Vicissitudes (Update #9)
Dear Footprint Family,
Hope everyone is enjoying a great start to Fall! See below for our October update. My usual rambling introduction is broken into two parts this month; the first half I wrote back in August, and the second is a reflection from this month on the same topic.
Originally Written August 18th
We define our lives by moments: they’re tangible and real. In books, songs, and movies, the epitome of success and happiness is often defined by one singular night or moment. It is easy to cling to moments, or as I described in my last update the mere idea of moments. But I think it’s the wrong framework.
Life probably should be an integral. We should measure progress and happiness as a sum of time. Instead, we often view these variables as a derivative—a rate of change in a moment in time. Admittedly, while an inferior model on an empirical level, on a human level it makes sense. Buried in a chapter about Tlon, a fictional planet full of radical idealists in Chilean writer Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones, is perhaps the best explanation. It is described that the philosophy on Tlon is that “the future has no other reality than as present hope, and the past is no more than present memory.” If this is true, then the derivative in a moment understandably influences the integral—past and present.
Present hope rationally influences our belief in our future. Going forward, I want to let present hope stem from less of an inciting moment and more a sum of work. Yes, one thing can tip the scales. If you heat an ice cube from 20 up a degree at a time, it seems nothing happens until when it melts as it transitions from 32 to 33 degrees. To extend my weird ice cube analogy, if your goal is to bring the water to a boil, you may be a bit more confident that you’ll get to 212 Fahrenheit degrees now (that the water has melted) than where you were a degree earlier (water still frozen), but it should not give you the confidence of the past 12 degrees combined. We can mitigate real-time slope thinking by focusing on the north star.
I perhaps love the second part of the quote even more—I think one of the beautiful things of human nature is that our present memory can change, and with it our recollections of the past. In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, he describes an experiment where subjects placed their hand in cold water twice (not sure why I am on my second cold water analogy of this update—perhaps it is the influence of our new penguin mascot :)). The first time, the hands were submerged for 60 seconds, and the second it was for 90 seconds. However, for the final 30 seconds, the experimenters raised the temperature a bit. The water was still uncomfortable, but slightly less so than before.
When asked which one they would like to do again, 80% of subjects opted to redo the 90 second one for the final time, despite it empirically having a higher integral of pain. While the subjects still experienced the duration of good and bad, humans place a higher emphasis on “peak-end”. To me it is optimistic—perhaps the definition of the ends can justify the means. If we reach a place of happiness, we will look back nostalgically on the trials and tribulations we had to live through to get there. The past isn’t immutable in our minds.
Eight months in, it is easy to view the vicissitudes of company building as binding. Company building is defined by moments. We came out of stealth on August 3rd, and suddenly our work behind the scenes for years became announced in one day to a new sliver of the world. One good customer call and you’re convinced you have the best product on the market; an hour later the customer says you got to them too late as they just signed with a competitor, and you visualize the uphill climb this is.
I want us to begin viewing these individual moments as less binary, as I think it is how we will get more clarity and become more precise in our goals. There is no denying that one recruit or one customer could meaningfully swing the fortunes of a company. This post is not about complacency over these moments. But I think we can be better by not viewing each as zero-sum. We win by knowing there are more chances. There are no early celebrations, and it is never too early to move onto the next candidate or sales call. As I wrote about in update 6, life is long, and if things are meant to be they will happen. But good or bad, by focusing on the integral, we will gain an advantage.
I started my yearly tradition this weekend of reading my favorite book, The Shadow of the Wind. Each time I find something new in the novel, as I selfishly adapt it to fit into my life at the moment of rereading. This time, it was an early line that jumped out to me, as the protagonist, Daniel, describes a feeling I could relate to this past weekend: "We looked at each other in the half-light, searching for words that didn’t exist.”
But over the 500-some pages, the narrator does find the words. The story finds an arc and a completion. Granted, my updates are to Carlos Ruiz Zafron’s masterpiece what my jump shot is to Steph Curry’s 3, but at least they normally have a narrative arc and conclusion. The above update has been fraught with unusual writer’s block for me because it doesn’t have an ending—yet—in my mind. It also isn’t all that unique: my take on the roller coaster of company building. It’s why I have been sitting on this update for three months. I still don’t have anything close to a conclusion for it, and I don’t agree with the conclusion I reached above. It’s another exercise in re-reading, albeit a painful one.
But it’s something I’d at least like to at least start. Most of my updates have a pretty clear motivation: show why Apple isn’t a threat, explain how we can build with empathy, or talk about why trust is so important to us. This one has less upside. Admitting the vicissitudes that simultaneously dance and taunt our minds is considered a weakness--and therefore a taboo subject for an update. But the upside is that by sending this, I am living by the ethos I preach around transparency. Footprint will never have anything to hide.
I’ve wanted to write about vicissitudes for a while. It's why I wrote the above back in August. The reason I’ve been hesitant to publish this is that I don’t know if I agree with it. I certainly don’t live by it. The above is my ode to not getting caught up in the lows or highs. My journal entries are often the contradiction of that idea.
There is an interesting view in Daoism that we are born uncarved blocks and each interaction carves a bit off that block. Currently, I am not sure if humans are as permeable. I believe people can grow. But I do in large part think we are creatures of our own creation. And I think we do live by moments. Because moments are not just how we define each day—it is how we define the future and past. We look ahead to events—anniversaries, product launches, etc. We don’t look forward to integrals. That would be really tough to do.
