which was awesome. We often put policy on a slider between socialism and capitalism, but the book challenges you to go beyond that and look at ways to use modern markets and technology as alternatives to those traditional systems.
There are also a couple of books that I keep rereading, including The Unwinding, by George Packer, which is about income inequality and the decay of the American dream over the last 50 years. I also really appreciate Ray Dalio’s Principles, though I haven’t yet read the full book that came out recently—just the self-published version he released years ago. It’s been a great reference for me, especially around prioritizing the truth over being right.
When I was in college, I think I tended to over-optimize. I wouldn’t ship something until it was perfect. That meant my work was good, but it also meant I didn’t produce that much—or learn that much. As a founder, especially with our previous company, PatientBank, I think I overcompensated and shifted from too much optimization to too much iteration. I was cutting out anything that seemed superfluous, including the little quirks that help us build a community and brand. Now I think I’m swinging back to a happier medium, where we’re iterating, but there’s still room for personality.
I think I also worry less in general these days about being wrong. I used to think being right was more important than it is; now I wish there were more support culturally when people change their minds. You might have a strong opinion, but if you recognize when someone makes a compelling argument against it, that should be applauded. Always be truth-seeking.
At Veil, we do everything in one-week sprints. It’s important to think longer-term, as well, but in terms of practical planning, we’re constantly thinking about whether we can accomplish something in a week—and if not, how we can adjust. That doesn’t always mean shrinking scope. It’s often just breaking the project up, maybe doing the design and infrastructure this week and front end and implementation the next. That happened this week, in fact. We were planning for a new feature, and at first I kept paring it down, trying to make it fit into one week. Then I realized, “This is ridiculous. Let’s not rush it.”
We also update our community weekly through our Medium posts, and I like that cadence. People get to see improvements based on their feedback within a few days, which builds trust. And it’s cool to look back and see how much we can accomplish in a short period of time.
- Bundle by context
- Balance optimization with iteration
- Ignore “lagging indicators”