Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 461 and Remora

I saw a headline about how Trump’s social media site is failing. I’ve got no idea if that’s true but the media likes the story. This is playing out in the context of Elon Musk using corporate governance as a public relations stunt with his new Twitter board seat. Everyone wants to be an attention grabbing technology company even former presidents and aerospace billionaires. Because even the stupid stunt stuff in tech can be world changing.

I’m at the big Bitcoin conference in Miami. It’s a lot but it’s not fundamentally any gaudier than any other industry event I’ve attended in twenty years being adjacent to startups. Before my current stint as an investor I worked in fashion and beauty so I’ve seen a lot of excess. M I was raised in a boom time Web1 startup family. But also my family went bankrupt. I’ve seen the dark sides. I still work in tech. Like Trump and Elon I too just want a piece of the action.

It’s because startups change the world. Even stupid weird dopey absolutely cult adjacent shit can and does change the world. All these prestige television takes on frauds and crashes and the cult of personality nonsense miss that sometimes those freaks actually do it. Sometimes they change the world. Ok most of the time they don’t. See the current unraveling of Fast. 99% of the time shit goes bad. But to have even a little bit of the action of the 1%. It’s fucking dazzling. It’s worth being adjacent to all the bullshit.

I hold in high esteem the folks who work at the flameouts. Anyone who takes a chance and has it go bad has my admiration. I’ve been one of them. I’ve failed a lot. I’m lucky I don’t get punished for it. At least not much. I’ll never know how much shit like my gender or my ridiculous social media personality factor into that shit. Because I am always allowed to get right back into the action and make shit. Making shit is our currency.

I think this is why even the most powerful people gravitate towards startups. You actually get to make shit. At the earliest stages you get to be personally responsible for so much. Your actions have meaning. You contribute. You know how rare that feeling of community and camaraderie is in peacetime?

It’s a commodity so precious we let ourselves be led by girl bosses and fast talking celebrity thought leader venture capitalists. We tolerate a lot of assholes and psychopaths so we can be in a community of people that make things. It’s the American dream and the most basic human need all rolled up into one.

That ought to give you a sense of the cultural power and vitality of startups. That’s loyalty on par with religion. That’s move history big dick energy. And I think some people hate it I find the hate inscrutable but I’m sure it’s probably legible to those who feel left outside.

So yes boom time early energy big money hanger on remoras are part of any thriving ecosystem. And as far as I can tell Bitcoin has the manna to go the distance. Because everyone wants a piece of the action.

Categories
Internet Culture Medical Startups

Day 415 and Accessibility

I don’t think of myself as disabled or requiring special accommodations, though I have a well controlled medical condition that swells my spinal cord called ankylosing spondylitis. But for the first time since my diagnosis I really felt like I was handicapped. And I am feeling so much sadness over the idea that I might genuinely be disabled.

I’m attending ETHDenver and it’s wildly over capacity. No consideration has been given to any kind of basic accessibility. I didn’t think it would effect me though till I got here. I can walk without a mobility aid and if you met me you’d never know I have an issue. But I can’t stand in line on cold concrete for two hours. It turns out I would need a wheelchair for that kind of activity. And even if I had a wheelchair the first two days were in the cold and snow so I couldn’t have wheeled over or around the slush and water.

So I have only attended private parties and small events and group outings. This is great for me as I’m a well networked established member of the startup ecosystem. I’ve got a popular Twitter handle and can easily reach out to people. But I’m noticing just how much a bit of inaccessibility will gatekeep the crypto and web3 community. If you don’t have my heaps of privilege there is no way you could navigate this conference.

And we really need web3 to be welcoming and accessible. To build a better future with infrastructure and economies we all collectively own and benefit from we need an order of magnitude more people participating. But if no one can get in and experience things first hand than web3 will just be a repeat of the oligarchy of web2. It’s honestly my worst fear for crypto. We will accidentally exclude the people who will benefit the most from our innovations.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 414 and Empire’s End

Being at a crypto convention in 2022 is something else. It’s full jubilee at the end of the world shit. You are surrounded by millennials and gen-zers who know in their gut that their future has been stolen from them. And instead of being pissed they decided to build. And they decided to gamble. And it’s not clear which one is which sometimes.

