I woke up to an email from a close friend of 25 years that his wife had passed away unexpectedly last night. She’d been fighting cancer for several years, had made progress, then had setbacks, and then made progress again. While I knew them both, I’d spent many hours over the years with my friend, so I immediately felt his sense of loss because I know how central his wife was to his life. I just hugged Amy and sent her out into the world for her day with tears in my eyes the phrase “In the end, entropy always wins.”
Last week, when another close friend died of cancer, Amy said to me “We fight the good fight our whole lives, and then we lose.” It wasn’t meant in a negative way but was an acknowledgment that in the end, we die.
Two other lines that always come to my mind in moments like this are “Life is a process of continuous oxidation” and “Life is a fatal disease.” The second is lodged particularly deep in my brain, as a friend told it to me after his child died at age 21.
While this applies to humans, it applies to everything else. I’ve yet to meet an immortal animal or plant. Many of the Built to Last companies have struggled or failed since Jim Collins wrote his iconic book. Granted, while Rome, which wasn’t built in a day, is still around, the Roman Empire had a finite life.
Companies don’t last forever. Institutions don’t last forever. Physical objects don’t last forever. Our planet won’t last forever. Human civilization won’t last forever.
In the end, entropy always wins. Consider that when you make decisions trying to control the outcome of something.
The Shrike né Predator and I wish you a Happy New Year.
Jonathon Triest and Brett deMarrais of Ludlow Ventures are doing a fun video podcast series called Carpool.VC. As Jonathan and Brett drive to work, they do a podcast interview. It’s hilarious, fun, and informative.
I did it early (6am California Time) on Tuesday. In it, you’ll learn my spirit animal, doppelganger, how Jonathon and I met (I’m now an investor in Ludlow Ventures), and a bunch of other random things. I also agreed to sponsor the episode for $1.70.
I’ve been heads down this week on a handful of transactions. As a result, I haven’t been paying much attention to the world around me, but it’s inevitable that some stuff leaks through in random conversations, emails that I get and skim to respond to later, or stuff I notice, even though I’m not looking.
While I was just in the shower, I had a handful of random things roll through my head that I realized were creating intellectual dissonance for me. They are the kind of thing that I like to dissect and chew on, and expect I’ll blog deeper about some of them. Whenever I feel intellectual dissonance, it’s usually a leading indicator of something. It’s not necessarily “something bad”, but it’s almost always “something different.”
But for now, I thought I’d share the list just to get it out of my head and on virtual paper somewhere.
1. I saw two situations where angels are being pitched on secondary purchases of late stage companies. While the secondary activity has been going on for a while, I separate for “people trying to buy late stage stock” from “angels investors.”
2. Several people, who I view as generally stable and rational, had unexpected negative emotional responses that I felt were overwrought and inappropriate to the situation. In each case it felt like something else was going on, but when confronted the individual actually dug in on their emotional, non-rational position.
3. I pay little attention to the macro, especially global stock market indicies, but somehow I noticed that the Shanghai Composite was down over 30% in the last month and then up 5% yesterday.
4. I encountered a huge retrade on a deal from someone who doesn’t have a reputation of retrading deals. It’s not something I’m involved in but I noticed it.
5. I saw two situations of what I would consider very bad / disingenuous early stage investor behavior in the context of companies that had previously raised modest amounts of angel money. Each were things that regularly happened in the early 2000s, but I have seen very little of in this cycle. Suddenly, I noticed two different situations in the same week.
6. I thought Stan Wawrinka had a shot at Wimbledon, or at least was going to be in the finals (I love Stan). He was on the receiving end of an 11-9 loss in the fifth set.
7. The NYSE and United both had massive, independent computer outages at the same time. But, it appears not to be cyberterrorism.
I generally define intellectual dissonance as stuff going on in my head about factual / experiential things that seem interesting or different to me in the moment, or things I rarely think about or notice showing up in the thought stream. While it could just be my brain doing it’s normal garbage collection, it felt worth pondering.
I’ve decided to try something new on this blog. Rather than using up full posts for short announcements, I’ve added a new block for announcements at the top of the home page. It’s in orange, will generally be only a few lines, and include a link.
Since these are just blog posts being formatted differently, they will show up in the RSS feed and the daily email. In addition, there is a page in the Archives for the announcements.
If you have any feedback on this (good or bad), I’d love to hear it.
My mom sent me this today. It’s still possibly one of the funniest comedy routines I’ve ever seen. I saw it for the first time as a little kid and I remember rolling on the floor laughing.
A brilliant demonstration of how complicated the English language can be, even in its simplicity. By about minute six, my guess is Abbott is feeling like most entrepreneurs do when they are tangled up in something.
It’s worth watching all eight minutes – it’ll put a smile on your face, regardless of how your day is going.
