Do or Die in 54 Days
I originally wrote this as a private email to the Wefunder team, then I figured I might as well post it publicly. Some context: the law is changing to allow anyone — not just the rich — to invest in private companies on May 16th 2016. Businesses will be able to raise capital from their friends and local communities instead of just banks or venture capitalists.
Dear Mike, Greg, Dylan, Linlin, Omar, Jiwon, & Theresa:
Starting Monday, we’ll have 54 days left until the law changes. Every hour is crucial. I expect we’ll all give it every scrap of time and energy we have.
I believe strongly in the need for balance and vastly prefer to be around well-rounded humans. I’ve made the mistake of sacrificing my entire 20's, and I’d hope none of you ever fall in that trap. But there are times in life that demand that we rise to the occasion with everything we’ve got. We earn the right to enjoy nearly unlimited flexibility in how we perform our work by how we respond when it’s all on the line, as it from now until June.
Our future as a company will be determined in the next few months. By next year, we’ll either all be all rather paper-wealthy and well on the way to ‘changing the world’… or we’ll all be looking for a new job. If so, we’d have failed ourselves, we’d have failed each other, and we’d have failed every business we could have helped, because no one has the potential to do it better then we can. If we’re not around, some parasitic broker-dealer run by finance dudes will screw it up, turning what could have been revolutionary into incremental mediocrity.
I’m not fucking failing. I’ve spent four years getting to this moment.
I’m not sure all of you truly grok the forces we are ‘playing’ with. We’re messing with the underlying engine of capitalism. Over the next decade, we have the potential to increase the GDP of the United States, raise living standards of the middle class, and decrease wealth disparity. Those are unemotional words… but Jesus Christ, take a few hours to really think about the consequences. We’ll never have this chance again. We’re talking about reversing the trend lines of our society over the last 40 years, which is already resulting in a rage in our politics we haven’t seen since the 1930’s.
What happens when more people can start and grow businesses, and hire more people who love the mission, instead of working as a drone in some corporate job they hate? People are more productive and happy when they do what they love, and are not some cog in the wheel. The industrial age for organizations is over. Small, fast-moving, passionate businesses outperform monolithic conglomerates with no soul. More happy and productive people increase the wealth of our society.
What happens when ownership in growing private companies is shared more equitably across a broad spectrum of society, not siphoned off by the rich and well connected? Especially when you consider that increasing AI, automation, and globalization will continue to destroy rote jobs and keep wages down. Capitalists earn most of the wealth in our country, and our job is to allow everyone to be a capitalist, not just the rich gatekeepers.
What happens when the power of Wall St and Sand Hill Road is diminished? Why should a handful of huge banks or a few dozen VC firms direct where the majority of our capital goes, over which businesses can get created, and who can start them? Do you think these gatekeepers can direct capital more efficiently then a community of informed citizens who are experts in their own domain or neighborhood?
Every single case study I am aware of shows that decentralized capital allocation trumps centralized planning. We’re simply decentralizing it to a level that was not possible to do safely before the Internet. Our system of finance is a holdover from the pre-Internet era, and it’s our job to destroy it and re-build it more equitably.
I know abstract stats don’t mean much. So what if we increase GDP by 1%? Instead think of the hundreds of business owners we have met on our train trip across the county, and how we can change their lives, and the lives of the people they hire, and the lives of the people who use their products. It’s easy to fall into the trap that the only ‘worthy’ investments are 20-something Silicon Valley founders trying to create the next Uber. Sure, let’s democratize access to those investments — I find that shit exciting. But supporting a black community restaurant in the south side of Chicago or a bike manufacturer in Detroit is just as meaningful, and just as important. Many of these businesses will simply not exist — or grow — without us.
We are creating a nation of more owners, doing what they love, invested in by those who love them. We are increasing the pool of talent that can create more businesses. And we are making capitalism work for everyone again.
This is not going to be easy. We picked one of the hardest challenges there is. Even if we execute perfectly, it’ll take up to a decade to achieve lasting structural reform. We’ll need to fight off constant attacks by the gatekeepers that be, and convince Congress and the SEC for more regulatory change. It’ll be an epic battle. But it starts with what we can do over the next 54 days. We’ll be killed in the cradle if we don’t perform. We help new companies run circles around powerful incumbents. We can’t do that if they kill us first.
Putting together this team is my proudest accomplishment, and I want to keep the band together as long as I can. That’s only going to happen if we’re all learning and growing in the ways we want, have the resources to design our lives the way we want, and all work together to have the impact we want. So let’s get it done.
I’d like to think that when I’m a crazy old man in my 80’s — should I somehow manage to live that long — I will look upon this time as the crux of my life. But I’ll know in my heart — and be eternally grateful — that it’s all of you that made it happen. You are all more than just work colleagues and more than just friends. The right word doesn’t exist, in English at least.
And it’s just the start of the journey.