So … what’s up?

It’s been a while dear readers. How are you people doing?

The focus of this blog was always a bit unclear. A bit of programming, Magic: the Gathering, Bitcoin … but mainly as the title says “Stuff Ron Gross Finds Interesting”. So, here’s what’s been going on with my life lately.

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I quit my last paying job at Commerce Sciences around July 2013, to focus on my first full-time startup, bitblu. After a few months of assessing the market, business model, and mainly regulation, my partner Yuval and I decided that this business was not viable at that time.

bitblu

I sat at home depressed for a few weeks, because yet another startup I tried had failed. Then, I realized that the Mastercoin Foundation, of which I was a founding board member, needed leadership and direction. I accepted the position of Executive Director, and spent the next several months turning it from an extremely loose and chaotic organization, to something that at least resembles a traditional startup in terms of organization and operations (I can’t thank my CTO Craig for that enough – you rock Craig!). For the first time of my life, I was an “actual CEO” of a company with a real budget!

mastercoin

I gained invaluable experience and learned a ton, and appreciate the unique opportunity I was given. However, the stress of that period was, quite literally, enormous. I was managing a team of about 15+ people, spread out all around the world, most of them I hardly ever met except the occasional Bitcoin conference. Our budget, denominated in Bitcoin, initially rose with the Bitcoin bubble of Dec 2013 … but then quickly plunged as the bubble burst. We did not have the foresight to liquidate a significant amount into USD in time, and thus the Foundation was stuck with dwindling resources, when a lot of the dev work still remained. Also, unlike a traditional startup, there was simply no way to do another financing round. The financing structure, as decided in July 2013, was selling newly minted ‘MSC’ tokens to investors when the Foundation started, and we promised these investors that no new MSC will be issued, ever. The Foundation was a non-profit entity from its conception, and we struggled without success to find a viable for-profit business model to support the tremendous innovation that we were developing. Even though we pioneered the “Bitcoin 2.0″ industry, emerging agile competitors emerged under every rock.

I was having major doubts both about the project’s apparent lack of a business model, and about my personal ability to lead it and inspire our team, and so finally, in August 2014 I decided to resign. It felt both absolutely horrible and joyful at the same time. Horrible, because I felt like I was abandoning the ship (shouldn’t the captain be the last one to leave, or drown with the ship?), and joyful because the tremendous pressure has finally lifted.

Until then, I had been literally working my ass off nonstop for more than a decade, and finally, I took a few precious months as vacation. I wish I could say I did something awesome with my time off like traveled, volunteered, or some amazing creative work … but frankly what I did most of the time was play Starcraft 2 (oh, and I got back to playing chess regularly after about 18 years away from the game!)

games

At this point, I was exhausted and confused. I didn’t really know what I wanted, whether I want to work on something productive, and stay at home and play computer games for the next five years. Being on vacation was harder than I thought (I kept blaming myself for not checking my inbox at all for a week at a time), but I was getting used to it and actually started to enjoy it. This vacation continued for a couple of months, until, bam! A flash of inspiration exploded in my mind, and I started ReverseFunder with a blaze of glory.

The idea was to solve the Mother of All Problems – how to accelerate the rate of human innovation. Tap into ideas from the hivemind, connect capable Makers with a drive to develop projects, and fuel this with funding from Kickstarter-like Backers. Add in some crowd-editing collaboration magic sauce, and you got a startup-generation machine. I found a great co-founder, and together we went out and talked to a billion different people. We analyzed the market, studied existing solutions, needs … and came to the sad conclusion that the market was overcrowded, and that our envisioned solution was just too complicated to ever work. We pivoted, but then, my personal life kicked in and turned the tables.

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Yes, entrepreneurs are “allowed” to have a personal life.

See, about 2.5 years ago, I discovered Polyamory.

There I was, in a monogamous marriage … and suddenly discovered that I was Poly. In fact, the idea of monogamy just didn’t click for me anymore, at all. I think it’s something that’s always lurked behind the scenes, and now, having found out that there are actually people out there having multiple, consensual, honest romantic and sexual relationship, just hit me like a ton of bricks.

I won’t go into all the details for obvious reasons. It suffices to say that last November, shit finally hit the fans. I knew that I could not stay in a closed relationship, and my wife did not want to open our marriage (I fully support her on this – Polyamory is not for everyone!). I realized that staying together any longer and working on our problems is just us playing delay tactics, and will just cause more pain for us both long term. So I decided to jump yet another ship (I at least take comfort in the fact we were together for a whole nine years … a lot more than I held any job or position).

Long story short, I “found myself” in two lovely polyamorous relationships, learning how to work within that system as I go along. It’s complicated and there are new challenges, yet I find it to be a very rewarding, viable alternative to Monogamy. More on that later in a separate post?

poly

Now, I’ll queue in the kicker. Together with everything else that was happening to me, I found myself stuck in a cycle of hypomania and depression. I self-diagnosed myself as bipolar (pending a formal diagnosis). What this means is that throughout the last few years, I’ve been having episodes of hypomania – a terrific state of mind where everything is clear, energetic, I almost don’t need any sleep (3 hours a night for a week), I have tons of ideas for new projects and activities, and I do a shitload of useful work. The other end of the stick is episodes of deep depression – staying in bed for days at a time, playing chess on my smartphone, and doing nothing, not seeing the point of getting up and going to work, of doing anything, of treating myself, of communicating with loved ones and family members.

These fluctuations have been my difficult routine for the last several months. I started seeing a psychologist (I feel very optimistic about the process when I’m manic, and I feel like he’s not contributing anything when I’m depressed), planning to see a psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis, trying to get my shit together. I’ll confess here that thoughts of suicide have crossed my mind several times.

bipolar

I wanted to blog about my depression / bipolar episodes for a while, but didn’t have the energy to do it. When depressed, anything, even trivial tasks, seem enormous and impossible to accomplish. I do thank the support of friends and loved ones throughout what I’m going through. I feel blessed and loved and thankful.

