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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.

Categories
Startups

Day 301 and Squads

So this is sort of cheating, but I did write the press release, so I am going to count it as my writing for the day. Today one of my favorite investments of the year Squads announced its seed round. Their vision is simple. Make starting a DAO as easy as making a new group chat.

I was the first yes on the round after meeting Stepan their cofounder and CEO through a cold DM on Twitter. I’ll write a whole post about it at some point I’m a little tuckered from the excitement. So I hope you enjoy the stylings of my extremely formal for normies press release. Any typos are my inability to copy pasta from mobile browser pdfs.

Squads, a DAO creation & management application that makes setting up a Decentralized Autonomous Organization as easy as starting a group chat, announces seed round with Collab+Currency

Squads, an application for Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAOs) creation and management built on the Solana blockchain, is pleased to announce a $1.5m seed round led by Collab+Currency with participation from Reciprocal Ventures, Volt Capital, Chaotic Capital, 6thman Ventures, Republic Capital, 8186 Capital, Solana Capital, as well as angel investors Ryan Selkis, Ryon Nixon, Chris Hermidaand Julia Lipton.

DAOs have already profoundly changed social coordination and put pressure on traditional corporate vehicles by expanding within the wider DeFi and NFT ecosystems. However, existing solutions in the market are costly to deploy, have cumbersome management features, and are focused only on web 3.0 power users.

Squads is here to simplify the DAO framework and make it accessible to the majority of users who either already firmly exist in web 3.0 or are just discovering it.

Squads wants to make starting a DAO as easy as starting a group chat,” said Stepan Simkin, Squads CEO & Co-Founder.

Squads combines all key DAO legos such as deployment, treasury / vault management, on-chain voting, and chat in one simple interface so anyone, anywhere can create and run a DAO. By combining these primitives under one platform and building it on a fast and scalable layer 1 blockchain like Solana, Squads will become a social hub for web 3.0 coordination. 

Squads founding team consisting of Stepan Simkin (CEO), Deni Ershtukaev (COO) and Sean Ganser (technical lead) comes from diverse backgrounds of software development, law and finance.

While one of the biggest value propositions DAOs can offer is an experience of spinning up a “company” from a command line without any friction or intermediaries, the Squads team firmly believes that “complicated user interface implementations and high fees have made setting up and running a DAO prohibitive for the majority of even sophisticated crypto users. Squads is here to take DAOs to everyone by bringing accessibility to DAO set up and management.”

“Smart contracts are a significant evolution in human organization on par with the invention of the corporation. The recognition by the state of corporations as a single entity composed of multiple actors drove significant economic growth. DAOs are poised to initiate progress as important as the corporation once did,” said Julie Fredrickson, Managing Partner at Chaotic Capital.

“The fiction which we have called the corporation has relied on legal & judicial layers to enforce distribution of resources. With a DAO, the management and allocation of resources is enforced by code, not lawyers or judges. This frees individuals to put their trust in an entity regardless of its geographic jurisdiction. DAOs allow individuals to collectively form complex contracting relationships and operationalize the movement of resources between individuals and organizations for any number of collective pursuits. As Brian Armstrong the CEO of Coinbase noted “the new jurisdiction is online’” said Stepan Simkin, Squads CEO & Co-Founder. “As human collaboration moves online, so too will our organization and tools.”

While DAOs have shown their utility in early use cases in DeFi & emergent NFTs communities, Squads wants regular people to enjoy their benefits. Colloquially known as web 3.0, mainstreaming access to the benefits of blockchains or decentralized networks of many peer to peer nodes, has been slow as few apps provide simplicity and utility.

“Squads envisions a web3 for regular users. A group of freelancers can band together for contract work. A homeowners association can use a DAO to manage and disburse funds. Investment clubs can pool resources. A gaming guild can coordinate accounts. A group of creators can protect their earnings and intellectual property. A sports league can manage equipment and budgets. According to the Squads team vision: “A DAO should be an easy vehicle for groups of different sizes and budgets to easily organize to achieve common goals.

Squad’s is at the forefront of web 3.0’s next iteration: social coordination. Squads is also positioned as the first mover of DAO tooling within the Solana ecosystem, giving Squads considerable growth potential. “Squads is the team to bridge the huge gap in the Solana DAO tooling ecosystem by building this critical infrastructure and we are delighted to support them” said Soona Amhaz, General Partner at Volt Capital.

