Boys Don't Cry

"Issue": 062

My writing and reading pace has slowed considerably. Perhaps because I’ve been in a slight crypto hole where everything moves 10x the speed of the natural world… so sitting down to read or write legitimately feels like a slow motion exercise.

So this will be one of those exercises you take place in to simply complete an exercise. And that will be ok. Here’s a little brain dump to force me to write.

A playlist you can listen to while you read.

On Hiring

In the past couple of weeks at Eternal, we’ve doubled the full-time team size. I consider our team to be the best “product” Eternal has ever crafted. I believe that I am an exceptional CEO, purely off of my confidence that I have one of the most exceptional teams in New York.


Running a hiring process at an early stage company is hard enough. Running that during a pandemic increases that. Running that when you can’t have the physical elements of play in the room to get a vibe for the person + they pick up a vibe from the current team… you get the picture.

Some Thots:

Every hiring process is a running ad for the company. Candidates should be able to go through the process, get denied, and still have generally positive feelings about the experience and company itself. I don’t believe this is an unachievable task.

Hiring is a full team process, yes I spend maybe 80% of the day devoted to organizing, initial chats, vetting… but it will always come down to “who are my future peers”. However, there are many ways a team can muck up a candidate’s experience.

Recently friends that are recruiting have told me stories of interviewers not having their camera on, visible lack of interest in the conversation at hand, and other unacceptable story pieces. You have to set these ground rules during the interview process, as it is a direct reflection on the culture.

You have to be ready to say “no” to friends. It sucks, but that’s part of the reality. It destroys me every time.

Transparency in the process, and decision making. From day 1, a candidate should know how many jumps it’ll take to get across the river. And if they don’t make it, they should know exactly why. Take the time to write it out, and keep it as non-personal as possible. I’ve never taken the time to send genuine feedback to someone, and them not appreciate it.

Obviously sometimes the answer is as simple as “we didn’t like them”. That’s a completely fair reason in my opinion. In early stage work, you should vibe with the folks within a sub-10 person team.

On Body & Communication

Generally, I’m a pretty heady person. It’s how I perceive a lot of what I’m experiencing. Lately, for reasons beyond me, I’ve been feeling many things through my body.

It’s clear when something doesn’t sit right. When the touch is off. If I don’t want to be somewhere, if I want to stay with someone longer. I don’t feel a need to intellectualize it.

It is, because I say it is.

And this has pushed me towards an unapologetic mode of communication… which has allowed me a new level of agency that I’ve appreciated the self-recognition of.

On Team Agency

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

— SJ

I think that it’s very natural, early in a startups life, for the founders to hold a death grip on many core functions. And it’s one of those weird startup-y things I feel as though doesn’t get talked about at all within the blog posts on “execution” — which is the transition into trusting your team.

It’s an odd one because you can never half trust something. You either believe the center will hold, and you walk across, or you don’t. A bridge not tested, is hardly a bridge at all.

We built the bridge together for a year. 4 months ago I walked across it. And I’ve never been happier. We’ve never been stronger.

On Drones

I really think that drones might be the perfect computing pet. It can follow me seamlessly, like a dog. It can allow cinematic levels of capture, without breaking anyone out of the “scene”. Spectacles will definitely go full AR heads-up display. But I think that, Snap being a camera company, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were working on a drone.

Drones are more vibey than we think…

On Black Sonic Environment

Something I’ve been thinking about is rap/hip hop at large roots in electronic production. And how it’s become the dominant American sound scape. How we may be already living in the start of a Black American “futurism”… today.

On Miami & Twitter

Embrace that every city is a technology city on a different timeline. It is all technology… it is all moving in every direction always.

There are plenty of things we can discuss ranging from inclusive community to the hollowing out of the middle class to personality driven capital. Those are all well and good dialogues to hold.

But at the core, Miami as a technology hub is/will be beautiful and disgusting. Like every tech hub before and after it.

The narrative arrow was shot, and the constant memefication only makes it stronger.

Separately, I had a funny weekend down there and I’m sure I’ll be back again.

On Last Night

Last night, a friend asked what I’m most religious about.

I said beauty.

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Live in the light

Memetic Arrows & Narrative Currency // part 1?

"Issue": 061

In the highest sense, I care deeply about the nature of progress. The belief that we can design progress, intentionally, and it fuses with our environment. An ever cycling constructed collective-selves we place and hand down to our next of kin. Until that reflection is too distorted for them to recognize, and they build again.

Progress, as an abstract, has been going through a sort of meta-renaissance of discussion and focus. How we define and measure such a thing in the macro sense — life expectancy, economic production, blah blah blah.

One thing I still haven’t heard yet, listening to Tyler Cowen and the likes, is the spiritual awareness of one’s environment and how it impresses upon them. Both consciously through their participation, as well as subconsciously through their very… passing through.

