“Listening Mode”

Since 2008, I have been a very active Twitter user. Over 100,000 tweets later, Twitter is not only a product I use many times a day, it is the number one used app on my phone, week in and week out, far ahead of any other app. While it may not appear so, I do go a day or two without tweeting or even looking at the app, but when I’m in there, I’m on and very active. For the past two weeks or so, however, it’s been the first time since 2008 that I have actively decided to not tweet — and to instead, share other peoples’ voices. I mostly comment on startups, tech, VC, living in the Bay Area, food, being a dad, and what’s going on in life — but the past few weeks is the first time it has felt simply inappropriate for me to share such useless information with my avatar attached to it.

Instead, I’ve been in “Listening Mode.”

I think I will resume tweeting now and this weekend. I’m feeling ready to jump back in. For the past few weeks, I have been retweeting other peoples’ voices because it seems more appropriate to do that than amplify my own. To that end, i wanted to share “who” I’ve been listening to and what I’ve read that stood out to me while I’m in “listening mode”:

  • Naithan Jones – I met Nait a decade ago when he moved here and had his startup, AgLocal. Over the years, we’ve talked for countless hours about career stuff and family stuff, and I’m really excited for his new fund TXO.
  • Kanyi Maqubela – I met Kanyi almost a decade ago, as well, as he was working with one of my old, old friends Craig Shapiro. Everyone in the tech/VC startup community knows Kanyi and his tweets, like Nait’s, have been highly informative and impactful.
  • Shannon Sharpe – I don’t know Shannon, and I know he’s polarizing, but I love his style and the way he constructs his arguments and viewpoints. I would encourage folks to listen to these interviews that I’ve retweeted into my feed.
  • Kristy Tillman – I met Kristy a long time ago as she did some design consulting work for a project I was on. Fast-forward to today, she’s at the top of her field, amazing to watch. Kristy’s tweets are really powerful, focused, economical. I especially liked this tweetstorm she panned last week.
  • Mercedes Bent – I am just getting to know Mercedes as a rising partner at Lightspeed, where I am a venture partner. Mercedes’ tweets are worth the follow, but I’m biased!
  • Reggie James – I do not know Reggie but this was a powerful post and worth reading.
  • Dave Chappelle – He just released his newest bit, called “8:46” – a must-watch, for sure.

While these and other voices need to be heard and amplified, I am also increasingly monitoring the tone of the discussion and “friendly fire among” those with good intentions online. Perhaps the most cringeworthy example of this in our world was the online criticism Nait received for starting his new fund, that he “wasn’t doing enough.” On Twitter today, many people don’t take the time to read any background — I joke sometimes that people sometimes don’t even read the tweet they’re attacking or commenting on. And, no one is giving you credit for what you’ve done in the past. Only right here, right now, today — that’s all that matters.

What are you doing right here, right now, today? That’s all that the crowd cares about.

The venture capital industry has been through a few waves of this discussion over the past decade. Having the discussion be so open and vocal is the beginning of progress. Despite calls for it to be otherwise, the venture capital world is a people-based business, and this business does tend to get done within networks, and those networks often happen to be highly social and local in nature. I’ve written about this before years ago and recently Albert Wenger from USV did, too. Like everyone else in this new world, investors will have to find their own way and have more uncomfortable conversations. That’s a good thing.

But, venture capital is just one small piece of a larger, more complex puzzle. The last four years have been both exhausting and scary for so many folks. There are major problems, for sure, and our politics seemed due for some type of disruption. However, one of the major themes brought to the surface over the last four years has centered around identity — race, gender, and everything in between. Immigration is a hot-button issue. It’s not clear our country is perceived as a destination of choice by talent around the world. It’s not clear leadership and many citizens in this country view many of our own citizens in this way, too. It is troubling, to say the least, and why I think so many people have braved pandemic conditions to protest. The major themes of 2020 so far — our public health, our civil liberties — will carry into the fall and winter. This feels like the appetizer to the main course. And I suspect I’ll be more in “Listening Mode” than before, keeping an eye on where the conversation is moving and the little things I can do in my own way to help others around me.