Categories
Internet Culture

Day 469 and the Discourse

On the one hand, the discourse today is horrible. Elon Musk threatening to buy Twitter is breaking people’s fucking minds. On the other hand, it’s the height of culture to be so singularly obsessed with a topic of such little consequence. The zeitgeist is full on psychotic.

This isn’t about free speech. Fuck that. No one gives that much of a shit about corporate governance that they’d super impose a civilizational problem like free speech onto securities law. This isn’t an episode of Billions. In except that both make me want to scream “that’s not how this works, not how any of it works” into the void.

This is all an elaborate publicity stunt to feed the narcissism driven logic of markets obsessed with celebrity and personality. Because everyone knows what everyone knows, pricing discovery is a function of lurching forward a narrative for the vox popli. Except everyone is convinced they are uniquely brilliant so they can’t possibly also be manipulated by the transparent agitprop. Yeah yeah sure I’m a galaxy brain too. We’re all playing 4D chess. Everyone is winning and the markets only go up.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture Travel

Day 424 and Meltdown

The zeitgeist is getting stupid and panicky. Which means I’m feeling stupid and panicked. We’ve got folks speculating on nuclear war. It’s all very productive (that’s sarcasm) so don’t be surprised if regular people are on edge for no rational reason. I was surprised to find myself on edge as I know I’m being impacted by propaganda. But knowing isn’t enough to stop the emotional response.

I’m traveling to Europe for the next month and while I’ve got some concern about escalations in the Russian war in Ukraine, there is nothing I can do about it. If things get hot and a real nuclear meltdown happens, I doubt I’ll be any safer in Denver than Berlin. But rationally knowing something and emotionally being integrated on it are two different things. I’m on edge even though there is no point to it. And I am determined to continue living my life no matter the external chaos. I’ve had enough of putting life on old. But that choice has emotional consequences.

I realized how on edge I was when a daily drug I take for longevity and metabolic health, Metformin, was out of refills. I leave tomorrow for a month so I needed to check in with a doctor today to get it fixed. I found myself on the call explaining a bunch of unnecessary extraneous detail to the poor assistant about how I needed a refill immediately but I couldn’t get blood work tomorrow to prepare for a telehealth visit next week as I’m traveling so could I schedule bloods and the visit for April and still get a month refill?

Somehow this simple errand just completely set me off and I felt myself welling up with tears and anxiety. How had I missed this small detail and why couldn’t I communicate it normally? Why did I sound like some flighty woman who can’t communicate effectively? I felt shame and embarrassment overtake me.

I ended up asking my husband for help as I just sounded so loopy and stupid. The assistant didn’t need my entire travel itinerary and the logic for when and why I couldn’t get bloods done. I just needed the refill and to schedule my next visit.

I think we underestimate just how much chaos impacts our daily lives and routines. You can be a zen Big Lebowski type but you are still surrounded by friends who are ready to lose their shit over nihilism or Nazis or bowling Jesus. The world is increasingly complex and our little reactionary parasympathetic system is leaning on evolutionary hacks that are outdated for our current moment. Tigers in the grass are not the same as willingly doomscrolling social media to absorb someone else’s propaganda. Sure they both use pattern matching but it’s kind of an order of magnitude issue.

So be kind to each other as we’ve all been living through two years of chaotic pandemic angst. And now we are asking folks to dig back up Cold War fears. If someone has a little meltdown over a basic choice cut then some slack. And give them a hug. And yes I’m talking about treating yourself better. This shit is wild and scary and stupid for all of us.

Categories
Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 423 and Hot Takes

I am a prolific shit poster. I am a haver of takes. I am a full fledged member of the discourse. But Jesus Christ I never thought I’d see the day where the galaxy brains are feeling good about having nuclear war takes. Literally the hottest of takes.

I am in a preparedness Discord with a number of very level headed people. There are people that I would trust to help me think through surviving a disaster. But none of us are foreign policy experts or plugged into the state department. Nevertheless we are speculating on the possibility that Ukraine’s invasion by Russia could take us there. But we are just speculating!

Now I’m not a Bluecheck media personality on Twitter but I do know what it’s like to have an influential opinion. I’ve got a small platform and I try to use my voice responsibly. Or at least make clear when I’m shitposting. Because people will take you seriously. So you have to occasionally do a double take on your takes.

It doesn’t feel like most people are being particularly careful today. There are a few voices that have got things right in the past that are working though thought experiments. That’s valuable. But the bulk of folks are engaging in some terrible information hygiene. Opinions are being had. But also propaganda is being circulated and disinformation warfare is being waged. So far the West is being clearly won by the scrappy Ukrainian narrative. But who knows what will stick. So he careful out there. We are literally at war. Don’t rush to conclusions or to share shit that looks too good to be true. You don’t want to end up pushing an agenda that isn’t your own.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 391 and Breath

Daily overstimulation is starting to rub the pressure sores of America’s downer induced depression into a full blown mental health crisis. Like, even more than usual. War with Russia in the imagination, inflation and market volatility coaxing a recession, culture war skirmishes over every basic fact in the pandemic, along with generalized anxiety are fucking us up focus wise. And every propaganda outlet and publicist on the planet is having a field day.

