My early twenties were heavily influenced by streetwear and sneakerhead culture. I lived in the Lower East side and hung out with all the kids who would go on to dominate what is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
It feels weird listing out my bonafides as it’s pretty name drop-y but at the time it was like yeah my friends at Alife or High Snobiety or even god forbid Supreme meant basically nothing. I was in the absolute epicenter of hypebeast mania.
So I’ve got a gut sense of what a genuine upswell of obsession looks like. The kind of irrational social capital driven cool mania of the sneakerhead world has a specific vibe to it. Almost illegible to anyone outside. But to the in group? It’s powerful chaos magic binding geas shit.
That’s what EthDenver felt like today. A kind of disorganized overflow of true believers converging into a space about a quarter of the size required. It’s like if TechCrunch disrupt accidentally got overrun by the entire readership of HypeBeast. Honestly it kinda sucks.
You’ve got a number of accomplished teams and founders and investors all trying to figure out how to navigate long lines and complete chaos with no clear programming goal or event schedule. And then you’ve got thousands and thousands of NFT weirdos just shilling and excited and ebullient about stuff they freely admit they don’t technically understand. It’s going to be a wild ride for crypto.
I’m attending Ethereum Denver through the weekend. If you aren’t familiar it’s a fairly substantial crypto conference with wide appeal and good credibility across the entire ecosystem. I don’t have any special hookups nor do I have a careful plan of attack. It’s my first time attending a large industry event as an investor.
Truthfully I’m incredibly nervous. I’ve never been on this side of the table before. I’ve always attended events as a founder. Which is an entirely different mix of status and social positioning from a venture capitalist. Founders are the cool ones. The top of the social hierarchy. It’s the hardest job in the business and in exchange we revere them as a kind of messianic class. We all place our belief in the people who start building from nothing. Even if you haven’t yet had a big success it’s the act of beginning that has the potency. Anyone who has the guts and steel to try to make something new is part of that rarified class.
So while I ostensibly have more power than I’ve ever had in my entire career, I also feel a slight sense of social anxiety. This is the first time I’ve not been in the anointed. So in a very real sense I’m walking in without any of the power that I’ve had before. And I’m a little scared.
Will people think I’m cool? Will I get invited to go to the right parties? Will the right people want to talk to me? Will I look good enough? Will I be able to hold my own such that I can capture the attention of other peers?
I’m used to needing to network hard to find the money. I’d roll into events with my team squashed into one room and we’d plan out every single minute to maximize our budget. Now I’m the one teams will be searching for pitch.
It’s this strange blend of gaining new status but missing the old place and position in a culture that has me a little nervous. So if you find me at the conference know that if you are scared to strike up a conversation you are not alone. We are all looking to find each other and connect.
It’s ok if someone hates me. It’s ok if someone thinks I’m bitchy, stupid, obnoxious and self serving. Hell I’m ok if people think I’m a lesser human being. Which judging by Twitter could be a multitude of reasons ranging from “I’m a woman” to “I’ve got bad taste in tv.”
I am alright with you not being alright with me. My existence is not threatened by your philosophy or personal preferences. My existence is only threatened if you literally threaten me. Call me evil if you like. I’m not offended. Until you take an action against me it’s alright that we disagree. Even if the disagreements are existential.
It’s quite possible this is wrong. I’m open to debate on what constitutes harm. In fact, my entire philosophy centers on that debate being fine. I can take it. I actually pay someone to cuss me out for being stupid and then I pay again to spend time in a group where we regularly tell each other how much the group members anger us. It’s called therapy.
So take that as context when I say I wasn’t particularly personally hurt by Brantly Milligan, aka Brantly.eth aka one of the ENS Foundation cofounders, suggesting women who use contraception are perverts. I’d probably be a lot more hurt if I was a gay trans woman who had an abortion though. But I figure that demo might be used to being called evil by Catholics at this point. Like maybe it’s more of an annoyance than existential threat if you are wealthy and privileged enough to be working in crypto. We aren’t really a population that is hurting
The Ethereum community is experiencing this speech with a lot of pain, hurt and anger. Brantley was voted out of his contract with True Names Limited the foundation that manages ENS Domains. But he remains one of the largest holders of tokens and will obviously have plenty of influence over the future of the platform. The debate has become one of cancel culture versus DAO governance working as intended. But the split on that is not clean and it’s not always clear where people will fall. An informal poll on my timeline is pretty evenly split.
