Categories
Preparedness Startups

Day 632 and The Yips

I think I might have a case of the yips. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s most commonly referred to as type of performance anxiety associated with experienced athletes. They suddenly find themselves unable follow through on techniques they otherwise know well.

Though as it turns out it’s not actually a form of anxiety at all, but rather a failure to consistently execute on muscle memory in experienced professionals which manifests as a loss of fine motor skills or a struggle to follow through on common chains of decision making, especially ones that are subconscious.

You might also associate it with analysis paralysis, a phenomenon in which someone has access to all relevant information but gets lost in decision making rather than simply acting on their reasonable informed instinct. One’s ability to simply execute what is in front of them is diminished not through lack of knowledge of experience but rather inaction.

I am an experienced startup operator. I am also a competent angel and early stage investor in private markets with a speciality in technology driven businesses. At this point, I’m not only well into my career with a number of concrete successes (I’ve built and sold companies) but I’ve also got generational memory from being the daughter of a startup operator. And yet I’m still nervous about swimming into the deep end of my investing career. I’ve got the the yips.

I hadn’t noticed that I had the yips till I came back from a wilderness medical incident technician certification course. I was doing a hands on course meant for front line first responders in rural and back country scenarios. It was heavy on scene and scenario execution so you could build muscle memory and quick response times.

In medical emergencies, especially in a wilderness context, you have limited resources and personnel. Acting swiftly with the knowledge and materials at hand is crucial. If you don’t take action, someone will die. Startups are famously resource constrained environments. Paul Graham of Y Combinator has an entire framework that assume you are default dead unless you take action to assure survival. This is as as applicable mindset for wilderness survival as it is for startups.

I had some sort of instinctual foresight that this wilderness medicine course would be useful not only practically in day to day life as someone who lives in Montana, but also as a mindset for my investing work on the chaotic thesis that the world is getting more complex. And that complexity has consequences for all of us.

The more chaotic the world, the harder it is to act with confidence as complexity builds.

Only by getting outside of my own skill set and professional world did I finally see how much I’m holding myself back from acting. Whether it is out of fear or analysis paralysis I do not know. But I do know that if one does not act the consequences can be dire. We are all default dead unless we make decisions to remain alive. There is no safety or progress to be found by staring at your problems and becoming overwhelmed by the challenge. If there is a cure for the yips it is to simply keep playing no matter how hard the game becomes.

Categories
Aesthetics Startups Travel

Day 526 and Out of Practice Yuppie

A well dressed, tall, friendly looking white gentleman tried to join me on an otherwise empty blue velvet couch that I had deliberately planted myself in the middle of to avoid socializing. All that was missing was a “closed for business” sign around my neck.

I had attempted to tell him “no actually this seat is taken.” I was confused he didn’t immediately pick up on my body language. I had spread my entire body across the couch and had intensely “don’t come here” body language. I had my purse down to take up more space. I laid my hand with my wedding ring on my knee so it’s instantly visible. He didn’t pick up a single visual cue. I tried verbal. I literally shouted at him that no he wasn’t welcome to join me. “This seat is taken!” Didn’t make a difference.

I don’t think he could hear me as he sat down and tried to strike up a conversation despite his obvious discomfort clinging to the edge of the couch with half a butt cheek in mid air. He tried a few lines of conversation as I doggedly ignored him. I started a tweet and angled my phone screen towards him so he could see me typing complaints. Didn’t help at all.

I really had done everything I could to claim this space as my own. The couch was directly beneath an air vent trying to push cooler air into the crowded house bar. It was as hot inside the bar as it was outside but this one area had modestly more airflow making the summer heat at least breathable.

Which is to say it was over 100 degrees inside the old house. The Rainey Street bars in Austin are all converted old historical houses with wide open full floor windows and open doors to allow people to enjoy backyards with twinkling lights and hipster backyard games. These bars are a cultural treasure in March for SXSW when everyone enjoys the mild 70 degree early spring. In June during a heatwave they are a hellscape for yuppies who have simply forgotten how to socialize like normal human beings.

I was engaging in some incredibly rude behavior yes, but the bar has no other visible seating near an air vent and even the 5 degrees of lowered temperature and the moving air helped a little. I was wearing loose comfortable clothing but it was still intolerable. I regretted not sourcing a wheelchair for the week but then again none of these houses are accessible anyway. It was the only spot in the entire bar where I could even attempt to mitigate the effects of my invisible disability.

I could feel my spine starting to swell within minutes. Ankylosis is a winter disease. Heat and humidity swell the spine and that pain will radiate out to a kind of ambient full body throbbing intensity that cannot easily be ignored.

Actually, pain is just like the heat in that way. It overtakes your willpower slowly but inexorably. Quietly it makes itself known like the stillness of Joseph Conrad’s Jungle.

