14. Something Cryptofinance-esque; maybe from a BD side (e.g. list of hedge funds)
More to come. Ate carbs. No discipline. Carb fog. Goodbye cold unfeeling world.
14. Something Cryptofinance-esque; maybe from a BD side (e.g. list of hedge funds)
More to come. Ate carbs. No discipline. Carb fog. Goodbye cold unfeeling world.
I have a list of 17 random startup / side project ideas. For fun and practice, I want to write about them here to assess their quality and flesh them out. Because I don’t know which to start with, I used a random number generator at random.org to pick which idea to address first. Now of course, it’s 12:30am and I’m not very motivated to dig in deep on this particular idea today, but I’ll at least get it started and I’ll continue on this thread tomorrow.
12. Learn everything about AngelList and where a startup could compete with the safest, simplest offering, e.g. tokenization of seed funding. Or FundersClub
That’s #12. I rolled the random number generator around noon today, so I’ve spent a little bit of time thinking about it today. The reason this idea is attractive is because the business model of AngelList is so insanely lucrative, yet it seems like the moat they have around their business should not be THAT strong. Their business doesn’t actually create any network effects, or at least not super strong, locked-in network effects. To me, the syndicate leads are really just brokers or agents for allocations in investment opportunities, and AngelList is like a super expensive SaaS platform in the cloud for those agents.
Now the reason being an agent is so lucrative is because these tech investors are so well-respected that they serve as signal in themselves. Naval Ravikant will never have trouble filling a deal, as long as he is interested in that deal. I don’t even need to know what the deal is; I’ll invest if Naval Ravikant is leading. That’s because he’s invested in Uber, and a bunch more, but mostly Uber is all that matters to me. This signaling is so critical to both the fundraising startup and the syndicate investors, that Naval Ravikant becomes a critical part of the ecosystem even though he doesn’t actually add that much value, like I can’t imagine he makes or breaks the company with respect to his decisions about how they operate. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but he’s probably not truly even 100x smarter than anyone else. That just can’t be the case. Even though he’s 10,000x richer. Returns accrue in power law.
Anyways my point is this model is so insanely good for Naval Ravikant because as long as his reputation is strong, and the social proof is there, syndicating a deal has no downside and insane upside. If every deal has 0 loss potential but infinite upside potential, then if Naval syndicates massive volume, he WILL WIN. And he will win big. Statistics wins, and Naval is the beneficiary.
So the question is really how do you rip this model up and improve it. Why should the broker AND the broker’s technology platform take such a gigantic cut of the returns of the company? Well the incentives are such that if the company fails, Naval gets nothing. So he is incentivized to help them as much as he can, as long as he believes they can be successful. But he’s always incentivized to help where he thinks his time can have the eventual highest return multiple on his investment; so if you aren’t the hottest company in his 500-company portfolio, you aren’t getting shit from Naval. If you’re the 10th hottest company you might not get shit.
So what I’m getting at is, AngelList is not the intermediary to disrupt here; Naval the syndicate lead (and to an extent all venture investors) are the intermediary to disrupt. You can see how ICOs tapped into this in a huge way, although they were all kinds of fucked up. Founders don’t actually care if their investors are value add if they can raise exponentially more money for less effort versus fundraising the traditional route. So that indicates that they aren’t locked in to the VC side. From personal experience at Compound, our VCs aren’t bending over backwards to help us — like at all. They try to help, but only in ways where it’s clear they can derive value back.
Meanwhile, LPs and syndicate investors just want to follow social proof; but social proof doesn’t have to be ONLY the big name investor; it could be created in many ways that are actually more rigorously analytical and thoughtful.
Anyways I’m looking at my notes and some logic is missing in my thought process but the rest of my notes say things like:
And the key is in the last bullet point. I want to aggregate the attention of every LP or potential LP that ever invests in a venture fund or through AngelList, then create a fundraising platform around that where the platform actually is the intermediary instead of the VCs/syndicate leads. I won’t go further than that right now. If I do go further later, you’ll hear about it!
I haven’t had much energy lately. Not sure if I’m fighting off a cold, or this diet (Whole30) has finally gotten to me or if I’m just run down from being so busy. I feel SO BUSY. I don’t know what’s up; I could really use a pause button for a week. I kind of got that over the holidays though. I dunno – I’m hanging in there. At the end of the day I’m still grateful that I don’t truly have anything to complain about.
