My fund is an early stage pre-seed venture fund that backs weirdos. Our thesis is simple. The world is increasingly complex, chaotic if you will, and only the most agile will win. We look for those that have the agency to adapt to the one true constant; change. Circumstances changed by the moment but humans remain reassuringly the same.
Humans are horny for hierarchy. We are eager to give our power away as a species. Please will someone else just be responsible for making our decisions for us? Can someone point me to the person in charge? “Take me to your leader!”
If someone seems smarter, richer, more capable, more aggressive, heck even if they have better taste than us, they become an instant candidate for us delegating our authority over to them. My most popular blog post ever was about dickriding. Yes it was about Elon Musk’s fans.
I’ll be the first to say that people who court you to gain power should be viewed as suspect. But someone who has power is not themselves always suspect by default. I know it’s a fine distinction. But people fall into positions of authority simply by going out and being competent. Competence is a fast route to power.
Sure being competent has a lot of downsides. Suddenly you’ve got power you maybe didn’t want. We have an incentive shunt power off to someone else as it generally sucks to be in charge. It’s energetically expensive to be responsible. Just ask one of your friends with a toddler.
Sometimes we have to wield power because it’s our job to take care of our corner of the universe. Again ask someone with a toddler. We are in charge of sustaining some portion of the grand experiment called life. Even if it’s just our own families. Even if it’s just yourself.
So why am I titling this post “I am Beff Jezos?” Right now online there is a movement gaining recognition for encouraging people to have agency and build for the future. It’s a movement that wants you to own your own power. And to help others get more power of their own.
It’s principles are simple. The future will arrive and we should build like it’s coming. Slowing things down, or even worse, going backwards, is not a solution to our problems. We can only go forward. If you’d prefer a driving metaphor, we should accelerate into the curve. Slowing down just spins out the car. Civilization is the car.
So what, you want to just uplift humanity, build AI and populate the universe with the maximum diversity and quantity of life?
The movement is more of a meme space than anything else. It is decentralized. I’ve not met anyone that runs it though I’ve spoken to many vocal supporters. And I’ve chatted with folks that are at the nexus of of its online presence. Everyone is positive and friendly. Most of them are anonymous. I’m not even of sure if some of the accounts are singular or plural. Which is pretty cool. It doesn’t have a president or a CEO or even a founder who owns anything with any amount of authority. It could be one dude or multiple dudes gender non specific.
It’s just a bunch of people who make stuff. It’s popular amongst engineers but it’s an ethos that to anyone who can make something. Even this blog post counts. I am e/acc as much as anyone.
Naturally if no one is in charge it’s a bit threatening. If there is no hierarchy how do we control it? If no one is in charge then what will we do if someone under their banner does something bad?
Such is the beauty of an idea. A meme can’t really be owned. A decentralized group of goofballs on the internet can’t really be snuffed out for bad think. Maybe a few nodes go down. They literally cannot kill all of us.
The messages does seem to be resonating. I know being hopeful has improved my mood. A decent number of people who make shit want the future to come a little faster. They want more people with more ownership of the building process.
More complexity and more abundance is appealing even if it seems impossible to achieve. Don’t worry, just build for your corner of the world. Put power and responsibility in as many hands as possible. We can build it together.
You too can have a toddler and own the joy of being responsible for your corner of the universe. It’s dangerous for sure. Folks will tell you for your own good you need to have a hierarchy and someone responsible for the power.
But guess what? It can be you. And sure heads will get bonked. Crying will ensue. Remember I said ask someone with a toddler? What if you are the competent and in charge parent? Shit right?
We’ve got to go forward. I am Beff Jezos. You too are Beff Jezos. And they can’t stop us all from arriving at the future. Go ahead and accelerate into the curve.
Everyone in my social circle was in a terrific mood yesterday. A small company that was widely supported by angels in my ecosystem was acquired by a larger startup that we all like. Happy investors that we were, Alex and I read the cap table over dinner and celebrated each co-investor that we liked.
It was a jubilant moment across my group chats in a darker wider climate for startups. The federal reserve’s inflation fight has meant tighter dollars. And that means less funding for early stage companies at lower valuations.
