Full Text Hack@Brown Opening Poem

dabbin’ and scrabble dabbling
wretch in the gut of travelling
daggering thirty thousand high
in a time javelin

Techult that we revel in
/embezelling
the puzzeling thing

monopoly unstopably
takes probably out of profit, see
yet here while we apparently parent for transparency
currency dribbles out of the meadow stream
down burlingame way

these lofty currents
insurance against
conspiracy
rogue’s island with the piracy
spyroakland city dragon’s teeth
that sink into the shining sweet
and glide into sheets…
ghosts.
zobie goblins
feared man killing courtships on the outerim
quixote ick floundering
this ish signs off
papi longstorf

the spiderly one.

Gateway Drug

Falling into…
and out of love
with the dapper gentleman,
just “of love”
shtick with that
“of love”
“of”

properanxiety tuned in the elderly act
smearing it on a wall

images we exposed her to
images… we exposed her too

the brooding gentleman
head in hands
heavy yogic breaths

sands over the hill, roads
crawling city ants, a beehive
density of haze, that glow that links
the internet of wings
matter under mind

mum
mud
muthafuckin’ muppets
a dollop of bird shit plopping down

cars
passing endlessly
in the distance

Peter Thiel Speaks at The Olympic Club

The title of Mr. Thiel's talk was "Developing the Developed World" - perhaps an arrogant lead in when addressing a room full of older men in suits eating charred salmon filets in a gilded era ballroom of the San Francisco Olympic club. With regard to the truly under-developed and those attempting to help them, he wrote off social entrepreneurship as a "dismal failure" in which the vast majority of companies achieve merely a semblance of helping society. 

Peter Thiel is not one of those rare geniuses blessed with an optimistic outlook. His intensity of mental prowess and techno-societal clairvoyance weigh heavily on him as he quips that in an apocalypse "you don't go into outer space" commenting on the film Gravity, by which I think that he meant Interstellar (but who can blame him?) confirming the sad reality that the tech industry's greatest minds are driven to obsession over notions of doomsday preparation.

Thiel went on to deliver the most compelling case for establishing a monopoly that I've witnessed outside the weathered cardboard flaps of a Hasbro board game. It was in this thesis that he truly shone. His philosophy on entrepreneurship echoed something that I've always held dear but never been able to articulate so well: dare to be exceptional. 

He evoked images of the rat race of law school - students competing to be the best by a tiny a margin in a cruel zero sum game. The restaurant industry in San Francisco - a land of perfect competition in which achieving a profit is nearly impossible. One need not look farther than the insane price wars between Uber and Lyft to recognize how this paradigm can play out in the technology industry ($2.25 was how much I paid to get to the lunch). 

The way around the madness? Do something different enough from what's out there that there is no competition. Don't be the best player in the game - invent a new game, one in which you are the only player. In short, he proclaimed, "competition is for losers". 

"All happy companies are different" stated Thiel, riffing off of the opening lines of Anna Karenina. In fact, the best companies are those that need to redefine what they do in order not to seem like a monopoly. Google for example, frames itself as being one of many players in a "technology" space where companies like Apple and Microsoft are fierce competitors, but in reality they are completely dominant in the field of web search - a true monopoly.

When Q&A came around, Thiel was posed with a question that he himself suggested for interviews earlier in the talk: "What do you know is true that nobody agrees with you on?" Answering this with ease in a number of over-your-head inklings, and eventually moving on to talk about how he feels that the higher education is simply a sham - "a weird club with a velvet rope and a long line out front, with nobody inside." He compared colleges in the US today to the Catholic church in the 1500's. "Anyone who does not have mild Aspergers will be systematically talked out of pursuing any original idea that they conceive of." 

The question that finally stumped Thiel was the following:

"What made you think differently? Family? Education? Experience?"

After a seemingly unending series of stutter starts and "well let's see's" he landed on an answer that you could tell didn't fall into his thesis on higher education.

"There was something about running the only Conservative Libertarian publication at Stanford. It forced me to confront differing ideologies, to have the hard conversations."


Thiel's new book, Zero to One is now sitting in a gift bag on my desk.

