Categories
Emotional Work

Day 935 and Rebranding

Changing someone’s opinion is hard. Twitter is being rebranded to X so the topic is newsworthy. I was on rebranding efforts at Pepsi (the infamous one) Tropicana (that didn’t go well) and Ann Taylor (which won us a lot of awards & made money) so I have lived through the challengers of remaking a corporate identity.

That sounds so much more professional than what is actually happening . A lot of people have bought in on something that is no longer the thing they loved. A change was necessary but not everyone so ready. Something that had meaning is being remade into a new set of meanings and it will provoke a backlash.

People all adopt new ideas at different paces. And hold outs and middle of the road types can be equally challenging. Any change can be greeted fairly with skepticism. Trust is hard to gain and easily lost.

Even when circumstances on the ground demand it, people fucking hate change. It’s scary. I get it. I find a lot of the world right now to be scary. Failure rates can be high. But if we don’t change we don’t get different outcomes.

Categories
Culture Media Politics

Day 932 and Schisms

Most of my social circle is caught up in various internecine dramas. This is really saying something as I have a lot of people in a lot of different demographics across every continent except Antarctica. Which is a pity as I’d love a friend down there.

I am convinced that everyone is losing their fucking minds because we are in the middle of what I believe will end up being recognized as an information war. Maybe one day we persecute memetic crimes against humanity at The Hague.

I realize this sounds modestly hysterical but really you probably don’t appreciate how much your opinions are being courted to different interests groups. It’s not even particularly menacing. We want others to see our humanity and we leverage every tool we have from Twitter to the New York Times.

And it’s important that we fight these wars. You are probably right about a lot of things and I am wrong about them. It’s important that you and I provide participation and consensus to the rest of society so we can come to some form of agreement. If you think something should change own up to it.

I genuinely think it’s a mistake for anyone to pull away from these obligations to society and by extension political and social opinion. I have watched Silicon Valley pull back from participation in its own self advocacy in the wake of the American media coming down so hard on it. I think this is a mistake.

I believe that the technology industry and startups in particular owe it to ourselves and to the rest of the world to remain engaged. I promise it’s not that hard to speak to the media or the general public. If you are a founder or someone participating in this community and need help just send me a DM on Twitter. Consider me a diplomat to the fourth estate.

Categories
Media

Day 929 and Right Speak

My day has been a little off as I’m nursing my husband through some surgery. Through frankly he’s recovering so well it’s mostly just keeping him company while I do my regular workday. But I have consumed some good content in the process of keeping him company and making sure ice packs are rotated & medicine is taken.

I watched John Mulaney standup special Baby J which was surprisingly good. My main takeaway was “being liked is a cage” but also you’ve got to watch out for how selfish everyone is in the process of managing their own traumas and addictions.

Mulaney is a fascinating example of someone going from beloved to fuck up as soon as it was clear he was a human and capable of sinning and hurting himself and others.

He got a good dose of being condemned while being shitheel as an addict. Who he really hurt other than himself I can’t say. But he was problematic says many inches of gossip writing and critical reviews. Wrong speak and shame and condemnation is so interesting as a social engagement issue for culture. It’s never really about them. We can all be assholes and unlikable in the process of being hurt and healing our hurts.

I suppose this is why I believe it’s better to never take anything personally and be sure you take care of yourself if you find yourself reacting strongly to a person’s frailty. The ones who love you will forgive you if you need to reorient yourself into doing what’s right for you so long as you don’t hurt anyone in the process. And oftentimes even if you do.

The follow up movie we watched was also about wrong think. But instead of it being about the addiction and selfishness of a celebrity it was about the selfishness of trying to decide what’s right for an entire nation. We watched the Tetris movie.

Which is quite a dramatization of how totalizing even the most glorious of ambitions can be in the hands of hands of normal frail humans. Yes I think wrong think comedians and communists are related and I swear I still think Bari Weiss is kind of an asshole. Most of the comedians asking for forgiveness for wrong think aren’t actually that funny to begin with. Back to Tetris

I found myself inspired by the frustrations that come from human nature & self dealing while glorifying ambitious end goals for social good. The collective good can often be patently false if someone ambitious enough gets perverted. Maybe I’m just being that asshole capitalist but I think nepotism and corruption come in many forms. And it’s easier to spot it in British billionaires and communists bureaucracies. But we’ve got plenty of right speak and “for your own good” pleas right here in America.

It’s inspired me to look harder into how we are perversely seeking control and benefits for large corporations and political parties in our current race to regulate new technologies like crypto and artificial intelligence. If you want a hint as to where I’m worried look no further than Gary Gensler and reinforcement learning for artificial intelligence alignment. And yes I’m making bets to that effect.

