Sitting under the shade in Elco’s terrace, I’m filled with an immense sense of gratitude. In a sense, an appeciation for the uncertainties of the past; on the other hand, a feeling of excitement for what’s to come next.
In late May, we announced Mainstream & Actions Builder to the public, but the launches did not generate much interest. We received a few thousand emails on the sign-up form and had 20 large customers on the waitlist, but the team was not excited enough to release the product to this crowd. Initially, my investors and I blamed it on the market - that macroeconomic shifts were drawing people away from crypto and towards AI. Sigil once told me that "diversifying focus is a hedge against your own success" - in this context, I perceived the rise and praise of AI projects as an echo-chamber behavior, so I continued to ignore it, thinking that it would diversify my focus away from building Mainstream.
However, I soon realized that the real risk was not diversifying focus but rather building the wrong thing. In my monthly investor update, I said:
"Despite being founded on a thesis formed from extensive observation across many DAO communities, our approach (and the distinct features we've been building) has proven to be a massive shot in the dark... In other words, we have not been building something that people want 100%."
I had trouble sleeping for the next few weeks and spent a lot of time stressed out about where to take Mainstream next. Pressured by the opportunity cost of capital and manpower, my team and I spent time ideating on/building side projects like Pager (an on-chain notifications-as-a-service) and Grant Tracker (visualization of where Optimism Collective grants are funneled into) while exploring what to build next.
For those wondering why I'm building these side projects, my mentor Navid always told me that perceived risk is usually greater than actual risk – the real risk is missing out on groundbreaking ideas simply because of fear. The feeling of being pressured is not fun, but the feeling of uncertainty is beyond amazing. I find it both hard and rewarding to embrace the feeling of uncertainty, because it was uncertainties that have shaped who I am today.
more on nomading aka my “work trip”
My angel investor Larry told me about Lara Del Rey’s song “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”, and that it’s natural that I find myself troubled at this point in my journey. So I first went back to DAO Palace in Germany to regain clarity, by catching up with friends who work in the same industry.
It turns out that our industry became bigger of a shitshow than what I imagined. Several renowned DAOs were shutting down, internal conflicts happening en masse in big-name companies, events shutting down because sponsors pulled out last minute, and more. Worst thing? People started to call failing crypto products “public goods”.
It feels surreal to come back to Europe after my visit last summer. Last summer, the world felt like an empty canvas, ready to be filled with my disruptive ideas. These days, I find it incredibly hard to find the right thing to work on. Elco calls this typical “bear market” behaviour, but I digress. I say this because of two reasons: 1) crypto was never ready for the mainstream, & 2) financial rewards often bring uncalibrated results in technology, as proven by several examples in history.
In a conversation a few hours ago, Elco told me that the biggest advice he got was “the master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried” – meaning most people never succeed because they don't try enough to become successful. Perhaps I should try harder. It’s something I haven’t processed fully, so will leave more thoughts once I find clarity.
there are things money cannot buy
At DAO Palace, Elco, Will & Adrian showed me how to trade on decentralized perpetual exchanges – people traders can long or short positions on underlying asset without expiry. They taught me how to trade, alongside two other advices: 1) the Bogleheads wiki, perhaps some of best financial advice on the internet, & 2) chase things that are beyond monetary value – think clear thoughts, relationships, adventures, and experiences.
I was reminded of this memory when I visited Quinta da Regaleira, the westernmost area of Europe. It’s a beautiful, breathtaking place, and I don’t think I’ve seen a blue-r sky than this ever before.
I think it’s an incredibly hard experience to ignore jealousy. Work in progress, I think I want more time to process this thought.
I came to Europe thinking that stepping back and looking at the bigger picture sometimes can help clarify the next steps forward. If you’re wondering, here’s what’s really on my mind:
how can we de-compose technical primitives to the masses? related: how do we onboard the next million to Ethereum staking & LSTs (liquid staking tokens)? did you know that staking is a $100b market vs a $10b NFT market?
how do we make it easier for people to train large language models? related: building a decentralized on-chain LLM marketplace. similar: Ocean Protocol.
how to play poker very well? Elco told me that nothing shapes your personality better than a tense game of poker.
If you’re thinking about any of these problems above, working on hard problems, or want to catch up, I’m one text away. :)