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6.1.21   12:00 PM

When Yancey Strickler was first introduced to the idea behind Kickstarter in a Brooklyn restaurant, he had no idea it would go on to redefine the world's relationship with work. Founded in 2009, Kickstarter has created a universe of opportunity and funding for creators and creatives around the world. Industry-defining companies and products like Oculus and Pebble claim Kickstarter as their birthplace. Those creations would go on to influence the platform itself — Strickley credits some of its earliest creators with standardizing the language that now dominates many Kickstarter projects and crowdfunding as a whole.

Kickstarter's impact on the world is undeniable, as is its impact on Stricker's present day outlook. He stepped down as CEO in 2017 citing burnout, but went on to write This Could Be Our Future, which outlines his philosophical decision-making framework, Bentoism. With the Bento Society, Strickler hopes to help people and companies find common ground between personal interest and collective action. Strickler reflected on his journey building Kickstarter, devising Bentoism, and squaring his ideologies with harsh realities.

- Introduction and additional reporting by Daniel Konstantinovic

  • Building Kickstarter from the ground up


    The Business of Business: You started your career as a music journalist. Can you talk about the path that led you from writing for places like The Village Voice and Pitchfork to creating Kickstarter? 

    Yancey Strickler: From the age of, I don't know, seven, I think my only goal in life was to be a writer. That's what I always did. I studied English and writing and philosophy in college. I managed to hack together a living doing that for ten years, freelancing for a lot of places, you know, 75 bucks a pop for some concert preview for The Village Voice. It was amazing to see your name in print. But while doing that I discovered that I had… I didn't think of it as being entrepreneurial, but I started a couple zines, I started a record label, I was just doing stuff that felt interesting and fun. I was seeing great bands and I thought, let's try helping more people hear about them. And it was during that period of time that I met Perry Chen.

    Perry had the idea for Kickstarter and crowdfunding a couple years before, and we just became friends at a restaurant in Brooklyn. He told me about this idea he had had for a crowdfunding platform. His first iteration had been in music, it was about wanting to put on a concert and not being able to pay the money to have it happen. I didn't think that we were being entrepreneurs or doing a startup, it was just a cool idea. I think that the process of turning that idea into a business and a technology company, those were the things that we had to learn. But really, I think it was just me coming from that cultural space and caring about those things. And then there’s this great idea that solves a lot of the issues that I think about. It was somehow just an obvious next step. It was right in front of us.

    What were some of the key steps you took that you think made Kickstarter such a success?

    I think that the strength of the initial idea is a huge amount of it. That idea continues to be powerful in GoFundMe. Or if you think about Patreon, turning [crowdfunding] into an ongoing relationship and the idea that fans and artists — and at this point, all people — can have direct financial or other kinds of supportive relationships that were maybe socially awkward in a pre-internet world. It was many years of working on the platform before it was live. We were three non-technical founders working with outside tech people and had a lot of ups and downs with that. And what was helpful during that time was that we talked to a lot of people about the idea, talking to artists of all stripes, feeling them out, trying to learn how to explain the idea of crowdfunding, conditional funding, an idea that no one had heard of. You do that so many times, you would see when someone's eyes glazed over when they stopped listening, and you realize, ‘Oh, this is not a good way to talk about this.’ So I think during those years of pain and struggle, there was a lot of honing in on how do we make this something that people can understand, and how do we make this something that people are excited about? A lot of that came through conversation and from learning and talking to people. I think that by the time we opened our doors in 2009, there was both the core idea, which was so strong, and then we were quite confident about how we were doing it, because we'd spent years talking to people about it. We knew there was no right or wrong answer here. Like, we are introducing a new concept, but we felt confident that the way we were talking about it was a way that someone could understand. 

    What was the moment where you thought, ‘Wow, this is huge. This is working’?

