It’s been an eventful several years since my last blog entry. As my last post in 2017 indicated, I’ve been going with the workflow, in the directions I wrote about here years ago. I wanted to share a recap and a roadmap for folks who may be interested, and also to reinforce my personal OODA loop.
Mapping the Long Game
I’ve had a vision for what I wanted to make with crypto for years, and a long game for achieving my goals. The long game is codenamed “Project Lysistrata.” Project Lysistrata is a model for walking away from typical-business-as-usual, using technology to support money, risk, and commercial systems.
After having the privilege of learning on the front line of cryptocurrency and blockchain development, I left my job at startup Monax in April 2019 with a personal agenda and a plan.
I envisioned a customer acquisition funnel from a mass-market application, through a middle layer of upskilling, entrepreneurship and investing, to the bottom layer of infrastructure, insurance. My desired customers are primarily women like me, who are ready to seize their day and change their lives. It’s not a new model, but it’s a bit of a challenge to cold-start and needs a lot of work before one can make the first deal. I knew how long each step should take me.
I created a roadmap and started walking.
Step 1: Capstones: NASA & Legal Education
My early embrace of crypto as legal technology meant I got to learn and engage at a level that a regional commercial lawyer would never have been able to in normal times. There aren’t very many rulebooks out here on this ledge, so I had to pencil my own. To scale my plan, I needed my playbooks assessed by the most rigorous judges. To get this done, I did several things in 2019 to synthesize and process the tremendous amount of global market data I consumed in the past few years.
Academic Exercise #1: NASA
I came into Project Lysistrata with a hypothesis that I needed to be able to connect risk mitigation and growth cycles in fluid, provable ways to sustain any kind of crypto-based project for the long game. However, finding solid methods to commercialize such a system is a tremendous investment, so one better be confident in one’s design. To assess my work, I needed a tough, critical technical judge and a rubric for performance. Enter NASA.
I spent weeks preparing applications for two grants I knew I almost certainly would not get. What made it worth the time? Peer review.
I submitted proposals for a “Multi-System Fault Data Exchange” and an “Autonomous Teaching Greenhouse Network.” My applications illustrated, in a solid systems framework, both the risk mitigation and growth designs for Project Lysistrata. The proposals were reviewed carefully, with feedback from NASA peer-reviewers.
TL;DR: Nice work, and you know what you’re doing. But you don’t know squat about outer space. Thanks anyway!
Fair enough. For me that was time well spent.
Academic Exercise #2: Legal Engineering 101
I next needed a way to get peer-review on my conclusions about design of legally significant digital assets and systems. I wrote a 5-hour course and a short e-book entitled Legal Engineering 101: A Comprehensive Approach to Digital Asset Design and Composition. I sought and received approval from the North Carolina State Bar for 5 hours of continuing education credit. I’ve delayed full production of this class until later this year, with a partner I’ll chat about another day.
For 2019, I just needed enough peer review to keep working. Check.
Step 2: Virtual Offices, Legal Operations, & End-User Apps
My own office. Having validated my plan, the next thing I needed was a viable operation to enable a legal professional to do business in the global digital economy. I built out a back-end for legal practice management and global notary services. It had to be cheap but reliable, but an office was not the end goal. Why? Because in Project Lysistrata basic operational infrastructures are dependencies, not saleable products. The work product here needed to be able to sit on the shelf and “turn on” with very little retooling when the business engines cranked.
Apps. I learned to make apps to connect with my office back and parcel out data. That was a total blast.
Others’ offices. Having found my stride, I next consulted on protocol-level digital identity systems in which I built out methods for privacy-by-design systems using tokenization of data. I used rapid prototyping tools to iterate end-user iterations of W3C digital identity concepts in education, political donations, and HIPAA-compliant medical offices. You may hear more about this project in the future.
Step 3: Building Blocks for Self-Insurance
My hypothesis, that self-insurance and sustainable growth go hand-in-hand, comes from my years of litigation. I watched a handful of successful companies manage risk by retaining and monetizing it, unlike the rest of the market. Self-insurance makes companies naturally risk-conscious, but not fearful. When it came time to clean up legal messes, there was less advocacy for advocacy’s sake from lawyers and insurers. Self-insured companies understand the value of quickly resolving a legal matter so they can move on to making money, and there are well-established frameworks that make self-insurance vehicles tremendously profitable.
It ain’t easy to put together such vehicles, but it ain’t rocket science either. I got to work iterating contractual and governance operations for network-level self-insurance, and then I went looking for folks who were building liquidity pools for just such operations. More on that another day.
