What I learned - 2022

Everything is changing all the time.

This past year showed that everything everywhere is changing all the time. The things I learned were all about reacting and responding to these changes and trying my best to remain resilient.

Thinking better thoughts and metacognition

I spend a fair amount of free time on how to think better thoughts. Whether it's writing as a way of thinking clearly or learning about metacognition, I'm interested anything that helps me reason about problems a bit better.

This year I read The Beginning of Infinity and it might be the book that has improved my thinking the most. As it turns out, learning about knowledge was exactly the thing I was looking for. It taught me about how we acquire knowledge, why error correction is important, and all the ways we fool ourselves. I'm realizing flaws in my thinking (and others) more fluently than before in ways that are difficult to describe.

This put me on to a few more books like I Am a Strange Loop. I found Hofstadter's explanation of Godel's incompleteness theorem and its relation to consciousness profound.

Running a startup during a recession

A lot of things that worked well when economic conditions were good, only worked well when economic conditions are good. Growth in tech during the pandemic wasn't permanent, but we were collectively fooled into thinking it was. As a result, we saw 100,000+ layoffs in tech in a roughly 6-month period.

I raised a Series A for Mosey in the spring/summer. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the right people supporting Mosey and timing it well—inflation causes downward pressure on startup valuations making it more difficult to raise. There is no way to know which way the market is going but being decisive when you can get good terms and running a tight process worked out well. (Hat tip to Weiheng Zhang, the CFO of Angelist, for helping me think it through in a single phone call).

The other lesson learned about running a startup during a recession is to focus on building the business and not just growth. For years the market rewarded growth with high multiples on revenue for tech companies, but that is changing. For early startups, getting to breakeven (default alive instead of default dead) is the equivalent of having infinite runway. Building a durable business is the ultimate way to preserve optionality.

The future of work is still remote

Back-to-office plans have come in waves but office occupancy stagnated. For example, permanent moves from SF have fallen to pre-pandemic levels but work-from-home happens the most in cities.

At the same time, I'm noticing more and more CEOs and VCs swinging wildly toward policies that are hostile to workers. When it comes to remote work, the preferences of employees seem to be completely missing from the conversation yet arguments for bringing people back to the office are, upon closer inspection, preferences of the executive team.

We're starting to see the impact of remote work in adjacent areas. NYC office real estate value declined due to remote work. San Francisco lost $400MM of tax revenue. I won't be surprised to see remote work become a political issue as more local government leaders unsuccessfully push for a return to the office.

I'm continually reminded that the radius of economic opportunity is still limited and it seems like remote work is a big lever we can pull to improve prosperity. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, not the least of which is compliance.

The great outdoors as renewal

This year I traveled to the Oberland of Switzerland, Yosemite, Sedona, Hawaii, and Mendocino. I realized how much being surrounded by natural beauty can be a source of renewal. I always feel better after visiting places like these.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still not over, I'm glad to rediscover the great outdoors.

Wrapping up

It was a good year and I'm grateful. While everything is changing rapidly around me, being better at reasoning about things for myself, focusing on what I can control, and looking ahead to the not-so-distant future is working well. I'm optimistic for 2023 and can't help but feel lucky.