Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 509 and History Lesson

I’ve been working on a talk for Coindesk’s Consensus in June. I’m doing a talk for their Big Ideas stage that Alex cleverly named the InDAOstrial Revolution. I’m pretty excited about the topic as it’s science fiction & finance history and social organization. It’s basically all my favorites. A

The invention of corporations was a transformative innovation for human organizing, driving the growth of the industrial revolution. Can DAOs drive an equally explosive innovation cycle? Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, offer us a shift towards open and inclusionary entities for marshaling resources and energy. This session dives into their potential futures, including open web public goods, the end of doomer capitalism, techno-optimism collectives, and the possibility of a networked nation state. Come for the sci-fi vibes, stay for the boomer neoliberal skepticism and get a pleasant dose of economic history in the process.

I’ve been doing a little bit of deep diving into the history of the corporation and it’s role in American history in particular. And when I was procrastinating during my flu I watched Gilded Age. Just so you’ve got an idea of my mind set. And honestly it’s been a mind fuck.

I’m not a historian but I think you can make the case that America had corporate governance before we had a functional state or federal government. In fact, this History of the Corporate Form from Fordham Law showed me the wildest fact I’ve ever seen. In America the corporation came before the state.

Other notable “joint-stock” companies, such as the Virginia Company, helped expand British control of North America. In fact, the Virginia Company established the General Assembly, which was the first legislature in North America.

The idea that some monarchy set a corporate charter up to extract commodities and that corporate organization led to a three hundred year experiment in self governance is astonishing. You really never can tell about an event’s downstream ripples. Our entire political way of life was downstream of property rights.

Of course, the reason I point this out is that how we organize and govern our resources and at what scale is what defines history. The ability to trust your goals and your investment will be executed, even if you are not personal overseeing it, is as it turns out a key innovation catalyst for all other technologies. The more efficient we are at at marshaling and deploying resources the further we get as a civilization.

The case I would like to make is that DAOs could help us unlock more sophisticated financing that enables ever further scale and coordination. If the corporation created American, can the DAO led other new nation states?

I can imagine a network state made up of sub-DAOs that provide interlocking economies. Some DAOs are responsible for infrastructure. Others are for services. Maybe we share some key responsibilities across one oligopoly for key social services like health care. The more something needs scale to succeed the more large scale collaborative behavior gets rewarded. I don’t doubt we can create some truly dystopian shit but also maybe it finally gets us to Mars.

Categories
Chronic Disease Startups

Day 508 and Deficit

I woke up feeling reasonably ok today. I slept well but checking my trackers I learned my recovery scores were pretty low. My HRV was dipping into 30% recovery territory and I had a low blood oxygen count. I’ve been recovering from Influenza A so it’s not a surprise my lungs are struggling. But I tried not to let some bad data psyche me out. Maybe I was ok. I told myself I just needed to stick to my routine as I can’t let myself get into a physical deficit.

So I went about my morning routine with some optimism. I got some coffee and made breakfast. I took several rounds of supplements. I did some basic grooming. I felt basically human. I was all excited to dive into work from the second I woke up. I was so excited I’ve been dreaming about the presentation I’m giving at Consensus. I literally woke up with talking points.

And then at around 10am I realized I’d used up all my functional hours taking care of myself. Fucking figures. I am already in a physical deficit from this flu. It’s scary for me to be in a deficit as my favorite coping mechanism is to engage in workaholism. I over prepare and over work and I make demands of myself that only sabotage the end result. It’s entirely counter productive. It just looks socially acceptable because of the Protestant Work ethic.

So I need to calm the fuck down and accept where I am and that it will still be good enough. I know my shit. It’s worth it. And I’ll deliver on better than the average midwit. Honestly even acting like this is kind of midwit. The real galaxy brains would just be vibing it anyway. But it really is amazing how easy it is to fall into midwit fear based patterns. Believing in the bigger broader math of your own life is really hard because so much of our own ego is rooting for us to indulge in our worst impulses. So I’m going to calm down, not worry about my energy deficit and continue to do the work. It’s not glamorous work. It’s mostly making good decisions day in and day out. But then compounding kicks in.

Categories
Startups

Day 501 and Do It Live

There must be some kind of residual high from making big decisions, as I’m feel powerful as hell coming out of Montana. I’ve committed to a life path and I am ready to do some thriving. Yes I’m referencing the meme.

unbothered. moisturized. happy. in my lane. focused. flourishing

I’ve got a deal I want to shop around even though it’s ice cold out there in venture land. I believe in the team and I believe in the market sector. It’s a bit of an unusual bet but I have total confidence in the problem space such that I am ready to spend some social capital. So hit me up if you want to get in on the deal. I feel like it’s a deal that’s absolutely in my lane and even if it’s a hard time to circle anyone to anything I may as well enjoy the thrive vibe. Let’s do some magic together yeah?