The way we resolve this with our past is peak-end theory. But just because we settle something in our mind doesn’t mean we actually resolved it. We can sleep at night, but one stimulus can domino how we came to terms with that past. It is why we can’t neglect the cracks even if we’ve patched them. Maybe this is why I find this update so maddening. Even our memory of the past—which is objectively an integral—we only remember by the derivative that has hijacked our own memory of that period of time.
The time may change, but the story doesn’t. The August update was written while I was excited by the stimuli of our launch (big positive integral/culminating event) set to a negative derivative (stalled talks with 1 customer + lack of sleep). This past week follows the same pattern: a very successful Money2020 (big positive integral/culminating event) set to a negative derivative (lost a recruit for reasons we understand but respectfully disagree with + once again lack of sleep). Maybe I hate how cliched everything I wrote in August reads, and how naive it is to think our narrative would be any different from that of the countless who have blazed these paths before.
It’s easier to write a reflection looking back than going forward. Our past memory is more fungible than our future hope. I don’t mean it to be negative—we had another great month. I intend it to be true—that even in the midst of that, stimuli can negate it even just for a derivative moment. If our baseline narrative is 100% successful, one bad moment may seemingly deem the rest of the progress—the integral—irrelevant and worthless. I think this mindset is often a helpful propellant. But I’d like to get past that way of thinking. Life isn’t this binary. Things are not as inevitable as they seem—for success or missteps. The integral is probably positive, even if caught up in a moment we don’t see it just yet.
Goals From Last Month
Continue to bolster the team with 2-3 hires
- To follow up on the mystery hire we pointed out last month, we hired Keagan Long as our fraud engineering lead. Keagan was most recently the tech lead for fraud at Stripe, where he spent four years working on machine learning teams developing models and systems to combat fraud. Before that he was at Piazza, where he spent two and a half years scaling backend systems through redesigns and migrations, leading security and testing, and implementing new products and features on web and mobile. Keagan studied computer science at Georgia Tech where he graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
- Claudio Angrigiani has joined the team as a design engineer. Most recently, Claudio worked at Mainstreet, where he led the design and implementation of the company's first Design System. Before that Claudio was the co-founder of Dorothy, a company backed by Plug and Play ventures and Hustle Fund which built new ways to prepare and financially recover from natural disasters. By way of Argentina before getting his Masters at the University of Pennsylvania, Claudio also managed the first in-house design team at Banco Galicia, the largest domestic private bank in Argentina, where he implemented the bank's first Design System.
Continue work on data vendor integration
- After good meetings with the people leading these groups at Money2020, we feel good about the continued relationships we have here. Our contracts are very unique and were what I thought would be our biggest roadblock at the start of the year; while they are certainly taking time, we’re very pleased with the access our waterfall will soon have which rivals most in the industry.
Make meaningful product progress to be ready to onboard more customer sandbox environments post M20/20
- Design new dashboard experience for risk signals, timeline, manual review, and detailed auditing
- Design and started implementing customizable/stylizable footprint embedded flow
- Significant progress on our core decisioning, step up algorithms, and doc scan foundations
Incorporate feedback from design partners in sandbox to support ability production customer launches early Q1
- Made meaningful progress on core decisioning to prepare for live mode bearing data vendor access
Meeting Itai Damti
- I appreciate everyone for helping me flood Itai’s inbox. He now has a template when people reach out to ask to introduce me kindly saying no :). On the bright side, I was connected to someone else at Unit and have that convo going at last for now.
Goals For this Month
- Make 1+ hire on frontend
- Have three more companies integrate in the sandbox
- Be on track to have multiple data vendors integrated eoy
- Bearing data vendor timelines, launch our decisioning engine into production
- Launch our newly updated dashboard with embedded risk signals and manual review mode
- Launch our Footprint mobile integration
- Release our new customizable/styled embedded Footprint flow
- Make progress on our live production my.onefootprint where anyone can claim their footprint identity!
Where We Could Use Help
Recruiting frontend engineers—with our risk/fraud eng taken care of, we’re all in on front-end
- I truly mean it: if you find us a frontend engineer this month, we will adopt a penguin in your honor at the SF Zoo!
- If you’d like to crowdsource some reasons to join, feel free to send these wonderful posts written by our own amazing team members (Pedro’s post | Rafa’s post)
Talking to Twitter as they verify people
- Twitter is now verifying identity (for blue checks for now) and Jason Calacanis says they’d like help doing so. Professor Galloway actually wrote about how Footprint can be good for this. Anyways, we’d love any high Twitter contacts as they seem to be moving quickly here.
- Including below some intros we are looking for:
BaaS providers—in general this is the top priority sector for us
- We have also made a list on Cabal of intros we are looking for—first time using the platform so let me know if having trouble accessing it or if need to be added.
Going to do a few shout outs from last month:
- Packy for helping us find Claudio via his Pallet
- Index for introducing us to Crypto.com and Coinbase
- K5 for introducing us to SoFi
This month’s criteria
- Frontend engineer intro: 5 points
- Series C+ Customer Intro: 5
- Series B Customer Intro: 3.5
- Series A Customer Intro: 2.5
Subscribe to our newsletter
Receive updates on new blog posts & investor updates