“And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”

Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness”

The amount of determination you have to play mind-over-matter games is simply a fight against time. Eventually you get tired from the effort. You pray you don’t let it take you to the dark places it took Kurtz. But you know one day it could take you too.

Eventually my husband came back. He’d been searching for a bathroom and our hosts for the evening. The yuppie next to me pretended to ignore him. He sat for another two minutes or so just to give the impression he’s weirdly close proximity to me was on purpose as a resting place and not at all an attempt to strike up a conversation with a woman who did not want to talk. A tactic we’ve all used once or twice to conceal a social faux we didn’t mean to commit.

Alex and I used to attend parties like this all the time. We were aggressively on the circuit for both tech and media events for well over a decade. He used to produce TechCrunch Disrupt in a long distant past before he transitioned into being an operator at early stage startups. Then those startups matured to established companies. And now it’s become clear we are established professionals.

We no longer need the social circuit. Networking has lost its payouts. More people want to meet us and ask for things than the other way around. We’ve made it. And it’s a good thing too as the social contract is breaking down all around us. Yuppies have forgotten their manners as we are all out of practice with the basic niceties of the social season. Everything from how we approach someone to begin a conversation to whom we may invite to a private event is now fraught. Hell I can’t even remember how to apply professional makeup anymore so I can’t look down on a man looking to chat. We’ve all lost some of our humanity over the pandemic.

And I find myself mumbling “the horror, the horror” as I walk myself back to the hotel because the streets won’t allow taxis in the downtown core. The transition from soft times to whatever comes next is full of unexpected surprises.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 509 and History Lesson

I’ve been working on a talk for Coindesk’s Consensus in June. I’m doing a talk for their Big Ideas stage that Alex cleverly named the InDAOstrial Revolution. I’m pretty excited about the topic as it’s science fiction & finance history and social organization. It’s basically all my favorites. A

The invention of corporations was a transformative innovation for human organizing, driving the growth of the industrial revolution. Can DAOs drive an equally explosive innovation cycle? Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, offer us a shift towards open and inclusionary entities for marshaling resources and energy. This session dives into their potential futures, including open web public goods, the end of doomer capitalism, techno-optimism collectives, and the possibility of a networked nation state. Come for the sci-fi vibes, stay for the boomer neoliberal skepticism and get a pleasant dose of economic history in the process.

I’ve been doing a little bit of deep diving into the history of the corporation and it’s role in American history in particular. And when I was procrastinating during my flu I watched Gilded Age. Just so you’ve got an idea of my mind set. And honestly it’s been a mind fuck.

I’m not a historian but I think you can make the case that America had corporate governance before we had a functional state or federal government. In fact, this History of the Corporate Form from Fordham Law showed me the wildest fact I’ve ever seen. In America the corporation came before the state.

Other notable “joint-stock” companies, such as the Virginia Company, helped expand British control of North America. In fact, the Virginia Company established the General Assembly, which was the first legislature in North America.

The idea that some monarchy set a corporate charter up to extract commodities and that corporate organization led to a three hundred year experiment in self governance is astonishing. You really never can tell about an event’s downstream ripples. Our entire political way of life was downstream of property rights.

Of course, the reason I point this out is that how we organize and govern our resources and at what scale is what defines history. The ability to trust your goals and your investment will be executed, even if you are not personal overseeing it, is as it turns out a key innovation catalyst for all other technologies. The more efficient we are at at marshaling and deploying resources the further we get as a civilization.

The case I would like to make is that DAOs could help us unlock more sophisticated financing that enables ever further scale and coordination. If the corporation created American, can the DAO led other new nation states?

I can imagine a network state made up of sub-DAOs that provide interlocking economies. Some DAOs are responsible for infrastructure. Others are for services. Maybe we share some key responsibilities across one oligopoly for key social services like health care. The more something needs scale to succeed the more large scale collaborative behavior gets rewarded. I don’t doubt we can create some truly dystopian shit but also maybe it finally gets us to Mars.

Categories
Chronic Disease Startups

Day 508 and Deficit

I woke up feeling reasonably ok today. I slept well but checking my trackers I learned my recovery scores were pretty low. My HRV was dipping into 30% recovery territory and I had a low blood oxygen count. I’ve been recovering from Influenza A so it’s not a surprise my lungs are struggling. But I tried not to let some bad data psyche me out. Maybe I was ok. I told myself I just needed to stick to my routine as I can’t let myself get into a physical deficit.

So I went about my morning routine with some optimism. I got some coffee and made breakfast. I took several rounds of supplements. I did some basic grooming. I felt basically human. I was all excited to dive into work from the second I woke up. I was so excited I’ve been dreaming about the presentation I’m giving at Consensus. I literally woke up with talking points.