In another famous meme Fox News host Bill O’Reilly exclaims that “fuck it I’ll do it live!” And I have to say that is my current energy. None of us have a fucking clue about how things are going to go. But did we do our homework? Yes. I did the work. I ran my numbers. I’m good at what I do. I’ve got experience. I’ve got as good a shot as anyone.

So I’m going to say fuck it to a lot more. I’m confident. Because like Bill I’ve got the talent and why not fuck around and find out? This isn’t specifically about the deal I want to do (though I am excited) or the fact that I’m moving to Montana but rather that it’s time to express more confidence in general. I shouldn’t undermine myself. I’m good. Some people like me. And that’s enough to have some confidence to try some stuff and experiment. If you want to come and play with me feel free to say hi.

Categories
Startups

Day 490 and Startup People

One of the more transformative experiences of my young life was attending a founders only conference in 2010. I’d never been around that many other people who did the same thing as me before. I felt so seen.

The most unexpected thing was how relaxing it was to be among other people who understand the context of my life and my work. All of the weird and idiosyncratic elements of being the CEO of an early stage company are hard to translate to someone who has never had to live it. Startups are lonely work and being the CEO is the loneliest job in the company.

Obviously the last twelve years of bull market have greatly expanded the pool of people who have worked in startups. It’s gone from a niche to the driving force of American industry. Everyone grew up. Some of us made money. We’ve professionalized. We’ve developed best practices. What was once a scrappy singular experience is now a repeatable innovation.

And like that conference it is transformative to be seen. don’t feel so alone anymore. There are more people who can share in the context and specifics. I’m in Montana this week with friends who have a similar life path to myself and my husband. Our friends completely understand the context of our lives and we understand their context. We are all founders and executive team members and angel investors and LPs. And yes it’s relaxing. I highly recommend it.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 479 and High Agency

A corner of startup Twitter was discussing the relative ease of getting connected to power brokers in different industries today. The debate? Does good talent eventually finds its way to resources? The contention from Roon, otherwise known as Mr. Wordcel vs Shape Rotator, is that networking is less crucial in technology than in any other industry because it’s easier to find a way in.

While one can quibble with how true this is for all populations, it is truer than it’s ever been. A large swath of the startup ecosystem is readily available to anyone on social media. We are less constrained by geography and credentialism than we’ve ever been. This is partially because much of the wealth in the current generation came from building social networks or software that benefits from openness. An excellent overview of this is why good angel investing ecosystems prioritize welcoming newcomers by Alex Danco. Most investors want to be available.

But it’s still a challenge to find high agency and high talent people and there are far fewer of them than you’d imagine. And proving you are high agency and high talent isn’t always an intuitive process. Being able to assess if someone has the capacity to build is one of the hardest job a capital allocator will ever have. Judging markets and products and roadmaps is much easier than discerning if someone has the capacity to execute on their dream.

I personally use follow up as my first heuristic. This is partially because I maintain open DMs so literally anyone can and does reach out to me. If someone is able to regularly show up and engage with me and show progress they are better than 90% of people. Honestly go ahead and try! I really am here to help.

You’d be shocked at how often someone pitches me and then I never ever hear from them again. And it’s not because I missed the boat (this happened once to me this year). It’s generally because people are waiting for someone else to act. And this is where people fail. The first rule of startups is figuring out how to create momentum. If you are waiting for me to cut a check you’ve already lost.

I’d like to do a whole post on this topic but I’ve been struggling to get the bulk of it on paper as I’ve got a migraine coming on. But rather than put the post off, I organized an introduction of the subject and put down my first heuristic. Which is ironically exactly what I look for in founders and builders. Did you make some visible amount of progress no matter how bad? Did you put it out into the world? That’s better than most people!

Categories
Chronic Disease Startups

476 and Temptation

When I am feeling healthy I love to over do it. Most days I feel basically fine. Which is a significant improvement over even two years ago. I was living a little low. But maybe once or twice a week now I will just feel terrific.

Today is one of those days. I woke up early after a restorative night of sleep. I didn’t miss anything on my extensive wellness regimen. I was just nailing the day.

The sad part about doing wellness because you have to for a chronic disease is that you aren’t even ever hotter for it. Healthy women be doing yoga & taking supplements and practicing wellness and it’s a fucking Instagram campaign. I do all that shit and at the end I’m “ok.” It’s actually pretty demoralizing. I engage in flawless yuppie next generation wellness because it’s actually keeping me alive.

With this context it’s clear that I resent having to take good care of myself. It feels like a burden. So when I have a really good day. When I’m just energetic and focused and, yes moisturized and thriving, I’m also plotting how to undermine myself.

Because I felt terrific I just hand to indulge in it I took a bunch of calls and did a bunch of portfolio work. I went for an hour long creekside walk to discuss some communication strategy with Alex. I was vibing. Until I wasn’t. I crossed some little threshold and realized I needed to pull back the energy expenditure. I recognized I have given into temptation this time.