You’d be forgiven being a nihilist right now. Capitalism looks like an excuse for the oligarchs to consolidate state and private power to enrich themselves. Everyone is soaking in student debt and working shitty interchangeable jobs for corporations owned by private equity. No one can afford a house. No one is stable enough for a marriage and children. Our fucking parents won’t retire and won’t listen to reason when we say their neighborhood needs more housing density.

But if you are in crypto the future looks pretty rosy. You are discussing real estate for your second home and the tax advantages of different jurisdictions. Swapping stories about your friend who accidentally didn’t set up estate planning and his company had a big exit and now he’s got to pay full rate to some expensive Democratic run city and state. If you are at the nice cocktail parties you are building the future and the venture capital is flowing and it’s possible that this is the next big wave of innovation. It’s time to fuck around and find out.

But not everyone in crypto is part of the smart money. Not everyone has institutional backing and the professionalization of long time startup operators coming to build real value. Right right below that success is a teeming horde of brutalized and completely marginalized people who are praying they hit it big on some new coin or hot new NFT project. They saw Bitcoin and then Ethereum go to the moon. So now they are praying to the full moon and hoping they ape into the next big thing.

But what’s scarier is that the prevailing attitude is who cares if it’s risky because no one believes they are going to have a future anyway so you might as well gamble. They might get lucky and build the next Google if they join the right DAO and buidl. Yes I typed buidl. I’m a degen too. I’m a doomer that isn’t convinced the empire is going to hold for much longer. And if I’m going to watch it all crash down I want to be a part of building something better for all of us. Maybe we get lucky and innovative faster than the apocalypse. To be fair, humanity always has in the past.

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Internet Culture Startups

Day 413 and Don’t Believe the Hypebeast

My early twenties were heavily influenced by streetwear and sneakerhead culture. I lived in the Lower East side and hung out with all the kids who would go on to dominate what is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

It feels weird listing out my bonafides as it’s pretty name drop-y but at the time it was like yeah my friends at Alife or High Snobiety or even god forbid Supreme meant basically nothing. I was in the absolute epicenter of hypebeast mania.

So I’ve got a gut sense of what a genuine upswell of obsession looks like. The kind of irrational social capital driven cool mania of the sneakerhead world has a specific vibe to it. Almost illegible to anyone outside. But to the in group? It’s powerful chaos magic binding geas shit.

That’s what EthDenver felt like today. A kind of disorganized overflow of true believers converging into a space about a quarter of the size required. It’s like if TechCrunch disrupt accidentally got overrun by the entire readership of HypeBeast. Honestly it kinda sucks.

You’ve got a number of accomplished teams and founders and investors all trying to figure out how to navigate long lines and complete chaos with no clear programming goal or event schedule. And then you’ve got thousands and thousands of NFT weirdos just shilling and excited and ebullient about stuff they freely admit they don’t technically understand. It’s going to be a wild ride for crypto.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 393 and Red Pilled

Maybe three years ago William Gibson was promoting his new book. It was the last event I attended in a pre-pandemic world so it stands out to me. He gave an interview where he mentioned reading a novel by Hari Kunzru called “Red Pilled” and that he found the plot as a plausible near future.

I immediately bought a copy as I’m heavily influenced by the prescient near future work of @GreatDismal. The book was about a member of the blue check media class slowly going stark raving mad because of an elaborate right wing alt-reich troll farming operation. It was uncomfortably clear on the kind of elaborate cultural war tactics that goes into pilling normies. Dank memes and slowly you are accepting the aesthetics and touchstones of former Reich minutiae or Nordic runes or pick your mythical volk white mythology. Memes are dangerous gateway ideology kids.

I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Then I lived through the pandemic becoming an elaborate death cult ritual with totemic significance for both warring sides. I realized we are in the middle of a massive meme war for the soul of internet culture and most of us don’t know we are victims yet.

Walk down one wrong hobby hole on Reddit and suddenly you have become friends with folks with more than passing fascinations with authoritarian culture. Honestly it’s freaky as shit and I’m absolutely socially friendly with people who don’t think I’m a fully autonomous sovereign individual. And yes I mean both socialist Soviet apologist Tankies and TradCath beach fascists.