The focus has been good for the industry. A reminder that we can’t spend our way to innovation. We’ve relied on bigger companies, weaker talent, and unsustainable growth policies while the cash spigot was on.
I enjoyed the win. I’m happy for the founder and the team who will be going to such a great company. I’m happy a lot of investors got a win. But I know that the good mood will have to sustain us through some rough patches. So it’s good we are all banding together and the wins are shared.
I’ve noticed an distinct uptick in pre-seed & seed startup founders looking to raise smaller rounds. If you think this post is about you, don’t fret I’m into the double digits with examples just this past month. Smaller rounds on reasonably capped SAFE notes are on everyone’s mind.
While not everyone I’ve spoken to has fully thought through what it means to raise less, the market is a muse. And she is always worth listening too. Founders are hearing that raising a round must tied to product milestones. That it is good to raise what is needed to show proof that your idea has demand. In some cases the milestones are proof that your technology or product can be made at all.
When I first got started as a founder a million to 1.5m raise capped at 6m was considered a big and well funded seed round. It was more typical that the pre-seed and angel rounds were done in the half million range and capped at 3m or so if you were dealing with sophisticated angels. The industry was smaller.
It’s fascinating to see that we’ve stepped back to valuations and round sizes from ten to fifteen years ago. The markets have indeed shifted.
But what really got my attention is the undercurrent of planning and go to market strategy work being demanded again. We’d lost some of those expectations during the fervor of the zero percent interest years. Capital has a cost. We’d forgotten that.
If you are a founder in this market you must know what you want to do, how much it will cost and how long it will take you to get to the first step of milestones that proves you’ve got something of value. Everything else is noise.
I myself am going through an exercise of ruthless prioritization of my own focus and find. As in any portfolio, write downs are inevitable. It’s easier to write something down when it’s money. Investments of time, energy, social capital and presence are much harder to let go. A sunk cost never boils? A watched pot never catalyzes? Sometimes a group or a movement chooses to remain outside their power.
I have so much less capacity to be present than I’d like. Others may prefer to be distant and still shower up but I find I’m happier with boundaries that are firm and great remove. That means when I do show up you have my full and intimate attention. It’s only right.
As more of us rise up the acceleration curve of artificial intelligence and must maintain our capacity to sense-make, this will help your mind and body function in a chaotic world.
I myself have taken Jonny’s Bootcamp, intend to be in the next cohort (my code JULIE gets you a discount), and I’ll be sponsoring a founder to attend the September cohort so consider this a chance to see if these tools are right for you. My revealed preferences tell you what you need to know.
Silicon Valley is a place in Northern California. It’s also accurate to say that Silicon Valley is also a mindset that knows no geographic boundaries. If you will indulge me I’ve coined a term for this syncretic network state. I’m calling it the Silicon Diaspora.
While my family is from Boulder Colorado and I was raised there, because of my father’s startup ambition I ended up being born in Fremont California. It was a low rent neighborhood in Silicon Valley back then. Now it’s got a Tesla factory.
But we didn’t stay. My family and many others. Silicon Valley was such an inspiring landscape we sent missionaries to other cities and our diaspora took hold.
There are many types of nodes of varying sizes cities that include the Silicon Diaspora. And these nodes have a few key ingredients in common which attract the diaspora to them.
The technical talent was then nurtured by investors at home. Boulder owes a great debt to Brad Feld and everyone at Foundry Group for this community. Boulder was and remains a crucial node in the diaspora.
I’m even seeing it now in Montana. Bozeman has a thriving startup scene buttressed by its popularity with some unique demographics like ex-military founders and retired venture capitalists. My husband goes to the weekly Bozeman Startup Slack meetup every Thursday.
Silicon Diaspora has many of its citizens in the mountain west (both Wyoming and Idaho have scenes) as those values align well with crypto, privacy and defense startups. I hope to be a part of nurturing Montana as a future node of the Silicon Diaspora.
I hosted an interactive town hall for Consensus this afternoon. The topic was the path forward for building communities online, offline and IRL with cryptocurrency, decentralized autonomous organizations and maybe even network states.
