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
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.

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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
Startups

Day 412 and Status Anxiety

I’m attending Ethereum Denver through the weekend. If you aren’t familiar it’s a fairly substantial crypto conference with wide appeal and good credibility across the entire ecosystem. I don’t have any special hookups nor do I have a careful plan of attack. It’s my first time attending a large industry event as an investor.

Truthfully I’m incredibly nervous. I’ve never been on this side of the table before. I’ve always attended events as a founder. Which is an entirely different mix of status and social positioning from a venture capitalist. Founders are the cool ones. The top of the social hierarchy. It’s the hardest job in the business and in exchange we revere them as a kind of messianic class. We all place our belief in the people who start building from nothing. Even if you haven’t yet had a big success it’s the act of beginning that has the potency. Anyone who has the guts and steel to try to make something new is part of that rarified class.

So while I ostensibly have more power than I’ve ever had in my entire career, I also feel a slight sense of social anxiety. This is the first time I’ve not been in the anointed. So in a very real sense I’m walking in without any of the power that I’ve had before. And I’m a little scared.

Will people think I’m cool? Will I get invited to go to the right parties? Will the right people want to talk to me? Will I look good enough? Will I be able to hold my own such that I can capture the attention of other peers?

I’m used to needing to network hard to find the money. I’d roll into events with my team squashed into one room and we’d plan out every single minute to maximize our budget. Now I’m the one teams will be searching for pitch.

It’s this strange blend of gaining new status but missing the old place and position in a culture that has me a little nervous. So if you find me at the conference know that if you are scared to strike up a conversation you are not alone. We are all looking to find each other and connect.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 403 and Hurt

It’s ok if someone hates me. It’s ok if someone thinks I’m bitchy, stupid, obnoxious and self serving. Hell I’m ok if people think I’m a lesser human being. Which judging by Twitter could be a multitude of reasons ranging from “I’m a woman” to “I’ve got bad taste in tv.”

I am alright with you not being alright with me. My existence is not threatened by your philosophy or personal preferences. My existence is only threatened if you literally threaten me. Call me evil if you like. I’m not offended. Until you take an action against me it’s alright that we disagree. Even if the disagreements are existential.

It’s quite possible this is wrong. I’m open to debate on what constitutes harm. In fact, my entire philosophy centers on that debate being fine. I can take it. I actually pay someone to cuss me out for being stupid and then I pay again to spend time in a group where we regularly tell each other how much the group members anger us. It’s called therapy.

So take that as context when I say I wasn’t particularly personally hurt by Brantly Milligan, aka Brantly.eth aka one of the ENS Foundation cofounders, suggesting women who use contraception are perverts. I’d probably be a lot more hurt if I was a gay trans woman who had an abortion though. But I figure that demo might be used to being called evil by Catholics at this point. Like maybe it’s more of an annoyance than existential threat if you are wealthy and privileged enough to be working in crypto. We aren’t really a population that is hurting

Brantley.eth “homosexual acts are evil. Transgenderism doesn’t exist. Abortion is murder. Contraception is a perversion. So is masturbation and porn.”

The Ethereum community is experiencing this speech with a lot of pain, hurt and anger. Brantley was voted out of his contract with True Names Limited the foundation that manages ENS Domains. But he remains one of the largest holders of tokens and will obviously have plenty of influence over the future of the platform. The debate has become one of cancel culture versus DAO governance working as intended. But the split on that is not clean and it’s not always clear where people will fall. An informal poll on my timeline is pretty evenly split.

Twitter poll asking if Brantley termination is governance working or cancel culture.

I’m tempted to assign him my tokens as a delegate to be honest. Though I won’t because I think he’s unprofessional. But I want to because I don’t love how any of it played out. Brantly doubled down on telling folks to fuck off compounding the feeling of being hurt. That’s unprofessional and not the kind of behavior I’d expect out of my management team. But I also don’t know that simply holding unpleasant or intolerant beliefs is enough. And it shouldn’t be in a decentralized system. I respect that the right voting and governance may have happened here but I’d argue we all want more control spread out over more people for exactly these scenarios.

I think Brantly basically Shrekli’d himself by doubling down on asshole antisocial shit and the DAO equivalent of the Feds coming for you happened. You can’t attract negative attention and be shocked when bad shit happens to you. But I don’t think being a retrograde weirdo is enough on it’s own to get you booted from an ecosystem.

