Categories
Finance Startups

Day 962 and Milestones

I’ve noticed an distinct uptick in pre-seed & seed startup founders looking to raise smaller rounds. If you think this post is about you, don’t fret I’m into the double digits with examples just this past month. Smaller rounds on reasonably capped SAFE notes are on everyone’s mind.

My account on Twitter AlmostMedia

While not everyone I’ve spoken to has fully thought through what it means to raise less, the market is a muse. And she is always worth listening too. Founders are hearing that raising a round must tied to product milestones. That it is good to raise what is needed to show proof that your idea has demand. In some cases the milestones are proof that your technology or product can be made at all.

When I first got started as a founder a million to 1.5m raise capped at 6m was considered a big and well funded seed round. It was more typical that the pre-seed and angel rounds were done in the half million range and capped at 3m or so if you were dealing with sophisticated angels. The industry was smaller.

It’s fascinating to see that we’ve stepped back to valuations and round sizes from ten to fifteen years ago. The markets have indeed shifted.

But what really got my attention is the undercurrent of planning and go to market strategy work being demanded again. We’d lost some of those expectations during the fervor of the zero percent interest years. Capital has a cost. We’d forgotten that.

Gary Tan summed it up best in response to my original Tweet.

Founders should raise whatever they think is right for their stage and what they want to prove. The pro for less is more discipline. The con is you run out of money and you die.
The rest is overoptimization about dilution which is not the high order bit.

If you are a founder in this market you must know what you want to do, how much it will cost and how long it will take you to get to the first step of milestones that proves you’ve got something of value. Everything else is noise.

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Finance Startups

Day 906 and Resilience Tech

I enjoyed a little moment in the sun yesterday when Axios’ Pro Rata featured my pre-seed venture fund chaotic.capital as part of a deep dive on resiliency technology investing. Or if you prefer disaster tech. It was a proud moment for me.

Because I’ve been trained to never miss an opportunity for reasserting who you are and what you stand for I thought I’d publish a portion of the market insights section of my investor letter for the fund. If you want to see the bets, the behind the scenes (hands on is an understatement), and the founders we back I’d welcome accredited investors to see if we’d make sense for you. Slide into my DMs or for the time conserving decisive HNI hop onto AngelList and apply to be an LP in 2 minutes flat.

What is Chaotic Capital?

In an era of institutional distrust, social change, and global instability, we invest in ideas that adapt humanity to our new chaotic era. What does that mean? We like things that help small groups have the impact of big groups and big groups have the agility of small groups. Enabling resilience in the face of unexpected & rapid change is our lodestar.

I publish an investor letter every quarter and you can always visit jfredrickson.com, where I write every single day about whatever I’m thinking about. You are also welcome to DM me on Twitter @AlmostMedia or text me on Signal. My email is julie at chaotic dot capital.

Market Insights on Q223

The rise of cryptography, machine learning, and artificial general intelligence are overlaid onto a geopolitical reality of resource competition in an increasingly multi-polar world. To use an entirely different metaphor, chaos is a ladder that we are here to climb.

Our thesis at chaotic.capital centered on identifying, investing in, and supporting companies that adapt our lives, businesses & systems to the opportunities and challenges that chaos brings. We call it resilience technology.

We believe these companies will generate outsized returns over the next decade as individuals, companies, and societies look to become more flexible, independent, and sustainable. But it’s bigger than that.  

Most builders remain deeply skeptical of Noble Lies, “for your own good” safetyism, regulatory capture, oligopoly control, and the centralized nation state control as the most effective methodology of innovation for a dynamic pluralistic human future. We are having cultural and financial reformations at a frightening speed. It’s beyond future shock now. 

Twitter critics can stroke their chin with practiced skepticism, but if you believe in American Dynamism as I do, you know that our history has shown that it is resilient, flexible, brilliant individuals coming together which defeats the totalitarian and slays the no-win scenario. You have to enable the brilliant weirdos and trust them to solve problems.

