The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Joshua Vial. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Joshua Vial. Joshua is an entrepreneur, a programmer and an educator. He’s the founder of Enspiral, which we’ll talk a fair amount today, and he is the co-founder of Enspiral Dev Academy, which we’ll also talk about. And he’s also starting to develop some interest in crypto, which we’ll talk about at the end, assuming we have time. Welcome, Joshua.
Joshua: No, thanks for having me.
Jim: Yeah. Looking forward to this. For those folks interested who are regular listeners, we talked to Rich Bartlett, another one of the Enspiral guys some time ago. I don’t remember the episode number and it was a good conversation. We didn’t talk about Enspiral too much, we talked some, but this will be great to have a chance to dig in with you because you are essentially the founder of Enspiral as I understand it.
Joshua: Yeah. Yeah. At the beginning it was just me, but very quickly… I mean, a lot of the work’s been done by lots of people. So in actuality, it’s more of a co-founder, but originally I registered the domain in 2003 and used it as my personal consulting brand for several years.
Jim: Why don’t you tell us the origin story? Every superhero has an origin story. So how did Enspiral come about?
Joshua: Essentially I was a software developer and a freelancer in the late thousands, and I got a lot more interested in social change. And instead of just being interested in business and technology, it was very much a case of, what’s happening in the world, global issues, climate change, et cetera, et cetera. And so I basically started volunteering for lots of charities, climate change, youth leadership, environmental issues, supporting myself as a freelance programmer and I started to meet a whole bunch of people who were really driven to make a difference on global issues, but were kind of financially under resourced and as a freelance software developer, I felt quite luxurious in that context. So I basically shifted my personal consulting company to a collective vehicle to help people who want to change the world get high paid contract work. That was the core idea of Enspiral, which is like, oh, find people who really care about the same issues, help them have more self sovereignty through higher paid livelihoods and see what we do together.
Joshua: So it sort of started out as a band of developers and freelancers, and it morphed into this community of friends growing social enterprises together, and businesses focused on impact. Had a big theme of self-management and non hierarchical organizing from the beginning, and so how do we work without hierarchies and bosses, et cetera, was a big theme for us all along, as well as how do we start businesses? How do you help your friends with livelihood? So it’s been, oh, nearly 11 years now since that transition and now I kind of think of Enspiral as a group of friends who help each other on their various projects. And it’s kind of like, “Oh, Rich is doing Microsolidarity stuff and who in the network wants to help out with that?” And leaning in a little bit more than you would with just say friends in a regular entrepreneur, a community.
Joshua: So helping people with sales or with advice or with recruitment or with your time. And now I kind of think of it as a way of, I guess, people who want to change the world have hedging their bets a little bit. You’ve got your main project. You might spend 80, 90, 95% of your time on that, but how do you spend a decent chunk of time just helping the people next to you with their project going a bit faster?
Jim: Yeah, very good. Enspiral first came into my view about 2013 when a group of us were starting something called Game B. People who want to learn more about Game B, go to game-b.org and go to the website. It’ll ask you some cryptic questions. Just say Jim Rutt sent you and they’ll let you in. We’re still in the essentially not quite public mode yet, but anyway, we’re not going to talk too much about Game B today. But anyway, we saw Enspiral. I said, “Wow, this is a lot of the kind of things that we’re talking about, the idea of non-hierarchical organization, of self-work, employee on co-ops, clever.” Still, they weren’t too clear in 2013 and we can talk more about that today, but methods of collaborative finance, et cetera. And we said, “Hmm, this looks like the kind of future that we in the Game B world would support.” And so it looks like what started out is pretty simple idea. Kind of got some juice behind it and explored some pretty interesting ideas.
Joshua: Yeah. We definitely tried a lot of stuff and a good chunk of that stuff didn’t keep going. Like we tried lots of things and said, that was a bad idea, but some of them really lasted and some of the longest running ones we’re kind of still transitioning at the moment. So yeah, definitely learned a lot in that journey.
Jim: So what’s the structure? And I did look at something on YouTube that you, a presentation you gave. You talked about the idea of Enspiral having members and another category, were they participants or contributors? Or something like that. Talk a little bit about the structure of Enspiral.
Joshua: So this was one of the first experiments that we ran. Because if you think about Enspiral, the first year, I had a private company, which was my personal consulting company and I started going just talking to lots of people saying, “Hey, do you want to change the world? Do you want to do contract work? Let’s turn this company into a co-op and let’s essentially have it so that I’m not your boss. You’re responsible for your own livelihood. You get 20% of what you earn. We put in the middle, we all do that and then 80% is yours to control.” And that was the core of Enspiral, was this sort of co-company. Did that for about 12 months and then we were like, “Okay, we saw a lot of people starting other sort of companies and ventures, so there was a lot of activity in the community and network and that’s when we set up essentially the Enspiral Foundation.
Joshua: It is a limited liability company in New Zealand, which is structured like a co-op, though we haven’t formally registered as a co-op because of the way co-op law works in New Zealand. It just kind of wasn’t worth it. You can make a limited liability company co-op like, so it’s functionally the same. One share per person. Shares can’t be bought or sold. Shares don’t have a value… One share’s worth a dollar. And so the members of Enspiral were the shareholders of that co-op and this is… The model we had of the community is that it’s not an open access community. It is a invite only community, and the members have the power to invite a contributor to the community. So you can think of the contributors as one person who’s kind of, knows a bunch of people in the group, values this new person enough to invite them in and kind of reputationally stake them, where you’re saying, “Oh, cool. Hey, Jim Rutt’s a great guy. We’ve had a chat. Enspiral seems like a good fit. I’m excited to introduce him to Enspiral.”
Joshua: I’ll then fill in some forms and invite them in. And they become a contributor. And so members had that power. And then that was the main functional difference between them. Members kind of acted like their cultural stewards and they hold hands with the group. And for a person to go from contributor member was a consensus vote of the members. So essentially you didn’t need… It was basically consent. If there were no blocks that person became a member and I think we needed a 75% participation rate amongst members. This naturally limited the size of members because it gets exponentially harder to add people the more members there are. So we saw the natural size of members kind of cap out at 25 to 40. Only a few times in our history have we been in that 35 to 40 sort of range. Most of Enspiral’s history we’ve been in the 25 to 35 members because of how social dynamics work.
Joshua: And then we also saw a natural limitation on the number of contributors being around the sort of 100 to 150 people. Most of Enspiral’s life has been more in the 100 to 150 range of total number of members and contributors. And once you start getting… I think we might have touched 200 once. You kind of start to get the limit of the social relationships. So that architecture had quite a limitation on our size, which I think was quite healthy and quite good. It had some negative consequences as well, but that was the member contributor sort of core, I’d say real structure of the group. And we just used a New Zealand limited liability company to, I guess, manifest it legally. And it’s only right now that we’re actually dissolving membership, that we’re saying, “Actually, some of the limitations we don’t like as much. We want something new.” We don’t yet know what the new thing is, but the members are basically… We’re dissolving that role and we’re starting to look at new ways.
Joshua: So we can still do a gated invite only community, but we want more people to have the power to invite people in and we don’t want it to be, you have to jump over this hurdle to have all the members say you are now a member to get that power. We think there’s a better solution out there.
Jim: Yeah. So interesting that you guys, more or less accidentally converged on the famous Dunbar number of 150. Robin Dunbar, the evolutionary psychologist, anthropologist, who put forth the theory that in 100 gatherer societies in particular, but he also finds many, many examples in the modern world, essentially our cognitive limitations and the ability to manage social relationships seem to imply the larger size of our communities at about 150. And that once you get much beyond that, our brains just aren’t up to it, right? So we need apparatus, things like hierarchies and instructors, et cetera, to get beyond it. It Sounds like you guys essentially are yet another example of Robin Dunbar’s rule. Speaking of which Dunbar was on our podcast in August. So if anyone’s interested in what Robin had to say in great detail, check it out at jimruttshow.com.
Jim: Interesting. So this move to rethink Enspiral, it around wanting to be able to grow past the Dunbar number of 150, or what are some of the motivations for this rethink?
Joshua: I’d say there’s several, like I would say we’ve probably gone through three or four big reinventions of Enspiral over the years. Some of them were done really well. Some of them were done… they could be done much better. In the Enspiral history there’s this concept of the refactor, which was a very painful change, which we didn’t do as well as we could’ve. So some of the things that we didn’t like about this approach, it wasn’t so much, this limits our size, because I think a lot of us are like, “Ah, maybe Enspiral gets bigger. Maybe it doesn’t.” We’re more interested in open sourcing what we’ve learned and seeing other people copy it and do their own thing and just build their own sort of communities of 200 people. And maybe we learn how to have relationships as communities of 200 people with each other. That’s quite an appealing, I guess, philosophy for a lot of us rather than how do we make the Enspiral banner work for 5,000 people, 10,000 people. Seems like a problem. Yeah. Some people might want to solve, but it’s not a high priority.
Jim: It’s not your passion by any means.
Joshua: Yeah. And again, it’s so… We do see people starting like Enspiral communities in Europe and in Australia and how we have relationships with each other is like, whatever this community wants to be naturally is what we’ll try and make it work and there’s some attraction to making it work for 300, 500 people perhaps, but it’s kind of… I think the jury’s still out about how interested people are in that. But the main limitations, I think, were things like members, as we’ve all grown older together, members became more of a social club, which is just like, “Oh, this is where I catch up with my old friends who I have known for several years and we’ve been through lots of things together.” And it was really comfortable group of people and it kind of became… It wasn’t just the… There’s a natural limitation when someone becomes a new member of like, “Oh, if there’s 50 people who need to not block that decision, then that’s harder than if there’s 20 people to not block that decision.”