I just like, want to type with my eyes closed. That’s how tired I am. A little down today; it seems like there’s no end in sight with regards to responsibilities building in life, and things to get down. To be a kid again. It’s really impossible; you just can’t go backward. I guess I have to reinvent the way I think about life. Good thing Vipassana’s coming.
I missed a day again yesterday. This time writing didn’t even cross my mind; on other days I missed, I at least thought about writing and then either forgot or perhaps even subconsciously bailed on it. Yesterday was just so busy and I was just so tired that I simply forgot. I hadn’t slept very well, and I was feeling sick, and I had gone to jiu-jitsu, and whoops. It happens. I don’t really need to explain myself going forward.
Actually, I spent a bunch of time late at night writing a few important emails and helping my mom edit a document she was working on, so that kinda became my writing time. Or at least cannibalized it.
I have a Vipassana coming up in exactly two weeks. To date, I did one in February 2016 in Nepal, for 10 days, which was incredible. Inner peace was actually achieved; my ideal state of being. Then I did a 3-day one in February 2017 in Kelseyville, California which was awful. My car was outside, three days was too short, and I never got to focus on doing the Vipassana and just wanted to leave the whole time and was able to leave after effectively one full day, since the first day was the day I arrived and the third day was the day that I departed.
So this is my first Vipassana, my first real one, since February 2016, three years. I downloaded all these selfie videos I took from around the time of my last Vipassana, and I intended to watch them and try to get a sense of what I was like back then, and what I gained from the Vipassana, and how I changed afterwards. I actually haven’t watched any of those videos yet… I think they’ll likely make up around 3 hours or more of content. I should try to bite off a piece every day… it should be really interesting. I’ll actually just start with one tonight, and watch a few a day and see where I end up.
Right now I’m very scared to do a Vipassana and I definitely want to bail. But I know that while it’s incredibly challenging and scary, last time it was also one of the most rewarding things I’d ever done. I just hope it’s not a one-hit wonder you know? That for me repeating the experience will be as great as the first time I did it and it was brand new. It’s also scary because at that time in 2016 I had nothing to do, nothing to worry about, I was in the middle of backpacking through East to South Asia. This time, I have a million things to worry about, though all related to Compound and our wedding. It’ll be weird to go into the Vipassana with a million things on my mind, and to finish the Vipassana and go directly back into work without much time for reflection. I guess we’ll see.
So at this thing there’s no talking, no reading, no writing, no music, no exercise. Last time, I tried to do some pushups once in a while. I also snuck in a little notebook and wrote inside of my jacket with my eyes closed – I just thought of so many things I didn’t want to forget. I even wrote on my hand then copied it into a notebook later. I’m probably going to do the same thing this time… it’s a pretty cool memento to bring out of the experience. Though it is cheating and I’m sure the experience is different if you have to really give up on even bringing your thoughts through the experience; that is, you KNOW there are thoughts on day 1 you will forget by day 10 and you just have to be okay with letting go.
Anyways it’ll be awesome and intense but I guess for me there’s no better way to live than with passion and intensity. We’ll see how it goes. I hope it’s transformative in a good way. Always seeking evolution and progress. There’s a lot I have to work on, might as well work on it hard.
I have a list going of things I want to write about… one thing was a video I saw earlier today, from a tweet by the Black Socialists of America. The video had nothing to do with Black or Socialist or even America, it was a video of James Baldwin talking about suffering. The point he makes is that in our lives there are times we feel like, “Why me? Why must I suffer?” and we feel isolated in this pain, like God has chosen us to suffer, and there’s no reason we should, and we feel so broken in this suffering. But then, he says, one day we realize it’s not just us, that everyone suffers, that everywhere people are suffering almost regardless of their circumstances. It’s just part of the human condition, it comes with the gift of being alive, which is really the gift of experience, that some experience will be pleasant and some will be suffering. And then, he says, you learn that your suffering is a bridge to other people. I guess he’s talking about connection. Perhaps about sympathy, or empathy.
And finally he talks about this sympathy or empathy, this bridge, being a motivation to try to bring a little light to other people, a little hope. That you can’t bring people out of their suffering, but you can try to bring in them the inspiration or the resolve to bring themselves out of suffering, or at least to hope and survive until the good experiences come around again.
