Brad Feld

Month: December 2020

I love Neal Stephenson. I’ve read all of his books, some of them multiple times. Well, except the Baroque Cycle trilogy, which I’m saving for a special period of time to get lost in them, and from everything.

Last week I read In the Beginning…Was the Command Line. For the second time. This time I read it on my Kindle, which was fitting.

Stephenson wrote it in 1999. As we exit 2020, it’s a great reminder of the place technology was around 20 years ago. It shows how much has changed and how little has changed.

As a continual user of a wide variety of technology, I think our modern computing infrastructure is completely fubared. As we try harder and harder to make the thing we interact with as users better, the complexity increases. Some things work beautifully, while others are a complete débâcle.

After finishing In the Beginning, I decided to clean up my TV setup. I’ve got DIRECTV, Roku, and an Apple TV. I use Savant to control it. I paid a lot of money to have someone set it all up. All I really wanted to do was log in to HBO Max so I would watch WW84, which turns out to be completely not worth it, even if all I needed to do was press a button to watch it.

Ready Player One? Yup – it felt like that. Phone in one hand. Savant remote in another. Apple TV settings. I tried resetting my password a few times. 15 minutes later, I realized that I probably had the wrong username for DIRECTV. I tried a different username. Then it got really messy since Apple TV thought I was one username, and now DIRECTV thought I was another. I finally figured this out after going over to Roku and setting things up there.

Then I decided to try to go clean up all the random tiles on Roku. Of course, I’ve lost track of my Roku controller, so I did this using Savant. But my Savant controller doesn’t have an * programmed into the Roku control section, so I had to do it app by app. I made a document with all the Channels I wanted to delete. I started manually deleting them by Search Channels one by one. Some of them didn’t appear, so they were apparently undeletable, at least until I find an asterisk.

An hour later, I was ready to watch WW84. We watched it last night. It was awful. We then realized we had watched end of the world movies four nights in a row (Tenet, Greenland, Midnight Sky, and WW84). WTF. What’s the point of that anyway.

I’m spending a lot more time at the command line these days. I’ve been learning Clojure, using Zsh and Emacs, struggling with Homebrew, and trying not to be annoyed with GitHub. And my new favorite app is Roam, which is not really a command-line app but sometimes feels like it.

I know when I get back to Aspen, where there currently is no heat due to what appears to be a natural gas line sabotage where I have Xfinity instead of DIRECTV, my Roku settings won’t have synchronized. Maybe AppleTV will, maybe it won’t. At least my Kindle will be the same. That’s because I only have one Kindle.

I haven’t even started to push anything into production.

Nothing is going to look anything like this 20 years from now.

About a month ago, I participated in a discussion hosted by the CU Boulder Conference on World Affairs titled Back to the Future: Lessons for our emerging challenges from science fiction and history.

The moderator was Phil Weiser (Colorado’s Attorney General). The guests were me, Blake Crouch (Colorado-based Author and Screenwriter), Patty Limerick (Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado Boulder), and Joe Neguse (U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District – the district I live in).

As with anything Phil moderates, he was well prepared, moved the conversation along nicely, and made sure everyone was engaged.

He ended with a classical question about the future. “What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear?”

I answered at 1:14:18 with my version of a Zen Koan.

My hope is that I can continue to maintain non-attachment to my hopes and fears.

My fear that I won’t be able to maintain non-attachment to my hopes and fears.

A month later this is still my answer. I encourage you to ponder it for yourself.

Amy and I watched Tenet the other night. When we finished, she turned to me and said, “That was one big, hot mess of a movie.” I sat for a moment and said, “I’m not sure it was any good, but I’m not sure.”

I just watched the trailer. While these are clips from the movie, there’s no correlation in these clips to anything that gives you a feeling for the movie—more hot mess.

Temporal dynamics are a common trope in movies. While it’s a clichéd part of the sci-fi genre, it is becoming more common in contemporary good vs. evil save the world action movies.

After sitting for a moment, I flashed back to another movie, Interstellar, another hot mess but one that I enjoyed a lot more.

After a little exploration, I realized Christopher Nolan directed them both. As I looked through his filmography, the theme of time was woven throughout.

I’ve seen most of these movies. Memento is my favorite. Interstellar, now that I’ve watched it a few times, comes in second.