Like Captain Kirk once said to Spock, we must make the best guesses we can.

Spock: Mr. Scott cannot give me exact figures, Admiral, so… I will make a guess.

James T. Kirk: A guess? You, Spock? That’s extraordinary.

Spock: [to McCoy] I don’t think he understands.

Leonard McCoy: No, Spock. He means that he feels safer about your guesses than most other people’s facts.

Spock: Then you’re saying… it is a compliment?

Leonard McCoy: It is.

Spock: Ah. Then I will try to make the best guess I can.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

My best guess? As your chosen doomer-optimist, crypto-libertarian. American-patriot, dynamic futurist, pre-seed emerging fund manager, who has plenty of facts but still has the responsibility of making decisions without full information? Tools for everyone wins the future.

It will take all of us coordinating in freedom to defeat Moloch from sacrificing more of us. Uncle Screwtape wants our egos to believe we can deliver safety and control, we know it is a lie. The Ring of Power tempts us to consider “why not me? Don’t I deserve this power?”

Choose your franchise my fellow nerds and chosen ones; because you know the crown is heavy, the ring perverts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So what do we do? We band together. And we enable more of us to join our merry band of future builders.

To balance out centralizing forces, institutional preservation and “we had no choice” moralizing malfeasance, we must give the people tools to build because sometimes our best guesses are demonstrably better than other people’s “facts”

Categories
Finance Travel

Day 878 and European HVAC

If I were a betting women, and I am, I’d be placing them on European heating, ventilation, and air conditioning corporations. Yeah, I think HVAC is a growth industry for the continent.

HVAC is use of various technologies to control the temperature, humidity, and purity of the air in an enclosed space. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality.

You’d think after the pandemic brought the importance of air quality to everyone’s attention, that decent ventilation would a priority. Add in the increasing frequency of deadly heat waves and you’ve got real tailwinds for HVAC technology being crucial not only for comfort but for life.

So why are European apartments somehow both poorly ventilated and poorly insulated at the same time? Is there even a term for this? Finally I viscerally understand why bad air (mal air) is one of the canonical health problems of the Western Cannon. All those nerdy writers inside were suffering.

I’ll grant 1700 era European cities have more excuses than modern cosmopolitan ones for having stuffy, dusty, stinky, hot and yet somehow also cold and drafty air. They didn’t have electricity so no fans, pumps or air exchanges. But why the fuck haven’t they fixed it yet?

The worst plague of the great indoors is shitty HVAC. We have no excuses for it anymore as it’s an environmental health hazard on its own before we even consider the current energy crisis (don’t even get me started on what counts as being green). Refusing to keep your apartment’s ventilated and insulated is bad for your body and your budget.

So if anyone has suggestions for investing up and down the value chain of improving HVAC systems I think we’ve got a growth industry on our hands. Europe can’t refuse to air condition forever and it sure can’t afford to continue to burn coal and Russian gas to heat drafty apartments either.

Categories
Aesthetics Community Finance

Day 863 Abstract The Pain Away

When I was a small child I attended meditation retreats with my parents. Hippies amirite? The particular branch practiced was some variant of Kashmir Shivaism, but I’ve got to imagine it was heavily edited for the consumption of white Boomers.

Who else would take a vacation to sit in silence, chant the Bhagavata Gita at 5am and practice sevā, all while having six year old children? Silicon Valley’s syncretic culture produces some weird hybrids. Seventies counter culture gave us some of the best religious revivals in American history.

If you didn’t catch the word sevā earlier it’s actually going to be the anchor of the post. Sevā as it was explained to me as a child at the ashram is selfless service. It’s work you do without expectation of reward. It is a dedication to others.

Practically it meant that anytime we lived at the ashram everyone contributed some set of work, mostly unskilled labor but not always, in the form of sevā. I did everything from food preparation and dish washing (working a commercial kitchen dishwasher is actually fun) to caring for some donated horses. I had fun summers as a child.