ESC's Startup Guide

I'm not claiming to be an expert. After all I've only been on this planet for 25 years and doing "the startup thing" proper for about 5 of them. That said, I do give people advice on their startup ideas and aspirations very frequently, and I like to think that I'm generally somewhat helpful to these people. 

One thing I've noticed is that I tend to give people variations on the same advice over and over again, which lead me to the idea of creating a guide in which I try to sum up these concepts so that people can get these tips without having to actually speak with me. Still if you do want to speak with me, feel free to reach out.

Here's my general outline for what I'd like to write about:

0. When to Start

1. What Makes a Good Team

2. What Makes a Good Idea

3. Explaining Your Idea

4. Raising Money

5. Knowing When (not) to Quit

In all likelihood I'm going to touch on themes that have already been extolled upon by others. Paul Graham's essays, for example, serve as a direct or indirect source of inspiration for many of the concepts that I preach when it comes to starting a company. I'm not going to be comprehensive in ascribing credit to all the sources because i'm not in college anymore : )


0. When to Start

If you want to start a company the answer of when to start is really quite easy: now

What this does not mean is that your current idea, current team, current corporate entity, etc. are all the one that will bring you to success. I'll elaborate more on some of the signs you should look for to know whether you should stick or switch on any of these facets in later sections.

What this does mean is that if your intention is to get involved in entrepreneurship, and you've gotten as far as reading this guide, then you need to start the process of becoming an entrepreneur today. Yes, that means that you shouldn't "get a job at a big company for 2 years, and make enough money that I can do my own thing" if you can possibly avoid it, because it more than likely won't work out that way. What you should do starting today (if you haven't already) are things like:

- Learn to code

- Start hacking and iterating on your current idea

- Build something and try to get people to use it

- Don't plan for a future where you depend on someone paying you a salary to survive

- Go through the process of creating a company

- Find the people who will be your co-founder(s)

- Apply for incubators (the process of applying will force you to consolidate your ideas even if they aren't ready)


1. What Makes a Good Team

Founding team is more important than idea. Good founding teams will arrive at good ideas more frequently than good ideas will attract the appropriate founders. 

Each member needs to bring something to the table in terms of execution ability. Please don't be that start up whose founders are two non-coders that "just need a third technical cofounder" to get their idea working. I think that there's a carrying capacity of one non-technical co-founder per company that can work, but what's better is if each member of the founding team is contributing to the actual building of the product.

If you don't know how to build what you are thinking of building, then you are likely to be making assumptions about how feasible it is or what things should be built first that may not be correct. In other words you can't accurately make a cost/benefit assessment of the features of your product if you don't viscerally understand the costs. This is what's so frustrating about hearing the "all I need is an engineer" storyline of many startup attempts. 

The founding team that worked for us was this:

Walker - CEO / Idea Guy / HTML / CSS / Some JS / Photoshop / Investor Relations

Evan - CTO / Tech Guy / PHP / Some Dev Ops

So we basically had one front end dev and one back end, and our first angel investor helped us out with a lot of the nitty gritty business setup stuff. This was a perfect arrangement because it allowed us to focus on product, though we gave up a bit more control than we might have if we had had a business focused cofounder.

Another major ingredient to our success was initial failure. Our first company, Jobzle, did not take off but served as a didactic dry run for Teespring which ended up doing well. We learned that we worked well together, and a bunch of things not to do in our next company.

So yes I believe in "fail fast, fail early" and in the process of those failures, try to find the people that are willing to weather the storm with you and who have the right skills, and those will be your co-founders.


2. What Makes a Good Idea

A good idea is easier to find, but harder to identify, than a good team. The crazy thing is that nearly everyone thinks their idea is good but the vast majority of ideas are bad. In order to solve this issue I'm going to lay out a series of questions for you to ask yourself about your current idea. 

1. Do other people seem to think that your idea is a good?

If No to (1):

1a. Do they actually understand it based on the way you pitched it?

If No to (1a): 

- If they do not understand your idea because it is too complicated, you need to simplify your idea and start at (1) again.

- If they do not understand your idea because you can't get it across, review section 3 of this guide and start over.