Categories
Culture

Day 911 And Social Geography

One of my friends at university was the sort of autistic who had total recall. He could tell you what neighborhood you lived in just from the zip code. It was an amazing party trick.

I lived at 80304 for a time. He would say ok well that’s obviously Colorado and this bit indicated Boulder and this bit suggests it’s actually the northern edge of it and I think you are in the neighborhood with the Ideal Market above Kalmia and oh I think it is “Old North Boulder.”

Now while he’s doing this bit with you he would obviously nudge your reactions for details. There are other neighborhoods in the zip code but he knew what to ask to guide you in because he saw the whole map.

You didn’t necessarily notice he was doing it because you couldn’t see it. But he saw the entire geography of it and could rotate it in. He just had that kind of mind.

I think a lot about it now as I start to notice more of how my mind works. I think I do a similar kind of social geography hat trick as my friend did. If you give me a few details about you, your background and your opinions I can telescope in very quickly on very specific social details you may not even clock about your own life unless you are very self aware.

I almost hesitate to discuss it as a super power as it can sound manipulative. The reality is more like a social courtesy to help you see the whole board of what you know about yourself and how you react to me in what you reveal. It’s a beautiful social dance and I enjoy making people feel comfortable expressing a story in a context that makes it easiest for them.

If I’m very good at my job I can then reverse this process. I can learn about who you are and what you really value and I can turn it to another angle so someone else who can’t do the social geography telegraphing in and out can see who you are. You might know the term code switching.

Imagine that but for some of the finer grades of social signaling. It is hard to do so because doing so usually has to do with coming to terms with the many ways in which you “pass” to fit into a life someone else told you to live. It’s rarely reflective of the whole picture. But sometimes because the world imposes systems, like my friends zip codes, which don’t always reflect the full reality. The map is not the terrain. The system is just a map.

Categories
Media

Day 905 and Shilling Myself

I should be shilling myself in today’s installment of writing everyday. But I’m a little tired to pull off the full bragging I’d like. One of my favorite financial news and analysis sources, Axios Pro-Rata, featured my little pre-seed fund chaotic.capital with an in-depth look at resiliency technology.

It’s a big deal to me because in-depth trade reporting is where the nuts and bolts of an industry are discussed. Anytime I’ve built something of value it was always the beat reporters who recognized it first.

Women’s Wear Daily was my big break in e-commerce and social media for my first startup Coutorture. Beauty Packaging’s company of the year award was a huge win for my cosmetics brand Stowaway. CoinDesk recognized my work on corporate governance structures and financing coordination. The trades matter more to outcome than glossies in the early days.

I’d like to think the LPs who will appreciate me as an emerging fund manager will find me from Axios Pro-Rata. And I sure would like for them to see my expanded viewpoint on the space right here on my daily essay.

I even had the good luck of preparing my quarterly investor update the day before this article hit everyone’s newsletter inboxes. So I’ve got all the materials ready to go.

Alas I’m wiped from a week of life happening (a death in the family) and the general excitement of the global summer solstice mania that’s gripping all the timelines.

So I don’t want to shill and flak myself right now. I just want to enjoy the feeling of pride that comes from seeing your work recognized with a proof-point all your peers respect. I’ll make sure to copy over the investor letter tomorrow. Stretch out my own little news cycle.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics

Day 904 and War Dogging on Mobile

I was busy working for most of the day on an investor update for chaotic.capital. It’s really dope and I’d love to have any prospective LPs read it to see how we are navigating the moment. Chaotic is my humble pre-seed fund for weirdos building shit to survive the current planet wide disjunction. The general sense of history restarting from its fuck Fukuyama slumber is a clear and there is stuff to build.

When I do deep work I try to give myself some space between me and information feeds. But I find it hard to entirely shut for more than a few hours. I monitor many threads across many interest groups with vastly different interests. I flow it back to me and my investments.

As I sit comfortably in my Montana home on the edge of the American empire, I obviously can’t help but worry I’m a Cassandra doomed to know horrible truths. But this becoming a bit of a hobby for all of us isn’t it? We all watch nervously as history unfolds with little influence on the broader strokes.

My fear is that we’ve all become armchair war dogs cheering on whatever professional grade propaganda works for the current moment. And we must be careful not to let ourselves be controlled by that chaos nor amuse that we know what is happening.

I firmly believe in having a locus of control and acting within it. Today I wrote up the current state of all the vibes I’ve seen and synthesized in my market status report. I then named the bets I’ve taken with our capital. I explained why I think have the greatest chance at resilience in a world that is more and more chaotic by the hour. And then I showed the work on how I found the deals and made connections for my portfolio that was unique to me.