“We’re excited to back the incredible vision of Squad’s founders,” said Stephen McKeon, Partner at Collab+Currency. “Squads sees a future where DAOs become a commonplace structure for organizing economic activity. We believe that rather than working for a corporation or nonprofit, many people will work for a protocol someday. So does the Squads team.”

The funding will be used for the beta release of the core product with a mainnet release to follow. Users can look forward to a Squads v2 release with advanced treasury functionality as well as a mobile application for both iOS and Android. Users of other layer 1s can look forward to multichain expansion in the future. The team will be hiring mobile developers, product managers, a network administrator and a designer.

Categories
Finance Media Startups

Day 299 and Hiring An Assistant

I’ve been thinking it is time to hire an assistant. Obviously I need help and the job would be working with me. But I want to train up someone who would like to acquire my unique set of skills. I’d like to mentor someone up on the startup ecosystem that I’ve spent the last fifteen years working through as a founder, operator and now venture investor so they too can take advantage of the incredible network of people that are building today.

I’m looking for someone that would like to get exposure to all the areas where I have expertise. You don’t have to know or even like all areas, obviously this would depend on the candidate, but what makes me an unusual player in startup and venture land is the weird mashup of specialties. So if you want to learn:

1. Angel & seed stage investing analyst skills
2. Media & hype (call it public relations if you must)
3. How one keeps your head on straight in a discourse laden zeitgeist chaos landscape

Then you might enjoy working with me. The goal of this assistant or analyst position would be within 2 years you’d go on to do what I do somewhere else & I’ll sensei you through that journey. I am where I am because of mentors and bosses that taught me the ropes.

As I work closely with my partner and husband Alex Miller you would get exposure to the operational and logistical side of investing as well as startup operations. He’s actually my inspiration for this job. His first job out of college was for Jason Calacanis. Without him none of the other jobs and connections would have been possible. And we owe him big time as without Jason we wouldn’t have Stack Overflow in our life.

I’ve only every met one person who has my particular weird blend of growth, media and investing. I do some traditional public relations and would love to pass that on to someone that could leverage it well for their own startups. But it is entirely in service to my investing and portfolio with the occasional other favor, so it’s much more portfolio services for our investments than a PR shop. But you’d learn our portfolio from the inside out as investment decisions and then figure out how to take these seed stage companies to market with the media. Which is a pretty unique thing so not a traditional gig.

Non traditional backgrounds are awesome. No degree requirements. No credentialism or social signaling. Disabled folks welcome. I’m also disabled so we do accommodations. There is no set schedule as I don’t work one so whenever you work best is great. Any location or geography is fine. Any time zone though I work on mountain. Degen anons with anime avis welcome (encouraged as I’d like someone fluent in crypto). If you are an anon avi who wants to get into crypto investing and figure out how to work the zeitgeist for your meme magic I am here to be your mentor. And then I’m an ideal world I’d be the first check into your startup as this is about the ecosystem. So if this sounds fun slide into my DMs on Twitter and tell me what the one thing you do better than anyone else.

Categories
Internet Culture Reading

Day 244 and Crypto Fiction

Science fiction has often been the proving ground for reality. Without Star Trek I doubt I’d be typing this out on my own personal tricorder (mine is called an iPhone). Imagination begets reality. Much of the internet was charted in the genre of cyberpunk long before the rest of us got online.

I think we are entering a new phase with crypto and I’d like to compile a list of foundational texts that have given us the imaginative framework for concepts like the metaverse, DAOs, and smart contracts. I believe this to be a distinct genre from cyberpunk even though classics like Snowcrash transcend both genres.

For instance I don’t think Neuromancer is a crypto novel even though it is an internet novel. I’ll have to work through my logic and categorization on that front but my instinct is that novels that explore networking and computing are not in and of themselves crypto novels. They have to include some aspect of decentralization to qualify. Further aspects like self executing logic for corporations, societal organization, peer to peer and permission-less code and other similar themes I think all fall under decentralization.

Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson – the original metaverse novel. Hiro Protagonist literally inspired Stack’s Hiro. Full disclosure my husband is the COO. Ironically he has not read the book.

Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge – what is basically boomer has to adjust to economic life that is organized around what are functionally DAOs with the help of his granddaughter. This grossly oversimplified plot shouldn’t be used to judge the book which is actually a singularity story.