    There's a moment I can remember very clearly. So, to start a project you had to be invited by an administrator of Kickstarter, and then you got five invites you could give to other people. It was creating a false scarcity around who could launch, but people were sharing those with people that they respected. And it was interesting to see the projects starting to reach social circles a little bit beyond us. It was three weeks after we were live, a project went out by a musician named Alison Weiss, who at the time lived in Athens, Georgia, last I knew lived in Greenpoint, and she was making an EP. She was in college at the time. Allison invented the language of crowdfunding in her video, and every crowdfunding trope ever since — the multiple awkward takes, a lot of quick cuts, she says she'll write a song about you, she introduced a stretch goal. It was the first time stretch goals were ever used and she reached her goal on the first day. The way that she interacted with backers and told her story, I remember we just felt like this is alive in a different way than anything else was. It felt like someone had taken this form, this medium that we are proposing to the world, and they've turned it into something that is a living, breathing thing. And that was a real moment, because everyone else immediately copied her. That created a very warm and fuzzy vibe around the projects, just just really from the energy that she brought. To a large degree, I give her credit for the way she was able to express herself through the tool.

  • Shifting values in the face of global warming and the growth of crowdfunding


    In 2017, you stepped down as CEO. Why did you decide to step down, and what is your current role within the company? 

    I left in September, I think September of 2017. I had been full-time for almost a decade and I'd been working on Kickstarter pretty consistently for longer. I got tired. I think that my love for everything about it didn't wane, but there were parts of it that sucked a lot of energy out of me. I started to reach a point of exhaustion that was hard to shake. That was a really hard thing because I had always been the Kickstarter guy. You'd have to drag me away from my computer. The well got tapped empty. And when that happened, I had a lot of conversations with the board and other folks and I made the decision that I wanted to completely step away. So I stepped off the board. I just really felt like, I don't want to use that part of my brain for a while. That was a hard choice, but has been the right one for me, and it's created space for me to rebuild energy and feel all the gratitude for the journey of Kickstarter.

    The success of Kickstarter reveals that we get a lot out of helping each other and we get a lot out of participation. Our ego is fed, or we feel loved."

    In 2019, two years after you stepped down, you published, This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto For A More Generous World. In it, you write that if businesses were optimized for the community and for genuine sustainability, the rich would still be rich, just not as rich, and the average person would just have more tools to live a comfortable life. How can we get there? 

    I think it's happening. Obviously, that book came out pre-COVID, and there's been this acceleration since COVID. But the core argument of this book, which was partially based on my Kickstarter experience, is that we've settled on a very limited notion of value and self interest. Value equals money. Self interest is what each of us individually want right now. And that has been the operating procedure for society for the past 50 years or so. Both of those things are changing. Money means something very different now. Over the past year, money has become this weird social tool in this subscription newsletter, even crypto world. It's like a political tool that a lot of people are engaging with. I also think the climate crisis and COVID have really changed how we think about self interest. We all definitely feel our individualism being isolated during this past year. But we're also so aware of the interdependencies we have with each other. Of course, COVID is just like an appetizer for climate change and the bigger questions we're going to face. 

    I think that we are at a point where we're being forced to recognize and forced to reckon with these things, and that our time horizon of self interest is extending. The future is something that we're starting to get a clearer picture on. The past ten years were defined by the next iPhone release, we couldn't think past that. But I think the climate is making us think about the future quite differently. And then post-COVID, the degree of social interdependencies on a personal level and on a neighborhood community level is really high. I also just think the Internet has really begun this process of transforming us into networked organisms. And I think there’s fundamentally a different evolutionary type of human being that there's never been before. All of those things are going to lend themselves, very naturally, to a significant shift in the mindset that has been so dominant. I am long-term optimistic, and even medium-term optimistic. I don't think these are these simple or easy things, but the degree of change that's been possible, even in the past year, is extraordinary. 

    What do you think the growing interest in crowdfunding and patronage platforms shows about people's needs and desires?