I believe that this is why McLuhan has had such an impact on many of us. The understanding of the entire working over of a medium on the individual and collective.

As we tend to freely define ourselves as technologists, we have an almost hippocratic oath like responsibility to understand the nature of our accelerated ability to terraform our lived experience through our design materials of choice… namely, for the past 20 years, software.

I’ve been turning over the “software is eating the world” meme for a little bit of time. Why did it have to happen,?,? because it had to happen. And I keep coming back to this idea that humans are terraformers. As Peter Thiel laments, we’ve slowed in our progress in the world of atoms. There’s many potential reasons as to why… but my primary one is that pre-internet-software we terraformed our environment by first putting intention and plan and law into writing. Setting out from the script, the series of actions necessary to move atoms around. Software had to eat the world because it was set to become the unified language of the world. Without this shared language, there was no terraforming to be done. Code is law, setting new batches of atoms firing around that were previously somnambulant. Over the past few years a new awareness has been born, seeing the effects of this retribalization in dazzling clarity… or maybe swirling stupefaction…

Crypto is one of the bleeding tools of our strange terraforming environments that has been gripping me with a new sort of obsession as of late.

My warning right here is that this is not a cohesive piece. I don’t know what it is. There’s a lot of scatter shots of thoughts/probes.

Our environment is capital. Like blood running through our body, it is a known invisibility that maintains us, propels us. What makes capital act, what is the sequence of events, how close is capital to lived reality…

Now I got you in my space
I won't let go of you
Got you shackled in my embrace
I'm latching on to you

When I first started writing this (which feels like a year ago in internet time), Disclosure could have accepted 1.34 SOCKS in exchange for the “Disclosure Face”. This was beat by a 7.5 WETH bid.

Mmmmmmmmmmm the environments we find ourselves in. Where this makes perfect sense. We’ve retvrned. There is value in seashell, and I should be able to trade it for corn.

On SUSHI I made a BAO-WETH pair. The story of filling a Pixl town is the current wave. We went full archeological dig for the first generative art NFT, saving kitties from the moon. Dylan Field sold his CryptoPunk for an equivalent of $7.5m… we’re out here.

In short, we’ve made currency feel less like currency, and closer to that which we have an intuitive understanding of. Narrative.

We shoot memetic arrows through environment. As it travels, it disintegrates or fattens. Some memes are built to hold capital direction in perfect form… retreat to Miami being a good example.

Capital continued to flow into the meme, the first tongue-in-cheek stance turned into an all at once flooding. Greeted openly by the Mayor himself.

We live in an age of capital abundance. This isn’t without recognition of the nature of distribution of said capital, simply that, it is everywhere. Capital moving, is the least interesting part of any story. Because it is the final reactionary layer to compounding of previous narrative.

Currency is simply another design material, embodying decision making… it’s a kinetic force. The very idea of stagnation that can take hold is the scourge of progress. This is an infinite game, to stop moving capital would be to spoil the fun. There always has to be more, and there’s always a place to put it.

So if capital is the base of the current environment, readily available to be exercised, what is the edge?

Said another way, what is it that the environment is hurdling towards…

Mmmmmmmmm that assumes a timeline model. Maybe it’s more of a cauldron. Stewing. Waiting for a new protein to congeal around. Breaking through the meat to steam through. Have it sink back into the stew, provide flavor for the next and the next…

Maybe it’s hmmmmmmmm too many forms and shapes in my head now. Will sketch for next time.

We typically think that information is presented, a decision of capital is then put into motion… no no no. Maybe before, but that’s such a dead way of thinking about the kinetics of the present.

Narrative arrows shooting through the perfect meld of capital environment and the real edge being information. Capital now pushes new information reveals, not the other way around.

The story shoots from within, it gains capital as it tries to break through the informational membrane layer. Desperately trying to be part of the permanent environment.

Crypto is the first currency that can move at the pace of narrative. (Funny enough, in terms of trad finance, venture is a form of capital that has come to act narrative first. In a capital abundant environment, there’s no reason not to other than shame. Power laws typically solve for this.)

Fiat holds plenty of history, but history is the sum of completed finite games. That history is long, and muddied, and fought over. Formal history moves too slowly. Our awareness of potential history becomes similar to our awareness of camera, forcing us into pose.

This reminds me of how prescient “reality based community” really was.

That's not the way the world really works anymore... We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do

— unnamed official in the Bush administration

In order to take the actions the administration reasoned they needed to take, they had to move faster than history formation allowed. They became part of the bleeding edge of information and narrative. Filling in the gaps with their own actions and relaying it back to the analysts, while they filled in new gaps from fresh batches of actions.

In the age of diamond hands to the moon, 300% change within hours… only meme can compress that arrow into reaction-capital in time.