I’m tempted to assign him my tokens as a delegate to be honest. Though I won’t because I think he’s unprofessional. But I want to because I don’t love how any of it played out. Brantly doubled down on telling folks to fuck off compounding the feeling of being hurt. That’s unprofessional and not the kind of behavior I’d expect out of my management team. But I also don’t know that simply holding unpleasant or intolerant beliefs is enough. And it shouldn’t be in a decentralized system. I respect that the right voting and governance may have happened here but I’d argue we all want more control spread out over more people for exactly these scenarios.
I think Brantly basically Shrekli’d himself by doubling down on asshole antisocial shit and the DAO equivalent of the Feds coming for you happened. You can’t attract negative attention and be shocked when bad shit happens to you. But I don’t think being a retrograde weirdo is enough on it’s own to get you booted from an ecosystem.
The entire reason I’m walking you through this sensitive topic today is that I am committing my year to self love. And you might think how does self love and DAO governance overlap. But I really do feel empathy to everyone involved in ENS and the ethereum ecosystem right now. The pain of feeling like you are not seen and loved for who you are is primal shit. This is core human nature “do I belong” to my tribe stuff.
If you don’t love yourself than you are going to have a reactive stance to something that questions your morality and worth. And I’m guessing a lot of people are reactive judging by the uproar. But the thing about self love is that you just won’t be as hurt by assholes being assholes. Because you’ve taken care of yourself first. So whatever the right and just outcome of this ENS governance issue, I think it’s important we all check in on ourselves and why we reacted in the first place. Only then can we get on with the business of design the future and it’s technology.
I spent a part of my day gossiping with a friend of mine who is from the same cofounder cohort as I am. We’ve got a lot of common interests beyond having both been founders at the same time and I won’t list them as I don’t want to give them any hassle. But the two of us have seen a lot of the same things. We are now experienced.
It’s funny what you notice when you are experienced. We were noticing little aspects of how founders we taught or mentored or invested in tended to repeat. How there are certain repetitive patterns you notice in first time founders or folks who are new to Silicon Valley culture. You notice idiosyncratic elements that all n00bs have.
Of course the where it becomes hard is how much time do you put into coaching them. Can you help them level up fast enough to avoid all the mistakes you made? Can they outrun all their faults and weaknesses by adding new strengths where it matters? It’s honest the best work in the world. You find yourself constantly optimistic that big things are possible. That the best version of someone is inevitable with work and love.
Of course founders with battle scars know it best. We know where the sharp turns on the road are. Because we wiped out there. When we yell out to you to watch out it’s because we know the road better than you.
I’d also bet that this is why venture capitalists will stay with founders who are floundering and fucking up and being failures. You’ve seen their bright spark. You know their brightest self and it’s aspirations. And sometimes it’s really hard to accept when someone just isn’t going to make it. Because belief is deeper than facts sometimes.
Before I became a member of the capital class I wasn’t really much of a weekend person. Or even a time off person. I was in a constant battle to get over the line of survivable earnings in America.
But then the magic of Silicon Valley shined on me a few times and I’m suddenly no longer desperate about medical bills or having enough savings for an emergency. This has had the dramatic effect of completely reordering my priorities. Now I take restorative rest time seriously. Knowledge work and good judgement rely pretty heavily on be clear headed. There is no premium afforded for being exhausted. If anything it will lose you money.
So the antiwork folks might have a point. If so much of your life is spent in survival you never have a chance to really be human. And being human is oddly more lucrative. I stand a better chance of doing even better because I can orient my life around bigger outcomes. That attracts more people and more money and improved my chances. And yeah success compounds if you are lucky. If you can get out from under survival. Which is I suppose the hard part.
Maybe three years ago William Gibson was promoting his new book. It was the last event I attended in a pre-pandemic world so it stands out to me. He gave an interview where he mentioned reading a novel by Hari Kunzru called “Red Pilled” and that he found the plot as a plausible near future.
I immediately bought a copy as I’m heavily influenced by the prescient near future work of @GreatDismal. The book was about a member of the blue check media class slowly going stark raving mad because of an elaborate right wing alt-reich troll farming operation. It was uncomfortably clear on the kind of elaborate cultural war tactics that goes into pilling normies. Dank memes and slowly you are accepting the aesthetics and touchstones of former Reich minutiae or Nordic runes or pick your mythical volk white mythology. Memes are dangerous gateway ideology kids.