I’m listing to The Prodigy’s Breath and mumbling lyrics like pyschosomatic insane. So I guess, come play my game?

I try not to listen too much music as it overstimulates my nervous system to be honest so its kind of rare for me to have Spotify playing. I’ve got a finely tuned propaganda radar that benefits from sensing subtle shifts in tone and extremely online discourse. I can’t do that if I’m too worked up from the rough stimulus that comes from pop music. I mostly use it to run my portfolio and investing but sometimes I think I should really be used in the service of some autocrat or multi-national. I’m the doubt factory

I guess it is nice I can make a buck during the end of the empire. I’m one of those post structuralism, post-capitalism babies. A regular Bane “born to the darkness” of hyper objects like markets and climate change. So I guess I’d better be molded to being the kind of villain that survives a world of agitprop and meme warfare. Thanks Adbusters!

Frankly I’m having a fucking blast. Sure I’m scared I don’t have my homestead property all shored up for civilization hiccups, but I’m of the mind that the crumbles is going to take a while so might as well enjoy the gains that come from a massive upheaval. I guess its true venture capitalists are ghouls. I mean at least we aren’t private equity carrion birds but it is wild that the system rewards a class of people that invest in creative destruction.

But even as I want to paint myself as bad, I do stereotypically think what venture capital does is often good. We can’t predict second order effects. Chaos theory doesn’t let us see all the future paths. But stochastic as shit power laws are just math so we’ve got a shot at accidentally making things better. So while the agitprop tries to sway your opinions might I recommend you just Breath? That is my professional advice.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 386 and Pressure

I have been feeling a little disconnected the past couple days. The rising feeling that the zeitgeist isn’t coalescing around a shared narrative has been unsettling.

I usually feel a strong sense of narrative. Maybe because I’m a veteran of the internet’s propaganda class. I was a mercenary in the marketing and media space for the formative years of the social web. If anyone has natural immunity to disinformation it’s the people who manufacture it for a living.

But I can’t tease out who is placing what stories right now. I can’t even get a read on what stories are common knowledge right now. It’s like nothing is winning. There is no story capturing all our imagination at the moment. At least nothing beyond West Elm Caleb. We can agree that Tik Tok is toxic but we aren’t sure where the pandemic is headed, what politics will prevails, or where the markets are headed.

You’ve got to be careful in a toxic information climate like this. You can easily get suckered into attention holes. The more we fixate on the story of the moment the more anxiety you will feel. The zeitgeist isn’t legible. The only way you can protect yourself is to anchor what you know in core beliefs. Don’t let any one stop dictate your mood or shift your focus. Center yourself and you will be less affected.

Categories
Politics Preparedness

Day 346 and Pandemic Inequalities

The last two years have been pretty good for the wealthy and pretty shitty for everyone else. Mostly because when governments slash interest rates and pour in stimulus, it’s the wealthy who can flood into equities and secure loans that make money functionally free. Everyone else has to rely on salaries that are paid in a currency that is being inflated.

I don’t think we are coming back from this widening division. It started before this anyway. The Great Recession and the Global Financial Crisis decoupled a lot. And you can probably blame the rest on Reagan. Hell go back to Nixon and the gold standard. Doesn’t matter. Compound interest and power laws have pretty clear math. The rich get richer.

But I’m somewhat more offended by the cultural chasm that is emerging. The labor class that lives under restrictions and fear while the elite with good passports and wealth move into Dubai apparently.

In a very fine demonstration of the power of public relations, The UAE appears to have placed glowing article in the Wall Street Journal about how Dubai is the new Covid free home of the monied. It’s a fascinating piece of propaganda about freedom to live life and do business. As long as you can afford it. It’s expensive to move to Dubai but once you are there apparently life is back to normal.

Sky high vaccinations and low taxes make Dubai a pandemic boomtown. Open borders and low infections are drawing the wealthy, businesses and tourists.

If you aren’t wealthy enough to pick up and start life over, you are stuck with whatever restrictions your nation places on you. Or conversely, you accept the risks of local transmission, vaccine uptake & political disposition of wherever you live. If you want to travel good luck with things like visas and the expense of quarantines.

I don’t know why this offends me. It’s been clear from the start that some people have had very different pandemics. The middle class has had the benefits of work from home. It’s been the working class that has had to live with all the risk and restrictions. But I do find it a bit upsetting that we are accepting new tiers of global citizenship based simply on your ability to pay to be without Covid cases. Since we can’t end this together I guess we are doomed to escape it on our own with our own abilities.