The latest example of mass hyper object cultural murmurations might be the Bored Ape Yacht Club. And not in the way you think! It was brought to my attention by Venkatesh Rao and he clicked together some signs I’d registered but not processed. It’s entirely possible someone pulled a QAnon semiotic culture jacking with everyone’s favorite NFT project and made it so we all consumed a bunch of Nazis culture.

Which sounds like a deranged conspiracy theory by woke activists but might actually be true. Someone did quite a bit of homework on the BAYC aesthetic history and it’s connection to racist reactionary political traditions, but it’s inherently unreliable as the story is being told by another elaborate culture artist. Who the fuck knows? Are there even sides to this kind of culture war? Can I be a conscientious objector?

If even a fraction of the wild associative leaps are premeditated it would be a kind of aesthetic scandal on par with the country electing a reality show host. A couple nRX message-board fascists cosplaying as Zombie Nazis grift 4 billion dollars in market place from venture capitalists and gullible celebrities. What a collective failure to repudiate literal Nazis! Lol. Maybe this means our unconscious might think some of this is right? Oh god maybe we did read a human biodiversity essay that made a convincing point. We seem to be a lot closer to black pilled. Fuck. Is this psychological warfare?

Honestly I hate this fantasy so much I hope it ends up being the largest milkshake ducking in history. Except at the end a whole bunch of us end up simping for the technical value of a bunch of Hitler memes. Fuck I’d die if this is how we all got pilled on antique fascist aesthetics. I’d love it even more if Peter Thiel were involved so the left wing conspiracy types could build their own QAnon metaverse. Already we’ve been warned about meme magic and the spiritual traditionalism that is animating a global new right. And I’ve got to be honest some of the threads going around have some elaborate research and narrative work. It’s propaganda level and designed to be compelling and confusing.

BAYC is of the most intricate hidden trolling campaigns in history created by very intelligent 4chan-related trolls who have hidden lots of nazi and alt-right innuendoes across the collection I’ve gathered enough proof to confirm it.

I honestly have no idea who is playing who in this saga. I’m think @vgr is probably right that even the terminally online struggle to make sensible or legible this level of signaling. So we brush it off. But it’s going to be an inception vector. So be careful when you react to an event. You might be primed to respond to their propaganda and not even know it.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 353 and Wagmi

Gaming is what finally pilled me on crypto. When I took a medical leave a few years ago I felt isolated. I picked up a number of social games as a way to feel connected to other people. What started as fucking off ultimately transformed my perspective on investing. I didn’t know it yet but it was setting the stage for my fascination with web3.

I made friends. Real friendships despite none of us ever spending time together IRL. I made friends all over the world in completely different places, from wildly different social and economic classes, and we all easily collaborated to win together.

And while this sounds obvious I learned just how much talent and intelligence is evenly distributed to my fellow humans. The only difference between me and many of my fellow gamers was that I was born with a good passport. While everyone had the same access to internet as me, what they didn’t have was the same access to to global markets as I did. We could play together but we couldn’t invest together.

Their ambitions were cut short because of geopolitical decisions that had nothing to do with their ability to contribute and accumulate meaningful value. I had always known this intellectually, but never before had I been so deeply emotionally connected to so much human diversity as I was through gaming online.

Frankly it radicalized the fuck out of me. People in the West have no idea how good they’ve got it. And it’s a crime that we are not all actively working for all of our species to have equal access to markets. It’s just fucking time to drop the colonialism and the exceptionalism and combine our ambitions. We’ve got big problems to solve.

For me wagmi is some powerful solidarity shit. And I’m basically a foot soldier to the plutocracy. I am at the top of the food chain. I’ve get every reason to want to rent seek and act a protectionist to preserve my place. But thanks to something so simple as playing with others got me back to the golden rule. Do unto others.

Web3 offers a radical cultural position that everyone should own their work and everyone should compete with the same rules. When we say “we are all gonna make it” it’s an optimism about the kind of future we can build together. Sure the wealth is good. We need those incentives to come together. Markets operate on self interest. So let’s use that slay the beasts of collaboration and make stuff together. Wagmi.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 351 and Preppers

The smartest people I know are preppers. Not the end times doomers and apocalyptic types; preppers I know are regular people who happen to have the means to get ahead of disasters. And they are quietly preparing for a much harder century ahead.

