halfway into 2020 + startup lore today

'happy' six months, you hell of a year

BAY AREA FRIENDS, DO THIS HIKE

hi friends! before we get into this week’s post, i’d love for you to do a tiny survey about too wordy. it was this blog’s first birthday a few weeks ago and i thought to celebrate with asking for some unfiltered feedback. i appreciate you all immensely, even and maybe especially the readers who will unsubscribe today and keep me humble. here’s the survey.

i joke that 2020 will be the year that our memories are the extent of the tv shows we binged. the recipes we mastered. maybe in the new talents we picked up.

upon further reflection, i respectfully disagree with myself. we are (nearly) half way into 2020, and unprecedented feels like an understatement.

you see when 2019 ended, i wrote about how the year was filled with big hallmark moments (graduation, a move to san francisco, my first job), but the things that stuck out about the year were much more subtle. like, making maggi out of an instant pot in yosemite or creating a diy christmas bar at home with my roommate-turned-perfect-partner. (here’s the post if you want to reminisce of a world not yet defined by the c-word)

i started the decade with a simple piece of advice: don’t discount the small moments because they will be bigger than you realize, looking back.

six months later, my advice is the same with a footnote: the small things matter by virtue of simplicity, but the big things matter too — once we do the hard work of finding our own place to sit within them, and change our definition of what definitive needs to be in the first place.

more later, but first my words + reads:

my words: when the coronavirus hit the united states, darius sankey and first-time fund manager melinda moore watched their main investor put all investments on hold and consequently pause the close of their first fund. here’s what happened next.

etc: i couldn’t have put it better myself

learning lesson: scrappy growth isn’t startup folklore, it still happens. in my profile of squire, a barbershop tech startup, the founders opened up about a tactic that got them their first customers. it’s hairier than you think.

unorganized tab time:

hamilton is timeless, and that is both sad and beautiful

how will the visa ban affect tech?

i’ll never be able to cook the bad news away, but i try anyway

columbus, ohio

correction > cancellation

anyways,

you see the moments i thought of as hallmark in 2019 — graduating and moving — were some of the first things to be threatened for millions of people during this pandemic.

six months into 2020, life is paused in a way most of us didn’t think it could.

we’ve learned about tragedy in a way that undermines the things we thoughts were the hallmark moments of life.

for those of us who feel like things have been put in perspective about the racism in our country after the death of george floyd and breonna taylor, acknowledge that it is a privilege to have spent this much time in ignorance. then, and more importantly, don’t let senseless deaths be an intellectual exercise for you to flex — let these deaths be a catalyst for change.

the big moments of this year should not be exhausted out of our radar because they are too hard to digest. we should do the work of finding our personal role and line to draw in each and every single one of these issues.

so when i think of 2020 so far, i see that it is a disservice to boil it down to a time of exhaustion, headlines, and quarantine memes. the big things this year should not be exhausted out of our radar because they are too hard to digest. we should do the work of finding our personal role and line to draw in each one of these issues.

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to this year being so loud that i had to do a midpoint ode for sanity,

n

p.s. one more survey plug

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magic + my dad

HE MADE TIRAMISU FOR 13 YEARS, NOW PIZZA TOO —

i’m mentally sifting through which memory to start this newsletter off on, but i can’t choose one that perfectly does the job. most sentences, when i think of my best moments growing up, starts with i and end with luck. i feel incredibly lucky to have believed in magic.

and i think that is part of the insane love that comes from having an immigrant father.

my dad’s love was in his actions versus his verbal affirmations. so often it’s easy for me to boil down my childhood into a bunch of happy, fairytale moments (true) but forget who was behind the scenes and pulling some strings (important).

i was taught love when i found all my previous letters i’ve written kept in a neat stack on my dad’s desk. i was taught thoughtfulness when i witnessed him bring a slice of margherita pizza to my mom on fridays like clockwork. even though i was complaining the whole time, i was taught community through the cabins and camping trips we had in my teenage years. i was taught loyalty by my dad hopping into a car and driving to boston about 10 minutes after he heard i have pneumonia. i thought i was taught embarrassment when him and my mom acted like newlyweds every time we went to a grocery store (instead i was just taught timeless love). the list goes on.