These episodes of depression didn’t help my startup one bit. I had to quit ReverseFunder/Oxify, leaving Ortal to carry most of the burden, with me minimized to an advisory role. I wish I could do more, and I felt like a total failure so many times for QUITTING YET ANOTHER STARTUP OF MINE, but that was the reality. I just could not handle.

At present time I am left at a difficult crossroad. My skills as a developer have waned in the last two years, and it’s possible some of the passion and commitment I once had for programming had weakened (it’s hard to tell if it’s just the depression speaking or something deeper). I’m trying to understand what I want to do with my life, what I’m best qualified to do, where can my skills produce the most benefit to society, to the company or project I’ll work on, while giving me a satisfying experience and keeping me paid (I haven’t drawn a salary for a year and a half now).

I am dreading starting Yet Another Project I’ll March Enthusiastically Into Only to Quit A Month After. But I am hopeful. I’m not giving up. I realize the millions of reasons I have to be thankful and happy, and am working on remembering and experiencing that.

I do have a small project that has been tickling my fancy for some time now, but I don’t want to spill the beans about it just yet, not unless I actually dedicate enough chair time to get it off the ground. Thanks for reading so far, and for caring. Stay tuned!

Life is a movie

Life is a movie. You sit in the cinema, watch it, eat some popcorn. Stuff happens to you all the time. You are passive.
But it’s not a normal movie. It’s a VIP cinema and a VIP movie.
You can change the script while it’s going on.

As you are watching it, if you don’t like the plot or theme of the movie, you can ask for a switch.

If you notice you are in a romantic comedy while you want drama, you can tell the conductor “less humor, more drama and plot twists”.
If you lack action in your life, just shout it out, and suddenly you’ll be a car chase, killing some dirty cops and sleeping with hot babes.

You can take the director’s seat of this movie. You usually just watch this movie… but it’s totally up to you to be the director.
Or, if you like the plot and the actors, just keep watching for a while… you can also change it later.

The power of names

The power of names has been discussed in our culture for millennia. In fantasy novels, people guard their true names and banish or control their enemies by invoking their names.

Rumpelstiltskin[1]

There is a basis to this lore.

Giving something a name, or learning its name, is powerful. It allows you to refer to that when conversing with other people, to seek knowledge about it, to attack it or connect with it. It allows you to build upon it.

Language is, by and large, a never-ending collection of names. Names of people, of actions, of ideas, of things. When you reason about something without giving it a name, your thought process is more cumbersome than it can be. The act of naming a thing encapsulates it into a box, and allows you to build greater and greater ideas from these boxes.

P.S. I can’t finish this post without giving one cool example of a name used as a key theme and plot point – our beloved Doctor Who. This idea is pivotal to the very name of the show … Doctor Who. What is his real name? Nobody knows, he is just “The Doctor”. His name is later in the show actually used as an incantation, a secret his enemies seek, a riddle, a signal of trust. There is even an episode called Name of the Doctor.

Meet the Israeil Bitcoin Activists

On Dec 7, we will have a special Bitcoin meetup – Meet the Activists. Be there or be fiat.

This special event, which continues an annual tradition, will give you a rare opportunity to learn who’s who in the Bitcoin world and what are all the exciting initiatives in this sphere. ~50 key figures of Israel’s Bitcoin community, industry and academia will each take the stage for a few minutes to talk about themselves and their Bitcoin projects.

 

Reality

Reality is what happens when the tension between different people’s dreams is resolved.

ReverseFunder is looking for a 3rd co-founder

Hi all,

We are making a lot of progress in ReverseFunder, and are looking for a strong 3rd co-founder with background in bizdev/marketing.
Know anyone relevant? Please refer him/her to ron@reversefunder.com

Results – my biggest flaws are

Last week I published a poll, calling out to people to tell me, anonymously, what is my biggest flaw.

My reasons for doing this were that I wanted to get to know myself better, and try and improve. Allowing people the space to speak out honestly, and only asking about my flaws, gave them a safe space to speak their mind.

The results are in.

  1. You tend to act before you think things through
  2. Very naive
  3. Take yourself rather seriously

I would like to say thank you to the three individuals who agreed to give me feedback. I appreciate it a lot.

Even though I had asked for this feedback … hearing criticism is rather difficult. My natural instinct is to try and defend myself in my head, and “explain to these people why they’re wrong”. It’s amazing how much we humans need to be loved and appreciated by others, which is why hearing anything negative about ourselves is so difficult to hear. Still I believe truth is the only way to grow.

I can’t leave this post without a retort to each of these individuals. I’m trying not to be defensive here, but rather just speak my mind:

  1. True. I do act before I think. Thank you for pointing this out. As you said, it is also an upside, but I can try and maintain the positive influence of this trait while minimizing the downsides… try to adjust my “action parameters” and recognize when something is sensitive and deserves more thought and not straight out action.
  2. True, I am very naive. I like it this way! I prefer to be naive than cynical. I might get screwed or make blunders because of it once in a while … but for me, the upside in being naive is too great to pass up.
  3. And finally yes, I tend to take myself too seriously sometimes. Don’t we all? Luckily I complement this with not taking myself seriously at all at other times :)

Now I’ll finish with a call to the reader – what do you think of this experiment? Would you be interested in doing such an experiment on yourself, and get some honest to God feedback from your friends?

Always be growing,

Ron

Startup Juice

Do you want a quick fix of startup juice? Want to read a bunch of books on entrepreneurship, but just don’t have the time?

Then this is for you: