My GM Application to the Cleveland Browns

Nik Bonaddio
[[address redacted]]

James Haslam
c/o Cleveland Browns
76 Lou Groza Blvd
Berea, Ohio 44017

Dear Mr. Haslam,

I am writing you to formally apply for the role of General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. The role is a challenging one, but I believe that my experience and approach to the job will quickly prove to the right mix for your organization.

Let me get an awkward, but important point out of the way up front: I’m a Steelers fan. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and one could even say that I hate the Browns. While that may seem like an impediment, I believe it is actually a core component of the leader you need: after all, years of futility have led to an organizational malaise that only someone who is not beholden at all to the past can truly disrupt. And you certainly need someone who understands what football means to a town like Cleveland. As much as I am loathe to admit it, Cleveland is really just a mirror image of Pittsburgh — albeit with everything about 10-15% worse — and having personally suffered through the persistent rank incompetence of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I deeply understand the kind of civic need and the boon to collective pride that a winning team can deliver.

And for as much as I dislike the hoary, “I too have watched The Social Network!” poseur signaling of the word, disruption is in my DNA; I revolutionized the way sports fans apply predictive analytics and advanced stats through my time founding and running numberFire, and in my imperious reign as Chief Product Officer at FanDuel, I helped usher in the sports betting revolution we’re seeing today. This history of technology-driven winning is a must-have for the Browns; much like that the experience of Bart when the Simpsons moved to Cypress Creek, when you are behind, doing the same things or worse, going slower than your competitors will doom you to an endless cycle of failure. Instead, you need new ideas. Bold ideas. Like wearing a Gordon Gekko-style contrast collar on national TV at least two decades after that thing went out of style.

James, or rather, Jimmy, if you don’t mind, I have lots of ideas. But unlike the modus operandi of most of the clown parade of GMs that came before, these are ideas rooted in quantitative fact, in the kind of analysis prevalent on Wall Street and in the sticky-floored, we-forgot-to-pay-the-electric bill offices of early-stage venture technology, but sadly so very lacking in front offices around the country. Knowing when to kick and when to go on 4th down? Child’s play. I’m talking about an entire overhaul of the scouting, contracting, and game-day decision-making processes of the organization, all led by the best data scientists available. Using data, we once convinced a team to pay Dwight Howard $20,000,000. We had data, they didn’t, and if that’s not a convincing argument for why you need data, I really don’t know what is.

You see Jimbo, one of the most insane things about the way professional sports organizations are run is this pervasive idea that you must have played that sport at the highest level to be an effective administrator. This is silly. Theo Epstein would get punched out by a little-leaguer whereas Omar Minaya played five years of professional baseball — and brother, you tell me who has proven to be the more effective GM!

Much like success in venture-backed technology requires creative thinkers and founders willing to ignore the status quo, pulling the Browns out of the doldrums will require a similar disregard for commonly accepted practices. Given that you once paid a $92,000,000 fine related to fraudulent accounting, you of all people should have a hearty affinity for that sort of thing. As an example, I don’t want to tip my hand too early, but let me just say, if anyone in my organization ever recommends calling a fade route, they will be fired immediately.

J-Dogg, I like challenges. And the Browns are a challenge. Going up against Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and a 47-year old Ben Roethlisberger recharged in the offseason with the stem cells of local Pittsburgh children is going to be a challenge. But clearly you like challenges too! It must have been such a difficult, arduous challenge to take over your Dad’s business. I was going to do the same until I simultaneously realized that I both didn’t want to be a steel worker and that my Dad didn’t have a business for me to take over.

But that’s all besides the point. You need new blood, new ideas, and an army of nerds to go in there and turn your organization into the football equivalent of the laser lab from “Real Genius”. And sir, I’ve got the ideas, I know the nerds, and uh, I’ve got the blood to make it happen.

Let me know. My resume is attached.

Nik Bonaddio


Tumblr and Tech M&A

So, I know the WeWork S-1 just dropped, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter any time over the past ten years, you probably know where I stand and what I’m going to say about that nonsense. But first, I want to talk about Tumblr, who Yahoo!/Verizon just sold to Automattic for $3 million which is, uh, quite a bit away from the $1.1 billion they paid for it.

Now, to get it out of the way: I liked, but didn’t love, Tumblr. As you might be able to tell from my infrequency of posting here, I’m not much of a sharer. My lack of personal utility for it doesn’t mean however that I didn’t appreciate it for it was: a true evolution of blog software. Just as Tinder begat OkCupid begat Match begat eHarmony, as verticals matured and as mobile phones became more capable, the products designed to serve those markets got smaller and simpler. And so Tumblr became the defacto software of choice for a whole new and younger generation of users, for which WordPress (ironically, now it’s corporate big sister) and Squarespace didn’t provide much utility, or worse, was a downright grandmotherly way of doing things.

Of course, that new and younger generation was exactly the problem. But instead of analyzing that directly, I want to get to my eventual point by asking an open question that I don’t think anyone has really answered to any level of satisfaction: why the hell did Yahoo! buy this thing?

Let’s start with some assumptions which are almost definitely true but I don’t know for sure because I don’t work at either company involved:

  1. Due to the disruptive nature of the platform, the user base was materially younger than competitors and thus, disproportionately low-HHI, if they had access to wallet spend at all
  2. Due to the openness of the platform and lax moderation which tacitly encouraged acceptance of any content, a large chunk of the marketable inventory was not work- or brand-safe
  3. Because users weren’t tied to real-world identities and because the quality of tagging and other ontological meta-data was low-quality at best (certainly compared to say, Facebook), accurate targeting on any reasonable criteria (location, interest, gender) was impossible

Sounds like a lot to overcome, right? I agree! But remember that a suit somewhere in the deep recesses of Sunnyvale decided it was worth $1.1 billion, so let’s now dig into what that person would have had to believe to justify the cost.

  1. The brand would start to attract an older, more valuable demographic, despite being designed in a way that is experientially more difficult and not tailored to them (see also: Snapchat)
  2. Users would not leave en masse once brand-safety initiatives were put into place to allow advertisers comfort that their brand would not be adjacent to objectionable content (see also: Snapchat, Reddit)
  3. Some other business model beyond chum remnant display inventory would emerge, despite that not happening in any large-scale consumer product that I can readily name (see also: Snapchat, Reddit)
  4. If #3 doesn’t happen, then a reverse of the trend of display advertising CPMs bottoming-out asymptotic to zero because users are blind to them and because Google/Facebook have strangled the market

If any one of those four actually happened, Tumblr would be thriving right now. #1 and #2 would have gotten Tumblr to a scale that not even the worst operator could have screwed up, #3 would have been a severe long-shot but would have created a viable LTV even if #1 or #2 destroyed actives, and #4, well, that’s just wishful thinking on multiple fronts but hey, the other three were pretty much pipe dreams too, so why not?