I’m gearing up for a long series of posts about the various books I read on my month off on Bora Bora. In the mean time, I read a bunch of stuff online this morning (from Friday through today) and thought I’d give you a taste of some of it in case you feel like digging in.
I started with How Reading Transforms Us. It’s a good frame setting piece about some new research on the impact of reading – both fiction and non-fiction – on humans. There is a pleasant surprise in there about how non-fiction influences us.
As with many of you, I’m deeply intrigued by what’s going on around the movie The Interview. Fred Wilson wrote a post titled The Interview Mess in which he expresses some opinions. I’m not in opinion mode yet as each day reveals more information, including some true stupidity on the part of various participants. Instead, I’m still enjoying The Meta Interview, which is how the real world is reacting to The Interview.
Let’s start with the FBI’s Update on Sony Investigation followed by Obama Vow[ing] a Response to Cyberattack on Sony. 2600 weighs in with a deliciously ironic offer to help Sony get distribution for The Interview. Sony’s lawyers unmuffle their CEO Michael Lynton who fires back at President Obama.
Now it starts getting really interesting. North Korea says huh, what, wait, it wasn’t us and seeks a joint probe with US on Sony hack (yeah – like that is going to happen.) After everyone worrying about not being able to see The Interview (which might now be the most interesting movie of 2014 before we’ve even seen it), Sony says Nope, we didn’t chicken out – you will get to see The Interview.
Apparently, Obama isn’t finished. Instead, he’s just getting started. He’s decided that the North Korea hack on Sony Pictures was not an act of war but is now trying to decide if it’s terrorism so he can put North Korea on the terrorism sponsors list to join Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. No wait, maybe it’s to replace Cuba which Obama has decided to restore full relations with.
Thankfully, Dr. Evil weighs in on this whole thing and makes sense of it (starting at 0:40).
At the same time we are struggling over North Korean’s cyber attack terrorism censorship thing, we are struggling with our own internal efforts by some very powerful companies to figure out how the Internet should work in the US. Hmmm – irony?
Let’s start with the cable industry’s darkest fears if the Internet becomes a utility. According to the Washington Post, Congress now wants to legislate net neutrality. And Verizon tells the FCC that what they do doesn’t really matter to them.
The FCC situation is so fucked up at this point that I don’t think anyone knows which way is up. Fortunately, we have the Silicon Flatirons Digital Broadband Migration Conference happening in February which I’m speaking at to clear this all up. Well, or at least watch some entertaining, very bifurcated arguments about First Principles for a Twenty First Century Innovation Policy.
If you are a little bummed by now about how humans behave, check out this article where MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters. For a taste:
The interactions in the AMA itself showed that gender does still matter. Many of the comments and questions illustrated how women are often treated in male-dominated STEM fields. Commenters interacted with us in a way they would not have interacted with men, asking us about our bra sizes, how often we “copy male classmates’ answers,” and even demanding we show our contributions “or GTFO [Get The **** Out]”. One redditor helpfully called out the double standard, saying, “Don’t worry guys – when the male dog groomer did his AMA (where he specifically identified as male), there were also dozens of comments asking why his sex mattered. Oh no, wait, there weren’t.”
But the fun doesn’t end with cyberterrorism, censorship, incumbent control, or gender bias. Our good friends at Google are expanding their presence in our lovely little town of Boulder from 300 employees to over 1,500 employees. I think this is awesome, but not everyone in Boulder agrees that more Googlers are a good thing. I wonder if they still use Lycos or Ask Jeeves as their search engine. And for those in Boulder hoping we municipalize our Internet net, consider FERC’s smackdown of the City of Boulder’s Municipalization position.
Oh, and did you realize the US government actually made a $15 billion profit on TARP?
“That’s a pretty depressing and fatalistic post title, but I actually mean it in a positive and encouraging way. Let me explain.
It’s easy to go about your life, every day, feeling like everyone else has their shit together and that the things you struggle with are unique to you.
But then, when you get down to it, it turns out that everyone — every single person I know — is dealing with profoundly difficult and stressful things. Sometimes that’s money, sometimes it’s health, sometimes it’s work or family or relationships.
It’s worth remembering this so that we cultivate some empathy when dealing with people — in general and in particular in difficult situations.”
I just turned seven squared. I’ve now been on this planet for 50 years. In my “normative case”, I’ve got 30 good years left. I’m hopeful I live longer but I’ve also accepted that the lights could go out unexpectedly anytime.
Amy and I used the “30 more good years” as the frame of reference for a lot of our talks over the past month while we were on sabbatical off the grid. We’ve been fortunate to have amazing lives, but we’ve each had our share of really difficult things to deal with, separately and together. And we know we’ll have plenty of challenges and messy stuff to deal with for the rest of our lives.
