The venture capitalist’s dilemma

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A fantastic takedown of the venture capitalists behind the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, written by the fantastic Molly White (of Web3 is Going Just Great fame).

When it became apparent to this small group of very powerful, very wealthy individuals that Silicon Valley Bank — the bank used by much of the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem — was on shaky footing, they had a choice to make. They could remain calm, urge the founders of companies they’d invested in to do the same, and hope the bank could weather the storm. Or, they could all pull their money out, urge their founders to do so also, and hope that they or their companies were not the ones left standing in the teller line when the liquidity dried up.

Faced with the choice between the more communal, cooperative choice and the self-serving, every-man-for-himself choice destined to end in a bank run, it should be no surprise which option they picked. As the Titanic sank, they were the ones pushing people out of the lifeboats.

As someone heavily involved with startups of all shapes and sizes for the past decade, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of investors.

The ones who make me cringe and run the other direction as fast as possible are those who are in it for a 10x return and nothing more.

This relentless pursuit of profit is the epitome of everything I hate about the startup scene.

It makes people act in such a selfish manner, thinking only of themselves and their own pocketbooks rather than their fellow human being.

In all the ventures I am apart of, I insist that the following criteria are met:

  1. The solution that is being worked on solves a problem that will materially and objectively leave the world in a better place.
  2. There is a clear market of people willing to pay for this solution, and ideally the people who are paying for it are actually the end user of the product or service.
  3. All shareholders are interested in more than just an ROI from the venture.
  4. The end user is aware of what data they are giving up (or what data is being derived) from their use of the solution.

If the problem being solved by a team is simply “how can I turn my cash into 10x my cash”, then that team and their investors should feel ashamed.

It can be annoying to be online

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Last night, I posted an article here called “Everyone needs to grow up.”

I shared it because I’ve personally felt drawn to “childish” things lately, and I’m personally trying to make sense of it… How do you find a balance between serious adult responsibilities (raising a family, managing a team, etc.) and needing a break from that?

A good friend saw that post and sent me this article, which acts as a great counterpoint. (He may be the only reader of this blog, honestly.)

I’m of the opinion that the only way to be an adult is to be willing to meet people where they are and care for them in the way they want to be cared for. It is about setting healthy boundaries; it is about knowing who you are and what you, yourself, can do and can handle. It is about planning for the long-term.

The concept of knowing who I am is absolutely top of mind lately. My wife and I have been considering our own individual values and discussing how those mesh, mostly as a way to understand what we want to instill in our children, but also to figure out who we are as individuals.

One thing I’ve realized while undergoing this thought experiment is that I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my life suppressing who I am as a way to maintain neutrality and not rock the boat.

An example: I really like using “big words”. I find it hard sometimes to express my thoughts, and it makes me happy when I find a new word which poignantly expresses a thought. But then I often avoid using those words because I don’t want to be seen as aloof or pretentious.

Anyway, I think some people are really in tune with who they are and are unafraid to show that to the world. Being an adult, for me, is finding a way to be comfortable with who I am and not ashamed of it.

I don’t think people are adult babies now, at least not offline. Although I do think it’s maybe harder than ever to be an adult. The traditional markers of transitioning through life-stages are evaporating; basically all that’s left to guide you are bills and literature. The structures that created our modern idea of adulthood have collapsed — which is to say governments aren’t subsidizing things like homeownership like they did after the Second World War — and it’s easy to feel adrift.

Boy, ain’t that the truth. We have a playbook for life all the way up through high school. From there, it’s a boot out of the nest, and it is up to us individually to figure out how to adult.

Everyone needs to grow up

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In an age where so much agency has been taken away from young adults, when they face futures saddled with debt, unable to access the basic material trappings of adulthood... a retreat into the dubious comforts of a pseudo-childhood will have its pull.

I’m not going to lie and pretend that I didn’t take two hours today with my wife and spend it at the mall browsing through the merchandise at Box Lunch and Hot Topic.

This article makes so many good points about infantilism and it hits at a particularly poignant moment in my life where I’m actually trying to figure out who I am and what I want to be when I grow up.

Math Makes Life Beautiful

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I’ve been quite fascinated with math lately (see my video recommendation below about Bézier curves), but one concept in general that is very intriguing is the overall language of math.

