Rumors and misconceptions
And the infinite returns on...thinking for yourself
Entrepreneur First, Toronto - Week 5
On Sunday somebody pulled up on our street in a white SUV, got out, dumped this little fella, and drove away:
…so like any human being who isn’t dead inside (or allergic), we took him in.
His name is Chartreux (comme la liqueur verte française, mais masculine)
He is CHONKY
He only likes eating trash (Iams and Whiskas Temptations). 🙄
He won’t touch his posh, organic, free-range, hand-boiled and seasoned chicken unless he’s starving. 🐔
So in today’s issue of your favourite EF gossip rag, we’re separating the news into mental trash 🗑️ and actual meat 🥩.
Seed round? How about seed words 🌱
To suss out whether our global cohort contains any sociopaths, I’ve placed a complete wallet seed phrase in my Slack display name to see if anybody takes the money:
So far so good: https://etherscan.io/address/0x3259bf2C56DdFEc04696225594C35b375968d976
I’m tempted to conclude that our collective moral fibre is solid, but I’ve gotten the following pushback:
“Is there even enough in here for gas”
“You never said which chain this was for, I don’t want to try 3 wallets”
It seems I am confounding the better angels of our nature for…sheer laziness. SMH. 🙄
(And before anybody fancies themselves too clever, this is manual smudging in Photoshop, not a Gaussian blur. NICE TRY.)
Go home web3, you’re drunk 😶
In the global web3 Slack channel, which somehow manages to be even more of a killing field for brain cells 🤮 than the Toronto web3 channel, somebody drops something that is probably meant to be satire but honestly just reads like a documentary:
We’ve also discovered that EF stipends are single-handedly responsible for pumping STEPN’s GST token prices:
I still do not understand the unit economics of this project and nobody from Sequoia has replied yet:
In more serious talk, I’d like to bring up some controversial beliefs from private conversations with EF participants around the world. They are controversial because many people believe these things, while many other people are deeply allergic to them:
“We’re halfway through the 8 weeks”
This game does not end at week 8, when the investment committee (IC) lets teams pitch for pre-seed funding. Teams break up after week 8. Teams find funding on their own. People build cool lifestyle or consulting businesses after realizing this is not for them. People’s spouses have babies. Etc etc.
Moreover, this is not a board game where you win prizes. Alice herself said that the point is not to “win” IC. The company that comes out of this is meant to last years, decades, maybe forever. The program structure is a fun social construct, sure. There’s always a bit of drama when that team formation channel lights up in boldface on Slack - “OMG, who just formed a team with who?!!!”
But at some point the agency that a company allows us to exert over capital, culture, and the loyalty of other people becomes unbearably real. 🌱🌌 And on a micro scale, it shapes your own financial future, your sense of identity, your self esteem, the work you do for 10+ hours a day, the quality of life that you can support for your family and the people you love. This is not a game, and this is not a joke. This is your life.
“Form fast, fail fast - the opportunity cost of being in the wrong team is huge”
Our society, in general, seems to fall into two camps on the question of fit vs commitment as the basis for strong relationships - cofounder, romantic, or otherwise.
If we think of fit as a measure of Euclidean distance between two people on an infinite-dimensional subspace,
1) Fit is paramount: I’ve got choices - why bang your head against a wall when you can start with somebody closer
2) Commitment is paramount: You can find any number of people who start out close enough - relationships are built on doing the work of bridging that distance, and work is enabled / compounded by commitment
It’s unclear which camp is right. Like most complex things in life, it’s probably both.
I remember asking this question to Alice when she said that “breaking things off with Matt” was never really an option on the table. And it’s true that such thinking enables incredible perseverance and outcomes which consistently played out over time. But she also said that we aren’t in the same camp, because we’re in this curated environment of people who are already filtered to be maximally suitable for co-founding with.
But there are also 3 million people in Toronto. What are the odds that I’m supposed to be able to optimize for 1) within a group of 48, even if there was a ton of filtering and work that went into curating this group of 48? The conditional probability that the most ideal person is here is probably higher than zero, but pretty damn close to zero.
Humans are infinite dimensional things; this infamous 50 Questions to Explore with a Potential Co-Founder list attempts to distill it to a subspace of 50 vectors, and even that tends to blow up into an intractable matching problem.
I still don’t know the right answer on this one.
“Why are CTOs forming teams with each other? There won’t be any left for the commercial founders”
Sorry, but the attitude that there are “bizniss people” who scoop up technical folks to execute on their vision hasn’t flown since the 1990s. “CTO” / “CEO” are questionable labels in and of themselves. At this point none of us have a company, and are indistinguishable from unemployed people who have weird hobbies. Some of us just happen to like writing code.
Technical people are not natural resources for people with MBAs to commoditize and extract value from.
We are people with hopes and dreams too. And now more than ever, the nerds can go to market without some dude in a suit.
On the other hand, many products are actually not very technical at all. Shopify is just a brilliantly executed wrapper around a Stripe API; Airbnb is just a CRUD database of images and text mashed up with a search and payment mechanism. These are not deep tech companies; they are fundamentally marketing and strategy plays - deeply human concepts - which rest on an excellently constructed technical layer.
There’s nothing stopping two commercial founders from getting together, finding an idea whose strengths rest on marketing and strategy, and hiring engineers later. During the first 8 weeks we’re barely building anything anyway, as we’re meant to be spending all of our time on customer discovery.
Forget labels; aim for complementarity. Whatever labels you’re applying to yourself are by, definition, too low-dimensional to capture the full complexity of how your experiences and personalities mesh together.
“This, but web3”
Ok please explain why this can’t just be a CRUD app with a normal API
And no, Sequoia’s willingness to subsidize your completely nonsensical token unit economics does not count as a good reason. 🙈
I’d like to thank the following people for thoughtful conversations that inspired this post. VCs, if you’re looking for some genuinely independent-minded people - take note of what these folks are building:
Konrad Urban, professional data trafficker and dapper af on Instagram
Agrim Singh, Olympic-level shitposter
Bill Leaver, who has no time for your nonsense
Jan Figala, master doggo parent and deployer of killer puns
Daniel Partida, <coding> and crushing 10ks on Strava
Fabio Mancini, who still needs to change his Twitter bio to “chief bottle counting officer | forbes 30u30 fuckboi | mck illuminati club, no longer paying dues”
Elisabeth Duijnstee, physicist, reality TV connoisseur
Anna Kreuder, sitting on an exciting secret 👀
Christopher Masurek, actually just very thoughtful 🤣
Ali Ogston, who has already sold two companies and is really just here to get a taste of what it’s like to be among the little people
Andrea Rueda, salsa coach 💃 and honestly just a very well put together human being
Banu Sivarasah, master sarista🥻, always checking in ❤️
Miya Zhang, for showing up to pole dance class with me 💃💈
Zachary Eisenhauer, massive nerd disguised as Miami crypto fuckboy 🤑
Ben Gahtan, a CEO who knows what Etherscan is ⛓️
Peter Little, who never stressed all that much about modeling 💁♂️ because, quote, “I could always just go back to writing code”
Till next time, folks 😘
If you liked this, you can find more of my personal writing at casey.li, or find me on Twitter at @sometimescasey.
love it! may the 4th be with you!