Daemon & Freedom by Daniel Suarez – the predictive text finisher for Gmail takes over the planet by creating a smart contract. If you ever wondered what would happen if what if Grammarly becomes Putin this is for you. But I do think it is an excellent exploration of how DAO (decentralized autonomous organizations) could replace the corporation.

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow – you could include any of the books in his Homeland universe but this one pushes home a bit harder how centralized services destroy privacy which is core to why we need peer to peer permission-less systems.

Analog by Elliot Pepper – While it is technically a thriller trilogy there is an augmented persistent metaverse that is run by an organization that transcends the corporation to be something much more. Plus it has lobbyists, self destructive energy billionaire and engineer heroes.

Acellerando by Charles Stross – it starts in the home of the corporation Amsterdam and pans out from there to include things that look like smart contracts that are in fact too smart, lobsters, shell corporations, and the eventual end logic and utility issues brought on by the logic of “always be growing.” Also snag Neptune’s Brood which deals with the monetary policy implications of faster than light travel in a galactic civilization that needs slow stores of value. Cold wallets!

Categories
Finance Startups

238 and DAO Ethics

Are smart contracts freeing us from the tyranny of the legal class just to toss us into the maws of the developer class? Sure we think of lawyers as being inherently worse because they are bourgeois and protected by credentialism and regulatory capture.

But as crypto gets more complex and smart contracts involve more intricate provisioning ,will it become just as exclusionary as the ecosystem of white shoe magic circle legalese? It’s getting to be mighty hard to afford Solidity developers!

Sure we tend to think of developers as friendly self trained indie types. Anyone can learn to code! Let us not lean on heavily on the benefits of decentralization as a panacea for human nature. Power aggregates and money likes influence.

When describing the benefits of how DAOs will outflank traditional corporate governance structures we need to look out for how we avoid the self interest of a protected class of Mandarins forming. We need to think ahead on how to keep smart contracts legible. I don’t have any of the answers here. Governance is just barely coalescing in crypto but it’s never to soon to think ahead.

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Internet Culture Startups

237 and Crypto-Optimism

As much as Silicon Valley and startup culture claim a kind of techno-optimism, in the wake of the social media partisanship, science skepticism and climate concerns, it feels hard to really dream big. People say catch phrases like “it’s time to build” but we all understand there are limits to the problems we solve in capitalism’s current markets. And no one believes the government can solve anything.

Any possibility or big dream can be clouded by its politics or cultural baggage if you let it. We yell about cancel culture but it’s really a lack of imagination. A kind of giving in to the boundaries of what is acceptable has captured the moment.

But I’m noticing a genuine mood of possibilities in crypto. A levity that believes in wide open horizons. Instead of the long horizon, crypto sees a bright one.

Maybe it’s because crypto’s proponents genuinely believe it will be possible to toss out legacy systems. Crypto is still so new the disillusionment of compromise to human nature, design dependencies or aggregate power seem far away. The problems that plague ant endeavor haven’t become inevitable. No wonder the mood is ebullient. We are genuinely happy in crypto.

You can imagine a world in which the DAO destroys the corporation. You can imagine a world in which artists are paid directly by patrons in effectively priced markets which respect their ownership. You can imagine expensive and exclusive financial products being automated away so even a small independent entity can access the best without bleeding out through a dozen service fees. Everything could still be a utopia.

And while I know it won’t it feels really great to be optimistic about something.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics Startups

Day 232 and Human Being & Citizen

There is a famous line from Plato’s Apology that sums up the central dilemma of human organization. It’s also the title of my favorite college course at UChicago.

Who is a knower of such excellence, that of human being and citizen

Socrates asks us to consider how an individual’s highest calling conflicts with the group. We actually haven’t made a ton of progress on resolving the issue since antiquity.

I’ve been watching crypto struggling with the Human Being and Citizen Problem as governance in decentralized systems because a pressing issue. Much of crypto doesn’t really have philosopher kings, despite startup land’s affection for the willpower driven CEO, because a lot still happens in the commons. Open source and all.

I’ll be curious how we proceed and resolve these issues of individual versus group intensives as DAOs get explored. The corporation with its board and executive structure is being pushed back. But we haven’t figured out how to coordinate yet.

Vitalik has been exploring moving beyond coin voting for decentralized projects in recent posts. The incentives for public goods has generally been economic in the crypto space. We coordinate on commons by being driven by selfish incentives.