I’ve been working on this town hall for several months. I worked with Marc Hochstein to refine the thesis question, build the flow and topics, bring together speakers from unique ecosystems and projects, and horse trade the various bit of social capital required to get interesting content out the door. I worked hard on it. I felt I was one of the owners of the panel.
Builders of new types of communities – online, IRL, and hybrids – roll up their sleeves and discuss how they’ve addressed challenges from 60,000-foot strategy to immediate on-the-ground tactics in azero-trust world with high trust expectations. Topics include: governance and accountability; organic scaling through consensus (who and what decides on whether it is achieved); the architecture of sustaining and driving loyalty; navigating regulatory hurdles; uncertainty around novel governance structures; and managing information and workflows around who and what is trusted.
I was proud of my first question as I felt qualified to ask having once been the founder and leader of an organization. Conway’s Law is a familiar adage in software design. Simply put, what we build is a reflection of who we are and how we communicate with each other. So I opened the town hall with this as the thirty thousand foot view.
If what we build is a reflection of the organizations that build it, then crypto is a reflection of this room. Assuming you believe our goal is economic and monetary solutions for everyone willing to align with our reformation, are we living up to this ambition?
We had a lot of ground to cover. Issues of institutional distrust, transparency, governance, and decentralization’s promises for inclusion. But reactivity means we go to base emotions. An older woman asked the panel (not me though) why there weren’t more women on the panel. Needlessly to say I took that personally. Ain’t I a panelist?
I just brought the hammer down on this poor woman who wanted to call my panel a “manel” because lady it’s fucking erasure I worked for months to bring this group together, I’m on the stage as an expert, and you think don’t I count?
She said I was the moderator. Which like yeah it’s my fucking show because I have the expertise to bring the leaders together as I’m a peer. I shut it down as we had deeper questions on what inclusion means than Boomer feminism or Girlbossing woke-ism can manage.
The beauty of Bitcoin and Ethereum and the ecosystem of L2s like Stacks is any of us can validate what’s going on. There is no “man” or patriarchy or systemic oppression keeping you out of learning and using the tools. Maybe they reflect their builders who haven’t always been inclusive but now all of us together can earn and build like anyone else. We can make our tools reflect us by insisting on being seen.
I regularly have my background and expertise and existence questioned by everyone. And I just keep showing up. So I’d like to say sticking a girl on a panel does nothing for inclusion. But being a woman who organized a serious (ly) weird town hall on community should also mean my experience counts as much as anyone else’s.
I want everyone to count. You count. I count. Your gender or sexual orientation doesn’t discount you unless you discount yourself first. I regularly make sure I’m seen and I want you seen too.
The way to count is by speaking up and making sure that men aren’t the only ones who contribute. Don’t want to make your gender or sex a thing?
Go ignore gender & sex and & identity entirely and be an anon with a Milady pfp. I came to crypto to be a sovereign of my own body and choices. It’s your choice. None of us are victims.
I was amused as dozens of women came up to me after with enthusiasm about how we do inclusion in crypto because we don’t need to be restricted by Girlbossing or Boomer feminism. We include ourselves as the system is inclusive by design.
Decentralized systems include us all. And that’s a future they can’t exclude us from. Do you want to categorize every identity into perfect little corporate identities and slogans? I don’t. We can build a future where we are free to be you and me. Ok Boomer?
I am excited for this panel as I feel like I’m ready to own my experience as a professional community builder. It’s been a job in the social media era for a bit. But it’s only recently that we’ve realized the ecosystem of builders is tightly knit together by a tapestry of overlapping passions and competencies. It’s lots of different kinds of nerds.
We arrived earlier than expected which enabled us to go to an event with Jon Stokes (I was slightly more excited to see his wife Christina but Jon knows I adore him too). While we had lots of folks discussing heady issues like the network state, it is most joyful for me to discuss the more human aspects of life in a community. Who was looking after the kids and which one of our neighbors is housesitting. Practical daily living things felt like the natural connection of humans beings working together.
From there we went to a dinner with one of our most cherished real ones Ben Huh. The man knows food so I was thrilled to be feeling healthy enough to stay out and enjoy a meal with a table of deeply weird unabashedly themselves people. When we did introductions the question was “what is something you are obsessed with right now?”