Joshua: That functionally the numbers change, but also the depth of relationships those people have change as well. Do I really want to invite this person to my old friends club? It’s kind of what membership became rather than do I want to give them power to decide who joins Enspiral. So I think as it aged, it became less suitable for its task over time. That was one reason.
Jim: Became like a old hippie commune, right? Some of the ones that are still surviving. They’ve been together 30 years and they don’t really want any new people coming into their club, right?
Joshua: A little bit like that. It’s like some of that vibe, I don’t think it embedded itself, but we kind of got hints of it. It also became a little bit depowering for all the new contributors. It’s like, it’s a whole eternity of structuralist kind of thing. It’s like, while it was a formally named role, people didn’t really know who was in it. They didn’t know what they needed to do to join that role. And it kind of felt like there was the Illuminati controlling Enspiral when you show up and it wasn’t super empowering and it wasn’t the vibe we wanted people to have when they join. The vibe that we had in the early days and that we really valued was like, “Oh, there’s a lot of things happening. It’s kind of a bit chaotic, but it’s very liberating and there’s a lot of opportunity and trust put in new people to change Enspiral itself.”
Joshua: And it kind of felt like people who’ve joined and were still sensing their way around, had limited opportunities to say, this is how I want to make Enspiral better. And there were lots of invisible and social dynamic barriers in there, which we thought membership reinforced. This is just my take on it. I didn’t lead this transformation. There were some other members of the group who did, and they’ve got much more nuanced analysis of what’s going on. But my takeaway was that it was kind of… There were social dynamics that we didn’t like, and we don’t have a plan for what we’re going to put in this place. We do have a plan for dissolving what’s there currently and creating a bit more chaos, a bit more space. And then there’s people who are sort of, I’d say, starting to swarm around the idea of what comes next, but we want to make it so that that’s not just the members who decide. That that’s open to everyone in Enspiral who’s interested in designing the new thing can get together in that work stream and create something new.
Joshua: So it’s kind of a big bet because the member contributor thing was the thing, which probably… A bunch of things worked for us, but that was one of the biggest things that worked for us. Because there was this high trust person in the middle who invited every new person in, we had this incredibly powerful filter that a lot of people when they joined Enspiral were like, Wow, there’s lots of awesome people here.” Because of that curation process. And it does have impacts in terms of diversity and bias in your membership community, because you’ll get lots of people who look like the early members and so you start to see natural selection biases, which is… There’s negative consequences to them, but it also gave us a lot of cultural cohesion that lasted the years through a lot of big ups and downs. So I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing for us to do, but it’s not the right thing for us right now.
Jim: Yeah, very interesting. I mean, my home field is evolutionary computing. And one of the things we talk about there is the inevitable trade off between exploration and exploitation. Exploitation, not in the negative sense of masters and slaves or something, but rather in getting good at what you’re doing is exploitation and exploration is exploring new things, trying new things out. And when you’re building evolutionary algorithms, things like genetic algorithms, genetic programming, evolutionary strategies, et cetera, you’re often tuning parameters to get out a sweet spot between exploration and exploitation. Same is true in the new deep learning technologies, the newer deep learning technologies, some of the same attributes. So it might be that what you guys are going through is deciding that your current structure, at least as it’s aged is a little too stuck in exploitation, doing the same things that’s done before and it needs some dynamics to explore some more. Is that a fair way of describing it?
Joshua: Yeah, definitely. It’s about burning something down, so there’s space for the new growth to sort of arise.
Jim: It’s funny. It was very interesting you mentioned the issues around what in the network sciences, they call network homophily, which is a fancy way of saying that social networks tend to invite people in that are quite similar to the people that are already in the social network. And that does definitely work against diversity, at least certain kinds of diversity. But as you point out, diversity is in some sense in a trade off with coherence. And it’s a very, very interesting question, which to my mind, doesn’t get talked about enough. We hear a lot about diversity, but I like to remind people that diversity isn’t by itself a monotonical good. I mean more diversity isn’t always better, but there is some level of diversity which is optimal for a given task. Let’s say a neighborhood, the example I give, suppose you live in a neighborhood of 150 families and all 150 of them only speak one language and none of them have a language in common. That would not be a very good neighborhood probably. That would be maximally diverse with respect to linguistic ethnicity.
Jim: On the other hand, everybody being exactly the same makes for a very dull neighborhood too, but it might be highly coherent. So question is, how do you trade off diversity and coherence and reach some optimality for the task at hand?
Joshua: Yeah. I often think about healthy tension in that you want people who sort of have enough in common that they can effectively collaborate, but enough indifferent that it’s worth having a conversation in the first place. With my other hat, with Enspiral Dev Academy, where we’re essentially we’re training programmers. And we do a lot of work intentionally to increase diversity in the technical space. We’ve bumped into a bunch of about like, “Oh, the amount of diversity that’s optimal, depends on the task at hand and depends on the size of what you’re trying to accomplish.” Because on one hand, a lot of what people, when people argue for diversity, often they’re arguing for fairness. I just want people to have a fair go and have similar opportunities of people who have different sort of backgrounds.
Joshua: But when you’re looking at innovation tasks, more diversity is better than not, and that the more people who have got the same life experience, they’ve got more blind spots and they’ll be less creative and less innovative. So particularly for tech or communities who really value like research, development, innovation, you want people with quite different experiences, but you also always need to keep selecting, I think for some coherence, but are doing work to build coherence because even if people start very far apart, you can do things which bring them closer together so it’s easier for them to have conversations.
Jim: Yeah, well said. In fact, in the Game B world, we use the term coherent pluralism, which almost seems contradictory, but as our tension-laden idea that we want lots of pluralism, but for pluralism to really work, there has to be at least a small kernel of coherence that we all agree to. And that’s kind of interesting. Obviously the first question is, how big is the kernel? And if you’re not careful, the kernel ends up being too big and you’re all the same again. So trying to keep the kernel as small as possible, no more than five or six statements is what I like to drive for. And then being very clear about the fact that outside the small kernel, let pluralism reign. And tuning that correctly is an ongoing task, which I don’t think any of us really know the answer to.
Jim: I like to point people to the work of Scott Page at the University of Michigan, who’s done some of the very best scientific work on the value of diverse teams. If you haven’t checked it out, I strongly encourage it. One of the things he has found in his quite strong empirically based research is the most important for most business tasks is viewpoint or experiential diversity. And that that’s really the thing one should optimize for. The current fad towards nose counting type diversity will often bring in some viewpoint diversity as well. It’s by no means a one-to-one correspondence. So I would say from a social benefit perspective, there’s some benefit to nose counting diversity, but not necessarily for efficacy. And so it’s useful to look at what another one of my friends, John Chisholm, calls holistic diversity, including the classic nose counting diversity, but also including viewpoint and life experience diversity, et cetera.
Jim: And too often when we hear the word diversity, only thing we think about is the nose counting diversity, which is only frankly, a fairly small part of optimizing around organizing this tension between coherence and pluralism, but an important one. Yeah.
Joshua: One of the things that has become apparent forme the more work I’ve done in that space is that we’re kind of… What would you say? Maybe a coincidence where the morally right thing to do, which might be around the diversity for fairness is very aligned with the smart, optimal thing to do, which would be diversity for efficacy. And I think that those two things going together means that, oh, we’re just seeing a lot of people compound interest in that sort of space. People get pay offs from doing it, so they do more of it.
Jim: Absolutely. And then it’s certainly true. Talk a little bit of about Enspiral classic. I realized that you guys are rethinking all that, but you guys did have a pretty good run in Enspiral classic, kind of like Coca-Cola classic. And remember when they went the new Coke, it was a failure, worth keeping in mind. But under Enspiral classic, you described this idea of 20% went into the core. Was for both members and contributors, or was that just for the members?
Joshua: So Enspiral classic was pre-members and contributors. So essentially it was people showing up, mostly programmers, but some designers, some sales people, and the general idea was… And I was super inspired by Ricardo Semler and just a lot of the… Like Clay Shirky here comes everybody. And just the idea of, okay, maybe the internet and the communication mediums we’re getting now are giving us a new nervous system with which we can design different organizations. So we can start to really design organizations in quite a different way. Essentially, how do you do a company without bosses is what we tried to do. And that became like, how do you make everyone kind of self sovereign for their own small business unit within the company? And how do you do that while keeping it solvent and legally compliant, et cetera? So that turns into a freelancers cooperative.
Joshua: And essentially the rule… Like when you said before about, you’ve got your core things to build coherence, like here’s your four or five statements and then here’s all the things which are just… Whatever. Often I think about how do you make it so that those things are memorable and people act on them every day, and they’re not just a list which you refer to once a year and say, oh yes, that’s a good list? And so the 80 20 rule was kind of just like a shorthand for when you earn money in your business activities, what’s the default for how much you give to the core, which is collectively governed about doing things that benefits everyone and how much do you keep privately? Which is not your money, like on the screen to actually get paid from your 80%. There was this big slogan along the lines of like, take what you need and use the rest to change the world.
Joshua: So it was very much like this is your autonomous budget within the business unit you control, and you can pay yourself with it. You can hire people with it. You can invest in whatever you want in the business, as long as it’s legal, you control it. And that was kind of the core idea of Enspiral classic in the freelancers collective. It turns out like that wasn’t a sustainable model, mostly because we weren’t paying enough for business development and we incentivized the people on contracts more than we incentivized the people getting to work for it and also of people doing the work of building the community and leadership. Because if you look at a traditional consulting, typically 50% goes to the people doing the work and more like 50% goes into making everything else work.