    When we were trying to fundraise for Kickstarter, almost every investor we talked to would say, no one's going to give anybody money unless they get a piece, unless they get points, unless they get upside. They were coming from this place of the classic, rational economic man and the idea that everyone is economically optimizing for themselves. This is how a lot of people see the world. And in that universe, crowdfunding makes no sense. It's irrational. Like, why would I give you money to write your book? That's risky, I'll just buy it later. But of course, what [the success of Kickstarter] reveals is that we get a lot out of helping each other and we get a lot out of participation. Our ego is fed, or we feel loved. There are all sorts of things that happen that our previous systems just couldn't account for. And because they couldn't account for them, because they couldn't financially exploit them, they were just ignored or deemed less important. 

    But, when you have the plumbing of the Internet and tools like Kickstarter and Patreon and all these things to lubricate these sorts of interactions, you find that people are very willing to do these things. These impulses have always been there, but I think the opportunity to follow through on them hasn't been there. It just shows the limits of our knowledge. We assume because it's done a certain way, that’s the way it must be done. But over and over, we find that expanding the option set will just reveal there are a lot of different motivations people have. It ultimately shows that in every product category in business, there are a lot of different ways to succeed.

    There are definitely positives to the growth of direct-to-creator payments. But at the same time, maybe it just creates new hierarchies, like with Substack, where the top newsletter creators are making all the money. Is there any chance to level the playing field?

    Those hierarchies are real, and they are reflective elsewhere in the world. I don't think that they were manufactured in those places. And if anything, maybe those are places where there is a chance to reset the hierarchies. The way the word “democracy” gets overused by startup founders to describe whatever they're doing is ridiculous, but I think the democratization of access levels the playing field overall. You're just creating opportunities for people to prove themselves in various ways. In general, I think that works out better than systems that are based on nepotism. So they're not going to produce a total egalitarian universe, but I think that they have the potential to get us to something that's closer. What is hard, though, is feeling that chasm of ‘everyone is more successful than me’ or ‘why can't I get the attention they get?’ or, you know, a lot of the feelings we all experience online. Pre-internet, you could be the smartest person in your small town, and that meant something. Now, you log on and you're like, ‘well, I'm the 50 million smartest person on this Reddit thread.’ There's a personal recalibration that has to happen on the internet. Everybody's here, and there are some amazing people in the world. So I don't think true equality, of everyone having the same level of subscribers or something, is possible. But in general, I think that these tools are for the broad benefit, not universally, not in every case. I think that's fair.

  • A lesson in Bentoism


    In your book, you talk about your decision making framework Bentoism and the Bento Society, which you've described as a post-capitalist laboratory, future-oriented community, and a Breakfast Club for adults. Could you give me a mini-lesson on Bentoism?

    There's this philosophy called Bentoism. It started for me while I was thinking about this question of self interest, because self interest is at the heart of capitalism. Adam Smith writes about how the butcher serves you their food, not not out of any sort of generosity, but in regard to their own self interest. Self interest is this very core concept in the West. [In Bentoism], we can actually imagine there being four distinct spaces of our self interest. There's “now me,” what I as an individual want and need right now. This is how we tend to think of self interest today. Then there's “future me,” what the older, wiser version of me wants me to do. That person is becoming real or not real, based on the decisions I make at any given moment. There's “now us,” the people in my life who I care about and care about me, my family, my core friends. My choices affect them, just as their choices affect me. And finally, there's “future us,” the world our children will inhabit, or the future versions of ourselves or future generations. Our decisions affect them, too. And so what you quickly realize is that we leave footprints in all of these spaces, and all these spaces affect us. Today, we're functionally blind to everything except this space of “now me,” and we're all just trying to go get ours. And these notions of other people in the future, we know they matter, but they're these hazy things that we can't quite put our finger on.