I read several biographies on our trip. My two favorites were one on Einstein and one on Ada Lovelace. Amazing people, but messy lives with lots of challenges. As I read these biographies, I kept thinking about the timing they lived, the stuff they struggled with, and how the cycle of challenges for humanity continues on endlessly.
It’s easy to get lost in the morass of misery. You can also end up in the “things are good for the other person, but fucked up for me” cycle.
It’s all messy. And we eventually die and it’s over.
Nick’s remember that it’s “worth cultivat[ing] some empathy when dealing with people — in general and in particular in difficult situations” just nails it.
Go read Nick’s post everyone is broken and life is hard. And take a deep breath and remember Everything is Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.
A few years ago, David Cohen and I started a Colorado CEO Jobs list in response to the regular stream of inbound email we got from folks looking to move to Colorado and interested in tech-related jobs. We seeded this list with CEOs from companies Foundry Group and Techstars had invested in. As other CEOs requested access to the list, we added them.
The list was managed in Yahoo Groups and had about 100 CEOs on it. It was simple – emails from people looking for jobs came to me or David and we forwarded them to the list. The hit rate was very high – I regularly get feedback from people that they’ve ended up with multiple interviews and a job from the introduction.
Both David and I felt like the list was pretty tedious to manage in Yahoo Group so about three months ago we restarted it and made it a Google Private Community. We culled the list a little and re-invited everyone, ending up with 56 active CEOs. We’ve been using the Google Private Community for a while and are comfortable that it’s a significant improvement over the Yahoo Group.
We are still keeping it private for now but are looking for any CEOs of tech companies in Colorado who want to join the list as we expand it from Foundry / Techstars related companies. Our goal is to have a wide audience of CEOs for anyone coming to Colorado who is looking for a tech related job.
We are keeping the list ONLY to CEOs for now as we plan to expand some of the things we are doing with the list.
So, if you are a CEO of a tech company in Colorado and want to be on our Colorado CEO Jobs List, just email me (email@example.com).
And – if you are looking for a job in a Colorado tech company, email me also and I’ll forward your info to the list.
As we roll into the weekend, and I start another digital sabbath, I’ve got the question “what really matters about being human” rolling through my mind.
I spent the afternoon at the Silicon Flatirons conference SciFi and Entrepreneurship – Is Resistance Futile? I thought it was phenomenal and remarkably thought provoking. I came back to my office to find Dane and Eugene playing TitanFall on my 75″ screen. In a few minutes I’m heading out to dinner with my parents, Amy, and John Underkoffler of Oblong who was in town for the conference. The juxtaposition of another intense week rolling into the weekend and a day off the grid intrigues me.
The first panel was a fireside chat between me and William Hertling. William is one of my favorite sci-fi writers who I think has mastered the art of near term science fiction. If you haven’t read any of his three books, I encourage you to head over to William’s website or Amazon and grab them now.
At the end of our fireside chat, we were asked a question. I heard the question as about mortality so I went on a long space jam about how I’ve been struggling with my own mortality for the past 18 months since having a near fatal bike accident (one inch and it would have been lights out.) Up to that point I felt like I had come to terms with my own mortality. I would often say that I believed that when the lights go out, they go out, and it’s all over. And I’m ok with it.
But last fall I realized I wasn’t. And during my depression at the beginning of 2013 I thought often about mortality, how I thought about it, whether I was bullshitting myself for the previous 25 years about being ok with it, and what really mattered about being alive, and being human.
I then handed things over to William. He proceeded to answer the question that had been asked, which was about morality, not mortality.
When he finished and I’d realized what had just happened, I emitted a gigantic belly laugh. And then for the next couple of hours I kept applying the lens of “what really matters” to the discussion about science fiction, entrepreneurship, and the human race.
From the meditation I’ve been doing, I’m definitely exploring “listening to my thoughts” rather than obsessing over them. I’m recognizing that the narrative I’m creating in my brain is just my narrative and doesn’t necessarily have any real meaning, or importance, at all. 150 years from now, I don’t believe any of it will matter. And then, suddenly, the great John Galt quote “It’s not that I don’t suffer, but that I know the unimportance of suffering” comes to mind.
Sometime during the fireside chat, the statement popped out that “I believe the human species dramatically overvalues its importance to the universe.” I think this is going to be a radical point of conflict with the evolution of machines over the next 50 years. At this stage, it’s a part of what gives our lives meaning. There are so many complicated things that happen on a daily basis that create stress, conflict, controversy, and emotional responses. All of them theoretically generate meaning, but when I “listen to my thoughts” I recognize the unimportance of them.
And then I start searching for what really matters. Both to me, and about being human.
See you Sunday.