Joshua: And even the general 80 20 split was just if we didn’t resource the community building stuff, the leadership, the winning the work stuff enough and we over-resourced the doing the work side of things, which meant it worked and it attracted a bunch of people, but it wasn’t sustainable to last over multiple cycles of multiple years. So that was, I’d say like Enspiral 0.1 kind of thing. But that got enough momentum, interest, people in the room that there was quite interesting people. We started to see that, “Oh, who’s doing different companies?” So we started to see some product based companies start. We started to see more straight entrepreneurship things. We had a law firm and accounting firm, as well as this sort of programming cooperative. So there was a bunch of companies, where people starting a bunch of different companies saying, “How do we do this in relationship with each other?” So some of them were called like Enspiral Legal and Enspiral Accounting. Loomio launched about that time. Bucky Box launched about that time, which was software for food box distributors. And so they started to…
Joshua: So we had some tech based product companies. We set up some service companies, and that’s when we sort of launched probably Enspiral 1.0, which was the members, contributors, the Enspiral Foundation, a bunch of people doing different projects, but all sort of with this core idea of just like, let’s help more people work on stuff that matters. Let’s help people quit their jobs and either start a business or work in a business or be a freelancer and spend their career working on the stuff they most want to work on rather than just helping a commercial entity or a government entity succeed in their mission because you need the paycheck. That was the key sort of aligning idea in that Enspiral 1.0 I would say.
Jim: Very interesting. Yeah, that was one of my questions. You already answered it, which was what was that 20% for? It sounds like it was originally for essentially your sales, marketing, overhead, admin, et cetera, function, which you mentioned 50, 50. I once upon a time built a pretty good size tech consulting company. I think at the peak, we had 500 folks and our target number was 45% for overhead, 45% to the employees and 10% for profit. And so pretty damn close. So it seems like that’s not a bad rule of thumb.
Joshua: Yeah. And I’ve seen a lot of consulting companies with finances, which looked fairly similar to that, but that the core idea of that 20% money was essentially we decide together what we do with it. And so that might be paying some people for some back office support or spending it on mission centric things that we wanted to do. It was collective money was the core idea.
Jim: Now when you get to the product company, so this is a famous problem, usually one I advise against. Part of my role is advising entrepreneurs and small business folks, tech business people. I generally advise against combining product and consulting companies on the grounds that the people in the consulting business feel like plow horses being exploited by the product people. God damn Product people are wasting a lot of the money that we’re so hard doing, writing our… doing Oracle for God damn banks or whatever the hell it is they’re doing. And there’s huge animosity and ends up fighting. It usually ends up with the company splitting and spinning off into two separate business units or the whole damn thing failing. How did you guys deal with the tension between product which requires forward investment versus consulting, which is sort of you eat what you kill kind of business?
Joshua: We kept them completely separate. So there was no subsidization from the consultants to the product businesses. The product businesses were financed separately, so if an individual consultant wanted to help fund Loomio in the early days, they could invest or donate money like everyone else could, but we didn’t take any of the collective money and start to use that to subsidize the product businesses. So keeping them independent from day one. One of the dynamics we did see though, was okay, you’ve got a programmer, who’s in a job. They come to the consulting company, they start earning good money. They build up a bit of runway. They stop consulting. They go into a product company. We saw several people do this, which basically strip mined the talent in the consulting company and it just meant they it was under resourced. People didn’t hang around for lots of time because no one would really want to build that company. We saw a similar dynamic when we started the first Enspiral space.
Joshua: So well, 2011 took on a lease for a big co-working space and essentially underwrote that with… That was some of what the core money did with Enspiral Services. Lots of people wanted to work in a coworking space around social enterprise. There was a gap in the market in Wellington at the time, and it became quite a vibrant hub. No one wanted to run that business. It was an orphaned business, which lots of people stepped up to out of obligation in the community because we like this space. I’ll shoulder the burden a little bit. No one was excited by it. We iterated a couple of times. Eventually shut the space down.
Joshua: I think our consulting business had a similar story. No one was really like the work I most want to do is run a consulting business. Lots of people did that because I want some money or I want to help people get some money. Like in the early days I subsidized that business quite a lot just by doing free sales work. So what I was doing before Enspiral was like, “Oh, it’s probably billing 20 hours a week.” And I doing 20 hours a week volunteering on climate action and all these interesting projects, then I just took that volunteer time and I just started volunteering for Enspiral. So essentially doing free sales work, free project management and so on. It just unhealthily subsidized… Well, I don’t know it was unhealthy or not. That consulting business worked great for attracting a bunch of people and making Enspiral possible. Without that initial activity Enspiral wouldn’t exist.
Joshua: So it helped us, but it also was not sustainable because I couldn’t then go and find someone to replace that energy I was putting in and I didn’t want to run a consulting business and no one wanted to run it, so eventually after five years we shut that business down. And so that was the arc of Enspiral Services as the programming cooperative. So come, I think it was 2016, 2017, ’15, somewhere around there that business shut down as a cooperative entity.
Jim: Yeah, I understand. Yeah. Because that was going to be… My other point was in these hybrids that I’ve seen, not only is there this tension, but the very best talent tends to want to go to the product companies, which as you say, tends to strip mine the consulting business, very difficult dance. So I see you guys were unable to actually make that dance go for a long period of time. And I suppose it’s a good warning that while volunteer labor to get a business up and running such as yourself being the volunteer biz dev dude is not sustainable. And when we’re thinking about building enterprise is we have to think sustainable from the get go if we want these things to go on into the future. And so I would say that’s yet another data point in Rutt’s rule that there’s an awful lot of danger in combining product and consulting businesses, even in your case where you kept separate legal entities, but in the same cultural ecosystem. Just damn hard to do.
Joshua: I guess it also depends what the intent is in a way. It’s sure that model wasn’t sustainable, but it made a lot of things possible. So some of the core consultants, they went and started a more traditional consulting company. They’re doing a lot of social impact stuff, they’re maybe 30, 40, 50 staff, something like that, offices in Australia and New Zealand and they met and got a bunch of their initial talent from the Enspiral pool of people. And so on one hand, yes, the model didn’t last over time, it wasn’t a sustainable model, but I think it was a very useful model for where we were at. And I think a lot of the things we’ve done, this is why I’m so excited about shutting down membership. It’s like, it worked really well for us for a time. It’s not good for our next stage. If we burn it down and let something else grow, it’s really an exciting opportunity.
Joshua: So when we shut the coworking space or we shut down Enspiral services, it’s natural to feel that failed, that remorse, that wasn’t a good idea that was bad, et cetera, but also all of the things those experiments made possible, just open up this horizon for us, which I think is really exciting. And so it’s like if you’re going to do lots of crazy experiments, you’ve got to get really comfortable with shutting the experiment down, getting your learnings, being grateful for those learnings and figuring out what you’re going to do next because the only constant is change.
Jim: Well, I like it. Let’s talk a little bit about the product companies, the ventures, I believe is the terminology you guys use on your website. As I mentioned in our pre-show chit chat, my first real encounter with Enspiral I signed up to be a beta user. Man, an early beta user for Loomio and we tried it out in the Game B world and concluded for various reasons. It really didn’t suit our needs at the time. But so how did something like Loomio get started and especially how did it get funded within the context of this bigger cultural ecosystem?
Joshua: So Loomio was essentially… I’d seen a cohousing group in Oakland use consent based decision making. And so it was basically consensus or most people call it consent. I find in the sort of organizing space and it essentially, how do you have discussions and how do you front load it so that you have more community building alignment in the decision making process, so you need less community building in the execution phase? That’s the sort of theory of it. And how do you make a space where people can have the authority to block a decision and say, I’m not comfortable with it. Here are my concerns and so on. It’s got lots of healthy community vibes and it’s got lots of trade offs and consequences. So we were using that process for a lot of our decision making. This was at the time of Occupy Wall Street. So there were a bunch of Occupy people camped on the Wellington City Council lawns. And they were trying to do consent based decision. Because they were using consent decision with their hand gestures and whatnot in the camps.
Jim: Yeah. The Graeber consensus process, right?
Joshua: Yeah. And then they wanted to basically have consent decisions between camps around New Zealand. And so a couple of them were talking about, we want this tool to exist and we were kind of culturally like… I had a meeting at coffee shop with Ben and Rich and maybe John Lennon as well, but there were a couple of people who met in that initial meeting and the story I’ve heard from them afterwards is like, they came to us to build the software and we said, “Nah, but we’ll give you a desk and we’ll help you build it.” And so they essentially jumped in and made Loomio. So it was kind of like a cultural meeting between a bunch of tech entrepreneurs, social enterprise people, and a bunch of Occupy Wall Street activist type folks. And that was the cultural origins of Loomio.
Joshua: Different people in Enspiral jumped in and put in lots of sweat equity or sweat labor into getting it launched. That was one way the community funded. It was just people who had been building up some revenues in the consulting businesses jumped in and sort of used that personal runway to just volunteer on Loomio. I think their initial crowd funding was like $10,000, which was a donation based crowd funding campaign. My memory’s a bit hazy here, but I think that was the first funding. There might have been $100,000 donation campaign followed on from that. And those are the numbers that I think were the initial seeds. Then there was some impact investors coming on and how do you build a company and take investment? And essentially they were really trying to crack the, we want to build open source software. We also want to build a sustainable company which pays devs to ship it. And there’s a team of people who’ve been just working on that for over a decade now. And Loomio today is sort of where it’s gotten to.
Jim: That’s an interesting question and one of the places where the rubber really meets the road. You mentioned external investors. How do you bring external investors in without developing this shit show culture of Silicon Valley venture capital?
Joshua: I think a lot of it is about expectation and just how you structure those deals. So for example, so I’m not super familiar with all the investment terms Loomio did. So it might be a question for some of them about how they actually structured that. But the impression I’ve had is that they structured their deals, where they weren’t bringing on investors who are investing with an exit in mind. They’re not like, “Okay, my investment thesis…” And a lot of Silicon Valley folks is like, “Okay, I’m only interested in 10X venture returns. They’re the ones who pay the bills. If I get nine failures and one 10X, I win.” Kind of numbers or what doubles and triples and how they talk about it. And if that’s their investment thesis, they’re always pressuring for just growth on everyone. I don’t care if you’ve got a sustainable company, I’m going to push you to 10X because that’s what I need.
