Tuesday, June 28, 2022

28: Ukraine, NFT, Diversity

The Garden of Magic Eden How the newest NFT unicorn has mastered scale through transparency, creativity, and community ...... Today, Magic Eden attracts over 20 million monthly unique visitors. ........ The platform retains the vast majority of market share and is typically responsible for over 95% of daily Solana NFT volume. ....... This all despite the fact that Opensea, the market incumbent, launched support for Solana NFTs in April—an event widely predicted to be a “Magic Eden killer.” ......... . “They haven’t necessarily done everything right, but they are always adapting and reacting to what the community needs.” The company even has its own term for this building philosophy:

“Twitter-Driven Development.”

........... startups are mirrors of their founders, from the cultural values they codify to the expectations they set through example ........ In a landscape dotted with scams, Magic Eden is deliberate in putting in place measures to prevent bad actors and manipulation. ......... one gets the sense that keeping Magic Eden running is like tending to the boilers of a steamship, where constant effort is necessary to keep the business propelling forward. ....... being authentically web3 over web2 (prioritizing community input over centralized decision-making) ......... All four co-founders are immigrants to the US (Jack, Zhuoxun, and Sid are Asian-Australian; Zhuojie lived in China until coming to the US for graduate school). Zhuoxun’s early childhood was spent in Malaysia, until his mother moved the family to Australia when he was five. ......... Each of the founders has their own story of deviating from the path of least resistance to arrive at their current positions. For Zhuojie, that meant diving into a new programming language and learning blockchain development from scratch when he took on the role of Chief Engineer. “I was curious about Rust (the programming language of the Solana blockchain), web3, NFTs, crypto, and running a startup,” says Zhuojie, recalling his reactions after getting the call from Sidney to help start Magic Eden. .......... Jack takes the opposite stance, arguing that Magic Eden ought to feel similar to using a web2 app while remaining web3 at its core ........ One of the challenges Magic Eden faces is scaling as a fast-growing, remote-first startup while maintaining strong company cohesion. The team is globally distributed, and building culture while remote is something that the founders spend a lot of time thinking about. “We’ve had success hiring from our own networks, but we need to cast the net wider and search for talent in different places,” Sidney said. ....... Solana’s wedge of fast, low-fee transactions could be eroded by a similar experience on Ethereum that also offers better security. .......... Today, most NFT marketplaces focus on the transaction itself, while the initial stages of creating purchase intent or sparking inspiration happen on other platforms like Discord and Twitter. The user experience is clunky and disjointed: users have to check multiple platforms to discover, communicate, transact, and connect, leaving an opportunity to build a more cohesive commerce experience that reflects the social activity happening around NFT purchases and ownership.