But the point was that everyone participated in some way to the functions of the ashram no matter who you were. And we did have some weird celebrities but that’s not the point. Sevā applied to us all. Though I’m sure glad I never looked too hard at the politics of finances of these ashtrays. Childhood innocence. As a child I just thought it was fun to contribute to the adult world.

But what I remember now is a sense of connection. That no aspect of these retreats was ever abstracted to far from me. The service was meant to bond you to an experience of a world bigger than yourself. And by recognizing that, you’d somehow connect more with others.

I try to remember that now when I am in lonely cities where every aspect of living with others is transaction. A food delivery service whisks you a meal in an hour in a country where you are an outsider without ties, bonds or service beyond the basic civilizational contract of capital markets.

The global cosmopolitan gloss of mobile applications have abstracted service away to the point where we can have an entire day of discourse about a man being sad a house cleaner washed a cast iron skillet but we can’t admit that we all pay for service as it cracks the facade.

We’ve got no sevā because that’s an expectation too great to hear. We can barely manage to pay a fee for service anymore. Imagine if we had to operate without intangibles. We can barely make Uber Eats function with taxes, tips, and services fees. Bless the markets for this freedom and curse it in the same breath.

Fuck the pain away? No, we abstract the pain away. No need to see who contributes anything. You can complain to a faceless chatbot cum customer service artificial intelligence about how some man on a bicycle didn’t deliver your order on time. The service lives below the machine now and has patience for frailty.

And yes I’m writing this because my Korean fried chicken and kimchi order got lost in a side street in Frankfurt for an hour or two.

Don’t worry the corporate entities that intermediated between me, the restaurant and the courier decided in my favor. The customer is always right as long as they have paid the fees to pretend that are lords.

All pain in the above transaction was abstracted away into some governance structure that decided it was worth 25 euro or so. One presumes some public market agreed on the price. I guess I did too. We all did.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 853 and Alignment on Our Consensus

Some narrative wars are being fought right right. Who owns the future and who gets to decide on what something is worth? That question is rippling through AI communities and crypto DAOs. And then the Federal Reserve raised another quarter point and Balaji explained probabilistic thinking and it went over everyone’s heads. And the beat goes on.

We are all looking at the consensus making in the market and applying our separate projections onto the great stage of guessing if you think you know what other people think everyone knows. What is common knowledge. Turns out calculus is useful!

You’d think the value of an honest days work would be common knowledge. But labor costs sure have gone up. Or maybe a gallon of milk. Politicians don’t know. How much do you get for a dollar? I’d like to know if you think it has changed. These are things you can evaluate yourself. You do not need a fancy expert. Though sometimes economists on Twitter will answer your questions.

But are we aligned on the measurements and valuations being used? What do you value vs Janet Yellen. I believe we have a right to ask for the people and technologies that run our lives to be accountable.

We have to agree on some collective civilization level norm on what we value and what the boundaries are on what things are worth and how we protect those valuable things.

It’s my personal opinion that we are all performing a bit of chaos magic as we ask that we align on a future that can collectively together build the most aligned consensus of agreement. Maybe it happens at the neighborhood level or maybe it’s a whole state. But we need to agree to some terms.

How gets to do that and how do we enable them? Maybe it’s humans. Maybe it’s humans guiding machines to make us more powerful. I myself believe that machines will need a valuation mechanism to sort priorities on our behalf.

People ask if I’m on team AI or team crypto. AI needs crypto to bridge the many different value sets and marketplaces together. Some of these types of value marketplaces may even be cultural values. That’s the goal of the network state. Align with the state that empowers your values. But then these states will also need to coordinate in various states of mistrust, distrust or if we dare trustlessness.

But aligning on how we govern and what rules we must abide by is a hard problem. We’ve relied on national liberty in America for a good while and it has produced many failures along the way.

But occasionally the utopians win a few rounds. Freedom does indeed reign it just takes a lot of fight. But we work to align as many of us as possible toward a consensus. Nobody said civilization was easy to maintain.