As I read Matthew McConaughey Greenlights last night (excellent, well worth reading), I felt that exploring temporal reality, a core tenet of Tenet, was worth spending more time with, which means I’ll watch Tenet again.

January 3, 2020, seems like a very long time ago. That day, I wrote a post titled The Future Of Work Is Distributed. I had no idea that four months later, all office workers in the world would be working from home, and within six months, the idea of distributed and remote work would be a topic discussed daily.

When the Federal tax laws were changed in 2018 to eliminate the deductibility of state income tax, I made the assertion, in the context of Startup Communities, that this would cause movement of people and companies across state lines, as this now created another layer of competitive advantage for states with no income tax. I remember most people waving this off, especially those living in high tax states like CA and NY.

In the last 12 months, there has started to be a migration of corporate HQs, VC firms, and high net worth people from high tax states. When Oracle announced that it is moving its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin, Texas, this issue hit its tipping point. We are officially on the other side of a phase transformation.

I remember the creation of Oracle’s Redwood Shores Headquarters. One of the clients of my first company was Damner Pike (an affiliate of Colliers International), a real estate firm in San Francisco that was the broker for Oracle. The Oracle / Redwood Shores HQ was a big deal at the time.

I know Oracle is not the first company to move its headquarters recently. And the same article lists both companies and individuals who have moved to either Texas or Florida recently. And many others, including a lot who aren’t being public about it (pro-tip: Ask your friendly, neighborhood VC where he or she is Zooming to you from.)

There are three states on the 0% State Tax list that I expect many corporations, VC firms, and HNW people will move to in the next 12 months. They are Florida, Texas, and Washington (State). The more adventurous will move to Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Distributed work is here. And State Taxes are now a competitive disadvantage. While many people will say “tax rates had nothing to do with our move,” I expect this is actually at the top of the list of factors for many people who now realize they can work from anywhere. And, this mobility of people and companies in the US will have significant long-term impacts on startup communities throughout the country.

Amy and I just finished allocating our 2020 year-end charitable contributions from our Anchor Point Foundation. Given our charitable contributions around Covid and Racial Equity throughout the year, we were extremely overallocated going into our end-of-year gift cycle.

This morning I got a note from a Jenny Thompson who said:

I’m writing today because I only just learned that cash donations are 100% deductible this year as part of CARES.

I’m front loading my monthly donations for 2021 as much as possible and suggesting friends that can do the same. The charity gets more cash on hand and we get a 100% deduction. What a win-win…

We hadn’t really processed clearly the changes to the deductibility of charitable contributions in 2020 based on the CARES Act. While we were aware of the change that allows cash charitable contributions to be deductible up to 100% of adjusted gross income (AGI), we hadn’t worked through the numbers for our situation.

When we did, we realized that we were at our limit of deductibility for gifts to our Foundation and our Donor Advised Fund (where most of our charitable giving flows through). Still, we had plenty of headroom on any cash we wanted to give charitably.

While this is not the most tax-efficient approach to charitable giving, we decided to pull forward into 2020 some additional gifts, given that the organizations really need the money right now. When one actually does the spreadsheet math, given the tax dynamics, it’s pretty efficient, especially if tax optimization is not your primary motivation.

So, if you are considering making charitable donations in cash before the end of the year, or even in 2021, and you have the resources, consider pulling the gifts forward into 2020 so that the organizations and their constituents get the benefit of the gift right now.

Of course, before you do anything, check with your tax accountant to make sure this applies to your situation. None of the above is tax or legal advice from me.

In the category of all of this has happened before, and will happen again.

I read The Legend of Bagger Vance yesterday and then watched the movie last night. The book is much better than the movie, and the book is really, really good, even if you don’t care about golf at all. And, since I don’t care about golf, I am comfortable stating that the book is excellent.

My journey to the book was via Seth Godin’s new book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, which is worth reading every page. That led me to Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art – also outstanding. And, then I realized I’d never read anything by Pressfield, and up came The Legend of Bagger Vance, which rang a bell.

I’ve resisted reading James S. A. Corey’s books in The Expanse series. I’ve enjoyed the TV show so much that doubling back on the books seemed unnecessary. Yet, as I get ready to read Ready Player Two, I’m going to watch the Ready Player One movie again to freshen up my memory of it all.