The answers were wide ranging. High temperature cooking, textile pattern making, reality dating shows on Netflix (not for the record me but I am also obsessed), showing up as you are, sewing the perfect custom dress shirt, raising goats, riding tractors, reading science fiction mind bender The Three Body Problem, and mastering nervous system regulation (this one is me).
I felt like everyone I saw that night was one of my fellow travelers. The serendipity of overlapping passions and curiosity showed me so many ways I connect with diverse humans. I encountered politics as disparate as reactionary fascist and shitlib standard as everyone comes to grip with a future that feels as yet unwritten. There is a lot of serendipity on the frontier. It’s nice to be reminded that the future is built together.
I guess I look forward to banking with First Citizen. They seem like nice enough folks. And maybe a bank is just a bank. But as I look back on the firsts that Silicon Valley Bank gave me I realize I will miss it. I’m sad they are gone.
The first check I saw with more than one comma was from Silicon Valley Bank. My very first company was acquired by a startup that banked with them. Ironically, right before the 2008 crisis was beginning to come onto the scene. I had a small window of fleeting security where I enjoyed a steady paycheck every two weeks with payroll done by Silicon Valley Bank. I remember thinking I was so rich. Even though I was super pissed my cofounder had a better salary than me as Silicon Valley culture dictated at the time that engineers make more.
If you are a fan of history then you will enjoy knowing that yes I did get fired during the infamous RIP good times affair. Thanks Sequoia! They were our main investors. Still I appreciated the opportunities as I was so young I wasn’t very good yet. I’ll forever have loyalty to my CEO for having treated me much better than I thought I deserved.
I also I also really loved the steady paychecks from Silicon Valley Bank. Now I think to myself why didn’t I take any pictures of it? Why don’t I have that moment recorded anywhere but my memory? Why am I now recounting this fifteen years later.
I’ll never get another check from Silicon Valley Bank again. I just didn’t have the expectations in life that I’d be the sort of person with a bank account with more than a million dollars. Let alone that I’d be in control of one and entrusted to do something responsible with it. Which has now happened multiple times at Silicon Valley bank over the years for me. Guess no one wants to have more than $250,000 in a bank right now though huh?
So goodbye Silicon Valley Bank. I’m so sad I’ve got nothing to remember you but. I didn’t take a screen shot of the bank app on the day Stowaway’s first round closed but I should have. I spent a lot of time in their banking application over the years running my cosmetics startups P&L. I remember being so proud to be the sort of person that even needed to deal with the bank. And I trusted Silicon Valley Bank with my employees because I’d seen it treat me well when I was an employee.
It seems so silly to mourn not taking a picture of a check or a screen shot of a mobile banking app but I don’t really know how to mourn a bank that failed. We failed them. They failed us. And it’s dead and I’ll never ever get a chance to do it all over again, and even if they are a villain, I remember when they were the hero in my life.
I fancy myself as someone who enjoys playing games. I mostly play the great game but I enjoy a good stupid grinder. Pokémon Go, Duolingo, and Fitocracy all appeal to my sense of hard work mattering.
But, of course, games have exploits. Some of them are significant. Sometimes leveling up is just a matter of getting lucky. A side quest dropped you an s tier item and the game engine smiled on you. Yay!
Silicon Valley mistakes luck for skill pretty regularly. And we don’t take it that well when other people use the same exploits as us because damn it that’s just not fair!
So rules tend to get rewritten and the hacks get patched and the economy in grinder games reliably defaults back to rewarding repetitive work. It’s not that different from the real economy. Gamers want to know clever game play works but not as much as they want to keep the value of what they have earned. It’s a real tension those sunk costs! Even if starting over benefits you the tendency to cling is understandable.
You’ve got to know when to spot when an activity is worth more than the general perception. You used to have to do this sort of work on your own but thanks to the internet we’ve got cheat codes literally everywhere for everything.
Don’t confuse the fact that cheat codes work for the fact that grinding came be the right approach for the game you are playing. Sometimes putting in the work means being a team player is valuable. Sometimes you are the glass cannon. Sometimes your style of play will offend others. Don’t take it all so seriously that you cannot stomach making a move. What’s the worst thing that happens?