Joshua: And they just got investors who didn’t have that thesis. They got investors who are like, “Ah, if you build a successful company and you build positive cash flows, you can pay us out of cash flows over time.” Is the model of the investors they’ve found in that business. And however they structure it as kind of just the details. It’s really just alignment of what you want to build. And that’s I think just finding people whose investment strategy matches what your business strategy is.
Jim: Yeah. That’s actually very good point. Yeah. I wish the VCs were only looking for 10X. Now they’re looking for 1000X, right?
Joshua: Oh yeah.
Jim: And it’s, I’ll take a hundred losses, which has produced a whole bunch of garbage businesses. Oh wow. Different story for a different day. But yeah, finding people who are… what people might call slow capital. Capital that will pay off over long haul, but you’re not looking to get out in three to five years, three to seven years, typical venture capital timeframe is going to be a different pool of people. It might actually be people from the real business world as opposed the world of finance. I mean, people who build construction companies or farms or trucking companies, they typically don’t get rich real quick, not in two or three or four or five years. They build wealth over 25 years or sometimes multiple generations. And so people like that might actually be better sources of investors in a slow capital cash flow payout type business, as opposed to your traditional tech center VCs.
Joshua: Yeah. And I think that’s where the… One of the old, earlier ideas of Enspiral was like, “Oh, we don’t want to start a big corporation away. We want to create a network, but how do you have access to the talent in that network that you’ve got inside?” Like you’ve got the marketing and the legal and the accounting and the software, et cetera, so you can get access to people to collaborate on like projects, to stand up a project and then sort of swarm something and then walk away from it a bit. So more ephemeral type organizing was an idea at the beginning. It kind of worked a little bit, but the flip side of that is just, how do you just grow the wealth of that community? How do you help people earn more money, have a bit more to invest, so they have more crowdfunding oomph in them when people want crowdfund?
Joshua: I don’t think we ever really made that true. It was one of the ideas we tried to make true in the beginning, but it’s just… That’s a slow game. And a lot of people in Enspiral prioritized impact over wealth creation or wealth harvesting, or however you want to think about it. But one of the ideas was, oh, if we can just make this community of people who have their aligned values already a little bit more wealthy. Maybe they’ll have more oomph to self-finance ventures as they come through on terms, which everyone likes more. It was an idea. I think it’s still playing out to some extent. It might just it’s a slow burn that I was hoping for.
Jim: Yeah. It might be just sort thinking out loud because we’re wrestling with similar things in the Game B world. Our next level of growth is to actually create on the ground communities called proto bees. Some of which will have ventures associated with them. And one of the questions we ask ourselves is, how much is slow capital, like ventures built to provide sustainable cash flows and meaningful work to people for generations versus should we be in the business of building ventures to sell to increase our financial firepower essentially? And we don’t know the answer to that. Do you have any thoughts on that? I mean, that sort of getting at what you’re talking about there. If you guys had built some to sell, then you might actually been able to achieve your goal of building a community of people who had more financial firepower.
Joshua: Yeah. I think it’s also just… I don’t think there is a right answer. I just think both answers have different trade offs and that there will be different trade offs, upsides and downsides for building stuff to sell and different trade offs for building stuff to keep, in terms of speed, in terms of social dynamics, in terms of equality in the network, et cetera. One of the biggest things that… Well, one lesson I’ve got in the last 10 years, early on, like in inspire 1.0, it became very venture centric. We started this concept of ventures. We initially had a bunch of ventures giving equity to the foundation in the middle. We undid that because it didn’t have healthy dynamics it felt like and the way that service based businesses who were growing revenue and contributing cash, the dynamic with ventures who were giving equity, it just felt like we didn’t like it, so we basically gave all the equity back to the venture based businesses. So we became very venture centric. We started to think of ourselves as a decentralized incubator or accelerator in a way.
Joshua: What I found was that, and the idea was you start lots of ventures. As the big ones get successful, they’ll start to pay back to the community and contribute to it. I found that in Enspiral the community became less relevant to the ventures the more successful they became. As the venture became bigger with more people in it, it would be hiring people with a more formal process rather than just grab your friends and jump on something. And all those new people coming in, Enspiral wasn’t relevant to them. And so the venture over time became less sort of like Enspiral is really meaningful to us as a venture. In which case, there was a lot of reciprocity with the giving and receiving, and it became less relevant. And it sort of felt like you had to do artificial unnatural things to keep a value flow going.
Joshua: So the best thing was for the ventures, as they got bigger, to become more like alumnis of Enspiral where, “Oh, that’s where we went to college. We’ve got fun memories. We’ve got some relationships.” But it’s not like a deep reciprocity relationship with a big value exchange of people, money, leads, et cetera. That was what naturally happened with us as we grew the venture ecosystem. The way we responded was maybe 2015, 2016 or so we basically said Enspiral as a network of people. We’re not going to think about ventures as part of Enspiral so much and this is where I think some of our public coms has lagged behind internal conversations with each other where most people I know in Enspiral think of Enspiral as a network of people. Some of those people do ventures. Some of those people have jobs. Some of those people do freelancing. That’s beside the point. It’s really just about the people and how we help those people optimize their time and have the most impact and some of that’s got venture relationships in there. I don’t think we’ve got… we’ve properly resolved this conversation internally.
Joshua: I think we still talk about Enspiral ventures a little bit when really we are just a network of people, but that was how we responded to that dynamic, which was ventures became more successful. They drifted away. That felt natural and good. We don’t want to try and have callback mechanisms where there’s an unnatural flow of resources to the community. And it’s really just about stay in relationship with people and stay relevant to people rather than businesses.
Jim: Interesting. I will say in our Game B world, one of the things we have thought about is something kind of like your foundation, where it would help seed ventures, which would go their merry way and sort of have a family relationship, but not necessarily real time collaboration, but the foundation would still have say 15% economic interest in the spinoffs. And that could, particularly, if some of them are built to sell, produce a compounding growth and financial firepower. But your perspective was that didn’t seem natural as the separation started to occur. Is that fair to say?
Joshua: Yeah. And that’s the choice we made. And some of it was a conscious choice. Some of it was just, what’s kind of emerged, I think. And I don’t know how relevant that is to other people’s experiences. But where I got to was very much like, how do we keep Enspiral, the community relative to individuals as they progress throughout their careers. And maybe those individuals start to have more access to wealth and then I think it’s really, how does Enspiral stay important and relevant to those people and a meaningful place to contribute time, money, energy, et cetera? And I also found that it also… It created a community where, oh, you’re an entrepreneur or you are an investor or you are a freelancer or you are working for a government agency or you are working in a big corporate. All of that is welcomed. All of those are different personas. And how are you as an individual? What’s your strategy for changing the world? How can I help you as an individual with your strategy?
Joshua: And that’s where we started to emerge into, like we reflected… We realized the people who are happiest in Enspiral were part of healthy small teams. And this is where we started our sort of small team movement and this is where Rich has really taken it with microsolidarity as well, is just this idea of like, sure. Invite people to a big community, give them that wider context. But the top priority, whenever I invite someone to Enspiral is like, “Cool, how do I help them find a meaningful value exchange with people in this community?” Whether it’s ideas or time or money or leads or opportunities, but something which is meaningful for different parties. So you want to find their meaningful value exchanges. You also find what’s the small team they can belong to over a period of time, have relationships which are deepening with every interaction?
Joshua: And if you can get those two things happening, they’ll probably be happy and they’ll get value from the community. Whereas when you start to miss either one of those things, it becomes more likely that they’ll say, “Oh, Enspiral I joined, didn’t see much.” That was something I did.
Jim: Yeah. Like Rich’s idea of crews, small team five or six people, something like that. That seems to make a lot of sense, particularly for early stage ventures. Those, in my conversation with him, I pointed out there are some ventures which inherently require a lot more than five or six people. I mean, there are ventures that require 200 people to execute on them. And so when you’re choosing a small team based approach, you’re sort of ruling out a whole lot of potential projects that require bigger teams and some deeper form of collaboration. And he agrees. He says, at the moment, he’s just focusing on crews. He does believe there needs to be a way to orchestrate crews for higher level things like, “How are we going to get to the stars?” You’re not going to get there with five man teams, but you might get there as a constellation of five person teams who are coordinating themself in some fashion, which we don’t yet fully understand.
Joshua: And to me, that’s where like… The question is, well, what’s the intention of that organization? Like if you’re trying to build spaceship, that’s an intention there and you’ll need to structure an organization of a certain way to build spaceships, capital people, et cetera. If you are trying… And saying Enspiral’s not in the business of being a business in a way. It’s a community. It’s funding model, is individuals who get value from Enspiral, chip in a little bit, like the way you do a club or association. You structure the economics so that that’s enough to pay for the energy needed to keep the community coherent. And in that way, it’s like, “Yeah, if you need to own spaceships do that.” But the idea of Enspiral is to… Sometimes I think of it as like an intentional contributor collider. How do you have this selection process and this attraction process where people who could have meaningful economic relationships with each other can bump into each other?
Joshua: Like maybe you can meet your future co-founder there. Maybe you can meet a future… someone you will hire, or someone who will hire you. How can you find collaborators on freelance projects? How can you find people who’ve got ideas which will inspire you and change your career. That’s kind of the purpose of it. And so in that way, I just want people to bump into each other. And if they do want to launch a spaceship company, sure. Go launch a spaceship company. Structure it however you want. Finance it however you want. Hopefully some people in Enspiral will help you meaningfully in that journey so that we just sort of nudge more people so that they’ve got opportunities to work on the stuff the world most needs and the stuff they most want to work on.
Jim: You mentioned collision. So that’s a good time to branch into face-to-face or virtual or both?