There is a significant amount of optimism in my world right now. Crypto and web3 has done well for startup people who saw the promise of blockchain early. But also more traditional startups like SaaS companies are having boom times as well. Every aspect of the pandemic has made life appreciably better for technology workers of all kinds.

Permanent work from home freed us from expensive cities like San Francisco. A stock market buoyed by stimulus made our equity heavy portfolios soar. We have been able to isolate if we want. We’ve had only the upside of the pandemic and born few of its burdens. We are the undisputed winners of the pandemic. And we see how that victory is fragile. An accident even. We did little to earn our comfort.

And so we are preparing for bad times. I’ve got multiple friends who have moved to rural communities from metropolitan cities where they have lived for decades. They are investing in farmland in some cases. In others, just little upgrades like gardens and chicken coops in small towns provide a bit of resilience. Gentleman farmers are making a comeback. Homesteading is to millennials what “back to the land” was for my boomer parents. Some of it is cozycore but a lot of it is genuine desire to get back to making things that keep us alive.

I’m seeing it increasingly from people who work in finance as well. There is a kind of quiet consensus that it’s wise to prepare for winter. Even in the midst of growth so impressive even the Fed is finally acting on inflation, the savvy finance folks know our world has risks. We talk about downside protection and portfolio diversification. But we also quietly talk about tail risks, complexity science and anti-fragility.

It’s not the we are Cassandras assuming that we live in a permanent bearish state. We aren’t convinced that if Rome falls so do we. If anything most of us are optimistic bulls who believe the best case scenario could show us into a new exponential age. But also many of us live in America. And who knows if America’s political situation will remain stable. Our liberal party can’t govern without panic and incompetence and our conservatives are openly adopting populism that flirts with fascism.

Add in that the regular climate driven catastrophes are now weekly. We are all aware it could be our homes in the eye of the next storm. And well it’s rational to be concerned that the world will be more chaotic. Some of us, including me, are convinced it will be an age for making fortunes.

But we aren’t idiots. We believe in scale, specializing and capitalism. We’d also like to know how to manage our own vegetables out back. It’s wise to know your local farmer and dairy. It just tasted better. We know it’s more resilient. Being decentralized may add in some additional friction. We think that’s a good thing in some cases. Why do you think we invested in Bitcoin?

Now I’m not saying we are right. I have no idea when or how some kind of disaster will befall us. But I am saying it couldn’t hurt to have some bottles of water and a couple weeks of food on hand. I’m saying you should prep. DM me if you need help.

Categories
Chronicle Internet Culture Startups

Day 321 and Distracted

I was so excited for today. For the first day in weeks I didn’t have a single appointment on my calendar. I had finally run the gauntlet of bullshit obligations that has been chopping up my focus and my days.

I went to bed last night sure that’s I’d finally send out all the emails to folks I wanted as limited partners in my fund, follow up with a bunch of founders, and organize all the various materials and research just waiting to be published. I was going to make progress! I was going to pull the future forward with my own willpower.

But what did I do instead today? I sat in on DAO governance calls in Discord. I accepted an invite to a new working group for a stateless crypto project that is being rebooted for its second round. I listened to token and ecosystem rooms on Twitter for projects I’m invested in. I watched some bitcoin maxis fight against some side chain projects. And I read a bunch of newsletters and financial papers. Which all sounds productive but is basically me just fucking off.

The future arrives whether I pull it in on my force or will or not. Distraction probably has no meaning. But I did finally find a house in Colorado that I could see myself buying. So the only appointment on the calendar tomorrow is visiting the property. So perhaps that’s as much progress as was necessary.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 319 and Chaotic Labor Markets

If you follow me on other social media you may have noticed that I recently launched and am fundraising seed stage venture capital rolling fund we’ve named chaotic.capital. Since this is a blog for my friends if you are an accredited investor I’d love for you wander on over to take a looksy. Or feel free to send me a DM on Twitter or slide into my email inbox which is just julie AT chaotic dot capital.

The TL:DR on the fund is that the world is getting exponentially more complex and that is making living life chaotic as fuck. Humans don’t like chaotic. We like predictable. So we invest in seed stage technology startups that help individuals, families, organizations, and even whole communities, adapt to living with chaos.