For decades now, I’ve been looking at math as more of a “how can I use this tool” mindset. Pythagorean theorem? Fibonacci sequences? Euclidean coordinated? Sure, whatever, I’ll learn that stuff and use it in order to get something done that matters.

But something that has occurred to me only recently is that some of the bigger concepts that connect us to the universe, like how to travel throughout our solar system and how to capture and sequester carbon, are only possible to understand when you can speak the math.

It’s a damn shame how many people don’t consider themselves “a math person” because they didn’t have someone explain this to them at some point early in their life.

Hannah Fry explains the Gale-Shapley matching algorithm, which essentially proves that “If you put yourself out there, start at the top of the list, and work your way down, you’ll always end up with the best possible person who’ll have you. If you sit around and wait for people to talk to you, you’ll end up with the least bad person who approaches you. Regardless of the type of relationship you’re after, it pays to take the initiative.”

The math may be complicated, but the principle isn’t. Your chances of ending up with what you want — say, the guy with the amazing smile or that lab director job in California — dramatically increase if you make the first move. Fry says, “aim high, and aim frequently. The math says so.” Why argue with that?

This is a really cool concept. I’m gonna start taking more shots in life because, hey, why argue with the math?

It’s Very Unlikely Anyone Will Read This in 200 Years

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There is no reassurance and no final verdict. There might be a next life, there might be a remade world in which none of this matters, but it is also quite possible that such places will have no need for art or philosophy, though I do find it hard to imagine a fleshly paradise without dancing. For us, right here, there’s only the work and the living, and making space for it, or not.

A real bummer for you this evening, and for that, I apologize.

I think a big part of growing up and dealing with anxiety and depression is figuring out how to deal with these simple, indifferent truths.

And I guess this evening, it’s hitting me a little harder than I’d like to admit to you, dear anonymous reader.

But I guess in some ways, it makes me happy to know I’ve made a few people’s lives a little less stressful this week through my work, and I’m planning on spending my next few days (through this 18” snow storm we’re expected to have) with my wife and kids, which also makes me a little more happy too.

Why Japan’s internet is weirdly designed

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As I’ve mentioned in the past, this website’s redesign was specifically the result of me looking back at, and pining for, my old web days.

It’s a shame (but not entirely a surprise) that search engines and slow internet caused us to lose an entire generation of fun websites.

It would be stupid for me to suggest the youths will start getting into web design like I did when I was a youths. But maybe the idea here is to keep looking for how the young people are finding ways to express themselves despite whatever perceived limitations by which they are encumbered.

Also, does this mean I need to try my hand at a redesign again? Or should I find a new hobby?

Disney Channel’s Theme: A History Mystery

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What a whirlwind of a video! I knew I would be captivated by this, but the ending really moved me.

To those of you who bring your all to the random, seemingly minor tasks you accomplish for clients in your day jobs: thank you for everything you do.

The Inside Story of The Simpsons’ Remarkable Second Life

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Lest you think I’ve just been watching YouTube all night, here’s a really compelling article about The Simpsons.

This pull quote spoke to me:

“America has certainly turned into Springfield,” says Matt Selman, who is, along with Al Jean, the current showrunner. “I’m gonna generously say: Good people are easily misled. Terrifyingly easily misled. That’s always been in the DNA of the show, but now it’s in the DNA of America. It was a show about American groupthink, and how Americans are tricked—by advertising, by corporations, by religion, by all these other institutions that don’t have the best interests of people at heart.”

I’ve been rewatching clips from the first ten seasons sporadically over the past few months, and I think that’s an astute point that I hadn’t really considered.

The pro wrestling world has a term for fans who know quite a bit about the backstage politics which makes the show possible: a “smart mark” (with “mark” being a carny term for someone who can pull one over on).

But much like internet trolls, the only way you could ever “win” as a pro wrestling fan is by not engaging. By consuming the content, you’re still a mark (even if you are a smart one).

Perhaps the reason so many people are drawn to The Simpsons is similar: you feel like you’re in on the joke, even when you can’t escape the gravitational pull of the society which the show is lampooning.

The Beauty of Bézier Curves

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The pen tool in Photoshop has long felt extremely inscrutable and unapproachable to me, so in my search to better understand how to use it, I came across this video.

I never realized how lacking my math education was on me in high school and college, but I feel like if I had content like this to help explain it, I would’ve fallen head over heels for math.