You may have heard of a controversial new currency named “Bitcoin“, most well known for it’s independence from government and reliance on an anonymous peer to peer network.
This past month the price for one Bitcoin rose above the $32 high water mark set in 2011. And it has nearly tripled to $33 from the $13.50 price at the start of the year. We are seeing this growth because the number of Bitcoins in circulation is capped and as a result the price will continue to rise as long as the number of transactions continues to grow rapidly. This is simple economics: There is an upward pressure on pricing due to a decrease in supply. Most importantly, the price elasticity of supply is inelastic due to the controlled release of additional Bitcoins into the market. So, over the short term the inflation of Bitcoin will likely continue.
The easiest way to buy and sell Bitcoins is through Coinbase, and they’re definitely seeing the complementary growth.
The growth in Coinbase transactions parallels the rise in Bitcoin prices.
It’s obvious that this new currency is becoming more and more popular; companies such as WordPress and Reddit already accept Bitcoins as an alternative payment method. This type of distribution is not too far off what was seen a decade ago when big retailers started accepting PayPal.
Critics claim Bitcoin can not sustain rapid growth for the long term given that Bitcoin’s are mainly being used for illicit purposes. But if this trend continues where we see major companies tagging on, it’s certain that the Bitcoins will continue to grow in value given their limited number.
Here’s my test investment so far:
I purchased 7 Bitcoins on December 31st, about a $100 value.
Current market rate for 7 Bitcoins: $235
I was impressed to see my small test run had more than doubled in value over the course of just 60 days. If you’re interested in doing this on a larger scale, do your research, and remember timing is everything in finance!’
Update March 5th:
NameCheap now accepts Bitcoin for payments. This is yet another example of NameCheap supporting efforts for pioneering online innovation and freedom.
I picked up this product design tidbit from Dustin Curtis a few weeks back:
“Things that are easy to use survive, regardless of what is fashionable, and people want to use them forever. But if things are created merely for a passing vogue and not for a purpose, people soon get bored with them and throw them away. The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used.” - Yanagi
Sori Yanagi hails from a family that made samurai swords, and that’s no surprise when you take a look at the flatware he designed himself.
In my opinion, the test of time is the ultimate test for your product. Products will survive a “passing vogue” if they are purely designed to be used. I strive to keep this in mind every time I go to the drawing board.
There is some incredible content in this writing about life at an elite college. Thank you to the Wake Forest Arch Society for passing it along. I encourage you to take some time to read at length:
Something that does not appeal to me about elite institutions is when an overwhelming part of your experience is simply saying that your went to xyz school. Though I’m certain it’s also not appealing to be negative towards the opportunity.
There is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s intellect or knowledge. There is something wrong with the smugness and self-congratulation that elite schools connive at from the moment the fat envelopes come in the mail. From orientation to graduation, the message is implicit in every tone of voice and tilt of the head, every old-school tradition, every article in the student paper, every speech from the dean. The message is: You have arrived. Welcome to the club. And the corollary is equally clear: You deserve everything your presence here is going to enable you to get. When people say that students at elite schools have a strong sense of entitlement, they mean that those students think they deserve more than other people because their SAT scores are higher.
This is the type of independent spirit I believe I exhibited in high school; I focused my time on internet markting and making websites.
Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so it’s almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that it’s even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting A’s in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. Paradoxically, the situation may be better at second-tier schools and, in particular, again, at liberal arts colleges than at the most prestigious universities. Some students end up at second-tier schools because they’re exactly like students at Harvard or Yale, only less gifted or driven. But others end up there because they have a more independent spirit. They didn’t get straight A’s because they couldn’t be bothered to give everything in every class. They concentrated on the ones that meant the most to them or on a single strong extracurricular passion or on projects that had nothing to do with school or even with looking good on a college application. Maybe they just sat in their room, reading a lot and writing in their journal. These are the kinds of kids who are likely, once they get to college, to be more interested in the human spirit than in school spirit, and to think about leaving college bearing questions, not resumés.