It was so powerful. There was something magic in the way James Baldwin delivered this message. There’s magic everywhere, whether it’s art or music or wisdom or writing or nature or sport or community. I wish I could tap into magic like that. The kind of magic that sends chills down your spine, that makes you feel so alive, that makes your heart expand, or your mind explode with pleasure and excitement. That’s what I’m seeking. That kind of magic. It’s everywhere, but it doesn’t feel like it’s in me. I wish I had a well of that magic inside me. But I know that can’t be the way it works, not for anyone (well maybe for some people?). Stevie Wonder magic. Frank Ocean magic.
How do I build that magic? Or how do I grow it. Or at least, how do I create it, once in a while, inside of myself, and share it with the world, or at least share in the experience of it with other people in the world?
Please give a short description of yourself. You might include your family, work, background, interests, beliefs.
I was born in Palo Alto, CA. As I grew up, my Taiwanese immigrant parents went from having a middle class life to an upper-middle class life, as they worked in the tech industry and Silicon Valley’s innovations brought a lot of wealth to the area. My parents grew up poor, and worked very hard to get to where they are today, and to give my sister and me a very good life.
I went to college in New York, where I studied Economics and Philosophy, and then returned to San Francisco, where I’ve lived for nine years. I’ve worked in finance, investing, data science, and business development. At one point, I took six months off work to go solo backpacking through Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India, and Indonesia. On this trip I also did my first Vipassana (10-day silent meditation retreat), which changed my life. I consider myself spiritual and very motivated to understand what makes a “good life”.
I am engaged to be married this April. The values I try to live my life by are Love, Learning, and Creativity. On a daily basis, I spend my time working, being with loved ones, doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and reading.
What are your personal motivations for wanting to be part of this project?
The implied artistic expression of this project really resonates with me; one of my tattoos reads “SEAMLESS”. It is an expression of the concept of “Seamless Interbeing”, from Buddhism, which observes that everything is connected. A piece of paper was and is a tree, which was and is rainwater, which was and is a cloud, which was and is an ocean. When we humans exhale carbon dioxide, trees inhale. When trees exhale oxygen, we inhale. Everything around us has an energy, especially the living things. We all keep each other alive; everything is the way it is because it got that way.
As stated above, my values are Love, Learning, and Creativity. I spent a lot of time to decide that these were the values on which I would judge if I am living what I consider to be a good life. I believe this project touches upon all of those values.
What is the experience in your life which has most influenced who you are?
My parents, who I love immensely, and who love me immensely, did not approve of my choice of life partner, based solely on descriptions “on paper.” They did not care who she was as a human being; they cared only for what I considered to be her “qualifications”. This was a multi-year struggle for me and it tore at my being.
To be torn between family and love helped me understand my priorities and my sense of right and wrong very deeply. I am now marrying this partner. I believe that judging a person based on their resume is deeply wrong; what matters to me is how GOOD a person is, and what they are passionate about, and how they treat others, and how they view themselves within the context of the larger world. Humility, curiosity, kindness, honesty, joy, and a deep appreciation of beauty. These are the things that matter to me in a human; these are qualities I love to see in other people. None of these qualities can be read from a resume.
Please provide a short description of your current tattoos, where they are placed and what they depict?
In chronological order:
1 – I have the letter “C” on my right shoulder/arm, for “Calvin”. This was my first tattoo and represents to me ownership of my body.
2 – I have a circular tattoo of mountains and trees on my left ribs, which says “The Journey Is The Reward.”
3 – I have a badge that says “If” on my right chest/shoulder, referencing Rudyard Kipling’s poem, which my Mom loves.
4 – I have a clock on my left chest/shoulder that shows the time 11:50. This is a reminder of a quote about compassion, “treat everyone you meet as if they’ll be gone at midnight. It will change the way you treat people.”
5 – I have the constellation Cassiopeia above my heart. This is a reminder that no matter how things change in life, for they are always changing, the stars are a reminder of permanence and stability. They will always be above me.
6 – I have a lotus flower on my back, with the word “Seamless”, and a sun/moon pattern. This is a reminder to maintain equanimity amidst the changing of the sun and moon; to be present and “blossom” in the moment; and of the concept of “Seamless Interbeing” – that everything and everyone is connected.