The entire reason I’m walking you through this sensitive topic today is that I am committing my year to self love. And you might think how does self love and DAO governance overlap. But I really do feel empathy to everyone involved in ENS and the ethereum ecosystem right now. The pain of feeling like you are not seen and loved for who you are is primal shit. This is core human nature “do I belong” to my tribe stuff.

If you don’t love yourself than you are going to have a reactive stance to something that questions your morality and worth. And I’m guessing a lot of people are reactive judging by the uproar. But the thing about self love is that you just won’t be as hurt by assholes being assholes. Because you’ve taken care of yourself first. So whatever the right and just outcome of this ENS governance issue, I think it’s important we all check in on ourselves and why we reacted in the first place. Only then can we get on with the business of design the future and it’s technology.

Categories
Finance

Day 389 and Bear Down for Midterms

I used to be something of a perma-bear. I was always somewhat convinced that bad shit was just around the corner. I guess you can see that in my persistent interest in doomer culture. But as the world continues to experience “the crumbles” I’ve softened my general stance on everything is awful.

Crypto is arguably responsible for much of my stance. For all the bitching about Web3’s lack of decentralization and heady “takes” on how this has all been done before, I actaully do this think is the next wave. Do I think we are due for a lot of crashing and failures and unrealized promise? Also yes.

So when the market decided to do a January bubble bursting I was surprised at how sanguine I was. I kind of didn’t believe it was going to turn into a full blown recession rout. Now this is not to say I don’t think stuff is frothy, as I clearly do. But I think the weirding has so confused markets that who knows when contagion bubble popping is going to hit for real. I don’t think we are there yet.

And indeed I started this post in the morning and by market close stuff kinda bounced. Maybe a dead cat bounce. But who even knows is my point. I don’t think we will see a genuine correction till a real market leader like Facebook or Microsoft pulls a Worldcom or an Enron. I wouldn’t be shocked if it was Tesla but I ain’t playing that short. I think it’s more likely that “Meta” fucks itself in the transition to the metaverse or whatever and then we get a real systemic crash. Right now no one gives a single fuck if all of crypto goes to zero. We need much bigger game to drive a recession. Systemic Lehman brother shit.

Which is long way of me making an elaborate Community joke. That TV show with the Talk Soup guy. They had a plot where someone misspoke or made a bad joke and the theme at their community college dance was “Bear Down for Midterms” and no it isn’t a real phrase. My basic feeling on a recession is that the Fed will toss us a couple rate hikes to deal with inflation. But half of America is convinced the pandemic isn’t over. Congress could be talked into more stimulus since the midterms are bearing down on us and well the Democrats are going to lose. The exponential age, the end of American empire and global weirding means no one knows what is going on. The next real marker on our calendar is the midterms. So bear down for midterms. I’ll be wash trading to get some actual cost basis losses till then.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture

Day 359 and SOS

A few days ago I wondered what project or cultural artifact was going to grab our mutual cultural attention during the Christmas vacation week? Something always does. One year it was fucking Quora if you can believe it. This year I’m ready to call it for $SOS at least if you are into Web3 and crypto economics.

On fucking Christmas Day these degenerates drop a contract to let anyone claim tokens who has ever purchased an NFT on the OpenSea marketplace. And people went ape shit. Suddenly someone had taken all the visible contributions from OpenSea and manifested them in a token and said this is ours. Fuck corporate dominance of profit your users hold the real value. I’ve never seen anything so ballsy. Last year when Wall Street Bets decided to taken on hedge funds I felt like we had entered a new era of community behavior.

An emergent community has swum up from the sea and eaten the lunch of a supposedly greedy centralized platform. Web3 just attacked what we didn’t even realize was Web2. A crypto darling turned parable for centralization in the space of a few years. $SOS seemed to say community owned this value all along. The airdrop showed us the balance of power in a web3 community if we all work together. I’m so impressed by the sheer cultural force of the statement. It could all go horribly awry but god damn if it isn’t utopian.

I’ve got not fucking clue if this is a legitimate contract or not. I’m not going to FUD. But from a first principles, we are building a new internet where the incentives of the users align with the technology statement, then this is quite a shot across the bow. Also I’m pretty sure this makes it harder for OpenSea to IPO if their user base is in open rebellion against who gets rewarded.

The thing is I believe Devin to be a well meaning and genuinely forward thinking guy. He’s a terrific communicator that set out with the utopian intentions that we all do. But we are moving so fast with breaking cultural norms and acceptable societal level rewards for contributions to an economy that I think we might have just spiraled up to some kind of cultural singularity. Crypto might just be moving that fast. Whatever happens this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen from a startup. Score one for the anonymous degens.

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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.