Step 4. Nonprofit Operations
I knew from watching successful emerging tech commercialization projects in Research Triangle Park that nonprofits have a vital role on the roadmap from “crazy innovative idea” to “the new normal.” The critical nonprofit role in Project Lysistrata was occupational skills education. I incorporated a 501(c)(3), Mars Metro Association, charged with producing that educational content and bringing it into the world.
Step 5. Series 65
I was never a securities lawyer, but during my crypto-legal years I had to learn a lot of securities law. In November 2019 I took and passed my NASAA Series 65, for three main reasons.
First, Series 65 is a pathway to becoming a Registered Investment Advisor, which will provide some risk mitigation in the future handling and custody of digital assets. I assume this is a big part of why Andreessen Horowitz added RIA to their business model last year. Second, I needed objective validation of the securities law pathways I envisioned. Passing a licensure test was my fastest way to ensure I had my head on straight. Third, it was an excellent research mode. Studying for the test helped me map out the legal instruments I really need to succeed.
Step 6: Top-of-the-funnel, Pretty Things, and Performance Art
Happy New Year!
By the first of this year, I was pretty burned out on what I call the “blockchain protocol-level.” I’d been grinding work out alone, and I needed a little leaven and fun human interaction. I also needed a customer acquisition funnel oriented toward revenue-generating cash businesses, a fundamental element for self-insurance. To build a self-insurance platform, I must manufacture commercial risk worth retaining. And I wanted to play with pretty things.
The self-selecting customers at the top of the funnel should be led to the next level, where, based on their needs, they would learn to upskill, grow a company, or invest. These customers in turn precipitate insurable risk for retention.
Crypto Rekt My Face
A lot of friends don’t know I applied to law school on down time at my job at a department store cosmetics counter, back in the day when that was the only place to buy the good stuff. One great thing about the job was the sales training I received from global cosmetics companies. The other was free makeup!
I looked up after 4 years in startup land and realized that I’d accidentally aged 10 years. I kicked up my use of chemical anti-aging products, which resulted in dry skin. Because I couldn’t find heavy moisturizers I loved, I ordered some bulk skincare ingredients and started making my own. This led me to what ended up being my Q1 Performance Art.
Every winter I do a complex, skills-based project, gardening, extreme LEGO, sewing, etc. It’s just my thing. Folks who read this blog back in the day will know that in 2015 the project was learning to code…..
This year, inspired by my own journey to find a skin cream I liked, I decided to create a direct-to-consumer company as a side hustle, and to publish a how-to workbook for others to do the same.
I created a brand, products, formulas, labels, back-end processes and a front-end store called Peaumonde. I manufactured product and got my global-travel-inspired marketing campaign ready for a March 30 planned launch. I drafted an e-book with templates. You know what happened next. Coronavirus rendered this project performance art for a while, but the model for “how to stand up a high-margin, direct-to-consumer business in your kitchen” is going to be useful for Project Lysistrata later this year.
In the meantime I have a lot of nice skin cream and I smell pretty good, usually.
Synthesis: Village Gardeners and Egghouse
Coronavirus’s hit to the global economy made last year’s Project Lysistrata work more timely than ever. I’ve spent my social distancing work time getting two projects up and running, Village Gardeners and Egghouse.
Village Gardeners is a nonprofit project focused on creating community food sustainability. Village Gardeners is a service that matches folks who want good work and job training with homeowners who want sustainable food gardens. Village Gardeners receive technical upskilling in order to install, monitor, and maintain water-wise, productive home gardens. Village Gardeners are “essential” workers in the COVID-19 crisis. The administrative priority for 2020 is to secure health insurance for Village Gardeners, which will lead down the funnel to self-insurance. We appreciate donations.
Egghouse – Education, Enjoyment & Enrichment
I’ve always liked the investment club model, because it speaks to the needs of individual investors for community and education as much as efficient execution of trades. Investment clubs were once a way for individuals to lower the cost of access to the stock market. By pooling resources, individuals could absorb the fees associated with buying and trading stocks, meaning better returns.
Nowadays, with low-cost online brokerages, resource-pooling is less of a driver for investment clubs, but the need for market-based education and community has never been greater. Egghouse.io will provide investor education, but also technical upskilling and entrepreneurial resources, with a primary focus on the needs of adult women. The Beardstown Ladies are the Egghouse spirit animal, and we embody their motto of “Education, Enjoyment and Enrichment!” Stay tuned for full launch.
Stay safe, and I hope to see you soon!