Universals & Luxuries
If you follow my playlists, you’ll know that every so often I’ll simply make a couplet. Two songs that perfectly capture something special. Enjoy this two track loop while reading.
During the bull push on products like Superhuman. The term “luxury software” started to creep into the language profile of venture folks. And like many new language structures, the prefix of “luxury” felt like the suffix of “economy”. I remember my friend Toby saying something quite poignant about this phenomena.
In short, by utilizing luxury quite liberally to categorize the software they revealed an entirely new probe not mulled very often by technologists/investors: what level of design is necessary to break our typical pricing model of software.
LUXURIES & UNIVERSALS
A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.
What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.
— Andy Warhol
I love this quote because it’s in the same house of “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.
What happens when something is as distributed as a Coke, and the formula still resonates? In short (whether it’s healthy or not) equality. Coke is a universal.
Most of our most powerful software institutions can be categorized as universals. Particularly thanks, and I do mean THANKS, to the advent of advertising as the core UBI funder of information.
Google, subsidized by advertisement, made the internet searchable. Facebook created a free communications network. Youtube and Tiktok continue to kill network television. Even for Netflix to continue to grow they must turn to the cost reducing friend of advertising.
No one would consider these services luxuries, despite their services being super natural to our parents.
Where then does the potential for luxury sit for technologists? I point to where I always point → McLuhan. Technology shapes the senses.
The iPhone is almost like Coke. At least in America. Both the President and the janitor at the White House are utilizing the same phone. The difference between the iPhone and Coke is that one is an absurdly insane computer in your pocket. And that computer is massaging over multiple senses during the day. From smooth glass touch to nonstop visual pull to noise cancelling audio.
Software is the thing that tends to just dial in on a couple of these sense triggers. Instagram works over my eyes. Text works over my touch. TikTok works over my eyes and my ears. Etc. The point is the phone allows these organisms to exist within it, not the other-way around.
This is why I find luxury software to be a bit of a far call. Because the structures in which it lives in are nearly a universal good at this point.
***and now we get back to the speaker photo at the top of the piece
I have written about the Indie-fication of Hardware before. And since then there have been multiple new hardware companies breaking into the scene / silently incubating across different vectors of culture. Many of them taking one or a mix of the senses to new levels of manipulation / augmentation.
Recently at Eternal we worked with our friend Sora (pictured in the middle between Luca and myself) & Jon to design something special for the Eternal space.
Through the exercise and guided by my friend Sora, I began diving into hi-fi sound and it’s history. From sound clash in Jamaica to the halls of London where hi-fi speakers became the referential object for community politics when the current British culture didn’t care to highlight their news/happenings. Hi-fi sound is soaked in a rich history, and has turned into quite a luxury.
I was able to get a glance at the price sheet of Devon Ojas’s speakers and… let me tell you, it’s luxury.
But why??? Because it is a 10x+ on the senses.
This has all been one big plea to realize we need to get back to hardware investing and building. The same way we couldn’t have predicted the form of the computer that sat in everyone’s hand, we did believe in the immense value created when we would get there. And that proved true.
I believe the same is even more true today. What would happen if there was a hi-fi speaker in every single residence in America? What does that internal change look like for someone, for everyone over time? Asking these questions is what leads us to “bicycle for the mind” moments.
SPEAKING OF BIKES
I tweeted this jokingly but I really do believe I could turn Peloton around. They already have done the hard part. Get a great hardware product into a bunch homes, paired with great content.
But it’s like the iPhone at launch → NO APP STORE.
Peloton needs to do 3 things:
BUILD THEIR “APP STORE”, WHATEVER THAT LOOKS LIKE FOR THEM.
EXPAND INTO NEW MARKETS. THEIR INTERNATIONAL PENETRATION IS WEAK.
PORNOGRAPHIC LEVEL MARKETING (NOT LITERALLY SEX ON A BIKE) BUT JUST LIKE APPLE LEVEL SHIT.
This ended up being the follow up to my indie hardware piece in ways I didn’t fully expect, but that’s alright.
I haven’t been writing too much publicly these days. Eternal is so incredibly busy, and I’m so proud of everything we are doing and have planned.
I find myself quite withdrawn from technologists, and also quite frustrated by their lack of ambition. Their manipulation of language as to shift the perception of the reality of their actions or lack there of.
In my previous piece Towards A Body of Work I discuss how we might find ways to produce at a resonant interval beyond “scale big blue app”. And that has led to so many great meetings and discussions with folks that read this newsletter or just stumbled on it from Twitter.
I want to encourage more of that thinking, as I believe it is severely underrated. If there’s anything this newsletter is for → it’s for encouragement. Often times for myself, as I reread my own writing to remind myself that I do in fact believe this and it’s real because I wrote it publicly, and of course for you. Trying to do something differently despite the inherent difficultly that different always presents us with.
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.
Live in the light