And then at around 10am I realized I’d used up all my functional hours taking care of myself. Fucking figures. I am already in a physical deficit from this flu. It’s scary for me to be in a deficit as my favorite coping mechanism is to engage in workaholism. I over prepare and over work and I make demands of myself that only sabotage the end result. It’s entirely counter productive. It just looks socially acceptable because of the Protestant Work ethic.

So I need to calm the fuck down and accept where I am and that it will still be good enough. I know my shit. It’s worth it. And I’ll deliver on better than the average midwit. Honestly even acting like this is kind of midwit. The real galaxy brains would just be vibing it anyway. But it really is amazing how easy it is to fall into midwit fear based patterns. Believing in the bigger broader math of your own life is really hard because so much of our own ego is rooting for us to indulge in our worst impulses. So I’m going to calm down, not worry about my energy deficit and continue to do the work. It’s not glamorous work. It’s mostly making good decisions day in and day out. But then compounding kicks in.

Categories
Emotional Work Startups

Day 505 and Deadlines

I’m trying to stave off a cortisol spike that my body simply does not need. I’ve got a talk coming up for Consensus in June and I owe an editorial with my main thesis along with any visuals I may need for the talk due next week.

I know the area I plan to speak about quite well. It is titled the InDAOstrial Revolution and I plan to cover some far future possibilities for what the new organizational structure can bring. And I do mean far as I’ll talk about some radical ideas like data collectives for rare diseases and networked nation states. I’m really excited as I think decentralized autonomous organizations offer us a new path for how we can pool different kinds of resources. I think DAOs give humans a chance to build better bigger weirder things on totally radical timelines just like the advent of the corporation did before in the industrial revolution.

I’ve been watching Gilded Age as I’m a sucker for set pieces but also because I love stories of wealth and power and cultural mores being pushed. I think DAOs have the chance to do that for society and the family in a way that is just as unsettling and ultimately wealth creating as anything we saw in the Gilded Age. And the changes we see to cultural norms will be every bit as revolutionary as the ones we see with inventions or investments. When times change, we push all of the ideas we have about how to properly organize individuals and citizens with it.

What I’m saying is I’m obviously passionate about the topic and even when I’m home with the flu I’m thinking about ways to knit together different worlds and metaphors. I might not be the best expert on DAOs nor am I remotely close to being one of the earlier people to get into them, but I’m absolutely an informed and enthusiastic professional with the training to think about this holistically. So I’d listen to me if I had the chance.

Nevertheless I’m worried I’ll botch the talk. My mind wants to worry I’ve run out of time to do a good job (I obviously haven’t) and that even if I put in a lot of hours it could have been more. I could have started sooner.

But honestly I’ve got to let that self defeating talk go. What I bring will be enough. And a deadline looming even with a sickness is no reason to worry when you know and love a topic well. So I’ll trust myself to bring you something good.

Categories
Startups

Day 501 and Do It Live

There must be some kind of residual high from making big decisions, as I’m feel powerful as hell coming out of Montana. I’ve committed to a life path and I am ready to do some thriving. Yes I’m referencing the meme.

unbothered. moisturized. happy. in my lane. focused. flourishing

I’ve got a deal I want to shop around even though it’s ice cold out there in venture land. I believe in the team and I believe in the market sector. It’s a bit of an unusual bet but I have total confidence in the problem space such that I am ready to spend some social capital. So hit me up if you want to get in on the deal. I feel like it’s a deal that’s absolutely in my lane and even if it’s a hard time to circle anyone to anything I may as well enjoy the thrive vibe. Let’s do some magic together yeah?

In another famous meme Fox News host Bill O’Reilly exclaims that “fuck it I’ll do it live!” And I have to say that is my current energy. None of us have a fucking clue about how things are going to go. But did we do our homework? Yes. I did the work. I ran my numbers. I’m good at what I do. I’ve got experience. I’ve got as good a shot as anyone.

So I’m going to say fuck it to a lot more. I’m confident. Because like Bill I’ve got the talent and why not fuck around and find out? This isn’t specifically about the deal I want to do (though I am excited) or the fact that I’m moving to Montana but rather that it’s time to express more confidence in general. I shouldn’t undermine myself. I’m good. Some people like me. And that’s enough to have some confidence to try some stuff and experiment. If you want to come and play with me feel free to say hi.

Categories
Startups

Day 490 and Startup People

One of the more transformative experiences of my young life was attending a founders only conference in 2010. I’d never been around that many other people who did the same thing as me before. I felt so seen.

The most unexpected thing was how relaxing it was to be among other people who understand the context of my life and my work. All of the weird and idiosyncratic elements of being the CEO of an early stage company are hard to translate to someone who has never had to live it. Startups are lonely work and being the CEO is the loneliest job in the company.