Meme is narrative x environment… cmprsd. (the basis of education? damn there’s a whole side quest we could go on about narrative currency and embedded education)

This marriage between meme, communal distribution speed of the internet, and currency cannot be understated in its current and potential impact to our environment.

What happens when we make currency slightly less, currency like. It softens… it becomes generative… We replace print & cut, with mine & pool. Our communities can generate for itself, exchange within itself, produce and distribute beyond itself. Squad wealth.

We are turning towards each other at an increasing rate for more and more needs.

I’ve been trying to organize everything good on DAO’s as possible. (prepping for a deep dive weekend)

The greatest lie the devil ever sold was to make you believe you’re on single-player mode. The social profile has exacerbated this to the tenth degree.

There’s this wave right now of abstracting and folding in our peers. At first this felt like a distortion. A too closeness of the subject. But again… it’s feeling more and more of a retvrn. The smaller knits we once set ourselves in, before the hyper-extended-accessibility of it all.

  • Social has increasingly turns our peers to our own entertainment.

  • OnlyFans turns our peers into our pornography.

  • Crypto turns our peers into our economy.

Perhaps we are in the middle of turning within the tetrad…

What is this strangeeeeee progress? What is it doing to us?

In this land of rented platform existence, it’s the least surprising notion that this new engine lives on proofs. Proofs of ownership, creation, identity, transaction.

(Ownership as expression concerns me for many reasons… Who owns the sun? Do we not all feel the warmth from its radiance. Is expression not the same? Does it not radiate from the motion of others in perpetuity.)

Perhaps we just want to own our stories. Record it. It’s all memory storage. Yes, we want proof. Proof we were here. Proof this interaction happened. We want our reality based community.

This happened. This really happened. We did this together, and it was beautiful, and it had value… real real value.

I don’t do this nearly enough. But all of these writings are the results of colliding minds with my beautiful peers. Off the dome, these were the friends that influenced this piece in some way.

Elena Burger | Toby Shorin | Justin Oullette | John Palmer

Tina He

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

How often we think THIS is the final form as build. Passing through to pass through… this is all just passing through.

The chain is long before us and long behind us.

Board Meetings As Meditations

"Issue": 060

I recognize I rarely write about the nature of operating. At least, in an explicit form of language. What it means for myself, my co-founder relationship, Eternal at large.

This past Friday we had our monthly board meeting. Where we sat down and had our retrospective since the previous one, and what’s ahead for us. Board meetings at our stage are incredibly rare, but I’ve found them to be indispensable.

Put simply, they can act as meditations. A retuning as a founder/ceo. While creating space for a collective resonance alignment for the most invested parties.

For me the meditation always starts several days before the board meeting itself. When I’m preparing the deck. I typically set up a four song playlist that I have on repeat, and sit for a few hours getting the drudgery down (team updates, financials, etc.) while thinking about everything that happened the past month. I make my way through espresso number one and two.

In terms of the deck itself, I never get very far the first day. I’m always in awe of how much actually happened within the org during the time between meetings.

I’m a compulsive note-taker. It’s the only way I can keep track of time and all the moving pieces. What you come to recognize, when you take so many notes day-in-day-out, is the repetition.

This is what I mean when I talk about, “very few things actually matter.” You find it within the repeating notes. You can typically tell what people care about, because they bring it up constantly. The same is true for any organization. It’s more true, the earlier the team is.

Constructing the board deck, becomes an act of filling the set framework, with the repetitions of the past month. High level, there’s always 3 stories.

  • This is something that’s been happening within the team that is X. (can be incredibly energizing, or a problem we are working through)

  • This is what we’ve been deep in within the product, because we learned X.

  • This is how our day-to-day is changing/not changing. (think of this as operating excellence, or retvrning to excellence)

Team — Product — Process

One of the core values we’ve come to embrace for board meetings, is not leaving anything behind a pretty gloss. There’s no way to get help like that.

So we make it a point to bring things out front. Analyzing why we missed a key ship date goal by two weeks. Where Luca and I aren’t seeing eye to eye. Why we are scrapping our public beta to rebuild.

If the board meeting conversation isn’t a working model of the current state of the company. That’s not a board meeting, I don’t know what the fuck that is. I hope I never experience it.

After day one of not making too much progress on the deck itself, I generally wake up the next morning with everything in my head. (super helpful, I know) And so the next day, or sometimes late evening. I’m able to sit down, and bang out the entire deck in a four hour haze. About an hour of that time is composed of me taking “breaks” staring glass-eyed at a corner or out a window. Another two espressos are taken in during this time.