Tired again. Haven’t been sleeping much, working on some stuff for Compound. Tons to do, tons to manage through. None of it is really a drag, it’s just stuff to do. Could for sure use a pause button on life, but just so I have some time to stop and smell the flowers, you know? Know that I’m missing some moments to stop and admire life. But still trying to grab those moments every time I can. I’m very blessed to have created a general context for myself in which I will randomly run into such moments. But they require a little serendipity; and serendipity requires not being in front of a computer most of my waking hours, and requires just a little mind space.
Things come in phases. This is a good phase anyway. I’m just excited to see a sunset, touch an ocean, feel a breeze, sometime soon.
Went to a jiu-jitsu seminar today on heel hooks and leg locks. Was cool. Then did some work; then went to dinner with an old friend. Then hung out with Melanie while we both poked around on work while watching TV. Now focusing in on work a little bit, but gotta sleep soon so I can go to the second day of the seminar tomorrow. Need to wake up around 8am and actually get out of bed. So I’ll probably try to get ready for bed in about 15 minutes.
That’s it. No mind space today! Good day though; I can’t complain.
Tesla is down 13% today while the broader market is up. The reason is that Elon Musk issued an update in which the company let go of 7% of their headcount (some ~3,000 folks) including almost all temps and contractors, and Musk’s tone was quite drastic. He implied that it was going to be extremely challenging work, to achieve higher volume and economies of scale in order to deliver on their vision of the Model 3 at $35,000 and be profitable. He called this the only way forward.
Musk also ended a long-running buyer referral program that he stated was adding too much cost to the cars. He noted that a federal subsidy in the form of a tax credit is going away. Basically they make a tiny profit and they expect pressure on that profit margin going forward. Profitability is a super critical goal, yet will be very hard to achieve.
I want to make sure that you know all the facts and figures and understand that the road ahead is very difficult.
So what I am thinking about is buying these call options:
This is a short-term and medium-term bet that there is a rebound in the sentiment around Tesla. The last time Tesla suffered such a major move down was, I believe, because Elon Musk made statements that people thought could be construed as securities fraud by the SEC, around securing a buyout of the stock at $400. The price bounced back hard; I believe it bounced back due to some fundamental news, though I can’t remember and am now trying to find out.
This time is a little different; the price moved down majorly because of serious profitability concerns. If we need fundamental news to move the stock up, then our best expectation is that we would get it in the Q4 earnings report. I think it’s likely we do get good fundamental news; the market is hunting for news to act on. Any good news would move it up, but any bad news would move it down (well that seems like stating the obvious).
The bet here is simply that the market has overreacted on its move down of ~14%, and we should see a bounce back before earnings (hence the $325 call); and then a second bet that earnings goes well and the prospects of the company are seen as bullish again.
Long-term I think the company is extremely well-positioned. But this isn’t a long-term bet.
Actually I think one possible outcome of earnings is that these layoffs will have positioned TSLA extremely well for the future. After all, they cut a lot of costs, which should bode well for profitability. The question is if the market believes that the demand for the car is there.
Why would Musk flip so negative. Well I think he actually has to sound negative if he is cutting 7% of the workforce. So the question is why would he cut 7% of the workforce; was it a one-time cost that he wanted to incur that leaves benefits going forward? What part of the workforce is getting cut? It sounds like Musk is shifting from growth mode to survival mode. But I think if cutting the workforce is the correct move then we should disregard his tone as his tone needs to be negative. Moreover this is one month ahead of earnings so people will forget by then. I think the question is whether the Model 3 ramp required those extra people and now maintaining the same level of production, or same level of ramp, doesn’t require them anymore.
Now let me think about something else; how could I make the opposite argument? The opposite argument is that this company is worth $50 billion on a low single-digit profit margin and probably something like $25-$30 billion of revenue projected forward. The P/E ratio is high. The broader market is due for a downturn, although I’m not sure that matters for the timeframe of this investment. So how would we see a further downturn in the price of the stock? It really depends on media coverage. It depends on what Elon says. It depends on the earnings report; if it comes out that even more people should have been cut because profitability is that thin. If it comes out that earnings will miss, and actually go red, and demand is flagging. Could demand be flagging and that be why they’re cutting people?