Categories
Finance Startups

Day 852 and Give A Damn

For long involved reasons, I am an Arlo Guthrie fan. The involved reasons are my parents are hippies and my godfather had the good fortune and bad sense to be his touring agent. So I was lucky to see Arlo perform Alice’s Restaurant in my own hometown of Boulder Colorado.

If you’ve not heard of it well it’s the missing 17 minutes in the Watergate tapes. If you don’t know what that is you probably don’t have Boomer parents.

Anyways, I’m not sure if my favorite line was from Arlo’s anniversary show or if it was part of a rendition of Alice’s Restaurant. It’s stuck with me my entire life and I’ll paraphrase it here.

There are two kinds of people in this world. People that give a damn and people that don’t. And sometimes you find you’ve got a lot in common with people you thought you would hate.

Maybe Arlo Guthrie as recalled by young teenage Julie Fredrickson

I’ve had the good fortune to meet a lot of people that give a damn over my life. And as the quotation suggests, occasionally I was quite sure I’d hate them.

I know commies and fascists, and so long as they aren’t absolute fucking morons enthralled by ideology (rare admittedly), I can probably find a common ground. Politics doesn’t have to be existential if you can be a human and empathize. We only find our boundaries by collectively working together to find cultural consensus.

Lots of folks love various coercive ideologies and will give all kinds of rationale for why their side is good. But in reality the only good side is actually giving a damn about the problems in front of you that you are solving with other people. The rest is details.

If you believe yourself to be a person who gives a damn and wants to work on investing your resources into weirdos who give a damn I’d love to have you as a limited partner in my pre-seed venture fund. Click here to learn more. We mostly have high net worth individuals that have earned their money starting, running and investing in startups. And we mostly fund weirdos taking really early stage high risk high reward bets.

If you want to build a better future find the people that give a damn and enable them by letting market forces work. Markets are muses for people that give a damn. They will hack and build and change things to better fit what they believe should exist. And there is no better time to find those long haul builders than when everyone else is freaking out. So yeah if you are a qualified investor I think you should come do it with me.

Categories
Emotional Work Finance

Day 824 and Ego Loss Aversion

One of my favorite cognitive biases is loss aversion.

The pain of losing is psychologically twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. The loss felt from money, or any other valuable object, can feel worse than gaining that same thing.

The Decision Lab

Isn’t it wild how much we hate loss? The pain of losing $100 is worse than the joy of finding $100. In behavioral economics “loss aversion refers to a phenomenon where a real or potential loss is perceived by individuals as psychologically or emotionally more severe than an equivalent gain.” I guess we don’t like to win as much as we hate to lose.

But we have to train ourselves to tolerate losses. Otherwise you’d never play a sport of any kind. And you’d be an absolutely terrible investor of money. So it’s clearly possible for some of us in some situations to get over loss aversion as we have professional athletes and money making fund managers.

But what if we have to address loss aversion in our own ego? How much do we hate to lose a part of ourselves? What if we stand to gain something significant by letting go a part of ourselves. I don’t think we can always predict where in our own sense of identity our ego will fight against loss.

They say the therapeutic process is just mirrors. You have no real sense of what anyone sees except as a reflection. Everything else is just our faulty sensory equipment. And imagine what a colossal fuck up you could make by ignoring what the mirror says and only relying on the faulty sensory data from your ego.

Stew on that a little bit and decide how much you really want to win and get back to me. Could be you need to see how much you hate to lose before you can see what you stand to gain.

Categories
Finance Startups

Day 820 and Ripped Off

I like doing favors because I don’t care for being overly transactional. I’d rather cultivate something over time to build trust than put a firm price and set of boundaries on what I’ll deliver up front.

And I’d prefer a similar stance from you. Intangibles are hard to price and I’d usually prefer a little time before I settle on them. It’s a trust thing. Everyone gets a fairer deal that way and I only do business if I think it’s win-win.

But once I trust you I generally assume that you won’t fuck me over because I’ve shown that I won’t fuck you over. I’ll value your resources as my own. And I expect you to value my resources similarly.