I’ll give the deck to Luca, and this is where the second set of meditations can occur. Generally we are quite aligned, but there are plenty of times where we have to negotiate on what “reality” was. Having a shared reality with your co-founder, while sounds bizarre in expressing, is hyper critical. Because this shared reality will be how communication moves throughout the team. If a team is not sharing reality, you’ll have miss after miss after miss. Like a country… the central narrative is the glue for future optionality and achievement.

Most of the time though, sitting with Luca after crafting a board deck is a period of shared reflection. Essentially one-on-one time. I see and talk to Luca more than anyone else in my life, and this monthly moment is still some of the most refining conversation we tend to have.

We are blessed with incredible board members, truly thankful for the coaches that have guided and supported our wildest notions of what the present can look like (I’ve stopped thinking about things through the lens of “future” lately).

I like the term coaches for board members. That’s how I’ve come to appreciate them functionally. Absorbing the information download of our performance out on the field, and their ability to help refine our ~plays~.

And to bring it back to our values of having everything out front, your coaches can’t help your swing, if you’re not showing them every time you’re slicing it into the woods.

A couple days before the meeting, I’ll send the deck out with brief notes on flags. If there’s something big in the deck, you want to set the tone that you’ll be spending 50% of conversation time on one subject. Odds are, this was also 50% of your repeating headspace throughout the month. Again… the working model.

Your board members, ideally, have years of experience and scores of companies that have probably touched the exact issue. A reminder that you aren’t THAT unique can be grounding. And now they can give you at times the cheat codes, and at times just a nod of “this is normal, and it’s something every company goes through.”

Finally, we are at the table. It’s small, and intimate. We aren’t at the Gavin Belson board yet.

This is the final meditation. The collective one. I have very few notes to share here.

Slide by slide. Issue by issue. Win by win. It’s talking. It’s building understanding. It’s bringing out front what we are struggling with. It’s all very, very, human. Exhaustive, nurturing, and rewarding.

For me, it’s a body drain activity. Afterwards, I always need to lay down. The full month has been externalized, I’m not holding it within anymore… it’s across the shared body. And we leave with a new set of tools, ready to beget new challenges… cycles… repetitions.

From my vantage point across my founder friends, monthly board meetings at this stage are incredibly rare. If they are having formal board meetings at all.

But I think the growth of pre-seed/seed stage investors means that the entire class will have to move from the spray-pray, hands off approach to —> concentrated bets, high touch, deep mindshare.

I might be completely wrong about this. Something something, this is non-operational advice, except it is, except I’m not liable.

But what I would encourage is board meetings sooner than later in the company building process. The meditation in preparing to externalize the working model of your organization, has shown itself to be one of the most high impact design tools for progressing Eternal.

  1. As a founding team you build clarity around your own org and needs in pushing towards X.

  2. Your board members/investors are able to create an evolving film of what is happening within the company. Building trust, increasing their ability to add value, increasing their buy in into the next big milestone. Never underestimate the benefit of a tight board.

  3. This feeds directly back into the daily process of the team and impact on the product. The primary design founders are actually participating in… the building of the org itself.

Hopefully the cybernetic loop of impact is clear…

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Mmmmm. Yeah. Exactly. Right right right

"Issue": 059

You have to realize that you’re in it. Right now, there you are. You can probably spot yourself below.

When I graduated from school, I apartment hopped around the Lower East Side. Between my Abuela’s couch, my friend Zein’s (interning at the Met) couch and bed, and my friend DChen’s (building Source at the time) couch and bed. Very communal, very open door… very Seinfeld the whole thing. I was the Kramer I suppose. I just walked in and made it home. Provided a joke and cheap beer to earn my keep.

And the story begins, I suppose a bit before graduation. Life really begins after resisting the temptation of blowing my brains out while interning in finance going into my junior year, and then the chip formed after getting denied by Bridgewater… most chips form out of a key denial I find. Probably why tech is such an insecure place, why we are so obsessed with narrative and status. Rewriting it all…

After that denial I knew where I wasn’t going to be, designed my own major but then skipped class to find out where I should be. Did a lot of things to find out where I should be. And very accidentally stumbled into co-founding an ed-tech startup. Being the “business half” to an engineering team. But hating the design, I commissioned a friend to help redesign the entire product with me. Not knowing anything formal about design, just trusting my taste.

But there was a more pressing task, getting into more rooms with universities (our clients). More money. More validity to show the universities we could be trusted and useful. This led us to DreamIt’s ed-tech accelerator. Which was great because I didn’t have to drop out (the rest of the team had graduated)… even though mentally I was way out of school already.

Not dragging this along too much, two key things happened before I would leave this ed-tech jawn. The first is I’d meet Peter Boyce. The second is we would get denied a check by Dorm Room Fund. This would work well together, even though at the time I was just blindingly upset.

After deciding I hated ed-tech, didn’t vibe with my co-founder (sometimes you get into a marriage for the wrong reasons), and I (correction: my mom) wasn’t ready to actually drop out… I had to quickly find an internship for the summer.