Too bad hope isn’t a particularly strong strategy!

The common maxim is that Yahoo! bought Tumblr basically because it used to be cool and then all of a sudden, it wasn’t, and we all know in tech that once that coolness factor is gone, the downward spiral is nearly impossible to pull out of. Well, sure, I get that. And it’s true – Yahoo! definitely wasn’t cool at the time; it had badly missed social and mobile, and hadn’t been relevant in the market for top technical talent in about fifteen years. But that wouldn’t have been sound logic even if they didn’t have a history of screwing acquisitions up (see also: Flickr, Polyvore) and ham-fistedly integrating them with their outdated technologies.

We know what happened: the brand never grew beyond a relatively niche community, the ban on sexually explicit content cut the legs off a vibrant (and underserved!) segment of their userbase, and even despite that move towards brand safety, the CPMs weren’t enough to make it worthwhile, particularly not with Yahoo!’s substandard ad-serving technologies and the complete lack of useful targeting and segmenting.

And then Automattic bought it for $3 million, and we move on to the second part of the story.

On the many Hacker News posts about the transaction, I saw many variations of the same post, all generally aghast at the low price Automattic paid. Here’s an example:

Considering the fact that Tumblr still does over 2.5 billion page views per month, not even counting their mobile usage, I can’t help but gawk at what a steal Automattic got. Really drives home what their CEO Matt Mullenweg said on here the other day about adopting a “Berkshire model”—although he was referring to independent management, what he’s really talking about is buying companies grossly undervalued for dirt-cheap. Just monetizing the web traffic 2.5 billions monthly hits at a $1 CPM alone would generate $2.5 million a month in revenue, $30 million annually. What kind of business, let alone web business, sells for 1/10th annual revenue? For reference, Reddit does 6x the page views, but is valued at $3 billion.

(For the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume that the page views estimate is valid. But let’s break the other inferences down.)

First, let’s look at the $1 CPM. Average CPM rates on the big four social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn) all average around $7, so at first glance, the estimate here seems cheap. However, bear in mind that Facebook has bar none the best targeting in the game, and Instagram is basically the same thing. LinkedIn has real-name attribution and is massively brand-safe, given that it’s a professional network. And while Twitter doesn’t have the last two, it does have a massive trove of semantic information about a user in the form of their text-based UGC in order to target against. Tumblr has none of those things – nor the coolness factor nor scale as the others – but for the sake of argument, sure, let’s stick with $1.

So, $30mm annual revenue. OK, so best case scenario, what, Yahoo! bought this thing for 37x revenue? Well, that was dumb, but Automattic was smart, they bought it for 0.1x revenue. What a move!

Well, not really. The $30mm figure is revenue, not discounted free cash flow. (I’ll touch on this a little bit later, but the distinction between revenue and cash flow has never been more obscure or meaningless in Silicon Valley. But that’s a whole other topic.) Since running a website requires servers, employees, Patagonia vests and a whole mess of other stuff, it’s likely that even at this inflated revenue estimate, Tumblr was losing money. How much money? Let’s try to ballpark that too, because I’m on a flight and I’ve got nothing better to do!

It’s been reported that as a condition of the sale, Automattic agreed to onboard and hire the 200 employees currently working on Tumblr. (Before you consider that a grand gesture, assume that it would be worthless without them.) Considering that we’re talking about the Bay Area here and considering we’re talking a company that was likely tech-heavy just due to the nature of the work, I’ll average salaries out to $150,000 and add on 50% cost to the business for benefits, insurance, taxes, and the other cherries on top. So, round numbers: $45,000,000 in operating cost just from labor alone, or 1.5x an already confident estimate of revenue.

In good times, be it an exogenous bull market or a hypergrowth phase for a company, the acquirer is very often willing to pay exorbitant multiples on revenue. This may be for a variety of reasons: maybe the company thinks it can operate it more effectively, maybe there is IP that is accretive to the acquirer’s operations, or maybe it wants to take a competitor off the market. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just not the right time for this company to focus on making a profit. This is an area in which a lot of people who sit outside of the tech sector (particularly the venture-backed tech sector) have a hard time understanding the voodoo economics at play. Even though most people who follow me know this already, there’s an outside chance my family will read this (hi Joanie!) and want to know more, so I’ll do my best to simplify it:

Venture capital exists as a way for limited partners (ie: those who invest in the VC firms themselves) to take their capital and allocate it to high-risk, high-reward investments. This is often a diversification and upside exercise, as a majority of their assets invested elsewhere in low-risk vehicles. In order to fulfill the mandate of high-reward outcomes, the VCs in turn only make investments that they believe have massive potential. Some do this as a function of the total addressable market, some do this as a function of trend prognostication, and there are loads of other strategies too – but in the end, the goal is the same: hit home runs.

Now, to hit a home run, growth is often much more important than short-term profitability, and this is where the significant deviation from almost every other business occurs. In many markets, there is a winner-take-all effect (or in a new one, a first-mover advantage) therefore carving out as much space as possible is a winning strategy, and often impossible without the help of venture capital.

Of course, venture-backed growth can sometimes obfuscate huge and glaring holes in the fundamentals of a business. (Don’t get me started on Uber or Postmates or really the entire on-demand sector, which seems to have forgotten how unit economics work.) Although we’ve sacrificed short-term profitability in the name of strategic growth, we have to eventually be able to stabilize as availability for venture capital is not infinite, nor is it immune to macroeconomic trends going on elsewhere. Using Tumblr as the example here, much like Facebook and others, it was assumed on the basis of the user growth that it had the potential to grow to such a scale that even a beaten-down business model like display advertising could grow to be a huge, profitable enterprise. In hindsight, it’s easy to laugh but at the time in which Tumblr was receiving this venture capital, the outcome was unknown and indicators looked reasonable to investors who had a certain thesis and appetite for taking on that risk.

Like a lot of things, however, the devil is in the details. Investing in Tumblr in the really early stages is different than doing so in the later stages when some warts are visible, and it’s really different than buying the company when the warts have turned into something that you’d have to be incompetent (or Yahoo!’s M&A team) to ignore. There’s a whole lot to unpack there, too: sunk-cost fallacies, corporate strategy…but this thing is already like 3,000 words and the flight is almost over.