The greatest benefit I have seen from leaving college is the freedom to engage in a lot of introspection. I am particularly worrisome about this amongst students at top-tier schools:
I taught a class several years ago on the literature of friendship. One day we were discussing Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves, which follows a group of friends from childhood to middle age. In high school, one of them falls in love with another boy. He thinks, “To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?…There is nobody—here among these grey arches, and moaning pigeons, and cheerful games and tradition and emulation, all so skilfully organised to prevent feeling alone.” A pretty good description of an elite college campus, including the part about never being allowed to feel alone. What did my students think of this, I wanted to know? What does it mean to go to school at a place where you’re never alone? Well, one of them said, I do feel uncomfortable sitting in my room by myself. Even when I have to write a paper, I do it at a friend’s. That same day, as it happened, another student gave a presentation on Emerson’s essay on friendship. Emerson says, he reported, that one of the purposes of friendship is to equip you for solitude. As I was asking my students what they thought that meant, one of them interrupted to say, wait a second, why do you need solitude in the first place? What can you do by yourself that you can’t do with a friend?
So there they were: one young person who had lost the capacity for solitude and another who couldn’t see the point of it. There’s been much talk of late about the loss of privacy, but equally calamitous is its corollary, the loss of solitude. It used to be that you couldn’t always get together with your friends even when you wanted to. Now that students are in constant electronic contact, they never have trouble finding each other. But it’s not as if their compulsive sociability is enabling them to develop deep friendships. “To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?”: my student was in her friend’s room writing a paper, not having a heart-to-heart. She probably didn’t have the time; indeed, other students told me they found their peers too busy for intimacy.
What happens when busyness and sociability leave no room for solitude? The ability to engage in introspection, I put it to my students that day, is the essential precondition for living an intellectual life, and the essential precondition for introspection is solitude. They took this in for a second, and then one of them said, with a dawning sense of self-awareness, “So are you saying that we’re all just, like, really excellent sheep?” Well, I don’t know. But I do know that the life of the mind is lived one mind at a time: one solitary, skeptical, resistant mind at a time. The best place to cultivate it is not within an educational system whose real purpose is to reproduce the class system.
The world that produced John Kerry and George Bush is indeed giving us our next generation of leaders. The kid who’s loading up on AP courses junior year or editing three campus publications while double-majoring, the kid whom everyone wants at their college or law school but no one wants in their classroom, the kid who doesn’t have a minute to breathe, let alone think, will soon be running a corporation or an institution or a government. She will have many achievements but little experience, great success but no vision. The disadvantage of an elite education is that it’s given us the elite we have, and the elite we’re going to have.
This past month I have been thinking a lot about the peer groups in my life. By peer groups, I mean the primary groups of people with whom I spend time socializing and working. I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this because I strongly believe in the law of the average:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
In other words, “one’s peer group is unbelievably influential in one’s development and growth”. And furthermore: “Unlike other agents of socialization, such as family and school, peer groups allow children to escape the direct supervision of adults.”
In the past eighteen months, I’ve identified myself with several peer groups. I’ve seen a lot of people, and I’ve changed peer groups several times. Some peer groups have remained consistent for months in each of my living locations, and others are short-lasted, such as visiting a friend at school on the weekend. Very few people have remained constant throughout, but I am thankful for those that have.
To get an idea of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve spent time with, here’s a short list of peer groups that I considered myself part of for at least a few months:
- Wake Forest student
- Wake Forest rower
- College entrepreneur
- Thiel Fellow
- Silicon Valley resident
- Startup founder
- Founder of Glider
- New York City resident
- College dropout
I am not embarrassed to say that creating my own peer group from scratch has been my greatest challenge in the past year. Tougher than recruiting programmers, designers, venture capital, is recruiting a peer group when the overwhelming majority of your peers live within pre-existing communities (college). As someone who is under-21, the toughness is compounded when you live in a social space designed for age 21 and above.
The experience of moving alone to a new region of the country, while working in a small team that stares at computer screens all day, and generally not having many social outlets, is about as sub-optimal as it gets for my personality.
To give you a more specific diagnosis of the peer groups in my life, I turn to a direct excerpt from Tim Madigan in a 2007 issue of Philosophy Now:
In Book VIII of his Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle categorizes three different types of friendship: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of the good.
