The power of community

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Community is a funny thing. It can sound like a fluffy word or concept, but it’s actually really powerful.  Maybe more powerful than many things.

Community is about helping people feel connected and aligned.  When people are connected, they feel warm and good, and part of something bigger than themselves.  When people are aligned, each of their individual efforts adds to the whole overall effort, so you have a lot of leverage.

There are so many examples of this.  Here’s one: today is International Women’s Day — essentially an effort to get 1/2 half of humanity connected and aligned around a sense of community.  On a much smaller level (and as a part of that), some friends of ours own a restaurant near where we live.  As part of Women’s Day, the restaurant hosted an event, and was bustling all day long with people from the neighborhood, all wearing purple and doing a variety of activities.  The restaurant itself is an important center of community where we live, and today it was plugging into an even bigger community movement.

Or, dating back to a past life where I helped create Streetsblog and Streetfilms: these were both community media efforts in the transportation policy space.  When these launched, back in 2006, there were already plenty of organizations doing good policy work in this area.  What Streetsblog and Streetfilms added were online places where this passionate community could come together, gain energy, and grow.  The streetsblog comments section was (and is, today) a hotbed of community, and the Streetfilms videos (nearly 1000 today) highlighted community stories and community members.  It was, and is today, a powerful force that has multiplied the effectiveness of people working on these issues.

Or let’s look at examples from the cryptocurrency space, like Ethereum and Bitcoin.  Both of these (and other strong communities in the crypto space) have developed something bigger than a company ever could, in terms of the connection and alignment of the community.  These communities are wild and wooly, for sure, but they are broad and deep and powerful.  People who are deep into them feel like the are really part of something.

At USV, we invest quite a lot in community.  We have a network team whose mission it is to build community among our portfolio companies — in this case charged with helping everyone become better at their jobs, and helping their companies succeed.  The USV Network started out as a pilot program led by Gary back in 2010, was then grown larger by Brittany, and is now a 4-person team, scaled up by Bethany, that’s running over 150 events per year and managing a ~4,000 person online community.  

It can be hard to measure the impact of community, and this can make it hard to know how well you’re doing when your job is to cultivate.  But sometimes you can just know it when you see it / feel it.  

What decentralization is good for (part 3): growth

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Picking back up the series on what decentralization is good for (part 1, part 2), today I want to focus on one of the most exciting aspects of decentralization: growth.   In this case, when I say “decentralized”, what I really mean is “open and non-proprietary”.  The two often go hand-in-hand. Ok, so why are open,… Read more »

Changing your life

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Just about 10 years ago, I had a migraine that lasted two weeks.  I have never been in such pain; even an ER visit and a morphine drip didn’t touch it.  Then, 6 months later, I had a stomach pain that just wouldn’t go away.  Finally I went to the hospital, and it turned out… Read more »

Leading vs. following

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Last night I went to see RAIN, a Beatles tribute band, with my friend and neighbor Jeff.  If you haven’t been to one, tribute bands/shows are kind of odd: on the one hand, typically technically/musically perfect (the tribute band can play the entire catalog of the original band flawlessly); and on the other hand, the… Read more »

What decentralization is good for (part 2): Platform Risk

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Continuing on the theme of what decentralization is good for, this week I would like to focus on one of the most powerful drivers in the near-term: Platform Risk. Platform Risk is is the risk that the tech platform that you build your product/app/business/life on will become a critical dependency, will become unreliable, and/or worse,… Read more »

Unlocking a new skill

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Over the long weekend, I spent a bunch of time with my kids doing outdoor cold weather activities. I love the winter, and I love winter sports — there is something about being outside on a cold, sunny day that gets my blood moving and makes me feel great. Those who have read this blog… Read more »

What decentralization is good for (part 1): Resilience

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Recently, Simon Morris, a long-time BitTorrent exec, wrote a provocative series of posts on the nature of decentralization, in the wake of BitTorrent Inc’s acquisition by TRON.  They are relatively short and a good read: Why BitTorrent Mattered — Bittorrent Lessons for CryptoIf you’re not Breaking Rules you’re Doing it WrongIntent, Complexity and the Governance Paradox Decentralized Disruption — Who… Read more »