Gitcoin is working through shared governance structures beyond itself with a DAO of DAO concept emerging out of Kevin Owoki’s Egregore metaphor. Though I’d personally avoid using occult old Enochian terminology (egregore is a shared manifestation come from the minds of multiple people) as no one wants to accidentally manifest an elder god

Speaking of elder gods, we are all fighting Moloch the god of coordination failure. In popular imagination Moloch is usually defeated by a world historical great man. We love the great man theory of history. One visionary dude leader slays Moloch. Humanity gets coordinated! Hooray! Historians generally agree that great man theory is too simplistic. So however these problems get solved it’s probably not going to be one great savior.

Categories
Finance

Day 225 & Explaining DAOs to Moms

My mother is a sharp woman. She’s interested in economics but if you asked her to explain securities law she’d probably shrug. Not her expertise. She did survive our family bankruptcy during the tech IPO implosion she’s got a slight intuition of securities law in the context of consumer protection but that’s about it.

So I was impressed that she was able to sum up the recent infrastructure bill’s attempt to make crypto foot the bill very neatly.

So they are trying to convince us that people who program computers to run math problems are actually bankers?

That’s…actually not too far off. She seemed to grok that this was a misunderstanding of the basic technology, who builds it and it’s purpose. She was glad the amendment didn’t pass. Clearly people who build computer applications are not the same as the guy at Charles Schwab who looks after her retirement account.

We were discussing it, as I was trying to explaining PR DAO and why I wanted to help organize an activist group of folks whose purpose was execute public relations campaigns to tell stories about crypto. I explained to her that rather than having a bunch of executives who make decisions we would write a set of rules that automatically determine how we make decisions. Those rules would let all members of the organization vote on how we wanted to deploy our assets and pursue our agenda. She liked the tag line “rules not rulers” a lot. She’s pretty into freedom. A smart contract was pretty intuitive to my mom.

Where she got confused was the governance tokens. Not how they worked. Again it was intuitive to her that depending on what you contributed and how invested you were in the organization that you would a different say in what got done. Maybe each token represents one vote. Maybe some people have more votes because they are more invested. Presumably we figure that out in our smart contract. What she didn’t get was why the government thinks a voting mechanism is a security.

“So the government treats the way your group organizes decision making as if those little voting symbols were stock in IBM? That’s fucking stupid”

Now granted my mother probably can’t explain what a security is (she’s got the basic idea that they are like a type of money and Boomers like to own stocks). She gets why they are regulated the way they are in a general sense. She’s lost money on badly governed companies. So sure it’s fine that the government has some rules for that sort of thing.

But even to a lay person like my mom it seems pretty clear that something meant to represent ownership in a money making enterprise and something meant to help organize voting and decision making are separate ideas. She seemed to think maybe they ought to distinguish between the two ideas. Because you know the last time we came up with clever ideas like the corporation the whole world changed. Evolving them again to be autonomous could make for the same level of change. If my mom got that in a half an hour phone call seems like maybe the professionals at the SEC could work it out too.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture

Day 220 and Crypto’s Publicist Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my proposal to create an activist DAO to engage in public relations for crypto. The goal of the organization would be to create a groundswell of support for the space, it’s values, and opportunities as well as engaging in support for a more positive regulatory environment.

If you would like to hear more about why I think it is time for the wider decentralized crypto community to engage in a public relations and media campaign please see my post yesterday. Today I am putting down further notes on what I think our values and priorities might be. As always, this blog is a work in progress so consider this my thoughts as of now that are open to being edited and changed.

What kind of values are crucial in a PR or communication DAO or interest group?

  • Open
  • Participatory
  • Trustless

It’s important that whatever we do on behalf of crypt it must be done in the spirit of the space and why so many disparate types of people believe in its values. While there may be structures like executive teams, core teams, board members and studios and contractors to execute on our mission we want to use the tools and transparency of crypto.

But to what purpose are we organizing? We will create content and engage in conversations to shape media narratives and public sentiment aimed at promoting the positive elements, potential, and impact of crypto.

How will we do this? We will hire publicists to promote our stories in mainstream media along with commissioning content meme-ers and creators to share opinions. We will engage with spokespersons to share talking points created from the priorities of the community. We will place our content, from memes to editorials, on our own properties as well as in supporting communities and member publications.

I expect I’ll be doing quite a bit more note taking and research. If you want to be a part of this effort I’ve started a shared Google doc for collaboration. Email me Julie @ chaotic dot capital or DM me @ AlmostMedia. This won’t be built in a day but together we can push it forward.