Obviously the last twelve years of bull market have greatly expanded the pool of people who have worked in startups. It’s gone from a niche to the driving force of American industry. Everyone grew up. Some of us made money. We’ve professionalized. We’ve developed best practices. What was once a scrappy singular experience is now a repeatable innovation.

And like that conference it is transformative to be seen. don’t feel so alone anymore. There are more people who can share in the context and specifics. I’m in Montana this week with friends who have a similar life path to myself and my husband. Our friends completely understand the context of our lives and we understand their context. We are all founders and executive team members and angel investors and LPs. And yes it’s relaxing. I highly recommend it.

Categories
Startups

Day 484 and Steadfast

Someone who I have come to rely on had a set back this week that briefly threw me for a loop. I initially felt a bit upset, selfishly I felt angry about what the setback might mean for me. That feeling passed quickly. I wanted to jump in and help them overcome the issue. I felt an upwelling of loyalty and emotional empathy that I hadn’t completely anticipated.

In truth, I was honored they shared where they were at with me. Their transparency meant a lot to me. If anything it cemented my feelings for how much I wanted to continue working with them.

Loyalty and steadfastness are qualities that are crucial in startups. Feeling like you are safe enough to bring both the good and the bad to your team makes all of the difference. If you do not trust that your people will remain loyal to you even in times of turmoil you don’t have a team. It’s fine to hire mercenaries at established companies. But when something is new and nascent you are better served being surrounded by those that believe in you.

I emphasize psychological safety in my writing and on chaotic.capital’s website because I think it matters more than almost anything else. All things being equal, psychological safety is the differentiator in who survives in a startup. Having the confidence you can share your creative process matters a lot.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 479 and High Agency

A corner of startup Twitter was discussing the relative ease of getting connected to power brokers in different industries today. The debate? Does good talent eventually finds its way to resources? The contention from Roon, otherwise known as Mr. Wordcel vs Shape Rotator, is that networking is less crucial in technology than in any other industry because it’s easier to find a way in.

While one can quibble with how true this is for all populations, it is truer than it’s ever been. A large swath of the startup ecosystem is readily available to anyone on social media. We are less constrained by geography and credentialism than we’ve ever been. This is partially because much of the wealth in the current generation came from building social networks or software that benefits from openness. An excellent overview of this is why good angel investing ecosystems prioritize welcoming newcomers by Alex Danco. Most investors want to be available.

But it’s still a challenge to find high agency and high talent people and there are far fewer of them than you’d imagine. And proving you are high agency and high talent isn’t always an intuitive process. Being able to assess if someone has the capacity to build is one of the hardest job a capital allocator will ever have. Judging markets and products and roadmaps is much easier than discerning if someone has the capacity to execute on their dream.

I personally use follow up as my first heuristic. This is partially because I maintain open DMs so literally anyone can and does reach out to me. If someone is able to regularly show up and engage with me and show progress they are better than 90% of people. Honestly go ahead and try! I really am here to help.

You’d be shocked at how often someone pitches me and then I never ever hear from them again. And it’s not because I missed the boat (this happened once to me this year). It’s generally because people are waiting for someone else to act. And this is where people fail. The first rule of startups is figuring out how to create momentum. If you are waiting for me to cut a check you’ve already lost.

I’d like to do a whole post on this topic but I’ve been struggling to get the bulk of it on paper as I’ve got a migraine coming on. But rather than put the post off, I organized an introduction of the subject and put down my first heuristic. Which is ironically exactly what I look for in founders and builders. Did you make some visible amount of progress no matter how bad? Did you put it out into the world? That’s better than most people!

Categories
Chronic Disease Startups

476 and Temptation

When I am feeling healthy I love to over do it. Most days I feel basically fine. Which is a significant improvement over even two years ago. I was living a little low. But maybe once or twice a week now I will just feel terrific.

Today is one of those days. I woke up early after a restorative night of sleep. I didn’t miss anything on my extensive wellness regimen. I was just nailing the day.

The sad part about doing wellness because you have to for a chronic disease is that you aren’t even ever hotter for it. Healthy women be doing yoga & taking supplements and practicing wellness and it’s a fucking Instagram campaign. I do all that shit and at the end I’m “ok.” It’s actually pretty demoralizing. I engage in flawless yuppie next generation wellness because it’s actually keeping me alive.

With this context it’s clear that I resent having to take good care of myself. It feels like a burden. So when I have a really good day. When I’m just energetic and focused and, yes moisturized and thriving, I’m also plotting how to undermine myself.

Because I felt terrific I just hand to indulge in it I took a bunch of calls and did a bunch of portfolio work. I went for an hour long creekside walk to discuss some communication strategy with Alex. I was vibing. Until I wasn’t. I crossed some little threshold and realized I needed to pull back the energy expenditure. I recognized I have given into temptation this time.