I’ll be talking about all the areas we invest I’m sure but today’s post is about about how we might adapt to a more chaotic labor market and what kinds of companies we’d like to see in the space to capitalize on the chaos of the future of work.

The pandemic has accelerated a lot in the labor markets. Hiring in developed economies has been getting harder. The great resignation has a large chunk of the skilled workforce in movement. But student debt is making it less appealing to pursue traditional credentials like a four year college degree. Skilled workers have at once never been more competitive in the labor market but it’s also never been more expensive to pursue those skills. Where there is tension there is opportunity.

So how do we get more people skilled and let those with existing skills deploy their labor more effectively? I think that web3, or if you prefer the decentralized web, presents a unique opportunity to decouple skills & compensation from identity and corporations. Flexibility drives innovation. Web3 let’s us step clear of concepts like one full time job per person.

Workers are seeking replacements for the centralized stores of skills & proof, socializing, and networking we’ve used in the past. The hodge podge of self reported credentials and certificates we put up on LinkedIn or a personal website is a mess and only allows us one centralized identity. That sucks for privacy and also for people with a diverse set of skills. Recruiters see what we present but that’s never the whole picture.

Some would argue that political polarization will require we either prove identity and in-group or lead us to pseudonyms (identity on/off switch) that let us be judged by work product and proof of skills rather than in group approvals and social validation. Regardless, regulatory capture and special interest groups are now being viewed negatively as younger workers see them as expensive obstacles to career progression. If Kim Kardashian can take the bar without ever going to law school why should you go to law school?

One reason that chaotic is particularly interested in is stores of identity, proof of skills and proof of work capacity is that Web3 and decentralization will pick up the slack in labor markets for younger people.

We won’t want to polish our entire lives in order to get one job with a single employer when we know corporations shows us little loyalty. We’d rather find ways to optimize for our preferred compensation package. That could be flexible contracts and hours, remote first work arrangements, healthcare subsidies, or maximum pay; whatever we chose there should be a recruiter that can find us a job and a workplace that will leverage our skills. If you want inspiration on how this might work I’ve got a list of crypto science fiction to read.

In order to avoid falling into low level service jobs we will need to pick up proof of work and proof of skill jobs. Automation is less of a threat than low level service jobs and dead end work for most young people. Finding ways to get get paid for learning is going to make the jump from play to earn video games to play to learn universities one day.

Portable and “fractional” identities will be required in a future where one person with one job isn’t the norm. So how do we build different identities that keep us safe from context collapse while still giving flexibility and portability on our achievements and documented skills?

All of the above is food for thought. If these problems interest you hit me up. I’ve got a request for startups below. If you want to talk about any of them find me on @AlmostMedia on Twitter.

Request for Startups

  • Skills repository Github for provable disciplines beyond coding
  • Web3 LinkedIn where we can turn on and off elements of our credentials
  • An identity wallet
  • A social capital wallet
  • Influence & social capital graphing & portability
  • Fractional identity platforms

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 315 and Probably Nothing

The aesthetics of most crypto backlashes feel easy to dismiss if you have bought into the optimism that web3 might release the stranglehold of the Big Tech monopolies. Bomers & losers griping are just copium right?

Bitching about scams and grifters is fair. But every leap the tech industry has ever had has come with it’s share of idiotic opportunists. They usually get wiped out out. Well except the accidental millionaires. You kind of have to learn to live with that. Plenty of underserving fucknuts will be richer than you. NFT parties in New York isn’t inherently stupider than Comdex. Life is unfair. And yes it sucks. Go to therapy.

The reflexive criticism of crypto tends to break into more nuance when it goes from “but scammers” to “but utility!” But no one thought Twitter would be useful either and most of my social and actual capital has been derived from social media. The downside of web2 is that only a small portion of people benefited. And it’s true that the rewards weren’t terribly even. The accumulation of power and capital has been disastrous. But that should be more of an incentive to push for a decentralized future not less.

I had a lot more thoughts on this topic earlier in the day and I had planned on diving deeper with citations but I’m tired so I think I’ll leave it at that. If you are angry and defensive about something new it’s worth asking yourself why it scares or upsets you. Maybe the defense mechanism is hiding something important from you.