Annual Reflection: 2019

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Year complete — what happened?

As the working year has come to an end and I’ve been making calls back to family in Australia for the holidays, I’ve been asked regularly how I feel. The honest answer is—tired. The burnt out kind of tired.

I need a break. It’s been 8 years since I’ve had a proper vacation. A week where I wasn’t working and was disconnected and able to spend time to recover.

This comes at the end of a year that’s brought good and bad. I’m probably feeling it more now because I’m in a low point. As I write this out and take stock of what was, I can see there’s a lot to be pleased with.

I still bounce between feeling like I’m getting somewhere or whether this is all slowly dying. Depends on my mood (I am now getting help with this).

Paperchain

I started working on Paperchain in April 2016. Almost four years ago. Rahul joined me in December that year. Dave a little after that.

Last December I found out Paperchain had been accepted into the Techstars Blockchain Accelerator here in New York City. This was one of the highest points of validation at a point where it felt like we needed to wind the company down.

paperchain techstars accelerator

I had no idea what kind of change Techstars would bring. I don’t think it’s impact can be measured in equity offered or dollar investment. Personally and professionally, Paperchain, and me still being CEO, is because of Yossi Hasson, Caroline Toch and Techstars.

For Paperchain, I think there is before-Techstars and after-Techstars and I have no idea what I was doing with this company for the two years before Techstars.

Techstars ends with a demo day pitch to a room full of investors, mentors, peers and friends. You can see our pitch below. I cannot tell you how many hours went into rehearsing that. The timing of the slide changes. Every word. We worked hard on that pitch and I believe it shows. I’m very proud of the effort we put into this and what that says about us.

Team

After taking money from Techstars and a small angel round in the summer, we were able to make our first full-time hires. Thank you to Valerie and Shashank for the belief. And to David and Dick for getting their hands dirty.

The photo below is of Valerie, David and I at the Women in Music Holiday party. Having those first people come on, catch the spark and join in us in creating the company is one of the most rewarding moments I’ve had with Paperchain.

Having your first full-time hire say 4 weeks into the job, “for what it’s worth, you have an amazing product” is one of the most wonderful bits of feedback you could ever hear. And of course, my response was, “it’s your product now as well.”

paperchain women in music

Product

Those hires led to our first pilot transaction. True to our vision, we advanced $60,000 worth of Spotify revenue to one of our record label customers using decentralized finance protocols. This is the first time a an advance of this type has been made using decentralized finance. I’m excited Paperchain has a place in DeFi history.

You can read about the details here.

Rough edges aside, I’m more bullish than ever that if we get this right, we not only change the way money is made available to creators, but change credit products for the better in general.

And I’m eternally grateful to our early adopters. They are why I keep going.

Seed Investment (ongoing)

I had hoped given our product-market fit, traction and the transaction we’d be able to close a quick seed round before the end of the year. While those conversations have now bled into 2020, I’m still disappointed I wasn’t able to close it all. I’m still learning the “vc game”. What makes it most frustrating is everybody, including the VCs know it’s a game, but we all have to play along anyway.

First revenue

That happened and I look back on it now as important but it’s passing. What’s next?

Public speaking

Active year for public speaking again. The highlight was going back to my hometown in Australia and presenting at BigTech pitch competition at BigSound, and winning.

paperchain bigsound bigtech pitch winner

In 2020 I will no longer be traveling for speaking unless flights and accommodation are covered at a minimum.

Relationships

Bleeding over from the professional side, I’ve had a wonderful year through work that I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people in this industry.

Personally, this was an unbelievably hard year. I’ve spent the last 6 months working through my divorce. There is so much weight to that and it’s been an unbearable load to carry.

I feel like a failure. And it’s a failure that I don’t think can be surpassed, so in one way, it’s made me less concerned about how I’d feel if Paperchain failed, because it’s not going to be more painful than this. I’ve gone back into therapy to work through my emotional shortcomings, and while it’s helped, there’s still a long way to go.

I blame a lot of things for my marriage failing. Me. Paperchain. I hope I don’t end up resenting Paperchain because of it (the feeling is there under the surface). I know there’s a lot of self-loathing.

This has certainly impacted my performance in the second half of the year. It’s been another reminder that there are things bigger than Paperchain.

But I do end the year looking forward to what’s next.

I feel extremely blessed to have made a couple of friends earlier this year that helped me through the hardest times.

And I’ve met someone who made me prioritize loving and caring for myself, making me put my own care ahead of what relationship we could have. Do you know how brave and selfless that is?

I’m in a good place now. I’ve lost 27 pounds in the last 12 weeks through regular exercise. I’m eating great. I’m diarizing. I’m communicating with the people in my life.

Therapy

A few years ago I was an ok flyer. I wouldn’t panic when there was turbulence but I’d certainly get into a state about it. To overcome this I spent a lot of time watching air crash investigation videos and reading black box recordings of fatal commercial airliner crashes. The more I know the less it scares me. This helped me become a much more comfortable flyer (I still can’t sleep on planes but that’s a comfort issue. Give me a first class bed and I’m sure I’d sleep the entire time!)