Unbundling Work from Employment The internet and rise of micro-entrepreneurship ....... A 2017 McKinsey Global Institute study showed that 20-30% of the working age population in the US was engaged in independent work, and that the proportion of such work mediated by digital platforms like Uber and Etsy was growing rapidly. .......... YouTubers, podcasters, and gaming livestreamers who’ve monetized digitally-native hobbies ......... teachers, salespeople, farmers, chefs, and personal shoppers. ....... Freshbooks’ 2019 study on self-employment found that the primary motivations for those pursuing self-employment were non-financial: most individuals seek a combination of freedom, fulfillment, and career control. ........ humans are driven by autonomy (desire to be self-directed), mastery (urge to improve), and purpose (desire to do something meaningful)—all of which independent work can facilitate. ......... direct payment models have made it viable for workers to earn a livelihood from even a small number of loyal fans; and platform companies in the gig economy and passion economy have paved new paths to work. ......... Substack has enabled writers to more easily earn income from writing, and Blok.fit and Playbook have enabled fitness instructors to run a virtual business. ........ Given that the online creative economy is growing at nearly 20% per year, verticalization is becoming an increasingly viable strategy as each vertical grows larger. And, in particular, COVID is an accelerant to new vertical platforms as nearly half of the US is jobless and seeking new, turnkey ways to earn income through end-to-end digital platforms. ......... Podcasting has been around since the early 2000s, but Anchor, a podcast platform launched in 2017 that simplifies podcast creation, was reported to be powering 70% of all new podcasts as of Q1 2020 and believes that its monetization platform effectively doubled the number of podcasts running ads. ........... Shopify, which has stated that its mission is to “make entrepreneurship more accessible,” doesn’t just superficially enable the creation of an online storefront, but offers deeper functionality tailored to e-commerce merchants: a dedicated network of fulfillment centers, merchant cash advances, marketing & SEO, etc. This focus on the e-commerce vertical has enabled it to build a $114 billion business, blowing past horizontal website builders like Wix that also offer e-commerce functionality (market cap of $14 billion, as of 7/28/20). ............. In the local services vertical, Dumpling gives personal shoppers everything they need to run their own grocery delivery businesses, including a fully-funded credit card for purchasing orders, professional website, client-facing app, and business coaching. ......... For micro-entrepreneurs, the tradeoff of independence is a de-risked company environment for learning, pivoting, and risk-taking— ......... On Substack, individual newsletter writers are already self-organizing into subscription bundles, and some are hiring teams and further professionalizing their content, effectively re-bundling into a new media organization (albeit, with a significantly different cost structure). ......... Despite myriad attempts by startups to create better video consumption experiences aligned to a specific vertical, YouTube remains unbundled because it aligns to consumer usage patterns: there’s a large base of casual consumers who want to watch diverse content across categories, rather than visiting various destinations for different content verticals. As such, YouTube is an indispensable horizontal platform in the ‘entrepreneurship stack’ that supports independent creators across a variety of industries, from financial experts to unboxing video creators. ............... 22% of self-employed workers have multiple revenue streams, compared to 11% who work for an employer

Toys, Secrets, and Cycles: Lessons from the 2000s I started my internet career in the early 2000s during the dot-com bust. It's hard to picture this now, but the internet was a thing that people used only intermittently, to check email or plan travel or do some research.

The average internet user spent about 30 minutes a day online, compared to about 7 hours today.

........... The National Academy of Sciences ranked the internet 13th in its list of great inventions over the last 100 years, beneath radio and telephones ........ At the same time, there was a small but growing movement of developers and founders who were excited about the idea that the internet could be more than a read-only medium – that it could allow anyone to create and publish, to not only read but also write, as we said back then. This movement became known as web 2. The runner up name was read-write web. ......... there's a strong correlation between rich product design spaces and what smart people find interesting ........... Another striking thing about that period was how small and passionate the web 2 community was. I remember in 2004 going to what I think might have been the first New York Tech meetup. ......... Sometimes I get asked how I first met old friends like Fred Wilson and Alexis Ohanian. The simple answer is there just weren't that many people, especially on the east coast, who were interested in these topics. We all knew each other. ........ But people were very focused and excited. The feeling was that a revolution was brewing. We knew a secret and the rest of the world hadn't figured it out yet. ......... Yahoo was considered a savvy company, and said they were making web 2 a core part of their strategy.......... The basis of competition switched from creative idea generation to disciplined execution. You had to decide whether you wanted to be the idealistic band at the indy bar or be pragmatic — potentially making compromises — and play in stadiums. .......... By 2007, things were looking up for web 2. Among other things, Facebook passed 10M users, Twitter was growing and had just gotten VC funded, and Google acquired YouTube. .......... from a startup perspective, the 2008-11 era turned out to be a golden age. Apple released the iPhone app store in 2008 and by 2009 talented founders were pouring in. The mobile app revolution was in full swing. .......... Almost all of today’s top mobile apps were created by companies founded between 2009 and 2011, including Uber, Venmo, Snap, and Instagram. .......... even if social, cloud, and mobile each improved linearly, the combination could improve exponentially. ........ My belief is that the best place to look is crypto and web 3. ......... Things that look interesting to smart people usually do so because they are rich with product possibilities. These possibilities eventually become reality. Toys become must-have tools. Weekend hobbies become mainstream activities. Cynics sound smart but optimists build the future.

Diversity & Friction friction is one inevitable result when any organization – a company, a non-profit, a government agency, or a military unit – accepts more diverse members into its ranks. ......... When individuals in the group no longer have the same shared backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences, those emerging differences can generate friction, discomfort (not unlike the discomfort that can come with sudden silence), and even conflict. ......... Denying friction in a diverse organization is akin to Victorians denying sex. It doesn’t go away; it just comes out in other, unexpected, and possibly counterproductive ways. ........

diversity plays an essential role in counteracting groupthink. But volumes of literature also reveal how resisting groupthink creates conflict.