Friendships of utility are those where people are on cordial terms primarily because each person benefits from the other in some way. Business partnerships, relationships among co-workers, and classmate connections are examples.
Friendships of pleasure are those where individuals seek out each other’s company because of the joy it brings. Passionate love affairs, people associating with each other due to belonging to the same hobby organization, and fishing buddies fall into this category.
Most important of all are friendships of the good. These are friendships based upon mutual respect, admiration for each other’s virtues, and a strong desire to aid and assist the other person because one recognizes their essential goodness.
The first two types of friendship are relatively fragile. When the purpose for which the relationship is formed somehow changes, then these friendships tend to end. For instance, if the business partnership is dissolved, or if you take another job, or graduate from school, it is more than likely that no ties will be maintained with the former friend of utility. Likewise, once the love affair cools, or you take up a new hobby or give up fishing, the friends of pleasure will go their own ways.
However, friendships of the good tend to be lifelong, are often formed in childhood or adolescence, and will exist so long as the friends continue to remain virtuous in each other’s eyes. To have more than a handful of such friends of the good, Aristotle states, is indeed a fortunate thing. Rare indeed are such friendships, for people of this kind are rare. Or as my mother used to say, “Make new friends but keep the old, for one is silver and the other is gold.” Such friendships of the good require time and intimacy – to truly know people’s finest qualities you must have deep experiences with them, and close connections. “Many a friendship doth want of intercourse destroy,” Aristotle warns us.
And yet, for us living in the frenetic 21st Century, it can be difficult to maintain such ties. Friendships of utility and pleasure come and go quickly as we move from job to job and relationship to relationship. But for Aristotle this need not be a tragedy. Since the interchanges of both types are less intense or permanent, their endings are not necessarily detrimental to one’s self. But to lose a friend of the good – ah, there is tragedy indeed.
The fellowship has been overwhelmingly advantageous for friendships of utility. I stand a lot to gain as a Thiel Fellow, and many of the people who help me with Glider will likely gain quite a bit as well. But remember, these are short lasted because they change quickly with circumstances. Briefly connecting with a lawyer or CEO for advice falls under this category. I also saw myself developing friendships of utility with some of my professors and classmates at Wake Forest.
Friendships of pleasure are particularly challenging to discover outside of the campus environment and this has made me particularly unhappy. These types of relationships were especially strong in college. As a 19-year old it’s hard to find other people who have the freedom of time to do exactly what they want. I can’t blame most of the people who I have sought out in this regard, they enjoy spending time with their friends at school.
Friendships of good will always be challenging to find in any social setting. Fortunately rowing has been a sport where I have developed these relationships in the past, and I carry those relationships from high school. However, without rowing or another organization, finding these relationships has been very difficult. The honest truth is that I spend very little intimate time with the fellows and I believe there may be a lot to gain if we had more informal activity. Outside of rowing, the best target I’ve found for identifying friendships of good are startup founders; a handful of founders have been particularly helpful and inspirational to me on a very personal level.
The Good and the Bad
I would like to highlight one particular instance when my peer groups aligned nearly perfectly. A serendipitous chance weekend this past month. I was able to develop a few relationships of good mainly through Y Combinator friends and the Thiel Fellows over the course of one weekend through deep experiences.
It was a weekend when the majority of my friendships of good happened by chance to all be in NYC at the same time. But it didn’t necessarily start out that way. Over the course of four consecutive days, plenty of deep experience occurred, and friendships of good were formed. A combination of intellectual curiosity, mutual respect, shared ambition, disregard of formal credentials, and an environment which all of us could confide in each other. It was like an elixir.
We spent our days in my office together, casually bouncing thoughts off other entrepreneurs, and our late nights on the bar stools and dance floors of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
As everyone departed for the weekend, one of my friends sent me a text:
“Something I like… If you’re partying with good/intelligent/driven friends… It doesn’t feel like a distraction, it feels like it inspires me to succeed more.” And “Hah, just don’t do it every weekend.”