I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Then I lived through the pandemic becoming an elaborate death cult ritual with totemic significance for both warring sides. I realized we are in the middle of a massive meme war for the soul of internet culture and most of us don’t know we are victims yet.
Walk down one wrong hobby hole on Reddit and suddenly you have become friends with folks with more than passing fascinations with authoritarian culture. Honestly it’s freaky as shit and I’m absolutely socially friendly with people who don’t think I’m a fully autonomous sovereign individual. And yes I mean both socialist Soviet apologist Tankies and TradCath beach fascists.
If even a fraction of the wild associative leaps are premeditated it would be a kind of aesthetic scandal on par with the country electing a reality show host. A couple nRX message-board fascists cosplaying as Zombie Nazis grift 4 billion dollars in market place from venture capitalists and gullible celebrities. What a collective failure to repudiate literal Nazis! Lol. Maybe this means our unconscious might think some of this is right? Oh god maybe we did read a human biodiversity essay that made a convincing point. We seem to be a lot closer to black pilled. Fuck. Is this psychological warfare?
Honestly I hate this fantasy so much I hope it ends up being the largest milkshake ducking in history. Except at the end a whole bunch of us end up simping for the technical value of a bunch of Hitler memes. Fuck I’d die if this is how we all got pilled on antique fascist aesthetics. I’d love it even more if Peter Thiel were involved so the left wing conspiracy types could build their own QAnon metaverse. Already we’ve been warned about meme magic and the spiritual traditionalism that is animating a global new right. And I’ve got to be honest some of the threads going around have some elaborate research and narrative work. It’s propaganda level and designed to be compelling and confusing.
I honestly have no idea who is playing who in this saga. I’m think @vgr is probably right that even the terminally online struggle to make sensible or legible this level of signaling. So we brush it off. But it’s going to be an inception vector. So be careful when you react to an event. You might be primed to respond to their propaganda and not even know it.
So if you want to pitch me just hop on over to a Telegram chat or my Twitter DMs. Let’s talk and learn and share and then I can really see your passion and vision and we can both avoid canned performative shit.
Well since then my Twitter DMs have been filled with amazing chats with founders of companies as diverse as consumer products, marketplaces and web3 games. The stuff people are cooking up in crypto is wild. Thought not enough SaaS tool pitches though so clearly I’ve got to get more mindshare there. Note to self to impress Jason Lemkin or something.
I’ve taken a dozen pitches now through direct messages and chats. It’s worked amazingly well. Maybe I owe a drink to Sam Lessin as he came out strongly against Calendly right after I wrote this post.
So pitch me however you like to communicate. Plus, don’t we all die inside a little every time someone sends a Calendly link?
So I’ve got to say I hope I became known as the slide into her DMs VC as this has been a lot more fun than trying to play calendar sync with dozens of people. That game sucks.
So I think pitching is bullshit. My husband has a great analogy. He thinks an hour long pitch to an investor is like a white board coding interview. Have any of you ever done developer work that didn’t have access to StackOverflow and Google? Yeah didn’t think so. It’s a completely artificial environment. Real work is collaborative and input driven and not at all tied to your capacity to memorize and perform on the spot.
I think this is pretty revealing. We force intuitive input driven thinkers, our founders, into a situation where they have little to no feedback. They can’t get anything from us as investors for like twenty minutes. They lead an investor by the nose through a narrative but what if it’s a narrative the VC doesn’t care about. Then what you lose the deal? Fuck no.
You should anchor a conversation based on expressing interest and seeing together where the biggest vision might lay. I’ve legitimately talked to founders who can see their way into imploding corporate legal apparatus or building clean energy through on chain gaming. That is some science fiction level shit. But could they tell me that in a 12 page deck? Fuck no they would look insane. But I want to see you for who you are.
So if you want to pitch me just hop on over to a Telegram chat or my Twitter DMs. Let’s talk and learn and share and then I can really see your passion and vision and we can both avoid canned performative shit.
You want an investor that sees you for you. I want a founder that is building with such a keen passion it’s all I can do to stop from wiring the money that day. Our incentives can align from first contact. So pitch me however you like to communicate. Plus, don’t we all die inside a little every time someone sends a Calendly link?
