I had a call the other day with an analyst in Toronto from a VC firm in SF. Press F in advance.
99% chance I’m talking to an analyst whose depth of reality is making it as an analyst at a VC firm.
They started describing their portfolio and were excited to share that one of their startups creates mesh networks that are used by protesters in Hong Kong (to organize when they lose access to their internet and data networks during protests).
The analyst asked me how we’d compete with X, Y, Z companies; I shared with them a story about how once upon a time when I operated a coffee shop, McDonalds started giving away coffee for free one week. I called my supplier and asked them if they’d comp us some promotion coffee. They replied “your plan to compete with McDonalds is to give out free coffee?”. Point harshly and thankfully taken.
We don’t compete is a model I’ve held since before the cafe, and it holds true forever; competition is a capitalist model of creating a market and demand that’s owned by whomever has the means to invigorate their market best. Now the sucker punch is that your favorite company isn’t in it for their record profits. They’re in it for their stock price to hit $1000. They care about market caps, things that never cross the mind of regular workers, whose goals are entirely different.
See this chart below. It feels dated though some of the points stick through to today:
Now watch just the first one minute of this video (and then stop, for England).
She says: “the other way allows only one view of economics or politics where everything is either controlled or owned by the state”. She calls capitalism the “free society” and this other way a “totally controlled society”.
There’s alternatives… essential needs of the people can be owned by the people; and this includes many free enterprises, or corporations that rely on the working class to survive while paying them little to nothing in comparison to their record profits.
To be clear, Margaret Thatcher is wrong, and she’s also a war criminal at home, abroad, and in Ireland. Why Margarat Thatcher as a frame of reference? The YouTube algorithm struck while referencing the Good Will Hunting video below.
Our solution is to shift power structures away from venture funds and venture funded companies like Uber, Shopify, Amazon and Door Dash, to democratize them, and build equity and wealth in our own community owned platforms, and in our own community owned capital markets instead of stocks that belong to people that never set foot in the communities they impact.
We can likely save over $1.5 million dollars yearly by taking over restaurant ordering & delivery services in our small community of Parkdale. Imagine disrupting Loblaws, who benefit immensely from the normal way of shopping and government subsidies.
What if it looked different? Like a social enterprise focused on farm to table community shopping and distribution? And what if EVERYONE owned this social enterprise? What benefits does that bring to our local population and community? From cost savings to new revenue generation. Dividends and everything.
A class war is not the way. I’m not sure why we would choose to compete in an arena with a disadvantage, instead of embracing new networked futures and creating local socio-economic waves.
Back to the call with the analyst, they got hung up on asking for examples of how companies like Shopify support white supremacy and mentioned that they knew people that work there, and they’re not bad people.
Then they said: “We’re not political and don’t get involved with politics in our fund”.
This coming from someone who opened the conversation with pride in their portfolio company supporting Hong Kong protests. For a minute I thought they were down… but where does that support stop?
Does it stop when we talk about white supremacy? Or does it stop when we talk about Iraq? Or Afghanistan. Does it stop if we talk about China, Uighurs, or Tibet?
I pointed out the hypocrisy of starting a conversation politically and then drawing a line when it comes to topics like Islamophobia. Or topics like retaining service fees and profits for our community by fighting against big-box and big-venture companies.
They decided they didn’t have anything to say to that, and that they were ending the call, then disconnected the Zoom call.
Their manager followed up in an email. They’re the real ‘VC’, or administrator of their fund. They said that it’s unfair to bring up politics in a call with their analyst, and that the analyst does not have experience for that type of discussion.
They didn’t know that the analyst led the call with Hong Kong, or they don’t see the connection; or they don’t care.
Dreams of working at a tech company
I remember a UI designer that I hired once. They were visiting Toronto from Ottawa. Their ultimate goal was to work with Shopify in Ottawa. They interviewed lots. They kept getting rejected, and they were upset because they see people in their industry around them get Shopify salaries, stock options, and start to buy houses. I hired that designer and they moved to Toronto. I fired them 2 years later for probably the same reasons Shopify didn’t give them a job in the first place.
I know another awesome guy, from Syria. His family made a huge sacrifice to make it to Canada. Their ultimate goal is to work for either Facebook or Instagram. I don’t know if I can be mad at that; they’re very young and they turned tragedy into opportunity.
Another, who is Muslim once chided me for hosting UX Pub nights that their team attended, because alcohol is Haram. It’s weird, because I kind of felt bad… then they took a job at a place with beer-on-tap.
I’ve purchased things from Shopify stores, like Take Care masks. Non-profits and social enterprises use Shopify, and Ontario’s Cannabis stores have a monopoly on online cannabis shopping driven by Shopify. Even our organizations support entrepreneurs using Shopify stores to drive their businesses.
Mostly though, I’m extremely underwhelmed by the limit of peoples aspirations and revolutionary desire to change media, education, security, markets and food systems instead of being a part of them.
The conflict largely stems from detaching ourselves from tech giants like Facebook, whose benefactors are the ones helping start wars in Syria and destabilizing Democracy.
Will Hunting does a great job letting us know why we shouldn’t take that tech job, or YOLO on $PLTR weeklies; watch the scene below:
My working thesis
Is to change your reliance on a system that is not built for you, even if it works for you. I’m saddened that there are a lot of reasons I can’t do this alone, especially when faced with these types of conversations.
Then a colleague reminded me: “In this day and age, how can you not be political?”