We’re about three episodes into my new podcast Experimental Garden Group, or “EGG.” Co-hosted by my former business partner, current shareholder, and longtime collaborator Marcus Estes, we’ve also roped in an engineer and Tom Carroll is our producer. With EGG we’re exploring alternative investments, meaning anything outside of stocks, bonds, and cash. And by exploring I mean we’re actually investing our money into things.
I care a lot about investing. As a publicly traded person I’m a little biased, but I love the idea of owning a small stake in a bigger venture. But I’m also very community oriented, so I want to put my money into small things. I want to own a small stake in a small venture! That’s not so easy…
Single Player Hot Sauce
Back in 2016 I wrote If We Save Pizza, We Save America. This was when I was a co-founder of Chroma and I wanted to fix capitalism. The tl;dr is “it would be nice to be able to invest in small pizza shops so we could have more of those instead of Domino’s.”
Pizza is just a stand-in for small business. Today I think a lot about hot sauces. There is an infinite number of hot sauces, and most you will never try because they will never be more than a regional product. Hot sauces can succeed on a smaller scale and, unlike pizza, the “Hot Sauce Ecosystem” is not yet dominated by garbage. Even top brands like Tapatio and Tabasco are better hot sauces than mainstream pizza like Domino’s. Hot sauce is strange because there is both more competition on store shelves and garbage hot sauce hasn’t yet won the day!
I’m not trying to save America anymore (it might be too late?), but I am interested in finding ways to take a small stake in small ventures. Rather than start a company and build a platform we’re starting by just telling stories. That is the podcast part. Hopefully you are motivated to make an investment in a small business.
This is what I think of as “Single Player Mode.” Encouraging you as an individual to seek out some of the opportunities on these crowd-investment platforms and put some money into a smaller venture (maybe even a hot sauce company).
First comes discovery, aka, finding investable hot sauces. Instead of buying shares of McCormick & Company (NYSE: MKC) I want to follow Chamillionaire’s lead and put money into a local hot sauce (doesn’t have to be local to me, the internet connects all local networks). As a real world example outside the hot sauce analogy, I’ve already started to make small business loans using Honeycomb Credit, earning 8.5% to 10.25% interest, and some equity investments using WeFunder and Republic. These platforms are a good start, but I want to move beyond Single Player mode. I want to play with my friends.
Moving to Co-Op Mode
I’ve always preferred Double Dragon to Mortal Kombat. I want to play with my friends, not against them. That cooperative (if sometimes argumentative) spirit is what I love about the internet. You can go back and read early RFPs and the resulting arguments about early internet protocols and see how co-op mode built the internet. The introduction of a new emoji follows the same basic process of proposal, discussion, then group decision.
With better tools, coordinating with other people has gotten easier. We can chat asynchronously or in real time, share our screens, collaborate on documents, share our work in progress, and easily give feedback and encouragement. We can make things with our community, and we can join communities that make things for us.
Unfortunately, much of this collaboration happens on social media platforms, which are the technological equivalent of corporate pizza. You can get a slice pretty much anywhere, but the quality sucks. Just like corporate pizza, the social media companies took on a lot of funding to create platforms, and those investments only pay off when the companies get huge. A few “success stories” later and the entire culture of building anything online is a story about massive scale and the subsequent riches.
If you’re lucky you can find the better (and usually smaller) communities within these giant platforms, but they are rare, not seen as important, and typically ignored. This puts them not only at the mercy of their platform overlords, but any value they create is extracted (usually in the form of ad dollars) to repay investors.
Human interactions, like quality pizza, don’t scale. Social media grows powerful by promoting strong negative emotions and the algorithms that were supposed to help enforce fair rules at scale, instead basically broke democracy.
“With nothing else to seek but attention, ordinary people tend to become assholes, because the biggest assholes get the most attention.” -Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Accounts Right Now
What started as “Double Dragon” has turned into “Mortal Kombat.” I don’t want to scream at people online, I want to use the massive communication network of the internet to find people who also want to talk about making ‘Hot Sauce’ investments (and I don’t want the algorithm to surface the most hateful discussions about hot sauce). I want my online friend in a place I’ve never been to tell me about a hot sauce I’ve never heard of. I don’t want to see targeted advertising for Cholula or be aggressively tracked by drop-shipped DTC brands.
MMOIG – Massively Multiplayer Online Investing Group
Single player isn’t that fun, and the algorithms broke co-op mode. Now what? Well, let’s extend the analogy… MMOs! Let’s play a game that includes everyone! In this case we’re talking about organizing our own “MMOIG,” or Massively Multiplayer Online Investing Group. And with the massive attention being put on web3, why not take some of these new software tools for a test drive while we’re at?
This is what Experimental Garden Group, or EGG really is. It looks like a podcast, but really it’s an Investment Guild. It’s a band of warriors, wizards, and bards out on a merry adventure. A group of people interested in experimenting with technology and exploring the weirder side of investing. And if we’re lucky we might even find some treasure!
EGG will be whatever its members decide. Early members will set a tone but ultimately every participant in EGG is responsible for their own actions and that will inform the actions of the group. The gaming analogy is key because while EGG is about investing and money, it’s not work. It is play.
Discovery of opportunities, sharing and arguing about ideas, and exploration of tools define the very loose parameters of EGG. And yes, it’s crypto, and yes, it’s a DAO.
I know what you’re thinking… didn’t crypto ruin the environment and cause the financial crisis? Isn’t crypto bad? Yeah, there are definitely negative externalities when you try to financialize everything, and I’m speaking from experience. That’s why this is an experiment. It might not work. It might not even be fun. It’s not like we’re ice climbing, but there is risk.
What better way to understand something than building it ourselves? Sure, we might break it, it might not work, and web3 can be pretty impenetrable, both technically and culturally, but at the end of the day, it’s just another set of tools and we’re probably smart enough to figure it out.
Welcome to EGG. This is how we practice. This is how we get better. We don’t know what this is, but you’re invited to play along with us as we help us figure it out.