    This is just simply a very functional tool to help you see beyond your short term. I realized that these letters made an acronym that said “Bento,” and I thought about the Bento box, the Japanese packed lunch with four compartments and a lid that lets you carry a variety of dishes, not too much of any one thing. It’s always a balanced meal, and it also honors a Japanese dieting philosophy, which says the goal of a meal is to be 80% full. That way, you're still hungry for tomorrow. So the Bento is the same idea, but for our values and our decisions, a way to make choices, not just indulging in the ‘now me’ and how we currently think about things, but to make space for other people and for tomorrow. This is not just a concept in a book. It's an actual interface, a tool that you can use.

    I want to give you one example here. We can imagine a smoker, asking their Bento, ‘Should I quit smoking?’ And in this case, the smoker would ask each of these boxes individually to hear what it has to say. The smoker’s ‘now us’ which thinks about their family, says, “Yeah, quit. We hate that you smoke.” The smoker’s ‘future us,’ which thinks about the future generation and their kids, says, “Well, what if I smoke because of you?” The smoker’s ‘future me’ says, “I want there to be a future me. Let's quit right now.” But this smoker’s ‘now me’ is addicted to nicotine and it says, “No, don't quit. I love smoking.” 

    "I felt uncomfortable as a founder CEO, the way that my opinion was ‘right’ about everything."

    The challenge is that each of these voices is correct. No one is wrong here, everyone is speaking from their own true perspective. But the challenge is that in a world where we only listen to this ‘now me,’ we have this passive awareness of the world and we tend to make decisions that are good for us now, but don't work out for us in the long run. So this is how addiction can look rational. It's good for now, even if it's bad for the future. Sacrifice, giving up something now to get more later, seems untenable. The Bento is a way to see this act of awareness to have a concrete vision of these other dimensions of your life, to be opinionated about them, to make decisions that are optimizing for them, and to really integrate them into every choice that you make. 

    This really started for me at Kickstarter. I felt uncomfortable as a founder CEO, the way that my opinion was ‘right’ about everything. People would ask me what is the right answer, and I was expected to be the holder of this kind of truth of this knowledge of what was right for the organization. And to me, that felt like that knowledge should be shared. That should be something that we can all make decisions on. That could be something that someone else at the company could say to me, ‘No, you're wrong, this is what's important.’ The Bento is a model companies can use for making your mission, your values, your stakeholders, and your vision for your organization. Something that everyone in the org shares, and that people actively use to make decisions. It's not just a thing that hangs on the wall or a thing you think about every now and then. It's front and center. So I've been on this path of following the Bento, leading a community of people called the Bento Society.

    So the first step is, for each of these boxes, there's a basic question you ask yourself, what is it that this part of me wants and needs? Then, who are the people in your life that are most important to me and what is at the heart of those relationships? Who is it that I want to be at the end of my life? And then you come up with your core values and phrases that can help you make decisions based on what is right for you, and what is less right for you. For a company, it's very similar. We can take Apple's mission statement and tools that advanced humankind. It's key in your Bento to identify as an organization and your key stakeholders and what you promise to them. So for Apple's customer promise, it's to make technology that just works. You don't need a manual to use the Mac. Apple's vision is an advanced humankind. And so you can take these things and layer them onto a Bento— there's their mission and there's their values, their stakeholders and their vision. When you make decisions that satisfy all of these things together, it's like this extra coherence that happens. This is possible when you know what's important in those spaces. And so again, this works on an organizational or a personal level, it's really just about defining shared values, stated values, goals, and then providing yourself a basic tool to make consistent decisions to get there.

    How can a company like Apple hold themselves accountable for anything beyond profit? Their values come back to what's going to make Apple rich and powerful, right?

    I think Apple's optimizing for design, brand; a certain kind of experience. Amazon optimizes for customer experience. Now, these strategies are still in their self interest, like Amazon, optimizing for the analysis of their customers does help Amazon and harms their competitors. These are ultimately things that do help these organizations in their own goals. The best places aren't so direct about it. Where a lot of organizations can go astray is by betraying those core promises to one of those stakeholders. You do something that makes your customers feel like you violated a relationship. That's also where the best organizations really succeed, by having an extremely well honed sense of what the customer cares about, or how to create an environment where employees can be free to share their opinions. But building on those core promises you have with your stakeholders is how you create a reputation. It's how you create long term value. It's how you succeed. Everyone is trying to make more money than they spend and be beloved, right? 