If Yes to (1a):

- Maybe this person isn't the right person for your idea because they are too far from the use case. Find more relevant audience and start over.

- More likely, you should re-evaluate your idea if people generally don't resonate with it. 

If Yes to (1):

2. Do people use or show interest in actually using your idea?

If No to (2):

- People may pay you lip service by saying they like your idea once they understand it, but if they don't actually use it or show genuine interest in using it then you have a problem. Reconsider your idea.

If Yes to (2):

2a. Do people show interest in paying for your idea or actually pay for it?

If No to (2a):

- You may still have hope if the idea is so contagious that 100's of millions of people could use it and you can do an advertising or data play. This is an extreme long shot though that many ideas fall into, and has a near 0 chance of success. Consider re-evaluating.

- If people won't pay for it and and you can't imagine it becoming used by the masses, then it won't work.

If Yes to (2a), then you pass the easy part... whew. Now for the hard stuff:

3. Does your idea require network affects to work (i.e. would your idea add value to one user if nobody else was using it)?

If Yes to (3):

- You have just opted yourself into a chicken-egg problem. This is going to be an uphill battle. Dangerous territory.

- The only way this can work is if your users recruit one another, and this behavior is built into the fundamentals of your idea.

If No to (3):

- Phew. 

4. Does some or all of your idea replicate a technology that already exists?

If Yes to (4):

4a. Is the existing technology something people generally like?

If Yes to (4a):

- Then, please, do not attempt to rebuild it. If some component of your idea looks like Facebook, for example, then you should be thinking or building a plugin or leveraging Facebook's API, not rebuilding FB.

If No to (4a):

- There's probably a reason people haven't already switched. No offense to LinkedIn, but it's not an interface that everyone is in love with, yet people still use it. This doesn't mean that you should invent the next LinkedIn, it means that people don't have an appetite for a better LinkedIn, because if they did, it would already exist.

If No to (4):

4b. Do people use something that resembles or is similar to your idea?

If No to (4b):

- Great! You have an idea that's completely original. Actually, just kidding, if people aren't using anything that's somewhat similar to your idea, then why would they start now? Your idea is ahead of it's time and that means you should probably throw it on the back burner and go for something less idealistic.

If Yes to (4b):

- This is actually ideal! You can't create new user behaviors, people do what they do. Stick with the language of today and you'll be more successful.

5. Does your idea solve a problem people currently have, but don't have a solution for.

If No to (5):

- You probably won't get here because I'm sure everyone thinks that their idea is a yes on (5) but honestly ask yourself, if your idea is a vitamin or a painkiller (look it up). 

If Yes to (5):

- Are you sure? Is it really a problem or is this just something that would be nice to have?

- If there's one part of your idea that's a Yes to (5) and No to (4) then focus on that component of your idea. That is your idea and the thing that will take you to success, the rest should be worried about later or by other people. 

- If it truly solves a problem that many have, then it should resonate in (1) and (2). You may actually have a good idea. Congratulations.

So to review/summarize, a good idea is something that: 

- Solves a problem currently not being solved

- That people actually have

- In a way that isn't foreign to today's users

- That they are willing to pay for

- And doesn't require network effects to work out of the gate


3. Explaining Your Idea

Even the best idea will go nowhere if you don't find a way to communicate it well. In the sea of thoughts swirling through your head of implementation details, feature possibilities, and use cases, it's essential to pin down the 30-60 seconds worth of description that will immediately get across what you are trying to do, why it's special, and why it will work to everyone you talk to about what you are doing. 

Know your audience. 

a little story

here’s a little story:
I achieved start up glory
when I was twenty four
in the year twenty fourteen

always on chat, emails and calls
no white lines of code on my black wall
hanging by my neck from the wing of a plane
put an HBO show to shame

with my live game.

Could we be doing this again?

A vast and dangerous night of dreams. Flight, fancy, DMT, and mushroom symbolism. 

At home, but things take a turn. I find myself in a peaceful state. The house becomes an aquarium, im swimming around in. The colors are myriad and unearthly, rainbow reefs sprouting from every table and forgotten corner, the door hand blossoming into a beautiful vaginal jellyfish flower. I'm so enthralled, marveling and inspired by the amazing details and wondering how I got here. Dream drugs or magic?