Joshua: One of the reflections I’ve had about what worked for us in Enspiral 0.1 and 1.0 and 2.0, et cetera, was we had six monthly retreats that which were in person. And it was the people who showed up to those retreats and they were three or four days quite transformative, a lot of gathering culture and facilitators hosted those experiences. It’s where a lot of us grew in terms of our relationships with each other, but also individually. And so without them no Enspiral. I’m sure of. Those face-to-face gatherings were what built our community. And so one of the heuristics I had at the time, use in person to establish relationships and use online to maintain them.
Jim: Ah, yeah, it’s my theory of strong weeks and weak links, that online is inherently weak links and face-to-face tends to be strong links. And if you can establish strong links in meet space, then you can leverage them in the virtual world and then the quality of the virtual relationships are much stronger.
Joshua: Yeah. Because I’ve seen a few, I guess, gathering cultures and communities where you get to the gathering you meet, you said transformative, you’ve got a good relationship with people. You disperse, you come back again in the future and it’s in a community… And like Burning Man’s a good example of that, of like this big community who’ve gathered because of this transformative experience they have regularly. And one of the things in Enspiral was like, what if we intentionally create reasons for people to spend time with each other between the gatherings? And the best way to do that is pay them to work on stuff, whether they’re commercial opportunities or startups or projects, et cetera. And so I think you can also do intentional design so that people have reasons to collaborate and they have enough incentives and motivations to collaborate and then go to the next gathering cetera. And so we’ve kept that rhythm of six monthly gatherings in Wellington since 2011 and I don’t think that rhythm’s been broken. And sometimes it’s got different dynamics to it, but that gatherings was central to who we were.
Jim: How did you do that during COVID? I’m curious.
Joshua: I think we just got lucky with the timing in New Zealand in that the first, the 2020 gathering, it happened just before COVID launched and everyone went into lockdown. By the time we hit the winter gathering in New Zealand, New Zealand had gone through its lockdown and we were essentially COVID free because of the country. I think Europe had to cancel a bunch of gatherings. I know Melbourne has had to cancel a bunch of gatherings. So the New Zealand community was fortunate to keep that string unbroken. The other communities were like, they’re still restricted by how they can gather and whether they can gather. And think that, yeah, so luck for Wellington people.
Jim: Interesting. So let’s talk a little about the geography. You mentioned the Wellington people, the Melbourne people, the Europe people. As Enspiral has grown. Initially was all New Zealand people, as I understand it and then you built nodes out in these other locations. What did that do culturally? And do you consider it one big family or do you consider it kind of a loosely coupled confederation?
Joshua: Yeah. So ironically early Enspiral was very international. I think on the homepage when I was building this program in cooperative, we had a live counter of how many people, how many countries, how many cities. And I think we had people in like six countries in the middle of that 0.1 figure period. I was very excited about remote working and finding people wherever they were to collaborate with on consulting projects. So we had a lot of clients who I’d never met in person and a lot of contributors or freelancers who I’d never met in person as well. It was very fast and loose and probably a little bit irresponsible in how loosely people recruited into that. So there was this big international push. So from the early days I had people like in Byron Bay, in Hong Kong, there were some people who translated Enspiral the name into Chinese and said, “Okay, let’s use this in Hong Kong.”
Joshua: And there were all these people like, “I want to start Enspiral where I am as a local chapter.” Everyone of them fizzled. It didn’t work at all. And it was a little bit like, I just think a fission or like energy which were wasn’t sustainable. And so where we got to was like, as we grew the community, people would naturally move around, because we had mostly young people, a lot of people through life reasons, just moved to different places. We had a bunch of people from Melbourne who were excited about Enspiral so started making trips to New Zealand for our retreats. And then they got excited about building a community in Melbourne. We also had some people from New Zealand who moved to Melbourne. And so there’s four or five key people there who are kind of like they’ve been in Enspiral as individuals. They are now living in the same place and now they’re thinking about, “I wonder if we’re going to build a location based community.”
Joshua: The European folks are very intentionally like, “We want to build a cluster in Europe.” And so as people who are in the network move and meet others, they want to start communities where they are and that’s kind of where we’re at the moment. I don’t think anyone knows what will be in terms of, will it be a loose confederation where there’s a name Enspiral and it’s very loosely held or will it be a very tight confederation where we’ve got quite meaningful value exchanges between the communities? Some narratives in the network that I’ve seen and I’ve been part of was like, we got really excited. I got really excited and some other people did too about, “Oh, we’ve sort of figured out this model where we really love this community of 150 people we’ve made and we’re demonstrably changing people’s lives and doing useful things with people over a multi-year period, what if there were lots of these communities who we had relationships with? And maybe some of them are called Enspiral and some are not, but what if we had meaningful community-community relationships?”
Joshua: And we started to think about things like annual conferences or convergences, where we all go rent a bunch of houses in some place in the world and have people from all these different communities come and meet and interact with each other. We had lots of ideas about formal ambassadors in other people’s communities where it’s like, “Oh, let’s trade ambassadors so that we all know what’s going on a little bit.” And we tried stuff like that. I wouldn’t say it’s active at the moment, but what I think is active is people in the core of Enspiral go to different places, meet different people. Some of those people say I would like to host a local community and they have the energy, the resourcing and the skills to effectively facilitate that community. And then we are seeing a couple of nodes growing.
Joshua: So there’s one in Europe. That’s the biggest. There’s another in Melbourne, that’s the smallest and there’s one in Wellington in New Zealand, which is the OG sort of crowd. And interestingly, sometimes I’ve noticed less energy in Wellington and more energy in Europe because all these people got exciting building energy there, and there’s more different hosting. And sometimes Wellington can be a bit sleepy and other times it wakes up more. It’s interesting to see how that changes.
Jim: Cool. Yeah. Sounds, like you’re doing it in exploration mode. Let’s see what happens kind of thing. Right. You’re adding a great doctor in one way or the other.
Joshua: I think that’s the essence of Enspiral is like, let’s have lots of ideas and let’s not be afraid to try stuff. And if it doesn’t work, let’s stop doing it and let’s keep the stuff that does work and just kind of iterate on that, which is I think that’s worked really well for us and I expect we’ll keep doing that as long as we’re called Enspiral.
Jim: Cool. Let’s talk about one of those things, an idea, Golden Panda. What is it? And talk a little bit about the trajectory.
Joshua: So when I was talking about we noticed the people in Enspiral were the happiest when they were in small groups, we started this idea of pods and it was like, “Oh, let’s make a small team.” I had a bad habit and some of us had a bad habit of making up names for stuff. And so instead of calling them small teams or whatever, we called them pods because we wanted to open up a name space and so better or worse, we called them pods. Some of them were like learning communities. So we have at the moment, there are some people who host a pod formation process. Every six months or so they say, “Hey, we’re forming a new round of these things. If you want to host one, put your hand up. If you want to join one, here’s the list, hit them up and you might join the small team.” And some of them are reading a book together. Some of them are talking about particular ideas. Some of them are just like, “We just a peer support pod and help people with whatever they’re working on.”
Joshua: Usually they’re the five to eight things. So they’re very closely matched to Richard’s crews in Microsolidarity. And some of them are more meaningful. We had this idea of livelihood pods, which was like, “Oh, we’d shut down Enspiral Services. This big cooperative of freelancers. We didn’t like the model. We shut it down. Maybe we can have these small cooperatives of 3, 4, 5, 6 people who essentially pull their income and talk about how they want to allocate it amongst them.” Because that’s a hard problem to solve with 30 people. It’s a much easier problem to solve with three or four people. So Golden Panda started its life as a livelihood pod. Me and three other people who were doing quite different things in quite different time zones said, “Let’s take all of our consulting income and so on. Let’s put it in the middle. Let’s start to pay each other the same salary.” I think we did. “And let’s have a bit left over where we decide what we’re going to do with it.”
Joshua: So it’s kind of like the essence of the consulting company, but just on a small scale. So micro co-ops would be one way to think of them. Livelihood pods is the word we used as a… Because one of the things I really liked about the early days was like, you had some really good, I guess, social support where it’s like, “Oh, if someone didn’t have a contract, you would give them some work from this core pool to work on some internal things.” And so you’ve got this smoother sort of income, which was quite hard to manage with lots of people, but with a few number of people, you could also do things like, “Okay, people could try different things.”
Joshua: So Golden Pandas, we’re a livelihood pod. We tried to do a bunch of different ventures around. We did a lot of, I guess, soft management consulting work. We eventually said we don’t want to be a livelihood pod anymore mostly because we were all in different time zones. We were all in different sort of fields. The amount of cohesion wasn’t sufficient to keep that particular group together. I know some people who did start livelihood pods around that time who were still going as a livelihood pod. I know some others who have started a livelihood pod and then morphed into a more traditional consulting company. So there are some people who… We were just experimenting. We tried some things.
Joshua: So Golden Pandas stopped being a livelihood pod and then we’re like, but we really like this peer support of this. So we basically became a little bit of like investment pod together. We kept chipping in money. So we paid a subscription to the company. Then we started sort of investing it and pulling it a little bit more. And at the moment, we’re just going through the process of shutting it down where we’re saying like, “Ah, the overheads of running this company aren’t worth the gains of it.” So the company itself is closing down and we are moving towards just like an unregistered pod where, “Hey, we like…” We like connecting with each other regularly and doing some coaching. So Golden Pandas is reaching end of its life as a commercial entity. And it was a really good learning experience. Tried lots of things, learned lots of things. And I’m really happy to shut down the administration of just another company that I’m involved in. I’m celebrating that one.
Joshua: But also the people who have been on that journey with me, we’re great friends and we still connect and we still get a lot of value from just like coaching each other about what’s going on in our sort of professional and personal lives.
Jim: Another good example of experimentation. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they don’t work, but they work, right? As you might say, right?