Musk says the $35,000 Tesla 3 would cause the company to die. But now he says it is necessary.
If Tesla can’t profitably build the $35,000 car, can no longer benefit from the federal tax credit, can’t sell in China because of tariffs, and is still going through the EU homologation process, then where is the demand and where is the growth story?
On the other hand the Model 3 is the #4 bestselling passenger car in the U.S.
And on the bear side, they have a ton of debt and there are some statistics that show that demand is flagging. Could Tesla already have saturated their market? This tracker from Bloomberg seems to show that production growth has slowed, though it is stable. So production is solid.
However this report from Green Tech Media seems to demonstrate that there may not be much of a backlog anymore.
So I think they do have a demand shortage, which would cause a cut, they will have backwards looking profit, but have a tough path forward to stay in the black every quarter especially with the headwinds of the broader market (risk off). I would actually prefer to buy puts if there is a rebound in the stock.
In order to take the opposite side, I would have to be bullish on their product development (awesome new vehicles) as well as their expansion into new markets and proof that demand is actually building not shrinking. But when you build a waitlist in a bull economy you get ALL the initial interest, especially when you are selling a dream. And you give time for the market to catch up. I’m willing to bet the demand is stalling and they don’t know where it’s coming from, and they have a do-or-die proposition which is get to 35k or else. They have options, they can operate unprofitably, but not for long.
I’m a bear.
I am currently procrastinating my ass off. I read/learned something a long time ago, which was that if you set up your to-do list properly, you can spend your time procrastinating from the hardest things you have to do by at least taking care of the easiest things you have to do. Of course, the hardest things often are, or at least feel like they are, the most important things you have to do.
But if you’re not going to do them, you might as well spend your time doing other things that move you towards your goals, whatever they may be. So for example I just spent a while catching up on old reading; this satisfies my value and goal of learning (one of three core goals: love, learn, create). And really what I read was a bunch of stuff related to anti tech utopianism, and the Oslo Freedom Forum, and distributed governance, and I’ve basically radicalized myself as a tech anarchist focused on shifting power back from centralized institutions (power corrupts) into the self-sovereign realm.
How I’mma do that I have no idea but it’s compelling and it makes me feel alive to think about it.
Even by writing the above I’m procrastinating. There are a few things I need to address… #1, I failed to write yesterday at all for the first time since the start of this 2019 resolution to write every day (I think). What happened? Well it’s pretty easy to diagnose, I had a long ass day, I kept putting off writing, then I put my head on my bed and I fell asleep. What’s the solution? That’s obvious too, fuck it, there’s no way I can be perfect, I gave it my best shot. I keep saying I will write earlier in the day, but I always have 10,000 things to think about as soon as I wake up and honestly my mind space just feels completely jammed up and I simply don’t get to writing. I have to force it. It’s not natural. Procrastinating feels natural. At least I try to procrastinate into useful things… usually reading things or answering emails. I certainly am not working on the operational plan and model that I’m supposed to be producing for work, at least not the past couple hours… but I will. Things that have to get done, I always get done. I know that about myself. I may just do it late at night, or in the eleventh hour, but things I need to get done, get done well. That’s something I trust about myself.
Anyways the second thing I need to write about involves my Dad, and this is a much harder topic to approach, because it is scary and I really am not sure what is going to come out of my fingers and my brain as I write this next section. The urge to procrastinate is growing immensely and I think I’m going to give in. I guess I’ll be back (in reality I just have to use the bathroom).
Okay I’m back. I’m going to drop a clock on the rest of this for 25 minutes because I need to make sure I stay on target and actually address the issue I’m here to address today. Pomodoro timer here we go. I still pulled up my fantasy basketball scoring so I can follow that while I write.
So what is the issue I’m dancing around? Well what’s happening is I made a huge life decision that feels absolutely right to me, I have no uncertainty around it inside the scope of my own personal life, that my father does not approve of. He asked me not to make this decision. He did not do a good job, or at least I did not find it convincing, why I should not make this decision. He believes I should not make it fundamentally because he believes I should not make it; there has not been a more logical layer of reasoning on this topic.
The fact that I made my decision anyway, even in light of his disapproval, has shut him down. He believes that I disregarded his opinion that my decision is a poor one; he believes I don’t care about his opinion and his feelings as related to this opinion. He believes that as the father of a family, and in the framework of Chinese culture, he should have veto power over such an important decision that I’m making, which in fact will affect his life, though it primarily affects my life.