So what do we conclude? Up to you, but here’s mine: Yahoo! made a ridiculous acquisition using assumptions that don’t make any sense, Automattic made a slightly more reasonable acquisition but the way most people are talking about is misleading at best, and the tech/VC sector writ large still has a very difficult time figuring out how to effectively assign valuation and how to monetize audience.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I’ll try to write more often. And really, that WeWork S-1; if there’s anything that will get me to back to the world of writing, it’s that mess. Lots of hot opinions coming soon about that, I’m sure.

My thanks to Will for usually being the only person to read this stuff in full before it gets posted, and thanks to the patient team members on the numberFire Slack who have heard and are likely sick of me railing on about this stuff for years and years.


Tiger, Phil, and the Future

Just to be 100% clear, the following represents my personal views, and not necessarily those of my company.

So, I’ll start with a quick apology: I don’t write enough. Obviously, a ton is going on in my industry and for me personally as a result, but I find myself waffling between an urge to get my thoughts out there and a voice that wonders if anyone really cares. Please don’t read that as false modesty; instead read it as byproduct of my distaste for the concept of writing as personal branding, for the kind of self-serving LinkedIn-style thinkpiece garbage that I see way too much of. But it’s 11:45 PM, and I felt like writing, so here we go.

In case you missed it or aren’t otherwise attuned to the world of sports, on Friday over the long holiday, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played a 18-hole one-on-one golf match for a cool sum of $9 million. Originally supposed to be pay-per-view, it was instead broadcast for free over OTT channels like B/R Live due to technical issues. Either way, despite the technical hiccups it was most definitely an interesting and unique event, and one that also spun up a lot of talk about what it meant for the future of sports broadcasting.

Part of that talk was predicated the uniqueness of it; going pay-per-view was a unique (and in my view, incorrect) decision, but the ultimate decision to go OTT with it and generally tailor all of the discussion and commerce surrounding the event to be digital-first was a huge tonal shift compared to say, an NFL broadcast. Count me as a general believer than in five or six years, there will be a Netflix-ation of sports, which will, in turn, be the final nail in the coffin for broadcast cable as we currently know it. My thoughts there shouldn’t be all that surprising, and probably don’t warrant much more discussion.

The other, more consequential chatter that sprung up around the event was the sheer amount of gambling-related commentary that was embedded in the broadcast. On top of the fact that the event itself was held in Las Vegas – not an accident or random choice by any means – nearly every hole came with on-screen and voice-over analysis of real-time odds for which player was likely to win the hole, whether they would make the putt, and so on. Obviously given my background, this is a world in which I’m innately familiar. What may surprise you however is that I thought it made the broadcast immeasurably worse, and downright boring.

One of the first lessons I learned at numberFire, put succinctly, is that very few people care about the same things I do. I started the company to bring hedge fund-level analysis to sports, and I figured that much like the quants at Susquehanna or Bridgewater, my audience would be like me and be happy sorting through JSON files and giant data tables. Wrong. It wasn’t until we started writing editorial content and breaking down those insights into narratives that our work really began to take off. Even if the audience for the match was hungry for the kind of simulated outcomes that the announcers were referencing – which is eminently debatable – it wasn’t presented in a way that was all that interesting, nor was it actionable given the lack of obvious connectivity between the broadcast and an outlet to actually make the wager. Therefore all it really did was turn off the fans that didn’t care about that information, and frustrate the minority that did.

So what’s the right balance moving forward? To use an analogy, I think about it the same way that I think about gamification, which was a very hot method for ginning up user engagement a few years back. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say that, think about why Facebook shows you how many notifications you have. Think about why Zynga has daily rewards in all of their games. Think about why Swarm has a leaderboard.) When gamification works, it’s a virtuous cycle that connects engagement loops with positive-utility actions for the user. It’s literally the crux of what makes using a product fun for you, and a profitable enterprise for them. When it doesn’t work, it’s cynical and transparent, like a terrible Lifetime movie. You can’t just throw it into a product and have it make engagement or utility issues go away; it has to clearly benefit a user and it has to be organic to their behavior. All of the gambling chatter during the broadcast, by those standards, was true for maybe 20% of the audience on the latter (and only in indirect, non-actionable ways), and likely 0% on the former. All of which made the broadcast unbearably boring, like listening to a family member drone on and on across the Thanksgiving table.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe that there will be a meaningful convergence on a variety of fronts between live events, in-game predictive analytics, and gambling. It’s already a big piece of every competitive sportsbook, and certainly also a defining feature of any fantasy or social game meant to run alongside an actual event. In the rush to capitalize on the excitement of what is now possible and now legal, it’s ever more important to find a balance and ensure that you’re providing utility; it’s far too easy to mistake can with should.

As you might imagine, I am (and by extension, FanDuel is) thinking about this a lot. I’m sure our competitors are as well. Finding balance is extremely tricky; when you’re excited about a new technology or a new market opening up, it’s easy to go overboard and assume that everyone has the same interest that you do and that they share your excitement. You have to be extremely careful about not overdoing it, not saturating it, not forcing it inorganically where it doesn’t make sense. The downside of going slowly and making sure your audience wants it is the risk of appearing slow and potentially missing the market breaking open; the downside of going too fast, too indiscriminately is that you burn out the audience forever. The rub is that it’s difficult as hell to gauge which mistake is easier to recover from.


Civility At Scale

One of the perks – I guess you can call it that – of my new position at work is that there’s a lot of travel involved. While I don’t particularly enjoy the literal part of the equation, I do enjoy new cities and new people and new Thai food.

Being 6’5″ on a commercial airliner is tough, but I mitigate it two ways: one, I fly JetBlue almost exclusively, because they’re awesome and two, knowing that Internet will be spotty at best, I’ll pre-load my devices with a deep dive on various product-related topics, allowing me to really sink into a topic that I’m interested in. It passes the time and generally keeps my mind off of the long-term damage I’m doing to my lower back.

For this flight’s dive, I was inspired by the big news of Instagram’s founders stepping down, so I dug into the differing philosophies between Instagram and Facebook, between Kevin and Mark, between product-driven thinking and business-driven thinking. I could fill about ten more posts based on thoughts that came out of that, but for this one I instead would rather focus on a nominal competitor to both – to the extent which it’s a replacement good, which it’s not – of those two: Twitter.

I’ve long thought that Twitter was and is one of the most disappointing products in memory. Not that isn’t wonderful when it’s at it’s best doing the specific thing it’s designed for – it is – but man, it really is terrible when it’s at it’s worst. The delta between how good Twitter can be and how bad it usually is, well, it’s as big as it gets in the product world. And while there are five or six small reasons why, I posit there’s one big one: anonymity.