It sounds a bit old school but I believe we should respect people’s unique styles and contributions. Doing so requires trust and delicacy. We must believe others use us well and we shall use them well.

I find this trust necessary because if I do business with you I’ll use my social capital. Because spending social capital is what gets things done. You make think it’s money, but I can assure you fiat is just a convenience.

Capitalism’s wheels are greased by social capital. If there is too much tension in the system you will never achieve the necessary momentum with only one type of capital. The money is just a stand in for trust. It’s one reason some parties yearn for trustless systems. Because everyone is setting different prices for different currencies and no one likes getting scalped on a forex favor trade. It’s a dick move to undercut social capital.

I’ve found crypto people are some of the worst at understanding this basic social rule as they are the ones most desperate to make all markets legible. The indignation you see across much of technical cultures in general is dismissal of forms of capital that are harder to make legible.

I recently felt ripped off by a transaction I thought I’d priced appropriately to an incentive alignment. It turned out the other side of the deal didn’t have the same understanding of the intangibles. It made me feel like they don’t value my time and work. They’d asked for something, I trusted someone, and then another actor they had vetted spent it in such a careless way I was briefly incensed.

Now you can argue it’s my problem. I priced it wrong. And I had pricing signals coming in negatively from everywhere. I told my counter part this and they took it in stride. And then they went and demonstrated to me exactly why I was getting negative signaling. So I know it’s a risky use of social capital.

Now I’m not sure if it’s a bad trade yet. Maybe I have the tolerance for the volatility. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t look at what the numbers were telling me. Someone ripped me off. Reality says it’s probably just as much me as it was them. Which is, I believe, what you call a lose lose. And that means I’ve got to change the odds if I want to run the trade. But it’s hard to justify it to yourself after you feel like you got ripped off.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 807 and Hyperinflation

Everyone calm the fuck down and stop panicking while we consider the most dreaded phrase in Silicon Valley: “Balaji was right”.

Sometimes people use a method of persuading you from the extremes. Remember “he means it seriously but not literally?” It works, it nudges the new position into your frame of reference and anything else feels moderate by comparison. But you get to choose what you adopt. You can be optimistic, you can chose new ways of being, you control yourself. But warning: it takes so much energy and effort, which I know because I did a lot of work to adjust my life to tail risks while still believing that you have to live your life.

Also, I’m not going to censor anything, so if you’ve got an inclination to cuss me out for not being on your “side”, I’d ask you to remind you that I’m human and winging it just as much as you are. Let’s all remember our humanity.

So are we going into hyperinflation in the next 90 days with Bitcoin going to $1,000,000?

The Next 90 Days

I mean, an apocalyptic scenario is pretty hard to do in ninety days no matter what is happening. Because life finds a way and as my husband Alex likes to say, people revert to the mean. So while I don’t fucking know and neither do you, I don’t think on balance the physics of hyperinflation in 90 days works from where we are now, when talking about the US in particular.

I’m not doing elaborate math though I’ve read the materials. I can make some good guesses based on logical observations of my available data and on human nature. And I think a shock of that magnitude is basically the end of the world. And as much as I think we’ve got to end denialism about how bad shit is for a lot of people, I’m also not sure it’s going to go sideways that fast. Maybe I’m over indexing on having read Gibbon’s “Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire”.

And to the idea that “it’s ok, we’ll all just move to a Bitcoin economy: we’ve got a so much work ahead of us to make crypto and in particular Bitcoin work as a viable alternative for a practical economy it’s not even funny. I think I’m reasonably active in crypto (though probably not as much as you think on a day to day basis). I participate in some DAOs, I have bags with Bitcoin. I believe we can build a better future. But we are small and the problem is big and we need more of you to come in and build it with us if you want an alternative economy that’s actually usable by everyone.

I think this is a good thing because I have had some good experiences with how American capitalism works but I think we can do better. I have some money but I’m not .01%. I like capitalism but I’ve experienced the deep lows of navigating a chronic illness in America before everyone became obsessed with fragility. I’m not saying the systems works.