Joshua: And I would just say most of the time they don’t work. Very few experiments have gone on to be like in a lineage like, “Oh, this thing started and that continued and it continued and now it’s successful, but more often, it’s like, the things which are successful are inspired by the failed experiments.
Jim: Makes sense. One of the things you mentioned when you’re describing Golden Panda was that you experimented with the idea of equal payouts. How did that work? How well did it work and what was sort of the cultural pluses and minuses?
Joshua: Testing my memory a bit here. I think it felt okay. And it wasn’t the core sense of friction between us. The thing which didn’t work so well was everyone was working on… There wasn’t enough opportunity to collaborate commercially amongst the four people in Golden Pandas. The contracts we were doing, there was some collaboration, but there was small. And so the conclusion I took away with was like, I still think livelihood pods or micro co-ops or whatever you call them is a good idea. I still like the idea of being part of them, like as a freelancer, if you’re just doing your own work, a lot of people do that, but there’s some advantages to doing that with a group of people. So my takeaway was you need to have people who are freelancing in the same sphere, they’re doing the same type of work for the same type of clients and they’re doing that remote. Like they’re doing that all around the world, or you’ve got people who are doing different work with different clients, but they’re doing it in the same time zone and they meet up in face-to-face regularly.
Joshua: We had neither. And I think that’s where there wasn’t enough oomph to keep Golden Pandas together. I think if we had been all in the same time zone, all meeting up for like a regular weekly and a regular monthly kind of thing, even if we were doing very different stuff, I think it would’ve been had enough cohesion to keep going as before, or if we were doing the same type of… we were programmers or we were all management consultants and we were doing that internationally different time zones, then I think there would’ve been enough oomph to keep it together. So that’s my conclusion on that experiment.
Jim: Yeah. Makes sense. I happen to know a little group locally here that by your metric should have good prospects of the future, is that they’re all physically in one place, though some of them work from home some days and they have probably 50% of their revenue comes from one anchor client who they all work for. So that provides a fair amount of coherence, but they also have individual tasks and sometimes two of them are on one contract, sometimes just one. And so they have some of both essentially of what you’re talking about.
Joshua: Yeah, no, it’s great. And the other reflection I’ve got on that is that, because if you look at the traditional family business model of a consulting company, you often have the people who started it and they’ve got equity and then you have a bunch of people who show up and maybe they get promoted to partner level and maybe they get a smaller slice and they got a bunch of people who are sort of on salary. And it’s a really common form you see in the economic for financial world. What I started to think about when we are doing these different livelihood co-op sort of things is like, “Ah, are there some people who have a different level of engagement, ownership, responsibility, impact than others? And how does that get reflected in the way that you structure things?” Because expecting everyone to be just like equal ownership, equal commitment and so on, it doesn’t really work. Some people just show up and they’re just here for six months or 12 months and they just want to earn some money. They don’t want to take responsibility.
Joshua: This ties back into my bigger reflections around self management in general and people who want to take responsibility and act like adults and people who want to have more of a parent-child relationship with authority figures.
Jim: Yeah. Talk about that a little bit more in this particular case. And I’m thinking of the original founders all have equal equity, but some of the additional people they’ve added on either come in with much less equity, or as you say are, “Hey, I’m just a role player. I’m here to get paid.” So clearly people differ on that continuum, but why don’t you rap on a little bit about that, the difference between people who want to take responsibility and people who don’t? Because I think about even my own life, as a startup entrepreneur, there are obviously times I took responsibility and enjoyed taking responsibility, but there are other times in my life I was looking for a paycheck, so it’s not unreasonable for people to fill either kind of role.
Joshua: I think it’s highly contextual as well. It’s not as case of people’s personality indicates they’re going to act one way or another. I think a lot of it’s about their stage of life, what they’re up for with this particular project. And also how that project is configured. Because if you think about people who are just there for a paycheck, often that’s because they don’t have the opportunity to earn meaningful equity, et cetera. And so the way they respond is… It’s not just because that’s their choice and that’s who they are. Some of the biggest things I’ve… Because we did so much work on just like non-hierarchical organizing. How do you work without bosses? How do you sort of decentralize power? And one of the most useful, I guess narratives I had internally was that a lot of people are conditioned to basically show up to a community and say, “Okay, who’s in charge? I’m going to find who’s in charge and I’m going to orientate around them.’.
Joshua: It’s just like one of our biggest social heuristics and some of it’s quite innate to being human and some of it’s deeply conditioned by school, work, and family, et cetera. Someone told me a story about like, “Oh, they’re looking for a parent-child relationship. They’re trying to act like a child and relate to a parent where the parent knows more than they do has more access to resources than they do, has more power than they do. And also more responsibility than they do. And they’re unconsciously act looking for a relationship where I am a child, you are a parent. That means I have less knowledge. I have less responsibility. I have less access to resources.” And so it’s like you can see a victim mentality naturally emerge in that space where it’s like, “I want a permission seeking mentality. I will do something, but first I will ask an adult for permission.” Is deeply conditioned in all of us from childhood.
Joshua: And so when people are engaging like permission seeking activity or they’re orientating around that thing, often I would start to think about, “Okay, if someone is in childlike patterns, how do you invite them into adult like behavior?” And likewise, if someone is in parental type patterns, how do you invite them into adult like behavior? And it’s really culturally challenging to get people to be comfortable with being in an adult to adult relationship where I’m not taking responsibility for you, but I’m not abdicating responsibility for you either. It takes a lot of personal maturity to do that. And a lot of what I thought about with Enspiral and designing a lot of our systems was like, “How is everything nudging people into an adult to adult relationship instead of parent child relationships?”
Jim: That’s a very insight. That’s a new formulation to me, but it makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. As you, no doubt know, there have been a number of attempts to systematize non-hierarchical management, things like holacracy, sociocracy, et cetera. And so I guess a two part question. One, have you looked at those alternatives on one side? And two, have you written down your process someplace that you could share with other folks?
Joshua: Yes. We absolutely engaged with sociocracy and holacracy and a lot of the methodologies we’ve bumped into. And I think there’s a… It’s felt like there’s been a renaissance in sort of decentralized management culture over the last 10 years. And one of the reasons why I’m attracted to the crypto space at the moment is some of people who are doing decentralized organizing doing that with smart contracts and DAOs and so on. And there’s a lot of garbage there, but there’s also a bunch of interesting things which I see as an intersection and a bumping endpoint. My personal philosophy with every one of those management theories is just like use it as a picking ground for practices. Don’t try and look from it. I’ve never found any of those methodologies to be sufficient for what we want to do, but I have found them very rich for individual practices, resources and ideas.
Joshua: But I also say that, that’s not unique. I’ve got a lot of inspiration from military theory and how military organize themselves. And there’s a lot of stuff I don’t like about that, but there’s also some really good practical ideas just to copy. I’ve got a bunch from agile software development and the technical space and a lot of stuff from entrepreneurship and a lot of things from how religious organizations organize themselves culturally. You can draw inspiration from pretty much anywhere there are humans. And I just encourage anyone who’s interested in designing or curating alternative forms of power culture, et cetera, to cast a wide net, to take inspiration from any way you want and weave it together in a way that makes sense for you based off sort of practical results from trying things. I don’t think there’s one ideology or theory, which is mature enough just to copy wholesale.
Jim: Do you have a compendium or an online resource of how you guys did it, that people might be able to use as one of those places to look?
Joshua: We’ve intentionally tried to open source as much as we can. So one is the Handbook at Enspiral. So handbook.inspire.com. That is where we’ve written down a lot of our formal agreements in the community and some guides about how we do things and just tried to surface more little nuggets that other people might find value in. We also wrote a book called Better Work Together. I think 12 of us, 10 of us, something like that, authored a chapter each. And that was a lot of about our reflections and experiences of growing in Enspiral.
Jim: Great. That’s a good place for people to look because as you say… I’m the same, I’ve looked at a lot of these things and there’s not a one I’ve seen yet says I’m going to adopt this hook line and sinker. On the other hand, I found great ideas in many of them. So it’s a good thing to do is to look around and see what other people are doing and pick and choose what you think might work for you, put it together and see what happens and evolve and adapt and learn on the fly. It’s basically all we can do at this point. But let’s move on to your current, as I understand it, one of your main activities is the Dev Academy. Tell me a little bit about the history of that and where it’s at and what the special sauce is there at the Dev Academy?
Joshua: So essentially it’s a programming bootcamp for immersive programming training course, and we try and take people from never programming to 15 weeks later, having enough skills to get a job as a junior developer for a tech company. So it’s very much in education sort of space. There’s a lot of these that launched around the 2010s or so in the US. Programming bootcamps are kind of all around the world now. We partnered with one of them called Dev Bootcamp and learned their methodology and curriculum in 2013 or so and we launched in 2014. And so it’s essentially cohort based education where we have about 20 students in about four or five teachers. And we run them through a prep phase for five weeks and then an immersive nine week bootcamp, which is just like spend all your time coding.
Joshua: And we tried to cut out as much waste as we can in the education space. So that instead of learning things, just in case you’ll need them one day, you learn things that you’ll definitely need tomorrow kind of thing. So it’s all about giving them the skills where they can get enough skill that someone will essentially hire them to continue learning and that’s the sort of strategy of it. So we’ve been doing that for eight years. I think we’ve done 70 something cohorts now. We’re getting up to our thousandth person will graduate tomorrow evening and so it’s definitely a journey… We learned a lot about integrating with New Zealand government education funding and all that sort of thing. Team of about 30 people now and that’s been the main venture that I’ve been involved in for the last seven or eight years.
Jim: Yeah. What have you learned about what works and what doesn’t? Because that seems to me a very interesting way to up regulate people’s economic capability, take somebody who maybe a college dropout or has a degree in medieval history or something and turn them into a tolerable entry level dev in 15 weeks. That’s pretty remarkable.