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
Startups

Day 298 and What You Don’t Know

I work with a lot of first time founders as a seed stage investor. Or rather I enjoy working with first time founders so I slowly became a seed stage investor as moving from advisor to angel investor. When you are a founder yourself, as I once was, you get a lot of inbound from others in the startup ecosystem as the bias has been that “only other operators can ever understand” so it breed insularity.

This has generally meant that there is a significant body of knowledge on best practices in startups that doesn’t get codified in writing it’s passed on as an oral history from one founder to the next. Maybe if someone published their Gchats and emails public we’d have a searchable wiki. But even with the trend towards startup communities, explainer Substacks and operator podcasts there is still a substantial portion of unspoken knowledge that no one will tell you. You literally don’t know what you don’t know. And the people that know have forgotten what it’s like not to know.

It’s easy to forget this as you assimilate norms and conventions over the years. I have been working with a portfolio company’s CEO to prepare some press and go to market work recently. Something I take completely for granted about media outreach wasn’t in fact obvious or intuitive.

But it was so obvious to me I never thought to mention the detail that tripped us up. And of course, the founder being a first timer didn’t know what they didn’t know. Why would they! That’s why they work with more experienced investors and advisors. It was my fault. I knew the thing but in my “water is wet” mindset didn’t even consider that the founder might not realize they were swimming in water yet. And that was entirely on me.

I find it somewhat comforting that startups are constantly introducing new founders who don’t know what they don’t know. Because maybe they will be the one to discover a new way of knowing that changed it for all of us.

The best is old timers can do is pass on what we think we know and the newbies can assess that using their fresh eyes. Sometimes (ok probably most times) we save you from making dumb mistakes that we once made. But maybe what I think I know for sure is just me not realizing I’m a fish in water. You can learn that from experience sure but also from having a totally new lens.

Categories
Internet Culture Media Startups

Day 295 and Long Game

I think most people dislike media because it’s hard to understand where a narrative came from. If you aren’t in the business of telling stories the natural braiding of emotions, motivations and public opinion can seem foreign. It’s like the weather. It’s completely comprehensible how different patterns emerge but you cannot predict precisely how it will play out. There is a science but the specificity of the modeling isn’t so accurate you can predict the course.

This is why I encourage startups that work with me to think about the long game. Give context about your space and your opinion of how it will change and grow. Don’t be afraid to state clearly and in specific why something is the way that it is when talking to a journalist. No one is out to get you.

Journalists just want to show a story that makes sense to regular people. A cohesive truth that can be proven with outside and objective fact still matters to virtually everyone outside of very specific Murdoch outlets (never give a quote to the NY Post).

So much of being covered in the media is not about having a publicist or being trained but is rather about interacting with the 4th estate as if they are human just like you. A reporter will happily tell your story if you can make a case for why it’s true. And no one is coming to “gotcha” over some secret. The Internet may roast you but that’s just the crowds. No one has control over public sentiment. You too may one day become the main character on Twitter. But that’s probably your fault and not a journalist’s doing.

So if you want to live in public think through what the long game might be. And work on convincing others that the future you see is not only good but inexorable. And repeat it with conviction. It’s ok if you get some shit wrong, cancel culture won’t demolish you. Probably. I mean some of you deserve to be canceled but somehow it never seems to happen to the assholes who really deserve it.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 260 and A Good Schtick

I admire a well executed gimmick. Being clearly branded has become a necessity in digital life. Living life at a scale larger than your local community turns out to require we communicate who we are for easier communication.

Mediocre marketing people will insist that you find areas you can “own” in planning materials for promotional campaigns. They want you to find a schtick. But you better like what you come up with as you will be forced to repeat your greatest hits ad nauseam.

It’s not that they are wrong. Repetition is pedagogy. Which is a fancy way of saying in order to teach you must repeat your lessons. Humans usually require hearing something a few times before the information will stick. But then it can be very hard to dislodge a piece of information that we’ve become convinced is true. That’s why it’s much harder to change a brand than it is to build one. We get indignant when we feel someone has mislead us with their brand.

That’s why you need to be very sure if you are going to dig into a schtick. The temptation to go full Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow can be tempting. It’s seems like it’s an easier path to attention and awareness if you develop a clear point of view. But be warned, if you change it people will get mad at you. If you explore shades of grey you will get called a hypocrite. Nuance is the enemy of clarity. And clarity is required to reach big audiences.

I swear half of cancel culture is just assholes who don’t understand that their friends may see them as whole empathetic humans who are more than their schtick but the masses won’t. And remember you too are a member of the masses and judge others hypocrisy just as harshly as they judge yours. That’s like the basis of all Abrahamic religions. If the golden rule was easy we probably wouldn’t need to attend various worship services regularly.

So if you see someone with a good schtick admire it. But recognize it’s a Faustian bargain. They sanded off some portion of the wholeness of their being in order to be easier to understand. And if they drop some portion of that gimmick in the course of their lives it’s worth showing a little grace to them. You’ll appreciate it when you require the same.