    The best way to do that is by solving someone else's problem, or trying to manifest something bigger. Just going straight from point A to point B, it can get the job done, but it's not going to make an impact. It's not going to turn heads, it's not going to win over a deep and devoted audience. So to me, the Bento is a map. It's still a map to self interest — here's how to get what you want — but it's revealing that what you want is not just about this little ‘now me,’ it's also about satisfying these other people around you. And if we're all thinking that way, the world gets better. It doesn't need us to be these great benefactors, but just looking out for ourselves in a slightly more self-aware way, produces a significantly better world.

    Can you tell me about the birth of the Bento?

    The Bento is three years old. It's still very new. But it works. It truly does. When I first had the idea, I thought, I wish I had this at Kickstarter, this would have helped me. But I didn't know whether to believe that or not. So I was living in LA at the time, I reached out to a friend, this 90-year-old woman who hosted salons in her house, and I said, ‘I want to try sharing an idea. Can you get some people together?’ And so a few weeks later, I was standing in front of 30 strangers in her house, trying to explain Bentoism. I needed to know if I could say the idea without throwing up, and I wanted to see the look on another human being's face and see what happened. That conversation was amazing. The questions people asked taught me so much about the idea. I left that 90-minute time together and I thought, “Okay, this is a real thing.”  I didn't create something, I found something that was true. And that created a feeling of responsibility. Same with the Bento Society, the people I'm working with — these are people applying in their lives, at work, with their marriages — just watching people who I respect and have grown to really like, from all around the world, seeing the utility this has for them.

    According to the website, the society includes everyone, from gig workers to CEOs to scientists. How do their values and desires compare? Do the higher earning members attempt to redistribute their wealth or put their money where their mouth is?

    It's pay what you want. I have some dollar-a-year annual members, and I have some hundreds-of-dollars-a-year annual members, so people are opting in that way. We have these things called Bento groups, which are groups of up to 10 people on these sort of self-directed journeys, and there are eight of those groups. So those are like 80 people who have been meeting every week together for many months. There's a group with like, a gig worker and retail employee and VCs, and they are supporting each other. I'm not in the room. I don't know what's happening in those conversations, but they're just meeting as people. I think that’s where a lot of people come from. They feel that relationships are lacking in their life. Am I doing enough for other people in my life? I think it's something that really gets to people. And then I think there are a lot of folks who just generally feel dissatisfied or incomplete, even if they are succeeding in the game as they're told it is now. There's a funny thing where when you work so hard to succeed in this game, you start to win, and as you do, you realize, ‘Oh, wait, why was I doing this? Was this even a destination worth getting to?’ And then a new search kind of begins. 

  • Where philosophy and venture capital collide


    Switching gears a bit, Kickstarter started as a venture backed company. How do you feel about the current VC ecosystem?

    I think that we were always on the fringes of the tech world in general. I mean, being in New York, you're kind of out there, and then also becoming a public benefit corporation. Even when we raised money, you know, we did it in our own sort of interesting way, saying “We’re not going to exit. There's not gonna be an IPO. This is long term. We’re building an institution. Are you down for that?” And, you know, Union Square Ventures, which is the best venture firm there is in my mind, were open to that because they understood our thinking and the cultural direction we were coming from. Yeah, you know, I think that money is funny right now. Money as fuel, money as defense, money as a brand statement. It's like there's just so much of it happening.

    "Raising a lot of money is a press release. It means somebody's got a lot of money, but it really doesn't mean a lot else."