.............. Diverse perspectives fuel creativity. ........ tension and friction – ideas and people rubbing against each other. It comes from conflicting visions of how the world works coming into contact. These collisions generate heat but also light .......... Organizations stagnate without friction. They become sterile, boring, conformist, and risk-averse. Or the friction erupts, but without warning, in the form of conflicts that can sap morale, cause talent to leave, or even create legal threats, public relations disasters, or customer relations nightmares. ............ continuous learning alongside fellow workers and constant negotiation with those colleagues. .......... The best teachers don’t deliver or download knowledge. Instead, they provide scaffolding so that students construct their knowledge. ......... Diversity & inclusion lectures often devolve into a class where neither pupils nor students want to be. .......... Charged topics like diversity and conflict can often best be approached indirectly. It lowers the stakes for everyone involved. It also helps the learning feel less like a chore. ........ Play is so essential to humans and animals. It is how our young brains develop the patterns and tools we will need for the rest of our lives. It is also how we learn about conflict. Play is thus deadly serious. ........... Play is also – obviously – joyful.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

26: Startup

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

22: Lisa Lucas

Inside the Push to Diversify the Book Business For generations, America’s major publishers focused almost entirely on white readers. Now a new cadre of executives like Lisa Lucas is trying to open up the industry. ........ The musician at the center of the novel is racially mixed, and the world he inhabits is rich with every kind of diversity: social, economic, racial, ethnic. ....... “I’m an unmarried Black woman,” she told me during one of the many conversations we had over the past nine months. “Over 40. Who does not live in a convent. These stories matter to me.” ......... This is pretty much how book publishing has worked for generations. The stronger the emotional connection an editor has to a manuscript, the more likely she is to publish the book. ........ Editors often justify their purchases by talking about how much they “love” a manuscript. In this way, book publishing is like the real estate market but with offer prices conditioned on the approval of a book publisher, not a bank. ......... Lucas is the first Black publisher in Pantheon’s 80-year history and one of the few to ever hold such a post at Penguin Random House U.S., the umbrella company that contains Pantheon as well as dozens of other imprints. When “Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm” went to auction, Lucas offered a winning bid in the mid-six figures. The price reflected her hopes for the book’s commercial appeal. .......... During the national protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, book publishing came under scrutiny for its history of undervaluing and ignoring Black editors. That June more than 1,000 publishing professionals signed up to participate in a “day of action” to protest, among other things, the industry’s “failure to hire and retain a significant number of Black employees.” ........... “I was used to being one of very few people of color in the room, but I had rarely had the experience of being the only one in certain rooms until I worked in publishing.” ......... two waves of previous efforts to diversify the industry created little lasting change. ...... For decades publishing insiders have wrung their hands over the ways in which television, video games and the internet have eaten into their profits, while ignoring the ways in which their own business practices have limited the audience for their products. ...... demographically these graduates look different than they did in the 1970s — they are more likely to be women and to be Black, Asian or Latino — and by neglecting to build an audience among them, publishers may have lost millions of customers. ........ an industry culture that still struggles to overcome the clubby, white elitism it was born in. ........... For much of its history, book publishing, especially literary book publishing, was an industry built and run by rich, white men. ......... Until the 1960s, American literature was shaped by the fact that Black authors needed white publishers to achieve national recognition. .......... both the poet Langston Hughes and the novelist Nella Larsen got book deals in the 1920s with the help of Blanche Knopf, an editor at the prestigious publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. After that, you could always point to a few great Black authors published by New York houses. Yet white editors didn’t necessarily think of themselves as serving Black readers. .......... “There is a subgenre of essay in the African American literary tradition, that can loosely be called What White Publishers Won’t Print,” Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor of English at Harvard, said. Both James Weldon Johnson and Zora Neale Hurston wrote essays with that title, more or less. Gates said, “There is a consciousness from almost 100 years ago among Black writers about the racial limitations and biases of the American publishing industry.” Richard Wright, whose 1940 novel “Native Son” sold 215,000 copies in three weeks, for example, still saw half of his 1945 memoir “Black Boy” expurgated to please the Book-of-the-Month Club, which catered to an audience of white middle-class readers. ............ Among the ranks of these new hires was the future Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, who worked in a scholastic division of Random House while writing her first novel, “The Bluest Eye.” .......... But none of these companies had the funds to underwrite splashy marketing campaigns and national tours — the kinds of investments that help catapult books onto best-seller lists. ......... Marie Brown told me that during the 1970s, a colleague at Doubleday advised her that “the Black thing is over.” If she wanted to make it as a trade-book editor, she needed to buy manuscripts of “universal” interest. ....... After Morrison moved to Random House’s trade imprint, she assembled “The Black Book,” a landmark anthology of Black historical documents. Random House balked at publishing it. “It just looked to them like a disaster,” Morrison told Hilton Als in a 2003 New Yorker profile. “They didn’t know how to sell it.” But the anthology became a national best seller in 1974. And in 1976, when Doubleday published Alex Haley’s “Roots,” a historical novel that it bought in embryonic form during the 1960s, it spent 22 weeks at the top of the New York Times best-seller list. ............. Even after witnessing these blockbusters, book publishers still seemed to struggle to see Black Americans as a significant consumer market. Gates told me that Random House’s hire of Morrison was “probably the single most important moment in the transformation of the relationship of Black writers to white publishers.” ........... When Morrison left Random House in 1983, the company’s publication of Black authors plummeted. ........ Often when she brought up a book by a Black author, someone would say some version of, “Oh, these Black books just don’t sell.” When Adero pointed to Davis’s sales or to those of the filmmaker Spike Lee, another one of her celebrity authors, she was informed that those were “not Black books.” .......... the turning point came in 1992, when three Black women — Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Terry McMillan — appeared on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time. In their wake, many other Black writers — among them, Walter Mosley, E. Lynn Harris, Zane and Edward P. Jones — had huge sales. ............ she herself sent hundreds of letters to bookstores and Black organizations across the country, offering to do readings and including pages from “Mama.” The response was overwhelming: She received so many invitations that she could not accept them all. Once, she walked into a bookstore in Atlanta and wept when she saw that the crowd waiting for her was standing-room-only. “Black people have always read,” she said. “They were waiting for something to read that they might be able to identify with, that’s all.” ......... Her father was a record producer, songwriter and guitarist who produced most of Madonna’s first album. Lucas earned a degree in literature at the University of Chicago. .......... During the uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic, many Americans turned to old-fashioned book reading in much the same way that some started baking bread. For the first time in 18 years, the number of print books sold in the United States rose for two consecutive years. ........... Sales were led by Barack Obama’s second memoir, “A Promised Land,” which sold more than three million copies in the United States in print, electronic and audio formats in its first month. ....... “The submission process, it was incredibly challenging,” one agent, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid hurting her authors, said of the pre-George Floyd years. “It’s basically white people looking for books about white people for white people.” ........ 89 percent of the fiction books published in 2018 by Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan and HarperCollins were written by white, non-Hispanic authors — a nearly exact reflection of the industry’s staff demographics the previous year. ........

by 2030 the collective economic power of Black consumers alone will be $1.7 trillion

......... One writer said he found it “jarring” to find out a character was Black on Page 3. ........ 63 of the story’s 9,075 words described a microaggression against a Black character. ............ One of Warrell’s most compelling characters is Koko, a teenager struggling to love herself and to understand her sexual impulses. Her white, blond mother seems to Koko like the epitome of American beauty, and her sexy, mixed-race father is mostly absent. ............ (Roughly nine million Americans self-identified as multiracial in 2013.) ......... Art Spiegelman’s visual retelling of the Holocaust, “Maus,” had recently been banned by a school board in Tennessee. In response, its national sales spiked. ............ Books can take years to develop from nascent proposal to full-grown manuscripts. Authors can take a decade of nurturing to hit their artistic stride. ....... At some point in their 20s or 30s, they committed to learning the art of making and selling books, and they knew that if they lost their jobs, they might never find another salaried position. .......... She was the only Black person in the store.