The Octopus Card

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I am in Hong Kong this week for Blockstack‘s Decentralizing the World Tour (more on that in a forthcoming post).   I arrived yesterday and have been exploring the city a bit. The first observation is how awful the air quality is.  Holy cow.  This report from Plume Labs (snapshot from the time when I took this… Read more »

Managing digital addiction

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USV’s book club book for this month is Drug Dealer, MD, by Dr. Anna Lembke, Director of Addiction Medicine at Stanford Hospital – so we have spent a bunch of time recently talking about addiction. It is not a stretch to hypothesize that we, as a society, are at a moment of heightened addiction, generally… Read more »

Paying down debt (financial, technical, and otherwise)

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Debt is a complicated subject.  On the one hand, it is empowering — it lets you get a quick start on something, and lets you do things that would not be possible otherwise.  There are times when it is useful, necessary, and unavoidable. I think about “debt” in the broadest possible terms: times when you… Read more »

Google Pixel Slate: first impressions

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For the past week or so, I have been experimenting with the Pixel Slate, Google’s new hybrid tablet/laptop. Here is me typing this blog post right now, on the train to NYC.  For a longer,  more technical analysis, this review from The Verge is good. The Pixel Slate is an odd machine, and I am still… Read more »

A visual guide to the Howey Test

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Disclaimer: I am  not a lawyer, and I am not your lawyer.  I have been in an uncountable number of conversations over the past few years discussing the question of what defines a “security” in the context of cryptocurrencies, cryptonetworks, and token offerings.  Here is my current understanding, including a number of key questions I… Read more »

Crypto fundamentals

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Our good friend Chris Burniske was on Squawk Box this morning. I got up and watched it.  You can see the video here. Of course there is interest in the crypto market right now, as it is falling hard. I suspect there are many out there who are enjoying the drop, waiting for the bubble… Read more »

Getting hands-on

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One of my favorite things to do is get my hands into something and figure out how it works, whether that’s an app, or a gadget, or a house. For example, over the past few months I have been renovating our basement, turning an unfinished, dank storage area into a playroom for the kids.  Here… Read more »

The dangers of unstoppable code

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With real-time, interconnected, self-executing systems, sometimes when things wrong, they go really wrong.  I wrote about this general idea previously here. Yesterday, while I was writing my post on Trusted Brands, I was doing a little searching through my blog archives, so as to link back to all the posts categorized under “Trust”.  In the… Read more »

Trusted Brands

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Today is election day.  I’m on a plane today, so I voted early, a few days ago.  I cast my vote and it felt good. I marked my paper ballot with a marker (for optical scanning) glued it shut into a sealed envelope, and handed it to a volunteer who placed it in a secure… Read more »

Suffering, self, and service

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The massacre in Pittsburgh is heartbreaking and awful, and another example of the extent to which society seems to be fraying. The Pittsburgh attacker spent a lot of time on social media sites that stoked his fear, isolation and anger.  I think about the internet a lot, and while the internet has the ability to… Read more »

Building a meditation routine

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I wrote recently about the challenge of turning plans into routines.  One of the activities that is the most impactful for me is meditation.  I cannot say that I have a perfect meditation routine, but I can absolutely say that when I do do it, it makes me feel great, immediately. There are a bunch… Read more »

Trauma

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Just about two years ago, my wife’s parents were hit by a truck while crossing the street. The past two years have been both difficult and wonderful.  Wonderful in that two people who were on the brink of death following the accident are still with us (her mother in particular has had a miraculous if… Read more »

Plans vs. routines

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Sunday night over dinner, my son, parents and I were discussing the saving / investing system we set up for our kids in the spring. The idea was/is: set a monthly budget for purchases (in their case, mostly online movies, tv shows and games), and include a really healthy interest rate (20% monthly) to encourage… Read more »