Categories
Preparedness Startups

Day 474 and Unsettled

I don’t own a home. It was never a financial reality before the pandemic. But then the world accelerated and suddenly we had options and money. But still it seemed impossible to commit to another asset with a long time horizon even recently. We were startup people so every other asset was a long hold.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I have written about how I would like to buy a home now. I feel like it’s time to find a place where we can build some stability. But of course the chaotic thesis haunts me.

The chaotic thesis is the one that undergirds all of my investing. The world is getting more complex. That breeds chaos. The biggest macro-level mega trend of the next decade will be adapting to the chaos.

And as it turns out adapting to chaos is really hard. Everything that allows you to cope with the chaos in high demand. A safe place to call your own? Sorry, it’s never been harder to become a homeowner.

I wish I could say that knowing this is our reality makes it easier to adapt. Knowing isn’t the battle as it turns out. Acting on the knowledge is the hard part. Making good decisions under pressure is what will separate out who thrives and who merely survives.

I don’t think it’s going to be pretty and I’m genuinely worried it’s either hit the singularity or a new dark age. There is a reason we think we need the metaverse and it’s not because reality is getting better. It’s because it’s getting worse. I allowed all the web3 kids working out there working on Plan B.

Categories
Startups

Day 470 and Social Skills

Startups are just as much about social hacking as they are hacking something technical. We worship the archetypal “coding nerd” who is brilliant but awkward, but in reality building shit requires an awful lot of social finesse.

I meet with a pretty wide range of founders. A lot of them are clever but relatively normal people. But many founders are fucking beyond weird. I see a lot of neurodivergence. But it’s not all towards the awkwardly autistic. Plenty of founders, especially in web3, are almost supernaturally charismatic. No literally it’s magic.

And that magic is good for making something new. The ability to empathize and listen is hugely prized in leadership. Being present and able to socialize in any social context is key to bring diverse groups together. We are much more willing to throw in our resources behind a founder who can rally us together. And this is just objectively good for the startup. Of course investors want to back that kind of person.

I think some people are offended by this reality. We see endless pop culture depictions of narcissistic sociopaths raising shit tons of money and then destroying their companies. I’m honestly a little sick of it. It’s no secret that Silicon Valley, but capitalism on the whole, occasionally rewards charlatans. I don’t think it’s particularly indicative of anything but human nature. Like Fox Mulder I too want to believe.

Categories
Startups

Day 468 and Small Moves

One of my favorite movies as a kid was Carl Sagan’s Contact. It’s not a great movie but it’s heart is in the right place. It’s a beautiful story about human curiosity and the long timeline of history. In one of the closing sequences the protagonist is told by alien intelligence as embodied by a representation of her dead father that all next steps are “small moves Ellie.”

I never feel like I’m moving fast enough. Every day presses against me. I long to slog through them with speed and alacrity. It’s almost embarrassing how inadequate I find my progress. But then I remember that I move fast. I live ahead of the mainstream. I get to sit in the future that William Gibson said was not evenly distributed. Even if I don’t think I’m particularly good it’s hard to deny just how much of my life is lived in a tiny sliver of humanity.

Someone recently asked me how I moved so fast when I’m dealing with a chronic illness. I found it to be such a shocking question. I feel like I’m glacial compared to the reach of my desires and imagination. But then I’m reminded that even in shorter hours I’m forced to hone my crafts. I can’t afford to waste energy or focus so I simply do not. I imagine this focusing out of need is similar to what parents of young children operate in. The subtle art of not giving a fuck.

And so what if I am slow on a day to day basis. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m not a market trader. I invest in ten year cycles. Everything in venture is actually small moves. But as time adds up so do the aggregate of the moves. Compounding interest is up there with gravity as a force. So even when I yearn for more and for it to arrive faster I have to trust the numbers.

Categories
Emotional Work Startups

Day 466 and A Painting Without Shadows

I take therapy really seriously. I’d put being emotionally capable of managing myself at the very top of my life priorities. Honestly it should be number one and if it isn’t I need to stop and ask myself why. Being an adult requires an intimate understand of one’s emotions and the capacity to share them with others.

To further this goal I do a weekly session as well as group work. It’s meaningful to me and I recommend to all my founders that they find a way to get into coaching as well as therapy. Taking care of your own inner child is the only way you are going to be able to lead a team. If you want to build a billion dollar company and manage thousands of people you better be able to manage yourself first.

Where I think people can go wrong is treating this process as if it’s one of optimization. Do I think founders who have taken the time to understand themselves do better? Absolutely. It’s pretty rare that someone’s coping mechanisms help them reach the heights of their talents. A chip on your shoulder is great but eventually you learn to transcend it.

I think this is because if you don’t understand yourself you are a painting without shadows. It’s flat. Boring. Doesn’t read as true or trustworthy. Maybe you are really good at showing emotions to get your way. Lots of people are but if they just off enough from genuine then it reads as the uncanny valley of empathy. People just know when you are hiding something. And hiding your dark side means hiding your shadows. Without them you are a flat human.

A painting without shadows wouldn’t be any good. You without your shadows wouldn’t be who you are. The best of you exists because of the worst of you. I really do hope more people are able to see that truth and love themselves.