My next chapter Today I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined Google. When meeting with current and former Googlers, I continually find myself drawn to their intelligence, passion, and enthusiasm — bitcoin mining waste of resources meme well as a universal desire to share it with others. I’m also impressed by Google’s commitment to enabling these same talented people to tackle some of the world’s most interesting and important problems.
I can’t wait to contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities, and to begin the next chapter of my career at such an incredible company. A pragmatist’s startup spin-down Last month I executed the documents to formally dissolve my failed startup, Canvas Networks. When I originally announced the company’s demise, I noted that while it had failed as a business, it had not as a product. Unfortunately that dream was cut short when, three months later, the company’s Amazon Web Services account was broken into—likely by a Bitcoin miner. And so we decided to defer a dissolution once more, this time with the task of recovering the community’s artwork. With the assistance of a former backend developer, we launched a complete web archive that allowed users to browse all of the galleries and profiles as they had existed in the app. We gave them 30 days to access the archive and download a ZIP file of their artwork, and also provided Archive.
With that obligation fulfilled, I scrambled to wind down the company before year-end so our investors could close out their books, and I could tie off a four and a half year long chapter of my life. This consisted mainly of paperwork, but also deciding what to do with the company’s remaining assets. Before announcing the company’s failure in January, I’d spent months trying to find a home for the team and product to no avail. I reasoned that the one cent on the dollar return was unlikely to move the needle for any of our shareholders, since divided proportionally based on ownership, no single investor would receive a significant amount of money from the dissolution. However that sum in aggregate had the potential to be very meaningful to a charitable organization. Throughout this entire process I’ve had one goal in mind—to create positive outcomes at every step of the way, for as many people as possible, given that I wasn’t able to generate a venture return for our investors. It’s a weight I still carry to this day, but I take solace in knowing that I was able to provide the best possible outcome for our employees, users, the developer community, and local community.
None of this would have been possible without those who shared my outlook and agreed to my rather unconventional requests. I was surprised to learn that most of our investors hadn’t seen leftover capital donated in this way before. This is probably for two reasons—first because founders rarely ask, but also because it could be considered in tension with a firm’s fiduciary responsibility to its limited partners, to whom they are ultimately accountable. I understand that neither venture firms nor their LPs are charitable organizations, but I can’t help but think there are better ways to handle dissolutions that would see immaterial amounts of money returned to the fund. My intention isn’t to preach, but to provide an alternative to the usual startup dissolution that rarely leaves a smile on anyone’s face or benefits society. Social media As a teen, I enjoyed sending handmade cards to faraway friends.
I spent hours meticulously cutting and glueing together pieces of card stock, usually without the faintest idea of what to make or write, until I produced something to my liking. I let my hands do the thinking. A recent lengthy e-mail correspondence reminded me of how it was once not uncommon for me to write such letters, and the delight of doing so. It also made me question the way I currently interact with people in the digital world, something that’s already been on my mind as I recalibrate my priorities in life. I stopped idling on Google Chat, AIM, and IRC—the latter two being services I’d used almost daily for 15 years—and have been refreshing my inbox less often.
A handful of objectively unnecessary apps survived the purge though, including Facebook and Twitter. In my effort to decrease time spent on social media, I’ve found that I use it more selfishly. My ability to live in the moment and enjoy everyday life is also diminished, since I tend to snap photos and fumble with my phone instead of enjoying what’s at hand. Don’t get me wrong—I prefer to stay in touch with friends and keep apprised of their lives. But I miss the richness that our interactions once had, and would much rather catch up with someone face-to-face or at least through a true correspondence, rather than peek at their life through the distorted lens of social media posts.
The time and energy I spend streaming disjointed snippets of consciousness to social media would undoubtedly be better spent writing and sharing more cohesive written works. And there are better, private platforms for journaling, which is primarily what I use social media for. So today my Facebook and Twitter apps join the purge, replaced by trusty pencil and notebook paper. I’m still around, and eagerly await and welcome your letters. Or a bicycle ride, walk in the park, and even just reading beside one another—anything but a tweet. I’ve never been able to sit myself down and make the words flow. I do my best thinking—and thus writing—while walking, right before falling asleep, and in the shower.
It’s not uncommon for me to dart out of the bathroom sopping wet to jot down some thoughts, and if you find me stumbling around on my phone in public, I’m probably frantically e-mailing myself notes before I forget them. All three places offer respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and allow me to be inside my head and free of distraction. After collecting scraps of writing and mulling them over, the piece comes together in a torrent of typing. What felt like an eternity now takes only minutes, like a pot of water transitioning from a gentle simmer to a rolling boil.
I’m then left with something vaguely coherent, which leads to the best part: editing! It takes me ten times longer to edit my writing than to actually write it. I’m fond of wordsmithing and find it to be the most pleasurable aspect of writing, but it’s also out of necessity. When you write for a large audience, as I do with 4chan, you learn to choose your words extremely carefully to ensure they’re only interpreted as intended. It’s not uncommon for problems to arise from a simple miswording or misunderstanding, so I strive to be clear and concise. Writing is a skill I hope to cultivate over my lifetime.