Joshua: Yeah. One of the most useful things for me is being [inaudible 01:04:28]. There’s a lot of research about how to optimize learning environments. If people are laughing, they’re going to be learning faster. I have gotten funnier with every cohort, at least my perception of my humor’s increased. More seriously I would say there’s a great line from the game of tennis, in like the seventies where a tennis coach was having students who were studying with him for six weeks, being students who studied with someone else for six months and this idea has changed pretty much everything about how we think about education. Most students who were studying tennis or learning tennis didn’t learn how to play tennis. They learned how to chase the ball. The way that he got better results he just cut away chasing the ball.
Joshua: So this is a shorthand for us. Whenever we’re looking at what a student is actually doing in their day to day work, we ask ourselves, are they learning how to code or are they just chasing the ball? And whenever they’re chasing the ball, we find ways to cut it away. So essentially it’s a way of removing waste in education. And a lot of this comes down to, what do they need to know? What do they really need to be able to do to add value? And what can they backfill later on? Like if you look at say data structures and sorting algorithms, it’s traditional computer science 101 to learn that stuff first. You don’t need it unless you are designing sorting algorithms. If you are a real programmer in the workforce, you, you will use someone else’s sorting algorithm. You’ll download a library and just use it and you don’t really need to know how it works.
Joshua: You need to know that it’s a domain you could learn and it’s good mental exercise, but if you’re training a programmer to get a job, that’s something you can just cut away, straight away. And likewise, if you look at things that traditionally aren’t taught in computer science, one would be like source control. It’s like using get and source control and version control and so on. You don’t really learn that. You learn that on the job. And it’s one of the things which increases the barrier for onboarding a junior dev is like, “Oh, they’ve never used git? Okay, I’ve got to teach them some basic things now.” So when you’re looking at more traditional education, we just try and cut away the stuff, which is not necessary to be productive while still pointing to it and saying you need to learn this, because as a dev, you’re going to be learning for the rest of your career.
Joshua: So yep. Do the online computer science things and backfill a lot of that knowledge, but do it once you got a job rather than spending money and spending time to do it before you get paid by someone. And so removing waste is probably one of the biggest things and learning just how much waste there is in education, because I always thought it took three years to train a programmer. And if you look at someone who’s self-taught over one year, you’d be really skeptical of what they could do. And it wasn’t until I was in San Francisco, seeing the Dev Bootcamp grads present their projects of like 15 weeks of education and they’re presenting stuff I would be happy if my junior dev shipped and the level of like code quality and testing they were doing on things was just like… I was like, “Wow, I had no idea it could be done that fast.” It gave me a lot of hope of just around like, “Ah, if you just lean into it and really try, you can cut down a lot of waste.”
Joshua: I also learned a lot about the reason why that hasn’t been done before is because of like institutional inertia, the way universities are funded, the way education’s done, the way it’s a ticket of cultural progression in a way rather than a preparation for work was… And this is gets into the vocation versus academic sort of things. But a lot of those institutions evolved in a very different context where it’s like, you can’t just go online and find access to pretty much all the world’s information, so having a longer period of horizon broadening education through books kind of makes sense. So that’s some of it.
Joshua: I would also say that the more we’ve grown in the business, the less wacky and experimental we’ve become. And this comes into when I’m working with our students, we often think about learning versus performing. In a learning environment you’ll take more risks, you’ll throw away your work. You are just focused on your skill development. In a performing environment, you kind of care about the result and you will sacrifice your learning in order to perform well. And most ventures are more performing environments than learning ones. And Enspiral is designed as a learning environment. It’s like, “Ah, don’t really care. I don’t care as much about how well Enspiral performs. I kind of care about how much we learn and how much we grow as individuals.” And initially with the Dev Academy, I brought too much of that energy to the business, tried too many things, too much waste, too much [inaudible 01:08:20].
Joshua: And we kind of became a little bit more traditional every year where it still deeply kept true to our values around social impact and wellbeing and looking after our staff and students and so on, but it also, we just took less risks when doing things. Took smaller risks and really just scale up the things which worked for performance rather than for learning.
Jim: When you say performance versus learning, maybe I’m not quite reading correctly what you’re saying, because if I want to hire a entry level dev, I want them to have learned a bunch of things because my project is probably not likely to be the same project they did as a student project when I think performance. So could you unpack that for me a little bit? Maybe I’m misinterpreting what you mean when you say learning versus performance. So I want them to be sufficiently knowledgeable. I want them to have done actual projects. They know what it means to get shit done. On the other hand, the fact that they did project X, which is almost entirely not like my project is much less important than the skills, the insights and techniques that they mastered along the way.
Joshua: Absolutely. So for our students, it’s all about learning and it’s about zero performance during bootcamp. I kind of don’t care what they build. They’re going to throw it all away and it’s all about how they grow and how their skills grow. And the most important skill is how to learn and how to be comfortable showing up to at technology and not knowing how it works and then learning enough to make it work and do what you need to do. And so that ability to get comfortable and also to get good at, “Oh, it doesn’t take you two weeks to engage with something for the first time and ship something. Maybe you can do it in a week or three days and you can orientate quickly into in unfamiliar environments.” That’s the skill I most care about in our grads. When I talk about learning, performing, I’m talking more about the soft end of business. So for the business, I care more about us performing well rather than innovating or making up new stuff.
Jim: Okay. Okay. Okay. Sorry. That’s what I thought because I figured I must be misreading what you were saying because I was reading that you were teaching the students with respect to proving their performance rather than their learning. And I said, that seems sort of asked backwards to me. That does not sound like what you’re trying to do.
Jim: You’re talking about your own operation and that makes much more sense, which, as you mature, you experimented a bunch and now you’ve started to come in back to the exploration versus exploitation. You’ve learned enough that you know how to do what you do well. Now I’m going to ask you a dumb question. I’m a sporadic programmer these days where maybe once every two years I’ll strap on some course. I mean, something that I want to do. And the most recent, fairly big projects, I wrote a mobile game called Network Wars that’s actually doing pretty well surprisingly. It took me about two months and I was just programming every day for two months for about four hours. And I actually, oddly chose to use a language I’d never used before C#, close enough to some other languages I’d use that wasn’t particularly big barrier. But as a sporadic programmer, I live and die by Googling for things. Do you formally teach devs how to use Google as the developer’s friend?
Joshua: Absolutely. And I would say that like learning how to quickly sift through the world’s information to find the thing you want and how to back out of a relevant paths and find the thing you want is a core skill. I don’t think we teach it like academic, like do step one, do step three, do step four. We just do it a bunch and we model it a bunch and we normalize it and say, when you need to do something you’ve never done before, the first thing you do is search for examples. And then we try and help them develop a taste for like, this feels like a bad example I’m going to walk away from. This feels like a promising one. And how do you quickly pass that information is we train like vocationally rather than academically.
Jim: I love that. Because that’s to your point that we’re living a new world. When I was learning to program in 1971, the professor just threw FORTRAN IV manual on the desk and said, read it kid. And they just started hacking away and then they tossed a little bit. But with the world of Google, I mean, how much code do you get from like… I get lots of code from just examples in Medium articles and stuff, cut and paste, boom, boom, bam. Done. And that is actually… I was interested. It sounds like you guys are on that, that this is actually a core skill, particularly for an early dev when your fingers don’t yet know everything they need to know, right?
Jim: And even when they do, most of the interesting problems have been solved by somebody before and so orchestrating the intellect of the world is actually a core skill in being a dev.
Joshua: Yeah. One thing I’d say is the first thing I teach our students is never copy and paste code you don’t understand. It’s like, “Yep. Copy paste it only if you understand every line of it. If you don’t do that, type it out and learn as you go.” Because otherwise you can just really hurt yourself in the future. And so learning like, when do you copy and paste? When do you not? I’d say is a key part of like, “Yes, that is good. I understand it. I will use it.” Versus, “Oh, I’m going to slow down and I’m going to spend some time researching so I don’t dig a pit for myself.” But also it’s a case of like, this is where I think… Where I took a lot of inspiration from technology is that open source where it’s like, you take your best ideas, you share them with the world has made the field go so fast because you just get this evolutionary pace, which is incredible as opposed to, “I’m going to take my best ideas and hide them and keep them secret.” Which is where most industries actually work.
Joshua: And so I think helping more industries work in that space, and this is why we were so committed to publishing our stories and sharing what we learned in open source because I think the more people are doing that in alternative management sort of spaces, sharing their best ideas, making them easy for people to copy. Because if you publish it and no one reads it, because you published it poorly. Or if, because the way you’ve explained it is not easy to copy. It’s like it creates more friction between the ideas sharing around.
Joshua: I was really inspired by agile where a lot of people they put up a big tent and a right of level of abstraction about a manifesto. And then people just started having all these practices and it became really messy, but people were kind of just copying practices from each other, calling it agile, rather than all doing the same thing. And a lot of great stuff got developed by that movement.
Jim: Indeed. And ecosystems really matter. One of the things I’ve just been amazed at is the power of the Python ecosystem because it’s so oriented towards sharing an open source and… Good friend of mine, Peter Wang is the CEO of Anaconda, which has been an amazingly powerful player in the Python space and encouraging an open source ethos across the whole system, et cetera, and has allowed Python to come on over the last 18 or 20 years or so from being a kind of obscure… I first learned about it when I was at the Santa Fe Institute was used by people, kind of same way you use Pearl or something as a power… And that’s how I learned it is essentially a better form of Pearl. And now it’s this unbelievable power tool across all kinds of domains, particularly in data analysis and AI. And a lot of that’s around the ethos and culture of sharing.