The threads through all of the stories repeatedly repeat in our search for meaning as human beings. Recently, as I’ve been thinking about the future and trying to live in both 2025 and 2040 as thought experiments, several of the threads have jumped out at me as one’s that run through time. And, while reading The Legend of Bagger Vance, I became intertwined with one of these threads with time folding back on itself. While looking for meaning around what I had read, I found George Kimball’s review of the movie Bagger’s three-ball plays with history:

Personally, I also consider Bagger Vance a sacrilege, though I’d have been a lot less bothered if they’d just let Damon play his silly match against two fictional opponents. By attempting to squeeze Hagen and Jones into roles meant for a couple of Punjabi armies, the film-makers have managed to offend the sensibilities of anyone who has studied, or cared about, the traditions and history of the game.

Ah, how we try to give meaning to this thing called life. Time for a run.

“Either this is madness or it is Hell.” 

“It is neither,” calmly replied the voice of the Sphere, “it is Knowledge; it is Three Dimensions: open your eye once again and try to look steadily.”  

-Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I’m not a fan of prognostications. In a collision of complex systems like what we are all living through right now, predicting the future is especially pointless.

That’s why I’m happy when I don’t need to make a prediction when something long promised in science fiction futures arrives in the present. 

That just happened today with holograms.

For anyone who watched Minority Report the first time and wondered when they’d be able to make their own holographic home movies; for those of you that work or play in 3D; and even for anyone that bought the iPhone 12 Pro because it has a LiDAR scanner, today you can get your first personal holographic display, Looking Glass Portrait, for the radical price of $199.

This is meeting a moment when millions of phones can already capture depth maps sufficient to generate a holographic image every time they snap a Portrait mode photo. Compute is so cheap that with clever techniques even lightweight computers like a Raspberry Pi can be coaxed to run holographic media. And 3D modeling and 3D design are becoming so standard that it won’t be long before the “3D” distinction fades away (just as we no longer have to say we work on computers with “color graphical user interfaces”).

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, when 2040 rolls around, I know I’m not going to be spending 12 hours a day in 2D videoconferences. And I won’t be viewing 3D information on flat screens. In all of the chaos of 2020, it’s a welcome diversion to know that the holographic future is arriving, and I’m delighted to be an investor in a company like Looking Glass Factory that’s making it happen. 

Get your first personal holographic display here today.

@bfeld v55.0

Dec 01, 2020
Category Personal

Simply begin again.

A year ago, I wrote in my v54.0 post that I’d decided not to have any goals for the year ahead. Instead of having goals, I wrote:

I’m embracing the moment. Every moment. Simply being in the moment. Being present with whomever I’m with or whatever I’m doing. But that’s not a goal. I know I’ll drift – regularly – just like my mind does when I meditate.

As I reflect on that last 365 days, I’m glad I had no goals. I could never have anticipated the 365 days that just occurred. Someone changed some of the fundamental code in the simulation we are in, and it sent everything off in an extremely unexpected direction.

Nothing like a small change in initial conditions.

For v55, I’m maintaining my simply begin again matra. However, when I woke up this morning, I allowed a switch to flip on the stage of life I’m in. At 55, I’ve decided I’m in the “every day is a gift from here on out” mode.

I’ve had several friends die this year. Many others have re-evaluated what they are doing, how they are doing it, or why they are doing it. I’ve been involved in several projects that have opened my eyes and mind to a different level around the inequities that exist on our planet. I spent a lot of time on things I didn’t want to spend my time on because I felt a responsibility or an obligation to people, things, or institutions.

Simply begin again.

Amy has continued to be an extraordinarily deep bedrock in my existence. We’ve had coffee together every morning since mid-March when the Covid lockdowns started. Our conversations have shifted from the past to the future, to the current moment. For the last 265 days, we’ve been together. While I could never have predicted that for v54, it was a blessing in an otherwise complex and completely unexpected year.

As I shift into “every day is a gift from here on out” mode, I’m changing how I spend my life, so it’s oriented around maximizing what I want to do rather than minimizing what I don’t want to do. That’s not a goal, but a foundational shift in my own initial condition, as of this moment.

Simply begin again.