    In general, I think that investment into new ideas is positive. WouldI make the investments everyone is making? Of course not, but that's not that's not how the world works, nor should it work that way. I think a lot of the valuations that happen — I think that we're seeing these things now where the scale of these businesses is just global through the internet. So I see a lot of these valuations and I'm dividing them by the population of the Earth, just thinking, “Okay, well, this is just saying that if everyone in the world uses this thing, which might be possible because of the the Internet, and in that case, it might be x valuable or whatever.” And, you know, I generally don't have a big problem with these things. I've seen enough huge funding rounds that turn into big busts to know that huge funding rounds are not that meaningful. It just means that somebody talks somebody else into giving them a lot of money. And, you know, good on you, I guess. We explicitly did not do that as Kickstarter, because I didn't think that was in our interest, and wasn't what was best for our project. But I can't judge what someone else is going to do. 

    I work with a lot of startups these days, and a lot of them are in climate. And for climate-based startups, some of those people will want to ask me about the indie Kickstarter strategy, and I'm like, ‘Hell no. You got to go big. We can't wait for you, you have to take over the world, raise as much and get as big as possible because this problem is too big.” I think that different challenges, different opportunities have these kinds of expectations that go with them. And again, I've seen this enough. And I've certainly seen it with Kickstarter’s competitors in the past that raising a lot of money is a press release. It means somebody's got a lot of money, but it really doesn't mean a lot else.

    So how do you square your ideology with the harsh realities that people are losing their jobs left and right? How do you square your hope for the future with just the capitalist structures and what they've done to people?

    I think this is maybe where I start to seem naive. I think, generally, people are doing the best they can with what they know. And with the constraints that are available to them. The degree to which what we know and the constraints available to us have changed, even in my lifetime, are unreal. I've kind of taken the view that the path that we're on has gotten us to this point where I think there's a lot to be thankful for about where we are now. I'm one who would say that there's probably never been a better time to be alive than right now. Although I really did like the 80s.

    But we're still striving, we're still trying to reach, and there's human nature that gets in our way. We all are all eminently fallible, and all the steps that all past generations have made have gotten us to where we are now. It's ultimately our responsibility to keep that going forward and to keep improving on it. There's a passage from All The King's Men. There's a scene in the book, where the governor is trying to convince this young, hotshot doctor who won't take any money who's squeaky clean — he's trying to convince him to take some dirty money to build a hospital. And this doctor refuses, and the governor says to him, “Your problem is you're too righteous. What you don't realize is that in this world, some people make shit, and it's somebody else's job to turn that shit into something good. And shit can't just stay shit, you have to turn it into something good. And that's your job. Your job is to make my shitty thing a good thing and you're too afraid to realize it.” 

    There's some truth to the idea that if we're only waiting for the perfect snowflakes that check the boxes, we're going to be waiting a while. It’s our responsibility to improve the world to whatever degree is in our capacity. Spending our time critiquing the decisions of the past may be revealing and helps us learn how to do things better, but ultimately, our responsibility is to improve on the present. That feels right to me. I'm probably more like the doctor than the governor in that scenario. But I think that's an important thing to remember is just that, you know, it's been a long series of best efforts by a lot of people that have gotten us to this point. And that continues to be the case. It's our turn.

  • Advice for the future


    What are the best and worst pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

    I don't remember who told it to me, I think I realized it myself, but I had a really helpful realization [that] nobody cares about you. Of being in a place of feeling frozen by self consciousness and sort of limiting your own options before you even act as a result of anticipating some critique or something. I had a period of tying myself in knots with that. And I just had this realization of, “You know what? No one is thinking about you. No one.” Like, who do you think about? This thought of just, “No one cares at all what you're doing,” I found to be extremely liberating and humbling. 

    "Starting businesses is very difficult. It's especially difficult if you need it to produce materially for you immediately. [That will] probably lead you to make some decisions that you might later regret, or maybe be a little thirstier than you would like to be."