Somehow, I get flown out to LA to interview for a weird niche internship at Snap. Get a verbal offer while at the office, then ghosted, and then the internship didn’t exist…

So I end up interning for a small consumer joint in NYC. The founders pay me $500 a week, straight to my Venmo. And I just do whatever I can to help… which isn’t much. I still don’t really know how to work. But I was curious and too heady, and so they kept me. Maybe because they knew it was just for a summer.

In the back of my head, Dorm Room Fund was still annoying. And so I reached out to Peter and really started going at him about Rough Draft and why wasn’t it at Penn, and why was he letting Dorm Room Fund take all the Penn deals, and these were all the deals I could do first day as a partner. This continued for a whole summer. Either he started to believe me, or he just wanted me to stop, but we started RDV Penn that fall.

Now I was identifiably — mmmmmmm yeah, I’m doing it.

I was wearing the grey hoodie and the black tee everyday. Inhaling Marc Andreessen interviews. YC’s youtube channel replaced the classroom, other than a few product design classes… where I was generally uninspired but felt a sort of responsibility to my parents maybe…

The entirety of Senior year I spent taking the Bolt bus every other Friday up to GC NYC. Every early Friday morning, I knew I was in it.

I went to the Monkey offices at 1am. BOY WERE THEY IN IT! I watched a call counter go up by 1 million in the span of a couple hours. Ben… and that whole gang. That was a scene.

Graduation does this funny thing. Where you feel like you don’t have to make any decisions or you have to make every decision. Plenty (at least at Penn) do that whole Southeast Asia tour thing. Which is plenty groovy, but I was set to “it’s time to build”. I already hated what social was becoming. And Peter had taken another, full of love, bet on me — RDV funding my company Sushi. Which if you never saw it, because we only had a few thousand users and I was just manically making every mistake possible, was an open group-chat app. Funny enough, imagine if instead of voice, Clubhouse was just open group chats capped at a certain amount of people. That’s what Sushi was.

And now we are back to apartment hopping in LES. The routine was something like. DChen and I wake up around 10am. Work until 1am. Go down to Home Sweet Home and drink until 4am. Rage against the technium and what it could be. Repeat.

Fall came. I got my own apartment in Red Hook. My summer squad went back to finish their last bit of school. Those from my year just moved to the city, BCG and Goldman and Facebook offers starting up. And I was utterly disconnected from all that. I didn’t even want to pretend to get close to understanding that whole ~thing~.

So what do you do when your company is kind of a thing but not a thing, and you want to break through, and you want to be in it again… you miss being in it again… æčïd

You go to Prospect Park and watch clouds explode. And wander around Brooklyn Museum of art and allow the lines to peel off the paintings. And sit in Brooklyn Botanical gardens while Outkast “softly as if I play piano in the dark”. And yes, finally, you’re in it and the switch and the whole thing…

And you wake up the next morning. And go to church.

Sushi, whether I could admit it to myself at the point, wasn’t working. Now it’s November (2017), and my heater is broken. There’s no more money to push the app along, although funny enough, people are still using it daily. But it was all done.

I had a final coffee chat with Charles at Precursor while he was in NYC. I put it all out front. He smiled and nodded and said “It’s the next one, not this one. It’s the next one.”

So I freaked out.

My apartment in Red Hook at the time was all white. Like the type of renovation they do to an old building to attract exactly my kind. Even the floors were a grey fake wood paneling. The bathroom had these fake marble panels, but they didn’t bother rotating them… so you could clearly tell every panel was the same and aligned the same. Super trippy, not fun.

My roommate was gone for months. At some hacker house in Austin. So no job, broken heat, spaghetti and coffee everyday. I just read and keep reading and journaling the same entry again and again. At the time I was also on this no-wifi in the apartment kick. Partially because of money, but also because I was curious what would happen if I really put my technology in its place.

But yeah… I was freaking out in this white box. Playing with my shadow. Until New Years. When some friends and I went to a Real Estate concert to ring in 2018. Maybe it was the music, the comfort of some real friends, something… but it brought me back in it…

I started to create just to create something. It started with a little photography and interview series. And snowballed into me writing about ~the themes~. What we as humans iterate on in perpetuity to extend ourselves. This pushed me into new mobility and access and how we touch our cities. I dm’d Ryan (founder of JUMP Bikes) a manifesto of why I had to work there… and then I worked there.

Excited about the upcoming Sequoia round, knowing I’d be REALLY in it now… a month into being at JUMP. While working in DC to helping re-launch our second city. Uber bought us. No Sequoia round. And I immediately felt incredibly… not… in it. And I so desperately wanted to be, I truly loved that bike and what it could be mean.