more later but first my words + reads:

my words: i wrote about how a down market could temper vc’s promise to be more diverse.

etc: venture hiring by definition is exclusive. in this piece, i try to add some necessary context to the flurry of pledges we’re seeing from firms across the country to invest in more Black founders.

learning lesson: capitalize the b in Black, AP style guide says. black refers to a color, not a person.

unorganized tab time:

i quit my job at the start of a pandemic to launch a company. here’s what i’ve learned in the first 90 days.

the profile of reliance jio you need to read (and a reading guide for after if you want more)

it’s not just about e-mail, stupid

anyways,

as i’m sure other kids of immigrants can relate, it takes a while to realize gratitude. growing up it was very easy to compare my parents to others and think that a lack of high-fives for a’s or a weekly allowance somehow meant they weren’t as invested as others. i now realize i was quietly getting lessons in different ways. it wasn’t passive investment nor was it active in an easy to understand way. love was and continues to be just baked into the way he raised me.

even today when i called him for father’s day, and asked what he got/what he did, he proudly said that they went grocery shopping so that my brother sean could make dinner. when i got my dad airpods for his birthday and when i called him to ask for his review on them he told me his favorite part is that him and my mom can listen to the same song with one bud each. even during moments of celebration around him, my dad makes it about other people.

this father’s day, i’m thankful for a dad who has so selflessly stepped away from the spotlight that his daughter thinks about her childhood and feels like it was magical. that her memories growing up aren’t defined by grades or allowances, but dancing to this song and, during the holidays, turning the volume so high up on the TV downstairs that we can dance to music videos in the kitchen.

the only thing more powerful than believing in magic is realizing that there was a real person behind it the whole time. most sentences, when i think of my best moments growing up, starts with i, ends with luck, but always means my dad was somehow involved and cheering me on from a distance.

to my wonderful father,

n

pictured: my dad proudly posing during his first san francisco trip since i moved here. one walk around the neighborhood and he says he ‘got’ why i came here.

change is confusing + tahoe, u up?

BLACKOUT, BEST SELLERS —

somewhere in the beginning of adulthood, i convinced myself that i was good at change. hell, i moved across the country (and remind you all of it weekly) and landed on two feet with the help of some amazing hearts.

if i was actually good at it, however, the past 3 1/2 months would have been a little different. i, like so many others, are in a whirlwind of watching the structures we thought could never change be challenged on the daily. it is welcome. it was a breaking point.

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it’s all teaching me so much more about how change isn’t a flight across the country and an adjustment period. in fact, it isn’t even about adaption. change is more of an active activity than my passive self previously understood.

more later, but first my words + reads:

my words: investors based in san francisco? that’s so 2019

etc: this story was inspired by what one investor said to me the other day: will lake tahoe’s seed ecosystem have a resurgence? bourgeois bunker jokes aside, this new redistribution of investors could create some interesting — and perhaps more inclusive — changes in the way venture-backed businesses are funded.

learning lesson: we spent so much time trying to comprehend the ‘new normal’ that the old normal slinked back into every day. let me paraphrase what one investor said to me earlier today: "one day valuations are low. one day they are high. sometimes it is competitive and sometimes it is dry."

unorganized tab time:

one way investors can advance racial equity

super honored to be featured on this cool newsletter hunting product

equity got a gd podcast

your weekly edtech funding round

it’s game on, pandemic or bust

your weekly substack recommendation

anyways,

we’re taught that change looks like something to welcome with open arms and fly across the country for. in reality, change is not a one-way. it is not a flight, it’s getting stuck in security, missing your layover, getting the aisle seat and forgetting your xanax in your checked in luggage.

the flurry of unprecedented change, and the emotions that come with it, has reminded me that the existing structures i always believed were set in stone are on far softer ground.

that is empowering. it doesn’t mean we can all rush to control or predict what’s next, but it does mean we can finally start questioning the things we thought we just had to accept.

somewhere in the beginning of my adulthood, i thought that change was something i could triumph. i’m starting to realize that this realization may have weakened me more than empowered me.