One of the things I love about therapy is the process is similar to this. We have fears, depressive episodes. Rational and irrational. But therapy helps identify behaviour. And once you identify behaviour, you can better describe responses to that behaviour and make decisions on whether the response and behaviour is positive or negative.

Goals

In my 2018 reflection, I wrote out my goals for 2019. Here is an update on those goals:

Less time on phone. Deleting most social apps and accounts has meant I spend less time on my phone.
Commitment to exercise. This took some time to get around to, but since mid-September I have lost 25+ pounds.
Make dinner more often. Function of moving into my own apartment and subscribing to Hellofresh.
Raise pre-seed. Raised money from Techstars as well as other angels throughout the year.
Raise seed. Still going!
Earn a salary. Was able to pay myself a salary for the first time in 2.5 years.
Pay down/off debt. It happened but then due to slow fundraising had to stop paying myself and had to go start paying for everything on credit cards again.
Move into own apartment. Now a resident of Chinatown.
Get family to visit me in NYC. Hopefully in 2020.
Get US learners permit. Done.
Get US drivers license. Done.
Get out of NYC more in the Summer. Could have been more but got up to Catskills/Woodstock twice, as well as Montauk.
Improve public speaking/presentation/storytelling skills. Techstars played a big role in helping with public speaking preparation. Definitely increased my presentations and panels this year. Now I just need to get paid/compensated for it.
Diarize and write more. It took 10 months, but now write down thoughts every day.
Be more assertive. Lead. You’ll have to ask my team/people around me.
Reduce time spent on executional tasks. Will be resolved as part of Paperchain’s growth. Identify the first areas of delegation of executional tasks so I can focus on strategic.
Focus more on self-care efforts. Part of this related to getting out of the city more. I’ve started seeing a therapist as well.
Feel less guilty about self-care efforts. Happy to say I prioritize this over other things.
Communicate my actual thinking more honestly. Not sure here. I am much more direct than I used to be.
Don’t have the first say. Have made great improvements here. Have a lot more empathy for Paperchain team.
Communicate with my family more. Sporadic.
Communicate and catch up with friends more. Sporadic.
Delete Facebook. Did not happen.
Delete personal Twitter account. Do not go on Twitter. Yet to happen but going to do this in 2020.
Better articulate political thinking. Learn how to organize & participate better. Ongoing. A lot of reading this year and now I need to put that thinking into practice.


No more Twitter. Ever.
Delete Facebook. This is difficult because my family back in Australia still use it to communicate. I think I can get rid of my profile while still using Messenger for chats.
Raise seed.
Pay down/off debt.
Take a vacation.
Move into bigger apartment. An apartment for two.
Get family to visit me in NYC.
Help my family with health issues.
Communicate with my family more.
Communicate and catch up with friends more.

I approach 2020 with energy, focus and a level of self-love I haven’t had in a long time.

Media recommendations

I keep an exhaustive, daily list of all media I consume at the main site. You can view the full list here. Some select pieces below.

Literature

How to be an Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi

“Denial is the heartbeat of racism” writes Kendi. This book is a much more brief but effective companion to his incredibly detailed, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”. Only once we identify racist ideas can we dismantle them.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein

This helped me understand why modern America looks and operates the way it does.

Americanah, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

One of the most incredible works I’ve ever read. The characters are so wonderfully defined and realized. I didn’t want this book to end.

Film / TV

High Flying Bird

Incredibly breathless film that takes aim at the exploitation of black labor through professional sports, and what happens when the power is shifted, even for a second, out of the hands of white owners.

Uncut Gems

The Safdie brothers are so effective at imbuing the audience with the subjectivity of their characters. Also touches on the power dynamics between black Americans and non-black Americans, and those who seek to control black narratives.

The Irishman

I appreciated that this arrived first on Netflix (I don’t have Netflix so The Pirate Bay was my friend). Because some scenes were so well-executed that I had to rewind to watch them again. And Scorsese spends the last hour reconciling a lifetime of violence, power and Catholic spirituality.

More (new and revisited): “Ad Astra”, “Queen & Slim”, “Her Smell”, “Nobody’s Fool”, “Peterloo”, “The Dead Don’t Die”, “Lost In Translation”, “The Tree of Life”, “Marriage Story” (when Adam Driver cried at the end, I cried, because I knew exactly what the crying was for), “Us”, “The Burial of Kojo”, “Atlantics”, “Waves”. “The Laundromat”

Music

I published a playlist of songs from what I thought were the best releases put out this year. You can stream the playlist below.

Live shows:

Kamasi Washington
The Comet Is Coming
Maurizio Pollini
Moses Sumney
KJ Denhert
Wooden Shjips
Bo Ningen
Beach House
Courtney Barnett, The National
Emma Louise
A.B Original, TKAY MAIDZA, The Teskey Brothers
Jelani Sei, Sampa the Great
Kamasi Washington
Mojo Juju, P-UniQue
Mahalia, Sebastian Mikael
Tool
DaBaby
Asiahn, PJ Morton