I wanted to share it with everyone, and told the story of the aquarium dream again and again throughout the night. I was so lucidly dazzled and awed by that powerful cavern of hyper-realistic fantasy. 

Before the magical counsel I wanted to show off that I could fly. Was it the devils trick to fly? I'm soaring around and our leader seems pleased. It is a highly enjoyable type of flight, on wings and currents above a crowd.

In the wilderness I practice flying with my friends. My tool is a tiny paper circle, like what you'd get if you glued a chopstick wrapper into a ring. I find it's enough to catch the wind that buoys me into flight high above canopies of pine and alpine creeks. While I'm lifted, the ring snaps and I fall, softly catching the limbs of a tree on my way down. Turns out I don't really need a prop to fly.

It's like the aquarium thing but later, but I take what is supposed to be DMT. I'm dreaming and I know it but the effects of this ethereal dosage are palpable. So you dream on DMT. The man who I am talking to begins to splinter out into a muddled paisley of black, turquoise and deep red. The scene dissolves into dark but vibrant hues.

I keep telling everyone in the tavern/cavern about my dream exploits. There is some fighting and it's scary down there. There are some bugs in this crawlspace and I'm just trying to get away from them. A bunch of old professors want to play quarters with me, Lucy came in with one of them. They can't finish their pizza. Everyone drinks beer. Zane gives me another chunk when I tell him I dreamed that he gave me the piece I ate in the last paragraph. Eminem is dissing me. He tells me I'm on 6 people's nuts. I tell him he's on 10 million peoples nuts. 

There's nothing like it. A glowing presence. A bright light. Voices to be heard. Floating in bliss we wonder

i cant pay

so this french cop is making me eat 10 pounds of rice out of a giant tupperware. I'm supposed to puke but I just keep eating the stuff. The fine is fifty dollars but this sadistic fuck has a menu of punishments that earn you $25, $15 dollars for doing ridiculous humiliating shit. Can't I just pay the damn fine? But fuck it man I keep eating it. I finish the rice just to show the bastard who is boss. I had to eat the first handful off the ground, the rest was in the tupperware. 

I forgot to mention that my crime was remote control driving a car our of my view where it promptly crashed. Oops.

Kenny and matt were throwing a party but I kept having to go back to sleep. I feel like I balanced my time in and out of the party, they ended up opening up the bar a block down so we could host like 50 people who trudged through the snow to see this shit. I'm in and out of my room to check out the party. Combsy and Max are there but they aren't too excited to see me. 

These chicks are watching a show with a lot of tits. Actually its a board game, one of those board games that incorporates a DVD that you play segments from at different points in the game, like a choose your own adventure of a cheesy reality TV show but with topless trashy girls. 

Actually how did I end up in this bed. 

Lucid Afternoon 7/23

I'm in a bright room with something of a reception. There is a tall young woman with pale skin, dirty blonde hair that is slightly curly and tied back into a ponytail, and very crisp blue eyes. I ask her if she can contact the real world for me to let themthat I am lucid dreaming, to see if I can get them to try and transmit a signal to me from RL. The girl blinks... An eerie purple glow shines through her eyelids. She is crystal clear. She tells me she cannot send such a message, with a smile, as though that should be obvious. I ask her if there is anybody who can send a message like that and she replies "Yes, the senders" 

Transcontinental Bird Suite (Nov 5 2012)

join us for a tour of

our new transcontinental bird suite
giving you and the love of life in your room
a beautiful dusting opinion of the northern skyline

puppies must be out this week
rusting along towards a larchmont everglade
noting the appendage
she drinks up
now i'm here again, the side room, where I do my work
the carpets a gruddy red
theres a real business going on inside
I power it, i'm not it it's energy
energy connected is the finest form of sin
sin sine sin sine up down intertwine
DNA double days in meiosis mitosis mitochondria
so you say i forgot my biology
im keeping an eye on the time
this is our world
this is my new ringtone
nobody is picking up
im still on the couch, sideways
trying to wake up
im on the floor
by the wall
on my side with my arm between my legs
I laugh for a kick
it's nirvana for nine seconds
old fire is still on light
cutching up to the brusco boys
i dont think i expressed myself clearly enough when I said
get me the fuck out of here
out of here
i'm on my side
my arm is squeezed between my legs
im looking up at the clock that isn't there
time keeping time keeping tabs
i'm wearing a moustache, look at me now
there's endless amounts of bullshit
i'm sleepy, i'm not getting work done
i'm doing a different kind of work
god's work
playing football in a spiral staircase

there isn't any senior champion
with that clear grain image

driving to atlanta to hate us
driving to atlanta for a fucked foggy monday

Carved Iguanas (Written Dec 2 2012)

