Oct. 2021: Back in SF, Fundraising, Euca, Pip
I'm back in San Francisco, and in my community house Eucalyptus, and the company is going well. Life is good.
Zain and I are partway through raising some capital for the company. Raising venture capital is an art that rewards the bold. Having a plan to become (at least) a billion dollar company isn't a crazy dream, it's table stakes. Especially at this stage, valuations aren't based on business fundamentals, they're a vote from a few true believers that you have some probability of becoming a really big company, expressed in cold hard cash. As the wires hit the bank account, the clock starts for the next round. Time to build.
I can't express my full gratitude for everyone who has gone above and beyond helping out, making intros, and giving feedback. Starting a company is hard, but knowledge of this fact makes people really want to help; in silicon valley there's a strong tradition of paying it forward, and I won't forget it when I'm on the flip side. It's cool seeing an idea start to take on a life of its own outside your head, becoming a shared mission and belief. I'm looking forward to building a team that can manifest this idea better than we ever could on our own.
With the fundraise nearly behind us, we can shift back to the "real" work: building product and talking to customers. For our current alpha product, I'm behind the curtain making everything work (mostly) manually, and to serve more people we'll need to automate the time consuming things I'm doing. Our initial designs are nearly ready, and Zain and I are excited to properly write some code. We'll also be hiring a designer, an engineer, and maybe someone who can level up our community engagement and experiment quality, over the next few months. If you know anyone who might be a fit, please send them our way.
The vision has crystallized over the last few months, and I'll write a separate post outlining our latest thinking sometime soon.
In the spring, I left San Francisco just as the post-Covid reemergence had begun, arriving instead to a thoroughly locked down Canada. After a few months in quiet Thornbury, it has been good for the soul spend some time in Toronto, Playa Del Carmen, and SF. I know we're not out of the woods yet, but with a recent Pfizer "booster" (on top of J&J in April), it has been such a relief to turn off the background process that was constantly assessing Covid risk. It's easy to forget about the carefree lightness that we lost through the pandemic. Cheers to science for getting us this far.
I'm starting to feel like a local in Playa Del Carmen, having been twice over the last eight months. It was fun trading hurricane survival stories from the fall. This time I went scuba diving in some cenotes (underground rivers), which was a truly surreal experience. You're in an other-worldly cavern, floating in perfectly clear water enclosed by impeccable stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over centuries. Looking at space makes me feel small, while looking at rocks makes me feel ephemeral.
Another great memory was simply trying to print some documents before I flew into the US. I had to trek to a local Office Max, well outside of the touristy zone where you could get by with English. I took a number, looked up how to pronounce it on Google Translate, and listened intently for it for the next 40 minutes. I managed to strike up conversation with some people by smiling and asking what their number was, which immediately fell flat because of said lack of Spanish. With some laughs (and more Google Translate), the clerk printed everything and I was on my way. It was such a present, memorable hour. It's a good reminder that even everyday experiences can bring joy, and that being able to express myself in everyday life is something to be appreciated.
It's so great to be back in the house. It took a few days to get used to being around so many people my age again, but I've fully moved into my new room (down the hall from my old one) and it really feels like home. We had a big recruiting push over the summer, and it paid off. All of the rooms are filled with the such wonderful people, and we're really gelling and feeling like a family. I think we did a good job screening for "culture fit". We looked for people who are laid back – disagreements happen, and it's crucial for all parties to be centered and not get too worked up about it. We also looked for people who were looking to hang out and invest in the community, in whatever way they think is best. Some cook, others organize events and parties, some just hang out at odd hours of the day. Being around and having regular unplanned interactions can build a relationship pretty quickly, and even people I just met a month ago are already feeling like old friends.
Happiness within the community simply boils down to the ratio of good, life-giving interactions vs. those that are draining. In the past, we were at our worst when every house meeting was a painful 2 hours long, we disagreed about covid policies, and we barely saw each other on a day-to-day basis. Now, house meetings are an easy 15 minutes, and we have positive interactions multiple times every day. Life is good.
Now that Covid cases are quite low in San Francisco, we're getting more comfortable with hosting events with small-medium sized groups. I'm a pretty extroverted person and am excited to host some parties and reconnect with the larger hive mind of San Francisco, with whom I've largely lost touch.
I've acquired a pet ball python, named Pip (nerdy ref). Fate came knocking when a friend posted on Facebook that he was looking for a new home for his snake. As a kid, I loved reptiles and amphibians, and had a few pet snakes and lizards, so my curiosity was piqued. It's easy to forget that, as adults, we're free to pretty much do whatever we want. I hadn't even considered getting a pet snake, but was suddenly inspired to inquire. I passed the interview and he moved in mid-August.
It has been great fun having him at the house. Most people (including some housemates) have strong initial feelings of fear and unease, which invariably turns to curiosity and excitement. When we take him out, it usually takes about an hour for people to go from sitting across the room, to stroking him, to sometimes even holding him, and it's really fun to watch. He's pretty small, harmless, curious, and soft to the touch, so it's no wonder he's winning people over.
Feeding time (roughly once per week) is an exciting time in the house. After thawing a frozen rat, using the sous-vide to get it to just the right temperature, and moving it around in front of pip, he'll bite it and swallow it whole, his little head and neck expanding dramatically in the process. Sometimes he just doesn't feel like, but lately he has been doing great. There’s generally a small audience eagerly awaiting his strike.
Thanks for reading, and look forward to some more topic-focused posts before long!