Now, I love my father and I know that he loves me. I love him to death; I would do anything for him. However, this disagreement is fundamentally about something that is for me, it is not for him. For me to choose what he would like me to choose changes the entire course of my life from every level of granularity – what I mean by that is, on a microscopic level, on the way I live my life minute-to-minute, it would change. On a daily level it would change. And over long periods of time, it would change. Whereas for him, what would change is solely the story in his head about me.
He wants to make a decision that changes the story of who I am to him; that is disconnected from the actions that he must make and take in his own life. I want to make a decision about how I live, specifically about the context and environment and life that I live.
I know that there is a huge cultural disconnect here, there is some gap here whereby he doesn’t understand by individualism and the revulsion I have to what is proposed to me in the paragraph above; and I do not understand the respect for lineage and the respect for the narrative arc of a family’s history that makes my story so important to him.
I have no sense of history; I never have. I don’t know why.
Anyway, we are now two men who love each other dearly and want each other to be happy, but with a gigantic disconnect that has resulted in butting heads on a critically important, life-changing issue. We’re not even butting heads. We’re kind of just avoiding each other; but it’s not something that can be forever avoided.
Oh my God, I just went through a few notes I had about this situation, things I wanted to address in this post while thinking through it, and I think I grasped something that is so foreign and unbelievable to me. Not that I don’t respect or understand it, but that I just never had a concept for. My dad is, I think, embarrassed, he has used this before, that he disagrees with my decision, and this disagreement is public, and yet I am publicly disregarding his opinion. It’s actually that in public, it appears he is weak, that he doesn’t have control of his son, that his son doesn’t care about his opinions, does not respect his opinions.
His displeasure is not a purely personal thing, the way my hyper-individualism means that I make decisions solely for the good and bad of me, but in fact it matters to him greatly what other people perceive about his strength or weakness.
If that is true, if that is the situation I find myself in, then I have failed to understand the situation completely. And again I would have to thank this habit of writing for helping me understand this situation from a different and new perspective. I also have to thank my Aunt, who tried to convey this thought process to me. Actually that’s probably who I have to thank more than anyone or anything else. My mistake. Though she did say that she could be wrong. I hope she is correct; at least I can chart a course of action from here.
So if my interpretation of the situation is correct, I need to work with my dad towards a path whereby he can agree with, accept, or at least tolerate my decision in public while saving face; where it looks like he has made the decision to do so. Well that’s a hell of an ask. It needs to be a way where I demonstrate very strongly that I care about his feelings, and respect his opinion; where I am essentially begging for his forgiveness and his acceptance. I have to make myself smaller so that he can be bigger in this situation. I need to give him the opportunity to make the generous, benevolent, decision that this is okay. He needs to know that I’ve been scared to talk to him about it, that I’ve never disagreed with him before so had no idea how to handle it, but that I respect his decision, I am simply trying to operate within that framework. He needs to know that I love and respect him. But this situation is not about love. It is about respect.
How do I create a situation, or at least a conversation, in which I am the smaller man, asking for the forgiveness and permission of my father, in a way that makes him feel strong, as if he is in control of the situation, as if he has decided that this is tolerable and acceptable. And I need to involve other stakeholders too; we are small, and we beg for his forgiveness, and we have no resentment, but only love and respect and admiration. And I respect and honor him forever, as much as I can, while trying only to live the best life for myself that I can while underneath this dominion. And I say that with full authenticity and hope. Because that is the situation I hope to achieve. To present ourselves as small, as having done wrong, but begging forgiveness and for a path forward where we are allowed to live as we have chosen to live.
There was something I wanted to write about this morning. But now I forget. Probably something about a disconnect in identity; from who we are and who we feel like.
Or maybe something about drastic simplicity.
Actually I learned a really good lesson today: whenever I’m going to make an investment or trading decision, I must come here and write about it for 25 minutes first. Make sure I put some rigor to the thought process. There is no reason to ever rush it more than half an hour.
So at least I got that out of my shitty, poorly thought out, poorly executed, losing REP short today.
I already closed it, but I should write about the close and exit decision as well.
I’ll be a more rigorous thinker from here on out.