I’ve been running around the mountain west as I’m looking to buy a homestead. I’ve got kind of an elaborate master plan involving mountain houses & ranches and finding a set of living circumstances that works with climate change and social uncertainty. It’s a lot.
This means I’m doing a lot of social signaling to show people that I’ll be a good neighbor. Every place has its own social mores and expectations. I’m trying to show folks that I’m a good daughter of the inter-mountain west. But I’m also someone with the means to acquire property and invest in their community. But I’m also someone who appreciates the ins and outs of rural living. And well the list goes on depending on who I need to impress and about what. Every niche has its hierarchy.
It reminds me a lot about the process a first time founder goes through when fundraising. You are frantically signaling to different constituencies that you will fit into their expectations and worldview. But you do this dance while being completely new and naive to what matters. Being a greenhorn is bad for business. Doesn’t matter of that business is ranching or raising a seed round of venture capital. Alas everyone starts somewhere. So first time founders are often distinguished by how fast they can figure out all the shit they don’t know and fix it.
I’ve got a first time founder I’m excited to be investing in that I’m coaching through a fundraise. He knows his field and business, but he is a total greenhorn when it comes to raising a round. Just charmingly naive to the ways a round comes together. Alex and I are both frantically trying to school him on manners and customs before you can accidentally fuck up something that can’t be unfucked. It’s hard work getting someone schooled up on all the little signals that can doom a deal. But it’s also our specialty.
The particularly challenging aspect of a first round founder is just how much social signaling can be life or death for your company. Maybe if I’m up in Montana scouting property I need to show a certain set of mannerisms but the worst that can happen is someone won’t do business with me. If you fuck up a crucial deal point for ignorance or send a social signal you don’t mean, in venture it can sink your deal and your reputation without you even knowing it.
In venture, someone not doing business with you probably means your company dies. Early stage angel and pre-seed venture investors teach their asses off with new founders to avoid this fate. We can’t afford you being a greenhorn because we know it means death for the business. So if it’s your first time as a founder and fundraising, do yourself a favor. Recognize you are a greenhorn. Find an angel investor or advisor who you can trust that will teach you the manners and social signals you need. Good ones love this work. And you can reward them with advisor shares and pro-rata on your cap table down the line. If you are looking for someone like that drop me a DM.
I had almost nothing on my calendar today I didn’t want to do. I had small administrative things that took up maybe two hours and that’s excessive by my standards. It’s rare I ever have more than half an hour of genuine obligations. Mostly I just go where I feel like on any given day. I lay in bed on my phone and I move the world with strangers on the internet.
I’m not sure how I optimized for this kind of idyllic work life. I certainly didn’t used to live this way. When I was a founder I was constantly at the mercy of meetings I didn’t want and obligations I wanted to shirk. I always felt put upon. I never felt more like hustle culture owned my life than during my founding years. I was constantly optimizing and I felt like I never had any relief.
Maybe it’s the pandemic. Once we stopped with offices and workdays and all their attendant events and activities, life got a lot better. Everyone kind of settled into routines that made space for what mattered most to them. We no longer had cocktail parties or conferences. Thought leadership stopped being keynote speeches and started being shitposts on Twitter.
I don’t know what the fuck I did it exactly to free myself from that over scheduled fate. I’m so much happier and more efficient. I get shit done and I am less stressed and working fewer unnecessary hours.
Maybe part of it is that I might be a better investor than I was a founder. I could spend the whole day skipping through direct messages and sharing insights in Telegram group chats or having product breaksdowns in Notion. I’m actually good at what I do now. I bring more value and I do it more quickly. Maybe this is what real optimized work is like. You are so good it’s easy.
I’m so fucking happy right now. Over the last hour I’ve done more to advance my deals, connect my community and dig into shit that I genuinely passionately love than I thought I could do in an week. It’s like winning the lottery. I cannot believe I make money doing this.
I basically gossip all day with super smart people and then trade a bunch of densely coded social signals. Those all translate into money. I plot elaborate stories with fellow degenerates with deep aesthetics and then we send it into media zeitgeist. It’s like I work in fashion but the pay is much much better. So I guess it is true what they say. Do what you love and you never work a day I’m your life.