    Worst advice? I’ve probably gotten a lot of great advice that I was too proud or unable to accept. And so I think bad advice is more on me. I see it now working with entrepreneurs, where someone is struggling with something just as I have in the past, and to someone who's not in the situation, or has been in it before, it could be quite obvious. “Oh, I think maybe what might be happening is x.” Sometimes it's hard to hear those things, even when you're being told the truth as straight as you could. So if I think about bad advice, I think back more to my failure to take good advice, versus someone really telling me something that was wrong.

    That's a really nice way of looking at it. And what advice would you give to someone who is thinking about quitting their day job and starting a business?

    I kept my day job until Kickstarter was live for like three months, because I liked my day job. I was editor in chief of an internet publication and I loved who I worked with. So I kind of felt conflicted about leaving. But you know, it took me a long time to leave because of financial insecurity, which is a real thing. To do it, I would definitely say that if you can, have several months of money sort of there. Starting businesses is very difficult. It's especially difficult if you need it to produce materially for you immediately. [That will] probably lead you to make some decisions that you might later regret, or maybe be a little thirstier than you would like to be. So I think having that base level of security of knowing your basic needs are okay, will just allow you to make better decisions. 

    But I think I would also say, as was the case for me, I was doing Kickstarter nights and weekends for like three-and-a-half years, while having a pretty serious day job that I loved. That was a lot of energy. But that was really fun. So I think that you can accomplish a lot by doing it on the side. You can probably make significant headway on whatever your project is, even just taking time away from other things and putting it into that. Doing that, finding traction, being honest with yourself about whether this is working or not working, giving yourself the opportunity to create that certainty before jumping in too deep — I would recommend that. I think there's a lot that we can do in our time, if we are thinking about it in the right kind of way. If you look at things Tim Ferriss has written or Sahil Lavingia talks about — his upcoming book is about that. SoI think being a part-time entrepreneur is not a problem. I think you can get pretty far that way. And then maybe you can have a nice bridge to going all-in when you know it's done.

    What would you say is the most influential book or text you've ever read? And then as a former music writer, the most influential album you've ever listened to, or your favorite?

    For both these questions, I have like 7000 simultaneous answers. But for a book, I mean for the context of this conversation, and the Bento, I think the two books that really influenced me — one is called Not for Bread Alone by Konosuke Matsushita, who founded Panasonic. It's these just these aphorisms, the simple stories of running his business. But for me, being a CEO and entrepreneur who didn't feel like he fit into the entrepreneurial zeitgeist and had a lot of imposter syndrome as a result of that, reading this book was like I had my first role model. And then I also read a lot of sci-fi. Sci-fi really changes how I see the world. Dune and Three Body Problem are the two sci fi books.

    I would say, music wise, there could be nine answers. But the most important album for me of the past five years is a spiritual jazz record from 1973 called Organic Music Society by Don Cherry. It's just the most alive music you'll ever hear. He was a great trumpeter, and this is just primitive music. Tribal. Voices cacophonous. It's amazing. I mean, I, it makes you feel alive, like nothing else. It's an amazing, amazing piece of music.

    That's just about all I have, unless you have any parting words on a vision for the future.

    Yeah, I mean, events are making us the people that we need to be. The past humans — even the boomer humans — can't imagine individual sacrifice on behalf of a collective gut, right? Our notion of ‘now me’ self interest is so defined that in the past few years, the climate crisis felt hopeless. “We will never change, how would we ever change?” But what we're finding is that change is happening. And that younger generations growing up with the internet, are being born and being raised with this mindset that lends itself to solving the single greatest challenge we face. History and events in this amazing evolutionary course of human history, I think, is going to produce a lot of the solutions and changes in mindset that we need to get serious about things we've avoided getting serious about for a long time. And so I remain optimistic. And I ultimately think of my role as a 42 year-old person as being a bridge from the system that's gotten us to this point for which I think there's a lot to be grateful for — and there's a lot that can be improved upon — and bridge that towards systems that are going to be built by a next generation that is anticipating and responding to the problems that we have today. And I think this stuff is gonna work. I think it's gonna come together, and I have a lot of faith in that process.

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