So while I think a change is ultimately coming (and I’ve made plenty of bets to that effect), I’m not so sure I want the apocalypse to come just to further that end.

After all we can’t build software if it’s the end of the world. Which isn’t a huge leap to make if the dollar hegemony collapses before August. Literally nobody wants that. But a lot of people want more options and it’s our jobs to convince them we can provide it.

So we can use Bitcoin but again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Changing Systems

But I want to be transparent about what I am weighing. I believe we have some negative trends that haven’t been addressed in fractional reserve banking. I believe our world has strained trust about state run capital and currency feels inherently political.

We aren’t that far off the church and state separation, historically speaking. And it took a long time for the separation to hold. But even if time moves faster now, I’d be surprised (though not shocked) if we took down money and state in a quarter. Maybe I’m underestimating dramatically on the exponential. I clearly don’t think it’s impossible because I live in Montana and my revealed preferences tell you something. But I also live near a yuppie city and I make investments in a market economy. I’m torn.

So do I think it takes more time to unwind an empire? Yeah I do.

Do the network affects at play impact monetary policy? You tell me.

We poured a lot of cash into a lot of hands and we have the option of gossiping at scale in public. It feels like no one learned anything from GameStop but I can assure you I did. We don’t totally understand emergent behaviors. Egregores are real and we can summon demons, though we probably shouldn’t and I think it’s a little weird to do so because I’m not confident it won’t kill me.

And there’s a lot of new ground to cover. More deeply tied financial systems, and networks magnified 1000x. Last time around we barely had a functional Twitter and now we have, well ok it’s barely functional now (jk but not).

So we shouldn’t in fact continue to do that by building credibility through showing our work and support and investing in that future?I think so. It’s astonishing it’s as cheap as it is now given how much opportunity it provides. But again we have to keep building it out.

Opening the Window

Finally, one tactical issue I want to address is that Balaji may simply be trying to expand our minds on the possible in front of us and how fast we can do it. I believe the most pejorative way of describing it is manifesting but you can in fact apply energy to making a system move in your favor.

One way you do that is by opening the Overton Window on what is possible and seeing if people step up to the plate to build norms and tools that further your cultural view of the world.

So if you really believe that a change is coming and that people need to prepare for it, yes you push even farther than you might think is actually going to happen. That way, even if someone only comes halfway there, they’ve landed right where you think they need to be.

All this to say: chill out everyone – we’re living in the fastest, craziest times there have ever been and it’s damn easy to get sucked into the vortex. So take a step back, breathe, and make your decisions from a place of calm, not panic.

Categories
Finance Politics

Day 802 and Vengeance

You can’t stare into the abyss without letting it stare back at you. And I did a little too much abyssal observation over the course of the weekend. I feel overwhelmed with grief. I saw in the abyss a roiling cauldron of rage and hate and fear and despair. And I saw my own grief reflected back. The boiling blood that demands punishment flooded the news.

I feel grief for the inner child who lived through the turmoil of past market dislocations. I feel grief for my father who suffered through the bankruptcy of 2001. I feel grief for my mother whose teacher’s pension was decimated in 2008. I feel all the pain and sadness and anger and unfairness. I feel it all in my own family.

He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

Moby Dick

I see the desire for vengeance. I feel it myself. I never saw any kind of justice for my father or my mother. My inner child will never know that peace. And I will have to be an adult and accept the disappointment of a world where far too many little children suffer for sins of their fathers. Many of us pick them up and carry them on. The churn is largely amoral and uncaring.

I see how satisfying it must be to give in to Ahab’s roiling anger. I saw many hot heart shells bursting on the time line over the weekend. A few were directed at me. I can’t be sure that my own didn’t explode on innocents. We are all culpable in ways big and small.

I am doing what I can to dust myself off and carry on because work must be done. We’ve not yet finished building a better future. We’ve barely even built the outlines for a tolerably decent present. I pray it’s too soon for us to find out how hot our hate burns.