Joshua: Yeah, absolutely. And this is where I think… Like you can look at the technology itself, but it’s also the community around it is like a living organism in a way. And one of the things that I often thought about with organizations is like, “Okay, you’ve got your systems, your structures, your rules, your agreements, your crystallized formal processes in a way.” And you could take one group of people and put them with that experience or with that crystallized structure and that would have a very different outcome than if you took a different group of people with exactly the same structure, which is where… One of the phrases that comes from Maori in New Zealand is around the people who built the house are built by the house. I observe that so strongly with Enspiral where the people who evolved in Enspiral were changed by that process together. And it’s the combination of those two interplays, which make something alive and organic so that it’s not like…
Joshua: And this is where it becomes so important. Like, oh yeah, you can copy practices. You can copy the crystallized structures from other groups, but it’s the human grapple and evolution with them, which actually makes your living organization what it is. And I think it’s the same at a big scale with like, Hey Python, you can’t really separate Python at all from Python the community. The two interact with each other in a really meaningful way, which is also what I’m seeing in the blockchain space where it’s like… Because you’ve got smart contracts which is software, and you’ve got people and it’s like the interactions between the cultural and the technical is what creates different sort of possibilities. And so it’s fascinating just treating groups of humans like living organisms rather than like mechanical structures. They’re grown, not built.
Jim: Absolutely. Perfect transition. We’re getting close to the end of our time and I wanted to leave a little bit of time to talk about your adventures in crypto. Your Twitter handle, you’ve changed to joshuavial.eth. I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. Tell us a little bit about your excursions into crypto land, why it’s interesting to you and what you’ve learned so far.
Joshua: As a long term technologist, crypto was pitched to me as like, ah, web one, we organized the world’s information. Web two, we started to build an internet of relationships and you saw social media and all that. And web two was also captured by the corporates, Facebook, Google, et cetera. They dominated and they pushed out the free anarchic web one kind of vibe. And the thing about web three people saying is like, “Hey, we’ve built the internet of money. You can now build programmable money.” So as a technologist, open banking was around for a while or like pitched to a while. “Hey, you can API to your bank account. You can write code and you can interact with your money.” It never really happened because banks weren’t really interested in doing it. And it’s still chipping away, but as a programmer, I can’t get an API into a lot of that stuff.
Joshua: I can get an API access to all the blockchain things. So I can actually write code, which influences and moves that money around or money like stuff in a way I’ve never been able to do. So just as a technologist, that’s interesting to me. But the other pitch was maybe in web three, we can not have the corporates win and we can have citizens win and own and govern the thing. And like, “Oh, what if Facebook, you actually governed how they worked and you had a binding vote over what Facebook could do or could not do. And as a regular user, you controlled that system rather than some corporates control that system and did bad stuff to extract rent from a whole bunch of the world’s population.” That seemed exciting to me. And so that got me to sort of pay attention and dive in.
Joshua: Then when you start to see like the intersection between technology and code and communities evolving together, like I mentioned before, that was interesting. And then you… This whole bunch of speculation and noise and get rich quick rubbish, which you kind of… Just had to put blinkers on. Whenever you see that kind of behavior, you just go, “Okay, that’s not interesting. Move along.” They are building out a huge amount of technical stuff though, as they try and do these random, get rich, quick schemes and whatnot. But programmable digital money is still in the mix. Like when you hear NFTs, you often think about JPEGs and stupid stuff, but when I hear NFTs, I think about programmable digital property where you can start to have digital property, which you can write code to influence. We can do stuff completely differently. And so I think that amongst all this speculation and hype, there is a massive amount of real value being created, which I find fascinating. Because one, I’ve heard…
Joshua: I think Rich described Enspiral as like, “Oh, we tried to do a DAO before you had smart contracts.” That distributed autonomous organization movement about how do you have autonomy and lots of things and people working together without having a boss and arching permission and follow the protocol, not permission kind of thing? That ethos rhymes with Enspiral quite a lot and also a lot of the culture of it feels very, a lot of animosity between what we value. So I just started paying attention. I think it was probably Bitcoin that got me over the line where the Bitcoin crew was talking, how do we fund digital public goods? And one way I thought about Enspiral in the early days was like voluntary taxation. How do you have people who contribute to a commons or a community based thing because they value what it stands for?
Joshua: And Bitcoin is trying to do that for the whole of the blockchain space where it’s like, “Hey everyone, this stuff is only possible because of all the open source tech people have built, because of all the public goods people have created that everyone benefits from. You should all chip in to fund this.” And they’re kind of trying to make funding digital public goods, cool or in my language, they’re trying to make voluntary taxation cool rather than just private gain and they’re succeeding. Every round they’re doing, they’re getting more money going towards funding, open source developers to build digital tech.
Joshua: And so I saw a lot of value alignment between what the Bitcoin crew were doing. So I started showing up there and engaging in that community and getting inspired by it. And then I just started finding these communities and niches, like there was an art collective called [Ecodel 01:20:23] who were trying to get artists funded to make art for environmental impact, made some money for an environmental cause, create art, which sort of makes points about, and then that’s quite close to my heart. Initially what got me on the whole journey of sort of a more social impact was an art exhibition in Paris, where there was this photography stuff, which just changed the course of my life. And it was this artist talking about ecological ideas, which made me say, “Huh, maybe there’s more to life than just making money and making tech. Maybe I need to make an impact in the world too.”
Joshua: And that art exhibition changed in my life. So seeing a DAO and a group of people saying let’s fund artists to make ecological art, I find that quite meaningful and I want to show up to that group. And it’s a not for profit art so it’s quite different and so on. And then just finding other niches and developers and so on. Also, seeing a whole bunch of our graduates through Dev Academy, as new technologists saying, “Ooh, I’d like to learn about some blockchain stuff. I’ve heard about it for reasons.” And I started a crypto coding club to help them learn more about it. So that’s kind of what’s got me interested.
Joshua: I’ve heard people pitch quite big ideas, such as corporations have shaped the last 400 years of our society and limited liability companies were an idea which did not exist at some stage and they grew to be one of the dominant paradigms or forces on this planet. Maybe DAOs are an evolution of that and they’ll be the big thing which shifts the way humans collaborate over the next 400 years. And the idea of having protocols or money or things you can engage with where you’re not applying for a job and you are engaging in communities in very different ways, that seems interesting. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems. I don’t think it’s untrue. It might be possible. So there’s all that stuff sort of bubbling around and it just seems like quite an interesting opportunity to…
Joshua: One of the things I learned from Enspiral was the stuff we did, it works really well for a 200 person community and I don’t think you just do more of that stuff to get to a 2000 person community. I think you have to do quite different stuff. And my sense is that even if all of the blockchain space goes mad and does stuff I don’t like, the tech they build will be useful for me to use to do things like engage with and participate in building 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 person networks or whatever we call them, entities, which have a significant amount of financial resources, a significant amount of cohesion, and just enough oomph to do some quite meaningful work. Because when you look at climate change, et cetera, there’s just a lot of work to do.
Jim: Yeah. Well said. I dabbled in crypto back in 2016, 2017. Actually helped design one of the fairly successful coins. When I walked away from all the fucking sleazebags. I mean, I was part of the dot com bubble, suits and sleazes show up in 1998, ’99. The sleazes that showed up for crypto in 2017, 2018 made the [Koch 01:22:59] dealers of 1977 look honorable and good. And so I kind of retreated from the whole field for a while and fortunately I kept some my coins, but now I’m like you, I have come back and said, “All right, despite the bad motivation of many of the folks involved in these various crypto projects, some amazing things are being done, particularly in the smart contracts, particularly in DAOs.” And so I’m now revisiting the space saying, “All right, what can we use amazing technology for?”
Jim: And I expect there’s a lot. Just like after the dot com bubble crashed, it was not the end of the internet by any means, a whole bunch of things got funded and developed, which were the basis for what then became web 2.0 essentially, which unfortunately didn’t live up to some of the things we hoped it would be, but certainly built some major industries. And I expect that a lot of this fluffy half scammish crypto stuff will go away, but some amazing tools, techniques, and even conceptual ways of approaching collaboration, coordination will go on to have very meaningful impacts in the future of humanity. So I’m getting my nose back into it too.
Joshua: And my experience has been a lot of stuff out there that I don’t agree with and don’t want to participate in. You kind of got to put on your mental detergent a little bit or brain jacket, or however you think about it. But the Bitcoin crowd, I found a bunch of people, which I was excited to collaborate with. What the Regen Network and Cosmos is doing, like the way they’re talking about ecological things I’m really excited about and there’s just… I’ve just grown this group of projects, which I quite value the people involved in and the work they’re doing enough to start spending time on it. And to me, the idea of shelling points or how you build collaboration systems, where people who can’t communicate with each other will naturally collaborate towards a clear goal, that feels like the aikido the human civilization mostly needs.
Joshua: And so a lot of the reason why I got an NFT is my profile picture on Twitter and I changed it joshuavial.e, was just as like, oh, what’s it look like to participate in this community? Without compromising what’s important and buying into a lot of the garbage.
Jim: Is there any other worthy projects that you’d like to call out as an opportunity to give them some publicity?
Joshua: So Rich and microsolidarity. I think Rich has done the best of actually communicating a lot of the core essence of Enspiral and building a playbook that people who like some of this stuff can just action and copy. So that’s definitely something I’d shout out on. I’d say Bitcoin again. I’m very impressed with the way they operate and the culture and the values they’re doing. And I would probably also say the Developer DAO it’s like for the technologists out there. The Developer Dow is just trying to help a whole bunch of web two devs learn to be web three devs. And it’s a really good community buzz and vibe, and it doesn’t have much sleaze in there, or I haven’t seen any sleaze personally. So they’re the ones which are getting my attention and I’m really engaged with.
Jim: Well, thank you very much, Joshua Vial for an extraordinarily interesting conversation across some very important topics. It’s been great to have this opportunity to have this conversation.
Joshua: Yeah. Thank you. It was lovely.