I changed my desk from the strategy team I was part of, to sitting in the industrial engineering lab. I wrote up strategy team memos analyzing everything changing in the mobility space (which if you remember that spring into fall 2018, that’s all that was happening).

From helping launch our second city, I would eventually find myself working on a staffing project for European expansion. The most abstract and removed work I would ever touch again. But Uber did show me what winning looked liked. Even if I hated their version of it… scale was an undeniable force and power.

But I couldn’t stay. My manager would actively block any new work I took on. Would call me entitled about the work I wanted to do. It was almost meme like in its cadence and self-contradiction. Then as I was already gearing up to really leave, a white designer very openly said nigga while rapping along with a song… and nobody batted an eye…

Mmmmmmm yes. Not in it… we are not in it.

I was at dinner with Cami (founder of Parade) and she asked if I had seen Dreams. I downloaded and opened it right there, and it was like opening Snapchat for the first time. They were in it.

I emailed David Tisch and told him why I had to work there. That I’d do anything they needed as long as I could be somewhat close to product. A few meetings later, I had my start date. Took a paycut from Uber, but at least I’d be in it.

My first day I walk in the founders sit me down: so we’re pivoting.

shit. they weren’t as in it as i thought

I help them pivot for a couple months. But they weren’t in it. And by consequence. Neither was I. But… I was coming back to one thing.

Getting high on my own supply — I was writing again.

The week before Dreams reset the entire team. I, unknowingly presciently, wrote “Why I’m Quitting Tech”. True teen angst, Don Draper inspired, Medium post. And I was gone from Dreams…

Almost instinctively on that last day, I walked from the office to Greecologies in Nolita. Where I worked out of religiously when working on Sushi.

That post would bring new friends though. Namely Yoni (although we had briefly met before) & Nikita.

I applied to work at USV and Box Group. Hell bent on never leaving NYC. Knowing there was massive potential energy that just hadn’t been properly unlocked… maybe they saw it for me… but it wasn’t going to get unlocked at a venture office. Not for me anyway.

Boy was I not in it at the time, or so I thought.

I was writing madly about avatars and identity. Looking at Miquela and Facemoji and Morphin. Something was happening.

Another dinner with Cami. If there was ever a person that’s in it, it’s her.

“You need to meet my friend Luca. He has this avatar project. I think you two would vibe.”

A couple phone calls. I fly to LA. I sleep on his couch for a while. We just go. We put it all out front. For a week we would wake up and go as deep as possible until we couldn’t. At the end of the week we got hitched. A new Eternal. It became official official first week of December 2018.

January 2019, thinking we were in it, we went to SF to show everyone. And everyone said “No <3”

This is already the second time we should have died.

Our angel investor Jake would pay our rent for a couple months. The Eternal bank account had a negative balance. We just had to build something.

Enter Icon. A quick project to test a couple ideas I thought we could build cheaply. And get some buzz for a real thing. What was that thing… I had no idea if I’m being honest.

I call Charles. To tell him about Icon. And he agreed right there on the call to write $50k — he kept his word, it was the next one.

We build Icon. It’s weird, but it works. I present it at Betaworks with a talk. And there’s some heat. And we have a new batch of lessons. A new batch of opinions. An entirely new new eternal.

So we go back out to SF (June 2019). We have half of the round committed in 2 weeks. A few potential lead firms. We present. They all say “no <3”.

Then it’s July 4th. And every VC on the planet disappears.

we really should have died again right here. like at this point, it’s pure religion keeping it all together. so, it’s new new new eternal time

/// Some of y’all are thinking right now: you did all of this instead of learning how to code ///

but we were innnnnnn ittttttttt

It’s the end of July. We have one months rent left for both Luca and myself. And a little bit more in the bank.

We pay our rents off for August and decide to prototype one last thing. A little jelly character, on a desert map you can move around and trigger animations.

It was so crudely simple, and so obviously the answer. But we only had one shot now. And it had to be perfect.

I write the new pitch deck. Putting it all out front. Luca designs: the vertical pitch deck.

“We can text it. VC’s can forward and text it. It’s inherently mobile. Like flipping through TikTok. Fuck TikTok, it’s mobile like us. Like the world we are building"

Like product, you can tell when a round is actually going to happen. I didn’t know it, because I had never known it before that point. But our seed round had a feeling that no other attempt did. I haven’t been wrong about ~that~ feeling since.

At the end of August. Right before we would have to pay rent, with money we did not have. It was done. Kate at Bolt led our seed. I was alone in SF, and it was done. Walking around, Brockhampton in my ear, and 2 years of pushing to get in it… well… I didn’t realize how in it I was about to be.

The wave of excitement that you finally have money to do the thing you’ve said you’re going to do… is immediately met with a punch in the face of having to do it.