(As an aside, Twitter has 3,500 employees. I’m going to assume that at least a quarter is in product development. Now tell me why you can’t edit a tweet. Or name a single notable feature they’ve built recently.)

The problem with anonymity is simple: it causes people to be assholes. Full stop. I’ll grant that it’s a cynical point of view, but if you dig into the dregs of Twitter or Reddit or YikYak or any community built without real-world identity, you’ll see a lot of base human nature coming out in the worst of ways. Twitter for example has an obvious abuse problem that is complained about by nearly everyone in the public eye, and it’s a problem that is fundamentally impossible to stop. Doing so would cause two issues: first, as a public company, it would have a huge impact on the vanity metrics that prop up the valuation and second, it would expose the company to even more accusations of targeting and bias than they already have.

That’s assuming they even want to fix the problem, which is questionable in itself. Nothing spawns more engagement than showing things that cause a visceral emotional reaction; what gives you more of an emotional reaction than abuse and awful people attacking your core beliefs? (This is actually where Facebook is the worst, but that’s another topic.)

I know a few investors (mostly notably Fred, here) have covered this topic, and as someone who has invested in Twitter and other networks, I’m sure he’d likely disagree with my thoughts. That’s the difference between investor and consumer; as an investor, he’s incentivized to look for the kind of hyper-growth and potential that can often only come with a network that is like a giant sandbox, full of freedom and expression. As a consumer and over a long enough time frame, that’s exactly how you get communities like Coontown on Reddit, and the entirety of 4chan. By then the investors likely will have exited, bailing out of the wave before it crashes.

One of the only bosses (Jeff Leventhal, when we were at WorkMarket) I’ve ever had that I truly got along with – which is probably more of a me problem than a them problem, honestly – once told me something incredibly insightful about motivation. In his view, people only really do things for three reasons: to get made, to get paid, or to get laid. That’s it. Crass, but I agree wholeheartedly.

Without the connection between your platform identity and actual identity, you fail that first criterium, for the same reason why people don’t use racial slurs on LinkedIn. If you’re an asshole, it affects your reputation; without it, there’s no downside to engaging in your worst impulses. Troll away. You’re not sitting next to that person; their response is abstracted. So where are the consequences?

Of course, we all know that those consequences simply get pushed from the user to the platform. In aggregate, the negativity gets associated not with an individual user, but for the platform’s inability to create a healthy environment for users and a brand-safe one for commerce. That’s why Reddit, Twitter, and 4chan can’t monetize within a fraction of how Facebook can. And what’s worse, there’s no solution: you can’t get the cat back in the bag. You’re forced to rely on self-moderation, which is not only unscaleable but incredibly prone to bias, which in turn fuels the partisan accusations that we’re seeing play out. It’s an endless, fruitless loop.

(Here’s some back of the envelope math: Reddit supposedly does 14b page views a month. Let’s say that each view has a sponsor attached to it. Given that Reddit should be able to target both from a consumer side (what is this user interested in?) and from the business side (I only want to advertise on a sports sub!), I’ll give that ad unit a CPM of $3. That would put their ostensible revenue at $42mm a month, or about $500mm a year. I’m taking the under, hard.)

Furthermore, I don’t think for a second that Jack or Mark are naive to this. I think it’s clearly a very cold calculation: they’re not incentivized to deliver a positive experience to the user, because doing so both costs money (in terms of tools, monitoring, effect on valuation, etc.) and subverts the engagement flywheel that comes with emotion-inducing content. In a world where all you’re ultimately concerned about is engagement and growth, the means for how you get there is irrelevant; after all, people share for the reason of “Look at this bullshit! How can anyone think this?!” just as much, if not more, than they share because they agree.

I do think, however, that when these companies were first started, these second-order consequences were almost unthinkable outcomes; cynicism just isn’t in the founder DNA to that degree. I definitely don’t think the founders of Reddit expected a community like Coontown to pop up. Not even Mark, knee deep in his “dumb fucks, they trust for me some reason” callousness, likely did not set out to create this kind of toxicity. But they’d be incredibly foolish to ignore it now, because ignoring it is a time-bomb: one way or another, it resolves itself. Either the users get fed up with the degraded, abusive experience (YikYak), or commerce becomes impossible as the waters become too polluted (4Chan, likely Reddit). All it takes to set off on the hard road to change is for one board member to say enough, to prioritize user experience and long-term revenue.

I’m not holding my breath.

One of the defenses I see now and again is the re-definition of these companies as audience businesses – literally solely in the business of providing an audience to advertisers, agnostic of the means – but I think that’s an extremely short-sighted view of it. I think defining them as such tacitly creates an environment in which you become economically tied to the decision to let anything go, which creates an increasingly difficult environment to monetize as the environment gets more and more extreme. And maybe that’s just the difference between the way I think about it as a product person and someone else who might think about it when they have to answer to their Board/shareholders or get fired.

If you’re starting a community from day one, I think it’s an interesting dilemma: do you tie digital identity to the real world, slowing down growth in the short-term but maximizing revenue generation at the long-term should you survive to a scale in which advertising is interesting? Or do you go the anonymous route, grow like crazy, and try to deal with the consequences? It’s a paradox: once you get to scale, the community becomes impossible to police, making monetization progressively difficult and the user experience progressively worse. But without that initial freedom, you may never get to the scale that would require you to seriously think about monetization in the first place.

But for me, the answer is obvious. I’m not resigned to think that a good and safe identity-led product experience and true market fit are mutually exclusive. Or, to put it another way, think of how much better an actual identity-only Twitter would be! I might even argue that the long-term business prospects of that concept as something that people would be willing to pay a subscription for outweighs the advertising business model upside, particularly in the world of ad-blockers! But that’s another post for another day.


Shyp, and the Politics of Failure

Two things I want to get out of the way up front: first, I don’t know why I’m most inclined to start writing once a company notably fails, but I’ll use that both as a prompt to myself to write more and as an opportunity to broaden the perspectives that I share. Second, and this may seem sort of odd, but I’m a chronic non-sharer; it’s not that I don’t read things that I find interesting, rather I convince myself that no one is all that interested in my perspectives on that topic. So if you do read this and even find it interesting, let me know. I’m a positive feedback responder so it will definitely have an impact.

So, anyway, on to the topic at hand. Unless you’re very connected to the tech world on a day-to-day basis, you probably don’t know that Shyp, an on-demand shipping startup that raised $62.1mm failed and shut down today. It was followed, perhaps predictably, with a heartfelt goodbye letter from Kevin Gibbons, their CEO.