Carved iguanas,

curved skulls
moon drops,
they picked them out of the nylon. fuzzy rabbits.
slime crust gathered around edges
links were made.
it didn't really matter.
like ralph nader winning the election
we cast our ballots for shame
tuckered and indecisive
spitting on the ballot slot.

At nine pm there was another bell,
louder this time, it sounded in the small of her conundrum.
we lost ourselves in a timeless battle
snares rattling out ricochets in the swathes of gun fight
knocked out, my comrade had blood running from his jaw
his eyes were half shut, he sputtered out this:

"Not to be named, not to be forgotten,
not heavens door, not hell,
not caribean, not london,
no, no, no, not that path,
this one"

Caring about it was the last thing we could do,
I got lost in so many saturdays,
so many sundays under the rug,
stoned on the couch, we giggled
but there's nothing to laugh about
crime rate
war
customs officials with heavy machine guns
mowing the lawn

Marble stair cases
A crap load of stars
Bottles of water, in glass
Women in peacock
Velvet chairs
A wide array of hors d' oeuvres
And tonights entertainment is:

Countache, scrumple, migraine
Plums hanging from a vine
Marked for destruction
unappreciated
lost
courtship
Clang Clang Clang
The bell sounds again, louder, softer, clumsier
no limit to what we can do.

My satiable dogma lost its zoning permit
cluttered with nonsense to a boiling point
mischief rascal intentions
covered in it, I mean
absolutely, fucking, covered in it
dude, there's no getting out of this one
you're in it for the long haul
you've never been in it for the short one
cling to your guns,
nix incompetence, take what you're given
and shine right through them.

There ain't no stopping
and there ain't no turning back in this world
panoramic still shots cant capture
the world wide fucking magnitude
of slam dunk paparazzi shell fish
tell you how many drams I downed
playing a part,
playing a fucking part
dragging myself across the floor
licking the garbage
wearing the trash bag as my tuxedo
and one of those things from under the cap of a bottle as the ring,
we made it official
puking terribly onto all sweaters, young and old
cursing at little kids
not a pretty picture.

And then it dawned on me.
There's not a cent in Salem
or a Coin in Compton 
that can end this witch hunt wisely
going at eighty with no brakes
no shortage of gas
and a foot made of iron
I double and triple my speed
and settle down for it.
I'm losing my feathers for a shindig
this isn't nice.

But neither is she.
Together we were something,
I knocked on a door I couldn't open
and didn't want to open
and no kids came running out to greet me
and I'm ok with that
But to stand at the threshold
furiously rapping at the uncertain
rain or shine, trying to deliver a package
you start to realize
nothing is getting signed for
and you've only yourself to blame

They like to tell us that there will come a time
when we get older
when things will snap and gel
I like that Idea,
don't you?
So it's in my head that if I keep banging
and shelling the shit out of deserts
one day I get a house and car and wife and life
that's good enough
but not too good,
but not to be fucked with
and when the goonies come to rape the wife
and kill the kids
and burn the house down
I'll be the one motherfucker who thought to buy a revolver
and I'll come out blasting
and you'll know once and for all
that fucking with me
is a really really really bad idea

standing there in bloody triumph,
with the matted scalp of a demon
clutched in terrifying hand
I'll open fire on the news cameras
the spectators
the ones I loved the most
and I'll raise my smoldering cannon
point the barrel at my sweaty 
throbbing
veiny
cabeza
and unleash the hellish ghost
that would swang in the pulse
of every half drunk puzzled kid
flicking a cherried cigarette onto wet pavement.