and that feels like a small step somewhere.

to tomorrow,

n

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the year of perfect vision + no time for gray

for a year all about perfect vision, 2020 has been more defined by its sounds

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, SAN FRANCISCO —

for a year all about perfect vision, 2020 has been more defined by its sounds. the noise of the news. the ring of yet another zoom hang out. the opening credits of avatar. the bird-turned-coworker that lives outside my apartment-turned-office.

the 8 p.m. cheer.

in the past week we’ve been taught how much louder we should’ve been all along. the sirens. the screams. the cries. the truth being yelled on the streets and on the steps of city hall: black lives matter.

more later, but first my words + reads:

my words: me and the smart jonathan shieber wrote a story about the vc rush to support more black founders after protests erupt across the world in response to racial violence.

etc: black entrepreneurs and investors are questioning the motivations of these firms, given the weight of evidence that shows inaction in the face of historic inequality in the technology and venture capital industry.

learning lesson: this may be obvious to most people, but on the record interview > on background interview > comment via e-mail > blog post > no comment. if you are actively working on diversity, you should be able to speak on the record to your efforts and leave absolutely no room for gray interpretation.

unorganized tab time:

the bon appetit test kitchen has a race problem

we need black journalists covering this moment

a16z launches a new donor-advised $2.2M+ fund

my podcast rec

saeed jones’ latest is gutting

anyways,

i’ve been thinking about my favorite subject in grade school — history, because i hated english — and how chapters glossed over the black panthers and malcolm x as if they were footnotes. or captions. or recommended reading, but not required. i think about how the books turned the civil rights movement into black and white photos to make it seem like it was centuries ago. i think about how, in class, we never seemed to really connect the fact that current events and racial violence can be drawn back to the truth that slavery still impacts society.

unfortunately, we cannot go and relearn history the way it should have been taught from the get go. but the key here, and what is giving me hope for the future, is that we can unlearn the things we thought we knew. and the only way to do that is becoming comfortable with changing your mind. it is okay to realize you are wrong, and be better once you get new information. active work is the only way to progress, and the ego hit is worth the change.

a lot of these realizations within the past week have been startling and exhausting and humbling. the screwed up reality of our world continues to surprise me. but most of all, i am realizing what a privilege it is to feel shocked about a system others have had no choice but to live within: systemic racism.

i guess this year might be about perfect vision after all. or at least, getting to a place where we can see what we were taught so long to ignore.

take care,

n

black lives matter

this is worth repeating and not just retweeting: Black Lives Matter.

who am i saying this to? i am saying this to any of my non-black friends or readers being quiet right now for the purpose of remaining “neutral” or “unbiased” on their platforms, big or small. do not pretend like there is a stance to take in a movement that should not be controversial.

in journalism school, we’re taught this notion of staying neutral on social media platforms. let me be clear to anyone using the adage to stay quiet right now: it is not political to say that you value equality and life. it is not political to ask for change in a world filled with racism. it is not controversial to mourn george floyd’s life and want justice for the black community. most importantly, it is not political to all of take those statements and turn them into action immediately.

this all being true, i don’t want to pretend like i can teach in this moment. i have been incredibly humbled by my limited scope of understanding the full extent of racial injustice over the past week (and decades). it is not a moment for me, or any other non-black people, to act like we understand or to grab the microphone or write the thought piece. instead, it is a moment for non-black people to admit we don’t know enough.

allies don’t create or control the curriculum, they learn it, process it, and voice it to others who may not understand. i can’t emphasize this enough: i don’t know enough. and i’m learning to be a better ally every day.

make your activism (donations, posts, hashtags, actions) make sense. continue to educate yourself. with that, i want to offer the following resources around being a better ally. this is a living list so please send suggestions as well:

anti-racist resources

how to make this moment the turning point for real change

black people do not need to be reminded by black lives matter, here are some ways to virtually protest in communities that support racism

how to check in on black friends and loved ones

for those who can’t protest, here are ways to support the movement

desi-americans, know your history

understand the model minority myth

the social contract

resources for non bipoc

to a better future,

n

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