Image of the Sahara desert


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I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Ozymandius, by Percey Byssce Shelley

I’m getting older. That’s a dangerous thing to admit in an industry rife with age discrimination, but it’s true. It’s not great in a lot of ways, but one good thing is the increase in perspective.

When I look back over the last 18 years of my career, I have made millions of dollars for investors only to have the value of my stock options fade away because they weren’t “preferred” stock over and over. Only a handful of the products I have built even still exist! The rest have left less behind than Ozymandius’s pedestal. And for those scraps of fog and false promises, I have sacrificed my mental and physical health, relationships, moments of beauty that are gone forever, and uncountable hours of this precious finite irreplaceable life.

I’m done. From here on out, if a project isn’t worth telling my future grandchildren about, I’m not working on it.

The good news is, there are plenty of things all around us that ARE worth working on. There are a thousand problems in the world that desperately need smart and capable people to tackle them with the same rigor and tenacity so many of us have wasted on things like advertising algorithms and A/B testing button colors for bullshit web services nobody really needs or wants.

Corporate America has made it clear in the last year with layoffs after layoffs after layoffs that we are all disposable. Human resources to be exploited and consumed, kept precarious and in a constant state of fear.

So here’s my manifesto:

  • I will STOP following terrible leaders who don’t care about me, my family, or my community
  • I will STOP trusting people who have proven they are untrustworthy.
  • I will STOP selling my life for less than it’s worth!
  • I will START thinking more about ways I can invest time and energy into family and community instead of throwing it away on unpaid overtime to make someone else rich
  • I will START working seriously on some of the big ideas I’ve had stewing in the back of my head for years – and think about how I can do it in a way that leaves the world a little better. I will plant gardens instead of yet more “lone and level sands!”

This way of life is making our world a desert. And if we want our grandchildren to inherit anything more than “that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare” we have to change how we are living.

Crisis is opportunity, and the entire startup ecosystem is in crisis. So let’s seize the opportunity and build something better!