After I’d wrapped it up and got my operating partner Alex to be sure all the operational work was settled I opened up my feeds. It was Swan Lake time. The head of mercenary organization Wagner Group was maybe, or maybe not, declaring a coup against the Russian Defense Minister. Who knows what’s going on! Certainly not me.

Cue the rampant speculations. My Telegrams are going wild. Signal is on fire. I am scrolling through sick jokes and CIA theories and extremely funny memes. Everyone is rushing to exert influence and partisan narratives on top of what looks like a Tom Clancy novel. And even he’d agree this week was a bit on the nose with the submarines and the Soviet comebacks. So let’s all remember the world is complex and we know so very little so let’s keep taking responsibility for the moves we can make and helping others do the same.

Categories
Startups

Day 826 and Alignment

I think there is this persistent fantasy in startup life that people will always agree with your bets. We forget the discord of every hype cycle but it’s not always clear who is winning and what outcome is certain. Only hindsight is 20/20.

You do get occasional moments of vindication but it’s rare that they ever clearly overlap with a trend or a moment that everyone is paying attention. Media hype cycles and innovation hype cycles are not the same thing. Trust me I’m a pretty good publicist for a hobby.

Your deals aren’t always going to get attention though and a lot of founders want to keep things quiet so you can’t always talk your commitments.

This is a problem that investing has in common with fashion. I earned my stripes making shit cool for money. It’s actually hard. I call it the The Thursday Styles. The problem with tend forecasting is knowing what’s going to be trendy is a temporal bet as well as a cultural adoption one.

It’s a thing happening over time that is unevenly distributed. I learned that from William Gibson. Some of us live in the future but you can’t be too far out because then it’s just you speculating. You got to be right on the thing and on the timing to make any money.

It’s honestly way harder than it looks and anyone who is any good at taking a bet on what the future looks like has to take some variant of this bet. It’s probably why Dune is such a canonical text for nerds. He predicts the future dimly and is also a messiah time lord? Sign me up that sounds like venture capital to me. The sheer hubris of this comparison is honestly nauseating.

Like fuck all the way off you ain’t Maud’Dib. You’ve got to be very skeptical about the charismatic pull of a messiah my friends. That said I bet you’d believe me if I told you I was a Bene Geserit right? Anyways. My point is you don’t always get it right and you don’t usually get to take credit till the end. And mercenaries can co-opt anything. Your shit might hit the skids.

But sometimes one of your deals looks hot and everyone is paying attention and you get to feel like you were cool. You spotted the band. You saw the runway show. The media is hyped about it at the same time and your friends noticed on Twitter. It’s a nice feeling. And yes I invested in the Chroma seed round. I think Jeff and Anton are cool.

Categories
Startups

Day 817 and RIP SVB

I hadn’t expected to grieve the death of a bank. It sounds so preposterous. Who the fuck feels sad about a bank failing? But I am genuinely sad that the Silicon Valley Bank name doesn’t appear be living on with its new owner First Citizens Bank.

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.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 805 and Legibility

Being inscrutable is a tactical asset in our extremely online age. As more informational influence campaigns are waged, it becomes easier to invade your headspace if you are too predictable.

I’m not saying that being predictable isn’t worthwhile. If you have a firm foundation of philosophy or religion that dictates a stance sometimes you just have to own it. I’m a libertarian and I often walk the line of what I consider to be foundational beliefs in the value of other people’s freedom in relation to mine.

But I also live in reality where the grey of living in a civilization is a lot less clear. Anyone who doesn’t admit to this fundamental tension is untrustworthy as far as I’m concerned.

This of course makes me legible. It is one of the buzzwords in my favorite online spaces. It is the art of how we make ourselves legible to others such that we can see and be seen. I rather like this philosophy overall.

But I am also quite sure that if you give someone an opening to fuck with you they probably will. It’s definitely a risk to be seen. It makes you a target. But it’s also how you become a beacon. So it’s an over under decision on how much you care about other people attacking you is up to you. But if you open about experimenting with life and how little you know it almost always turns out alright.

There is a theory of public relations, much popularized by Steve Bannon and legal discovery, called flood the zone with shit. And sometimes not giving your enemies a sense of who you is because you are always in process of becoming more and bigger and inscrutable and then suddenly you are in the Heart of Darkness.

It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention

Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness

So everyone be optimistic and find your people but remember everyone is going to be playing the same game. So I’d definitely recommend you don’t cheat and play the long game.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 758 and Two Sides

I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.

But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.

That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.

If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.

I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.

It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.