The post-mortem really is worth reading. But responses were, uh, divisive. Take it away, Josh Constine from TechCrunch:

It should be noted as an aside that TechCrunch certainly plays a large part in the hype cycle, certainly for previously hot sectors like on-demand. Reminds me of celebrity culture, where they build you up when it’s a win for both sides and tear you down when it benefits them and you can’t absorb the blow.

But anyway: here’s where I land with this, with the caveats that I don’t know Josh personally (possible I interacted with him at some point for numberFire or FanDuel) and I hadn’t heard of Kevin or his business at all before today: there is a massive gulf of difference between the cynicism of that tweet, and the earnest, occasionally gross tone of Kevin’s post and it’s attendant comments in response.

I will give Kevin some credit: it’s difficult to internalize failure, and he is doing the right thing in owning up to his mistakes. He’s not casting blame, and he’s casting his team in the best possible light for their future prospects. I don’t however feel the need to excessively laud him for that as that is something every CEO should do, and when the comments start to veer towards congratulatory, I get sick to my stomach for the reasons that Josh somewhat cynically mentioned above.

The bottom line is that a ton of people are out of a job, and the fact that zero meaningful outcomes could be gained from raising over $60mm from truly top-tier investors is far from something to be congratulated and feted. As Josh rightfully points out, the unit economics were questionable from the beginning, calling into question both the theses behind the investment and the culpability of Kevin as the CEO, who clearly took a long time to realize that. Kevin even doubles down on this point, casually recalling a story in which he let his team be romantically compared to Uber, which makes it nearly impossible to reconcile the bad decision making without wondering if that press-related ass-kissing exacerbated that blindness.

There have been so many company shut-down post-mortems that they all tend to run together for me, and a majority of them personally read as a last-ditch effort for people to tell the founders that they were great, that their sins are forgotten, that they gave it our best and that there’s nobility in failure. Or, to put in another way, you could absolutely read this as a founder who raised a ton of money, didn’t listen to anyone as the company floundered, realized it too late to return anything on that investment, costing hundreds of people their jobs. Literally only in Silicon Valley is the response to that story “Congratulations! How brave!”.

Can you imagine how that looks to someone outside of the Valley? Can we just stop for a second and think how someone – even someone without an ax to grind relative to the inequality tech entrepreneurship has wrought – might view raising $60mm in funding and having nothing come out of it?

I understand that’s a super negative read, and well, I need to own that. But I own it from a place of having to struggle like crazy to raise any kind of funding, to have bootstrapped and fought and kicked until I got a good outcome for my team. For me there will never be nobility in taking investment and squandering it; there is no partial credit for trying.

I don’t believe that fetishizing failure does the next generation any favors, but I don’t think kicking a founder when he’s down does, either. It’d be a sad and negative world if all we did was celebrate success in the tech world given how rare it actually is, but there’s surely a middle ground between that and celebrating failure. How do we figure out the right way to talk about failure that doesn’t make excuses and isn’t needy for reassurance? How do we own our mistakes while reminding people that tech is a ridiculous and absurd industry?

(One idea I was once had – in the spirit of the same transparency so many VCs claim to wish to want – was for my VC friend to list the companies that he’s invested in that have failed in the same way he lists the ones who have been successful exits. He declined, saying that there was no need to put those companies on blast and air dirty laundry, thereby ruining any chance those founders might have at a successful second go at it and potentially ruining his deal flow for having done so. I can understand his point, but still wish that investors would.)

As an analog, I’m reminded of relationships. Sometimes when one person breaks up with another person, they can break that person’s heart, yet they still want to be told that they’re a good person, to be reassured that despite a painful outcome, they’ll be remembered fondly. In my mind, that person doesn’t get the right to expect or ask that; they forgo any claims to that expectation by having executed the breakup. While I can sympathize for the jobs lost and appreciate the earnestness of Kevin’s post, I can’t get myself anywhere near the congratulatory tone of other people, nor do I feel tacitly supportive of the callous dickishness of Josh’s tweet.

I wish there was more conversation in the middle.


On YikYak, Anonymity, and Schadenfreude

Okay, well, I’ve been marinating these concepts in my head for awhile, so this is going to be a long one. Fair warning.

For those of you who don’t follow tech news all of those closely, YikYak shut down last week. At it’s peak, it was used by over one million users per day – mostly college students – and was valued privately at nearly $400 million after having raised $73.5 million in venture capital funding.

I’d like to say that I’m sad about it. I suppose I am in a virtual, detached sense, but I find myself feeling ambivalent at best and not happy but perhaps exasperated at worst, since their failure is just so symptomatic of so many inherent flaws in the way startups are invested in and operated. It’s a failure on multiple levels, levels in which lessons never seem to be learned.

First, it’s important to note whether you’re familiar with the app or not that it was, at least in the era of it’s peak popularity, completely anonymous. It was nicely geofenced into certain locations – such as a college campus – and as such, it spread like wildfire. Hyperlocal memes and gossip and discussion and conversation; all very sticky and moderately useful stuff. Of course, it wasn’t a new idea – gossip-y sites like Juicy Campus and College ACB had mined this area and failed due to bullying, harassment, and general shittiness. This was mobile though! And venture backed! And growing like crazy! Allons-y!

The problem with anonymity however is obvious: it enables people to be their worst. Without some sense of authentication tied to an actual profile of some social worth, there are no negative repercussions for abusive behavior. Go ask Twitter. Go ask 4chan. My reaction is not just pessimistic. The complexity of human behavior in an anonymous environment isn’t something to ignore.

Of course, anonymity also allows for products to grow like wildfire, perhaps because they enable people to be awful publicly, for the same reason a little kid grins whenever he gets away with swearing – it’s fun to be transgressive. After all, 4chan is huge, right? And for VCs, this is music to their ears; growth is valued above all things – at least at stages of earlier investment.

What ultimately happens however is the anonymity that powers the growth also makes it impossible to control abusive behavior and monetize effectively. Advertising is the only business model that works here – because no one in the right mind would ever pay for such an app – and the core hook for why the app is interesting makes that business model impossible. Think about it: what brand wants their product next to something where there is no editorial control of content? Do you think Snickers would be cool with their ad below a post calling someone else a racial slur? Or how about Coke right above an anonymous message saying that so-and-so is a slut?