Luca and I set out to do it. We hired fired, hired some more, fired some more.

The grace of our founding team allowing us mistake after mistake. Scrapping the product again and again and again.

we were nottttttttt in it

Yeah we had campaigns go viral. David Dobrik used our instagram filter, and that led to millions of impressions. Yeah we did these one off projects like the Eternal Hotline that added mystery.

but IT — the damn THING — that did not feel like it was happening… did i even know what IT was… what the hell have I been looking for this entire time… what the hell was I ever telling people

We look back on old designs now and ask what we were on, it’s so far from what “new new new new new eternal” is today.

The core team just gets back from our retreat to Beacon, NY. And a couple weeks later, we are pushed to remote life. Pandemmyyyy

If there was ever a time for our product it’s now. We push all doubt aside, and the team cranks. Private beta goes out, and there’s new learnings.

And so we crank again. And public beta goes out. And it’s a huge undertaking. A small team pushing such an ambitious project.

we aren’t in it… but maybe that’s the point now…

It feels like we are in it for about 24 hours. And we crank to fix things…

You don’t bug squash your way to product market fit. It took me almost a month to learn that. I got snapped out of it when my team snapped me out of it. This has been the main learning of becoming an exceptional ceo, it’s actually a reflection of your more than exceptional team. It’s all reflective of them. A group identity.

we shut it down… we crawl back into our hole… i go to Maine to properly reset… we fight, we make up, we come out so much stronger… we crank AGAIN AGAIN AGAIN

It’s going to blow you all away. It’s insanely great.

We are in it…

What do you want? A bullet point of lessons? A guide? How to be a great PM? How to design real good and stuff? Hiring a team? How to pick your co-founder?


This week I’ve been overwhelmed by the reality, I was always in it.

I’m currently reading “The Dream Machine” & “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” — and the shared truth is that it’s about being high on your own supply.

Most of this story, is simply me running into people. A dinner with Cami, sleeping on DChen’s couch, a bet from someone that saw I was in it before I did.The only thing that matters is actually doing something that you feel and can smash together into reality. And through divinity, everyone that runs into each other, that’s always been the only plan.

And you have to believe, the same way I believe that they knew, it WAS happening to them. The same way I’ve become aware it’s been happening to me all my life. That there is a there, there.

Have you been listening?

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

Social Climber

"Issue": 058

Just say it out loud, just to see how it feels.

— Kanye West

Often times, I’ll use my twitter in this way. Probing something incredibly concise and binary, just to see if it leads me in an interesting direction. Earlier today I sent a probe that led me through a few turn-overs in my mind — I type this while also visualizing my hand literally rotating an invisible cube representing the thought… but that’s a whole separate thread.

What I want to do is move around this three tweet thread, in a non-linear manner. And expand on each of them separately, hopefully finding a few new thoughts we can turn over together.

Paid social is something I believe the entire ecosystem has been wrestling with. Many see it as a natural progression: we spend so much time here producing, we should be compensated for that. It’s too much of a lob-sided outcome, where few influencers win along side the platform itself.

The responsibility for compensation trends back towards the network compensating those around them. Whether it’s tipping streamers or paid Discord servers. We are seeing the monetization around social interaction moving at an incredibly rapid pace, in contrast to the “free and always will be” nature of social platforms’ beginnings.

Back in October, while in Maine with some incredible friends. Elena was discussing the myth of American productivity, openly questioning as a function of observing the pandemic, if America needs the amount of workers it has… or if it simply needs consumers. All of us being well aware that there’s a lot of nuance in this probe.

While I subscribe to this question, and potentially to this belief functionally. I do also recognize it is simply human nature, or at least our cultural nature, to feel satisfaction from production. We want to feel valued, and useful.

With the amount of time we collectively spend online, it’s not surprising we might seek opportunities to feel validated through monetary compensation in these spaces. But to me this feels like a somewhat dark path when brought out to scale beyond the designated content creator / influencer class.

Boiling it down: in the recognition that one’s traditionally professional identity is not valued to a certain extent they predicted, they’ve turned to all parts of their identity to extract financial value. Praying that some form of social production may bring them a more satisfying dollar…

We’ve always wanted work to feel like play. “When you love what you do…” blah blah blah. But the compression of work and social is not the same as play. When you have to convert a social call to a dollar amount, what are we actively measuring?

The delineation of space and purpose gives us necessary context for cohesion. How it all fits together. The more we blur those lines, the less it makes sense. We begin to see too much of one thing in the other… muddying intentions and expectations.

It comes back to the socially quantified self… and interface as a point defining the value of one’s social interaction.

Everything is a social network, everything is interface.

You’re born into a network, a family tree stretching in both directions of time. Histories of interactions, conflicts, romances, production.

