1/2/17

A Note-To-Self: 2016 Edition

Most of us experience nostalgia in some way, shape or form. For me, I'm nostalgic for places. In particular, cities I've lived in are cemented in my memories as snapshots of who I was and how I felt at specific points in time. New York was always a place of inspiration for me, and I was glad to have the opportunity of returning in 2016.

Landing back in New York, back in a corporate setting, I had reservations about the fulfillment I'd find in my work, and my personal growth.  After all, everyone around me was heading towards the very things I had just left behind — an office in a garage, sunnier shores of Cali, and this notion of doing "impactful" work. A year wiser, I've come to appreciate that fulfillment, growth, and "impact" (whatever that means) are all relative to something more important: your attitude.

I approached 2016 with a positive attitude and tried to view everything as an opportunity to learn something that I didn't know. This helped me to appreciate that there was always a bigger and more interesting question to ask — if you're willing to put in the time to look. 

Here are some of the topics, I found myself spending time on:

Market failures
Through the course of the year, I found myself increasingly interested in questions relating to market failures — e.g. conditions in which free market capitalism may not result in the most efficient allocation of capital to achieve positive outcomes.

This tied closely to learning as much as I could, through my work and other research, around how different types of institutions allocate capital (both public and private), as well as their failure modes.
 
Books I read, that I'd recommend:
 
How Markets Fail (history of economic theory), Capital Across Borders (history of wealth management), More Money Than God (history of hedge funds), King of Capital (history of private equity)

Investing in science and technology
Much of the lessons learnt on market failures has also been applied to Boundary Impact Ventures — the platform I started in 2015 to personally invest in deep science and technology ventures.

www.boundaryiv.org

The initial intent was to operationalize Boundary through a donor advised fund (DAF), but that was put on hold in favor of leveraging the equity crowdfunding infrastructure that went live in 2016. Platforms like WeFunder ("VC-as-a-Service") have democratized the fund management industry by lowering the barriers of entry for new fund managers.

I don't think people have yet realized how revolutionary this will be — in particular, for deep science and technology investing.

Nonprofit efficiency
In my day job, I spent a good chunk of time looking at the U.S. non-profit sector. Picking up Python in the process to crunch the numbers, I helped to lead the analytical component of this report on non-profit efficiency.

http://seachangecap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Overhead-for-Trustees.pdf

This topic hit particularly close to home for me, as I spent a lot of my time at Experiment.com thinking about how to efficiently fund social projects (in that situation, scientific research). Funding overhead at non-profits is complex - and this report helps to shed some light on the questions one should be asking.

Outside of professional life
I was fortunate in 2016 to have had the chance to do a bit of traveling. I spent extended periods of time in New York, Boston, Toronto, Stockholm, Copenhagen, London, and Zurich. On many of these trips I was reminded of how life exists outside of my e-mail inbox, social media feed and constant career goal setting.

Perhaps this was the most important lesson of the year.

Onward to 2017
Here's to another year of learning and approaching life as one giant amazing opportunity. Thank you to all that have played an important role in helping to guide me along the way.