Beyond the challenge of monetizing an app used for anonymous social commentary, there’s a host of other mountains to climb. Anonymity means no email addresses or any non-notification way of reaching a user, which makes it impossible to get them back if they’ve uninstalled the app. Having no access to any data tied to an actual human’s demographics further hinders marketing, since you have almost no vectors for segmentation beyond geography. I could go on and on.

Interestingly, unlike Secret and a few others, YikYak did try to address these challenges. About eight months ago, amid rapidly declining downloads and usage, they forced user handles on everyone. Users were betrayed that the app that they once loved was taking away the thing that made it interesting, and ultimately it was a nail in the coffin of the fading app.

I’m trying to be reasonable though, because it’s very easy for some to be critical of obvious problems in hindsight. After all, Facebook didn’t look like Facebook when early investors wrote their checks. Of course, to invest in YikYak at the time – assuming they had similar growth patterns, which I doubt – you’d have to simultaneously believe the their founders were product visionaries on the level of Zuckerberg, that the market was as big and that the product team was talented enough to capitalize on it, and that they’d somehow figure out a way to monetize anonymity that no one else ever could. It’s frankly an absurd set of conditions to believe were or ever had the potential to be all true.

YikYak did have pretty explosive growth though, and in case you’re curious and/or ignorant to why that is critical, it’s basically because the people who give the VCs money are doing so to diversify and add risk to their portfolios. I can’t speak for all VC funds, but a decent chunk of them are backed by huge pools of capital, like state pension funds and the like. The managers of those funds likely allocate 99% of their investment to very low-risk things like bonds and mutual funds, leaving a 1% allocation for something specifically high-risk like venture investing. Risk obviously is correlated with big outcomes, ergo a win and the ultimate goal for a VC isn’t a $3 million sale to Square, it’s a $2 billion IPO.

To put it another way, let’s assume that at one point in time, YikYak did reasonable resemble Facebook. Hugely explosive growth, geofenced to a college, and so on. Absurd in hindsight obviously, but go with me. If the market cap of Facebook at their IPO was $104 billion and you thought there was a 0.5% chance that you’ve found the next Facebook, then the imputed value of YikYak even without any revenue, user data, or hard IP would be $520mm. All you would realistically have to do is say, “Alright, this has got a 1-in-200 chance of being the next Facebook, and the limited partners funding my VC firm have told them they want to find the next Facebook, so..”

Thinking like that is very flawed however, because it ignores that most market sectors in tech don’t have the capacity for multiple concurrent winners. We know for example that the era of consumer/social is basically over, and that it was won by Facebook and to a much lesser extent Twitter, Tumblr, and a few others. This is similar to the era immediately before social, search, which was won by Google and to a much lesser extent a few others. It’s a pattern that has existed throughout computing; mainframe was won by IBM, personal computing by Microsoft, web 1.0 by Amazon, search by Google, social by Facebook, mobile by Apple, and the next phases (VR/AR, blockchain) are yet to be decided.

If we agree that each epochal shift in computing has a winner-takes-most pattern and that pattern recognition is basically what VC is all about, how can you reconcile the logic of investing in YikYak based on one pattern (they looked like Facebook, sort of) while ignoring the other, which is that there is usually only one winner and that Facebook already dominated and won social? It’s not just that you’d have to think that there’s a 0.5% chance that you’ve found the next Facebook, you’d also have to factor in the unlikely probability that Facebook falls from it’s perch, since without it, you’d never be able to reach a big enough scale to be able to satisfy the home-run seeking thesis of the investment in the first place.

(As an aside: there are never VC post-mortems about failed investments and the logic behind them, which is a bummer, because that’d be an interesting read and frankly, that level of transparency would not only benefit the VC world and help them build trust among their partners, but could even drive increased deal flow as a function of uniqueness and provide a valuable resource for everyone to learn from. But I digress.)

All of that sort of brings me to my next point: why then did they raise $75 million in funding, given the incredible simplicity of the app from a technical perspective? It’s very unlikely they needed that money for advertising, as it’d be the ultimate fool’s errand to spend money advertising something that has no business model. It’s doubtful that it was for hosting or tech, since even at the speak of ~1m DAU, that’s a blip on any reasonable cloud computing platform.

I would then have to assume it was R&D, but even as an infrequent user of the app, I certainly didn’t notice any fruits of that labor. It seems doubtful they ever really needed it, for any purpose. Given that, $75m seems inordinately high to assign to R&D and/or to a rainy-day/what-if-the-bubble-pops fund – especially given the problems I elucidated above – and if the ultimate sale price was between $1 million and $3 million, I have to wonder where exactly that money went and why it wasn’t shut down well before it got to that point in order to at least return cash to the investors. After all, downloads and usage were plummeting, right? I find it hard to believe the writing wasn’t on the wall with failure inevitable, so why not cut bait and return capital in the same way that Secret did?

This is where it gets a bit sticky for me, because on one hand, as a founder I know how difficult the journey can be and I know that the difference between success and failure can be very slim. With that said, no one forced them to accept the money that was offered with all of it’s attendant expectations, and in general I find it difficult to drum up a lot of sympathy even for their employees as I’m sure they were handsomely compensated.

All of that for me basically adds up to my strong dislike when startups post their “it was an incredible journey!” self-congratulating post-mortem, as if it’s somehow notable or impressive to take in a ton of money and completely waste it. It ties into the weird and extremely troubling belief within the startup world that raising money is an accomplishment unto itself, as opposed to the ticking time bomb that it more accurately is. It’s exacerbated by the news cycle of TechCrunch and the like, with a bit of dick measuring/keeping up with the Jones built into it as well. But it’s still gross and a very misguided way of looking at it; had YikYak raised less and kept to a much lower valuation, their vectors for an exit would have been much broader and certainly less scrutinized by a board that was hungry for a return.

(I suspect this is a trap that first-time founders fall prey to a lot more often than experienced ones.)

As I mentioned in a tweet a few days ago, it’s been a red letter week for fans of schadenfreude. Between the absurdity of Juicero’s DRM for juice packets and the utter uselessness of their beautiful machine, the complete melt down of the Fyre Festival at the hands of the team behind the truly useless Magnises card, and YikYak, it’s very ripe for someone to come in and dive headfirst into the river of smug, hindsight-driven fingerpointing. I find myself very ambivalent on this topic, because on one hand, the problems for all of them were laughably obvious. On the other hand, being negative and cynical is one of my least favorite human qualities – particularly in regards how it fits on me – and too much of it ensures the inability to ever see the positive aspects of something unproven or new ever again.

Because of that ambivalence, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to conclude this post. Is it possible to wonder how in the world YikYak got the funding it did given the obvious problems and still believe in the transformative power of tech entrepreneurship? Is it possible to abhor the startup culture of celebrating fundraising as an accomplishment and celebrating failure as some kind of secret success and still be sympathetic to the amount of work and stress involved in the journey?

As of now, I don’t really know. And I’m not confident at all that I’ll ever know.


The Illusion Of Choice

One of the weirder aspects about getting older – and to be clear, I’m not that old – is stepping back and reflecting on how my political views have changed. It’s fair to say that I was indifferent to politics for a long time and as a byproduct of working in technology, tended to typically side with innovation over incumbents. I believed (and still do, really) in technology as the biggest agent for change.

Which is all a prelude to say that I find it very odd that recently I’ve been feeling myself swinging the other way. The first is about AirBnB, which I’ll have to post about it some other time, and the second is about Uber, which I’ve been pretty notably bearish on for awhile.

But now this whole mess with United Airlines and the involuntary removal of the passenger turned my focus a bit to airlines, and while it’s not surprising I find myself condemning what United did and their tone-deaf response, I’m finding it very difficult to separate their actions from the economic realities of the industry, which is turn causing me to almost give them a pass. Ugh. It’s a horrible feeling.

Look at it this way: airlines are, in my opinion, the biggest industry of colluding agents in the world. When you consider how many cities are basically locked up by certain airlines (Delta/ATL, America/DFW) and how the merge-down of the industry has basically eliminated any competition, marketplace economics simply don’t have any impact. What little competition that does exist on the routes is tempered by collusion; after all, why would the airplanes fight against each other when they control the frequency and thus can guarantee nearly full planes at mutually agreed and non-competitive prices? The cost of the airlines actually competing each other is too expensive, and the gains to be had are too little to justify the cost of the expenditure. It is profit-optimal for them to simply do nothing and collude; competing is literally the only conceivable way any of them could go bankrupt.

Extending this argument out further, you can basically point to the de-regulation of the industry in the 1970s as the root cause of this. I think generally you’d be hard-pressed to say that the experience of flying is notably better since then – certainly not to the degree that nearly 40 years of innovation should conceivably bear – and now you’re left with this oligarchic setup where prices are arbitrarily high and airlines like United recognize that they can act terribly because there really isn’t a ton of consumer choice.

And I get it, believe me – I can already hear the libertarian free-market arguments here that there are other options to flying, the market will vote with their wallets, and that generally speaking corporations owe no loyalty to anyone other than their shareholders and employees. Taking that argument implies such a simplistic, short-term view of the situation, that policy remains static over time and that there are no potential future repercussions for corporate irresponsbility now. United only acts the way they do because there are no short-term impacts, a function of the stacked industry they lobbied to create. Apologize? Why? It’s a blip on their radar, and apologizing only makes them a target for lawsuits. Not to mention the fact that the barrier to entry in the airline industry is absurdly high; it takes billions of dollars and landing slots that don’t exist!

(Of course, explaining this behavior is different than excusing it; it’s reprehensible but wholly understandable and predictable given the environment they’re operating in. That’s why its such a horrible feeling, because you just know that what they’re doing is completely expected, and that they’re crunched the numbers and concluded that acting terribly is more economically correct than acting responsibly. As an aside, this is also the reason why your ISP, mobile provider, health insurance, and a host of other large, faceless corporations are universally hated.)

To stop this, consumers either need to vastly expand their price elasticity – which I’m doubtful of, considering that Spirit exists and is thriving – or the government needs to intervene to establish more sensible regulation. Which is, to package up my entire post into a shiny bow, the exact same thing that I think the government should do in regards to both AirBnB and Uber, and also the exact same thing I would have been miles and miles away from considering as a solution even a few years ago. Isn’t it amazing what a few gray hairs will do?


When Bad Design Is Good & Why Snapchat Is Screwed

Sometime over the long holiday when Jess and I were back in Pittsburgh, our youngest cat Straka decided it would be a good idea to chew through the various cords running out the back of the TiVo. This prompted a quick trip to Best Buy – the putative choice for “I need something random in the tech universe at the last minute” now that Radio Shack has gone away – and for reasons that elude me in retrospect, a conversation about Snapchat on the cab ride back to DUMBO.

First, my personal feelings on Snapchat as an incredibly infrequent user: I think it’s fair to say that I get it and that I don’t get it at the same time. I can absolutely believe that it’s got a near hammerlock on the attention span on a very lucrative demographic; I saw that first hand the other day when three teenagers sitting in front of me at a Penguins game were glued to it for three straight hours. I can absolutely believe that it’s got decent potential as a distribution platform, if only for reasons that can generally be explained by this post.

That’s generally where the positives end for me; the second it goes public, I’m buying puts against it. The ability to be a sustainable platform for marketing requires you to present to the marketer as much demographic information as possible, since there is an obvious and direct correlation between targeting, conversion, and ROI. As far as I know, Snapchat offers very little of this, and certainly a laughable amount compared to it’s peers in Facebook and Twitter. Beyond that, there are obvious questions around the buying power of the userbase, the lack of brand safety given some of the more..salacious uses of Snapchat, the complete lack of switching cost that ephemerality destroys, and the unclear conversion funnels and units available on the buy side.

That’s not the biggest problem though. Their biggest problem is the UX, and it’s a problem that will kill them.

Let’s take a step back for a second: why do we think Snapchat (and to a lesser extent, Kik and the like) grew like it did, leaving Facebook and Instagram in the dust? The answer is simple: parents joined Facebook. What’s the point of being a teenager and doing morally and judgmentally dubious things if your Mom can find out about it and even worse, comment on it?

In that privacy vacuum, Snapchat emerged. Not only did it offer ephemerality, but a dense, complicated UX that was virtually guaranteed to be too confusing for anyone above a certain age to understand. This is the inflection point when bad design became good, designed intentionally to be confusing in order create enough of a learning curve to ensure that only the savviest and the familiar (ie: long-time users, which is to say, the teenagers trying to escape their parents’ watchful eye) would be able to use it.

(If you don’t believe me, go ask your Dad if he’s heard of Snapchat, and when he says no, show it to him and ask him what it’s for and how to use it.)

Of course, it’s also true on the other side that this intentionally difficult UX is what will ultimately kill them. Facebook is a fantastic business because it knows what just about every media company ever knows: revenue scales on audience. They became an exponentially more valuable company when they decided to open it beyond Harvard, just like they became an exponentially more valuable company when they opened it up beyond college students, and so on and so on. It’s simple math: the top of the funnel got almost infinitely bigger, and as it did, interest from advertisers got infinitely larger. And boom, it happened: Facebook took it’s largest asset – demographic and interest data that you willingly gave it – and packaged it for sale.