Of course these weekends do not happen regularly, but having them once in a blue moon is key to maintaining sanity.
The bad is, well, an incredibly visceral feeling. More so than I can describe in words. It’s the feeling of isolation amongst millions of people in close proximity, and isolation in the sense that you are thousands of miles away from a good friend. For me this has typically been the experience of asking myself on any given Friday night: Who can I hang out with? And the answer being no one, about 25% of the time. Or staring into space as you chow down a burger, another dinner alone at SFO. I would estimate about 90% of my meals are eaten alone. In short, the bad is when you aren’t able to find just one of those five people to make you feel comfortable.
I think college is a place of happy mediums, where it can never get either extremely great or extremely bad. It would be difficult to rally all of your best friendships and all of the people you admire in a single college social setting. But it would also be difficult to feel completely astray from a peer group on a college campus. The “real world” as an entrepreneur typically goes either way to the extremes from my experience. One moment you are spending time with all of the people you absolutely admire, the next moment you are flying solo, just another peson amongst millions of other people.
I am in pursuit of three conditions:
As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
It’s important to note the results of my good and bad experiences are directly related to my optimization: A small team building software outside of a college campus community. In recent months I’ve started to design my life to create more opportunities for repeated and unplanned interaction.
It really does make the difference when you go to an office and a person you know asks “How are you doing?”. So, finding good friends in a co-working space is a fantastic start. Avoiding hotels when traveling is another great help, financially and socially. Most of all, living in close proximity to friends of good and friends of pleasure is ideal.
I live in the heart of Manhattan, right near Astor Place, Greenwich Village, the East Village, and the Bowery. Right outside of my apartment and favorite pizza place on St. Mark’s, Ray’s, stands an epic juxtaposition in higher education:
On the north side of 9th St and 3rd Ave stands one of the largest New York University dorms, Alumni Hall. On the south side of 9th St stands the main dorm for Cooper Union. It represents the crux of the higher education dilemma today.
NYU on the north side, is a top tier school that charges upwards of 200k in total tuition. On the south side, Cooper Union, a world renown engineering school that has prided itself on a free education to all students since it’s founding. Finally you have me, a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship that stands to offer an alternative to both great institutions.
It’s an interesting mix of educational experiments and opportunities. The old, the new, the free, the costly. I’m not sure if there’s necessarily a “right” path; to me it’s about what you do with the opportunities you earn for yourself.
But you can not ignore the cost of education, said most prominently by twelve Cooper Union students today who barricaded themselves inside the school’s clock-tower today. It’s an immensely bold move by the students who aim to draw national attention in support of their cause: Keep Cooper Union tuition-free.
Tonight students added signs outside of the building with the following text: “This is not a business.”, “Stay Free or Die”, and “It’s not free… it’s priceless.”.
Schools around the country like NYU race to maintain their justification for high tuition, and Cooper Union struggles to keep the cost of their high quality education as “free as air and water”.
I have nothing but praise for these students who are at the core of the fight against student debt and corporatization of colleges in this country.
Follow and support #FreeCooperUnion on twitter: https://twitter.com/FreeCooperUnion
Photo by Michael V. Agins of The New York Times
In the past couple of years my interest in music has grown and I have found an affinity for electronic music specifically. I relate very similarly to Tony Hsieh’s description of raves and the sense of shared spirit. Beyond attending events, I’ve invested a lot of my time searching for mashups and following the explosion of electronic dance music.
My time and energy spent mixing has been an order of magnitude less compared to my time spent searching for mashups in the blogosphere. This skew towards music searching partly due to my desire to seek out inspirational music, but even more so it has been due to my cluelessness when it comes to transitioning in a harmonic fashion. Over time my frustration has compounded, and recently I haven’t done much mixing at all.
However, in the past month I was fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time with several DJ’s. I picked up one tip, and it cleared my frustration overnight:
One of the most widely kept secrets across the electronic music industry is the software Mixed In Key. While it may not appear impressive on the surface, you must take a minute to understand the logic behind the system. From what I can tell, nearly all of the veterans of the industry such as Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, and Kaskade all use this software to keep your ears in tune.
So, how does it work?