This feeds into your schooling, walking around the college green a little stoned as you get paranoid from the gargoyle looking at you from the corner of Alumni Hall. College, another interface of time compression. The history of those before you affording validity to you in the present and future endeavors.

And then we are kicked out of the nest of higher education, we go out and join — well whatever we want to call the destruction of youth — the workforce I suppose. Our contribution to the organization is quantified through salaries. This is our first taste of paid social.

We unlock networks as we move. Like colleges, they represent new senses of validity and access. Ex- Uber, Goldman, IDEO, Carpenters Unions, regional real estate association… and products like Slack have made this networked understanding of organizations broadly understood.

When dropping a voice note to Elena about some of these thoughts, before putting them down on Substack, she expanded: how work — especially entertainment, advertising, finance, tech is like a social network — people funding/promoting work of people who they know, not necessarily meritocratic.

The tension of work/industry being the same as a social network is interesting to think about how our grievances within these organizations have shifted as we’ve had more access to social technologies and the reflections it affords us.

Twitter and LinkedIn in particular allow these professional networks to move in front of the public eye. And in the literary commentary culture of both interfaces, we lament through constant production within these networks the reflections that we see.

We are all social climbers. The quantified self tied to social-professional identity. Compressing self, leveraging a bit of e-girl behavior on top of designer profession, or an edge-lord trigger boi that’s also a principal at a venture fund.

We blur the lines. We blur the nature of appropriate interaction. And constantly obscure the expectations across identities.

My concern is not an explicit critique of what Li Jin would describe as the need for a creator’s middle class. Although I do believe that some of my beliefs would make for an interesting conversation clash with her. Instead, it is circling what happens when we make monetization an expansive possibility within the platforms we interact in.

Product design is inherently culture design. The quote tweet feature promotes a commentary structure within the network. Compared to a simple retweet which is an act of cosigned elevation and agreement.

And so I ask, what are we sacrificing in this potential design and subsequent cultural acceleration? From my tweet above, I probe that perhaps we lose a sense of hospitality. A coming to the table, without a notion of transaction value.

The design begin to force a question — not of “do I enjoy this interaction” but “do I want my money back?”

Here is the right word. Hospitality was a condition consequent on a good society in politics, politaea, and by now might be the starting point of politaea, of politics. But this is difficult because hospitality requires a threshold over which I can lead you and TV, internet, newspaper, the idea of communication, abolished the walls and therefore also the friendship, the possibility of leading somebody over the door. Hospitality requires a table around which you can sit and if people get tired they can sleep. You have to belong to a subculture to say, we have a few mattresses here. It's still considered highly improper to conceive of this as the ideal moments in a day or a year. Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status. I do think that if I had to choose one word to which hope can be tied it is hospitality. A practice of hospitality recovering threshold, table, patience, listening, and from there generating seedbeds for virtue and friendship on the one hand. On the other hand radiating out for possible community, for rebirth of community.

— Ivan Illich (interview)

thank you LM Sacacas for the discovery :)

The line that should stick to out to everyone in the quote above is right here, “Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status.”

The compression of each social interaction holding the potential for compensation is a culmination of status games reaching commerce built around the cultural production of identity itself. Mediated by interface we create tiers of potential closeness, instead of space of mutual recognition. It’s a relationship advancing based on one’s inclination to pay through each gate…

Modern software technology as an industry-culture, has a certain obsession around this rugged market extraction tied to status. We see it deeply in the crypto space and tokenizing one’s self. We see it in alt-education with ISA driven schools like Lambda or however one might classify On Deck. Both leading to a very pre-defined outcome for the individual. At the core, they all elect to focus on the value of programming (both provided by the institution or the individual self-tokenizing)… and then I have to reiterate the medium is the message — and look to understand the culture their design is inclined to produce.

This compression we’ve been meditating on, does not exist within an isolated iteration circle of product progression. It’s representative of deciphering the emergent needs of a culture, that exists within a rapidly changing economic system. In my first tweet I linked above I mentioned, “I’d much rather have proper UBI than people selling selfies or paying to enter a conversation room... Viewing every action as a potential for “work” doesn’t sit right...”

Perhaps this is the cross-roads we find ourselves at now. It’s not a distant potential future — Congress has debated national stimulus checks throughout 2020.

We’ve been living in an ad-sponsored free platform social economy for the past decade+. The creator economy has grown in step with the proliferation of these platforms, and we’ve seen the distribution of audience an individual — now indistinguishable in the eyes of interface to media institutions — can hold.

But we have to consciously ask: What do we want for ourselves… what does the technium want of us…

My fear is that the structure of the individual as profile based around quantified status games, has eroded our ability to recognize the intrinsic value of interaction — and in this loss we enable a path towards commodified consumption and transaction around what was previously everyday interaction.

Or in other words… what makes us human.

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.

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