Snapchat won’t have any of that expansion without fundamentally changing the UI, but doing so will alienate their only core population and take away the only strong reason they have for being loyal to the app. They might resist that urge as a private company, but I’m certainly curious how and if they’ll be able to resist it as a public one. If they can’t and are forced to redesign, their complete lack of switching cost will do them in, as the teenagers they built their empire on will simply find another platform in which to document their dumb decisions.

It’s going to be an interesting ride, one that I will short all the way to the wastelands of Zynga, Groupon, and others.


The Final Post-Mortem

This is it, the last time I’m going to noodle over it. While it’s over and it ain’t going to change, don’t think I’ll be able to mentally turn the page unless I try a little harder to make sense of it. So here goes!

Ultimately, the one thing that I’ve failed to really recognize is the degree in which small town Americans are feeling upset and worried. Failures in education and the effects of globalization – although we’ll likely disagree on the effects of trade agreements – have dried up jobs and have made the pursuit of the American Dream very difficult for them. It has to be a very unsettling experience.

For as strong of a candidate Hillary may have been on paper, I don’t think at this point you can really defend her inability to communicate to these voters. She may have had plans for clean energy jobs and for education and for everything and they have been rock-solid pieces of policy, but they weren’t communicated well and certainly not presented well in person – instead it was dispassionately placed on a website, without context or fiery, buzzword-y rheotoric to back it up. The sole job of her campaign wasn’t merely to convince people why they shouldn’t vote for Trump, but they should vote for her. Her messages weren’t received where it mattered the most, and I think it’s too much of a cop out just to say that the electorate wasn’t willing to listen.

However, and I should probably put that in capitals like HOWEVER, I don’t believe that endorsing a racist platform as a means of expressing your resentment is the answer. I don’t believe that voting for local and state representatives who make them false, impossible promises is the answer. I don’t believe that allowing yourself to be fooled by a charlatan who takes advantage of your fear and nostalgia is the answer. Many voted for Trump, but they did so at a significant hit to their credibility; they cannot say in their true hearts that they didn’t know what Trump was about. They unequivocally said that they are voting for themselves and their families, not to ensure the safety, prosperity, or even basic Constitutional rights of minorities that they’ve never met. They said that feeling that their personal shot at the American Dream, the one they’ve been promised, is worth more than social justice.

They simply cannot say they didn’t know. That’s as much of a cop out as saying people weren’t willing to listen to Hillary just because she’s a woman.

In thinking about what’s next though, I’m flummoxed by the sudden rush for people to try to find a middle ground, to find the unity to move forward. Why would the Democrats show unity when there wasn’t even a hearing for Merrick Garland? Why would there be unity when Republicans refused to work with the Obama administration, calling into question his authority as a President in the most hateful and bizarrely obstinate ways? The Republicans fought and stalled and stalled and fought, and now the overarching message is to listen to will of the people and work together? Screw that.

The next step for the Democratic party is to take a page out of the Red playbook. Tap into your most vocal fringes – tacitly supporting their views without outright endorsing them – and stop confusing “centrism” with “electability”. Fight like hell. Re-organize at the lowest levels and above all, listen. Go to places where you’re not welcome, and listen. Ultimately, people on either side of the spectrum want to know that they’re important, that their voices are being heard, and that someone is listening. Judging from afar and just saying “Hey, I know things are tough, but go check out my website!” is not the answer, and it’ll be even less the answer after four years of Trump.

My prediction, admittedly hopeful: four years from now, we’ll be celebrating our first female President as Michelle Obama absolutely wipes the floor with Trump.

(And now, back to sports and startups. Thank God.)


In Times Of Great Uncertainty

I know that I’ve been behind the schedule I set; no excuses, I’ll just to be more mindful of it. But I want to veer off schedule a bit and talk about the election, because frankly I’ve spent the last 18 hours or do in a weird state of disbelief and I worry that unless I try to put pen to paper and release my thoughts, I’ll be in that fog for a long, long time.

First things first, I’m not a doom-and-gloom guy. The sun came up, I went to work, our kittens needed fed – none of that changed, and it won’t tomorrow or the next day. Of course, it’s very easy for me to say that: as a white Christian male, I’m significantly less vulnerable to what could happen than others, including my fiancee, my black Muslim best friend, and my small, impressionable nieces.

Try as I might to assign blame, I also know it’s not that simple. For as many people who can point to latent racism and sexism as the cause, you can also point to a very lethargic Democratic voter turnout in states where they were counting on it the most. For as many people can point to Comey and the bizarre intervention of Russia, you can also point to the fact that the coastal elite class of the Democratic party often does very little to truly understand or empathize with the concerns of middle America. Assigning a singular point of failure trivializes the lessons that everyone needs to learn from this.

But don’t get it twisted, either; just because the issue is complex doesn’t mean I can’t ultimately feel that the conclusion was bafflingly wrong. America as a country voted for a completely unqualified person, just totally and utterly incompetent for the role in every single facet in which you can judge that sort of thing. I can’t say that clear enough. Resentment may explain a dumb, incomprehensible decision, but it doesn’t excuse it.

With that said, I’m trying my hardest not to condescend to the half of the country who voted for Trump, as I want to be as reasonable as I expect others to be and not just be a paragon of the coastal elite that conservatives show up in great force to counteract. I want to be empathetic because you can’t just tell people that their feelings are wrong and they’re dumb for having them. Still, I find it next to impossible to find a legitimate reason for their choice. Simply choosing an extreme alternative because the status quo isn’t working isn’t what reasonable people do; only people who would rather watch it burn than fix it think that way.

For as much negativity surrounded both campaigns, I resist in the sense that, at the end of the day, I love America. America is badass. America is innovation, America is propersity, and America is a nebulous ideal in which I assign everyone a great benefit of the doubt, to assume that everyone who participates in the global experiment is a good actor that wants to see good things for everyone. I choose to refuse cynicism – as easy as it would be to adopt that mindset – because cynicism in this sense would imply indifference, a resignation that individual effort is useless. I choose to not label all opposition to my belief as racist, sexist, or poorly thought of, for the same reason I would reject anyone calling my beliefs the result of an educate elite bias.

The decision has been made, and it’s not changing. Moving on. I’m willing to try to find middle ground and assume the best of intentions for the time being. So here’s some rope; if you hang yourself, you’ve got no one else to blame and you’ll have to answer the bell for it in four very, very short years.