First, you load your tracks into the program, and it automatically assigns the track a notation 1A/B through 12A/B. Next you mix tracks clockwise based on their notation 1-12. The DJ must always mix within one notation in order to keep the two tracks in harmony. So if you are playing a 3A track, the next track mixed in should have the notation 3A, 3B, 2A, or 4A.
Here’s the Camelot wheel for a better visual representation:
Recently the team behind Mixed In Key released a program specifically for creating mashups! I recommend checking it out.
As the saying goes: “A craftsman is only as good as his tools.” Here’s a short list of other tools to check out if you’re interested in DJ’ing and electronic music:
- Software used for live mixing: Scratch Live
- Preferred controllers: Pioneer
- Edit music files: Logic Pro
- Produce orignal tracks: Ableton
Thank you to Michael Bronfman for sharing his wisdom.
I’m thankful my friend Josh Wilson recently referred me the highly regarded book: How Will You Measure Your Life?. If you’re looking for the short version, it’s based off a speech at the commencement of Harvard Business School Class of 2010.
But you might not even need to skip over to each of those links just yet. Instead, just think of the question right now:
How will you measure your life?
It’s simple yet profound. Will it be…
- dollars earned?
- lifelong friends?
- lives touched?
- college degrees?
- fancy cars owned?
- gold medals?
- mountains conquered?
- countries visited?
- children raised?
- languages learned?
- words written?
- products built?
- jobs created?
- houses owned?
- dreams chased?
- celebrities met?
- twitter followers?
- facebook photos?
- YOLO moments?
This list could go on and on. My point is that it’s helpful to think about the questions author Clayton Christensen suggests:
- How can you be sure you will be happy in your career?
- How can you be sure your relationship with your family will be an enduring source of happiness?
- How can you be sure you will stay out of jail?
Only you can answer these questions, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer. My answer resonates closely with Christensen, “focused on family and others”. This blog is an example of my effort to positively touch as many people as possible. Read more…
As an American entrepreneur it’s really easy to develop tunnel vision and ignore economies around the globe. This insular thinking can potentially place a bottle neck on your growth, especially since the fastest growing economies are far from the U.S. border. But thankfully if you’re developing products on the web, it is now easier than ever to take advantage of the fastest growing economies.
A Goldman Sach’s economist, Jim O’Neil, coined the term BRIC in a 2001 research paper, claiming that the combined economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China will eclipse the G7 economies by 2027.
In a more recent 2005 report by O’Neil and Goldman Sach’s, they noted a new group of countries, Next 11, that have high-potential for becoming world economic powers in the 21st century:
Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, S. Korea, and Vietnam.
There are three main reasons to look at these countries for growth:
People – Young and expanding populations. They will raise the level of wealth (rise of the middle class) and drive demand for discretionary spending.
Potential – The BRIC countries will eclipse the G7 growth within 15 years and the N-11 may rival the G7 by 2050.
Possibility – The BRIC and N-11 countries will likely outperform the traditionally strong economies of the 20th century.
If you’re thinking about ways to expand growth then I would recommend you focus on the untapped markets that include BRIC and Next 11 countries. Learn more:
One reason why I visit the Bay Area frequently is because of the many critical eyes here. Questioning absolutely everything your about your product is absolutely necessary.
It bugs me when I show someone my product, and they end their commentary with “Wow, great job, keep up the awesome work.” This type of observation doesn’t build great products. And unfortunately I get this type of feedback frequently outside of the Bay Area because most people are exclusively consumers.
On the contrary, most of the best builders I know live in the Bay Area and they’re open to challenging everything they observe. It’s this type of thinking that eventually allows you to iterate and improve. Questions such as: “Why is the installation button on the right instead of left?”, “Why did you choose this headline?”, “What is the purpose of this page?”, “This section is confusing, it needs to be eliminated.”, “Why would you charge x dollars when your competitor is y dollars?”, “This element is not helping you achieve the goal of this page.”, “This is nice, but it would be even better if…”.
Eventually after enough iteration, you end up with a dead-simple product that is clear to your target user. The critical eye brings simplicity to your product.