Introducing: Grounded

The newsletter you never knew you needed

Left: Squad 95% of the time // Right: Squad the remaining 5% of the time

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If you're reading this, we already consider you family. Think of this as the type of update you may get from your uncle about some new hobby you don't entirely care about 🎣, or your mom about how well her herb garden is doing 🌿, or from your sister about her tales away at college 🍻🎉👩‍❤️‍👩, or maybe even emails from your old college professor deep diving into a former “favorite” subject 🧪. This isn’t a VC newsletter, and views here are our own (not of our funds). We can't tell you what you should expect here, but we promise you'll always learn something 🌀.

We’re calling it Grounded, because even though we’re VCs with massive brains and a direct line to God, we’re Latinas…so that means our moms remind us daily that we’re trash 🗑 and have millions of flaws 🙇🏽‍♀️. We dedicate this newsletter with love to our moms, who don’t care that it’s time to build, and will definitely never read a newsletter about what’s top of mind for each of us.

  • I'd like to start by sharing that Maria (@Unshackled Ventures), has decided she wants to have a farm and chickens 🐓🐓— named Greasy, Nugget, Deep Fry, and Tender. No word yet on how this impacts her venture career...

  • Jomayra (@Cowboy Ventures), on the other hand, recently "discovered" tea and can't stop telling us all about it 🗣. If you'd like to send her some, or talk to her about it...she likes ones that taste like Christmas (yes, year round)🎄.

  • As for me (@First Round Capital), I hate tea. Except for when that tea includes secrets. 🍵 I'm definitely open to moving to a farm but only if we still have fast wifi, and I can get alpacas and goats and name them all Fabio 🐐. Over the last two months, I have embraced the quarantine den mother life...still wiping every single thing down with lysol wipes before it enters the house 🧼, baking bread and other treats for literally everyone I know 🥖🥨, and even calling my own mother regularly 💁🏽‍♀️.

So why are 3 female VCs writing a newsletter together?

  • We're not important enough to each have our own newsletter. Like seriously, no one needs that.

  • I date Maria (s/o to Kia [@Axios Pro Rata] for introducing us a few years ago). And Maria & Jomayra went to high school together. We're also all Latina female VCs so we talk constantly; It's a rare thing.

  • We're tired of hearing each other's thoughts and ideas, so it's time for you all to hear them.

We're not promising to post every week, but thats why this shit is free. So subscribe now. You literally have nothing to lose.

I’ve talked enough for today, so I'll kick it off to Jomayra & Maria who have some big thoughts to share... I haven't read their blurbs yet so plz let me know if I need to read & edit going forward next time 😂.

xoxo,

Girl Alex 🖤


Jomayra’s Temple 🧘🏽‍♀️

Welcome to my section! I heard what everyone wanted was another hot take on the future of work. And when I hear the call, I have to answer. 

No, but in all seriousness. I’ve written about the future of work before and, as we enter another potentially devastating downturn, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my perspectives should evolve. 

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how this time period may change our identities as workers. Many folks of working age have now experienced at least two downturns during their career, if not more. For millennials, in particular, most of our working lives have been defined by some degree of volatility and a fairly vulnerable safety net.

Now, at the precipice of another downturn, where unemployment estimates during the pandemic go as high as 31%, we find ourselves once again in a vulnerable place. In fact, a report by Data for Progress found that 52% of people under the age of 45 have lost a job or had their hours reduced due to the pandemic. Compounding this, last year 62% of millennials reported living paycheck to paycheck, 40% of college grads are underemployed, and the vast majority have nothing saved for retirement. Given this volatility, the age where you might be able to rely on your employer for a life-long career, retirement, and other important benefits feels like it’s seemingly over. 

Rise of the Empowered Worker

As a result of this crisis, I’m predicting we will see a new working identity emerge and become more commonplace. I believe people will want to take a more active role in preparing for and defining their career and their related income, and a new set of companies and tools will be built to service that demand. Similar to the way that increased choice and information enabled the rise of the conscious consumer, I expect increased volatility and the rise of available guiding data and tools will give rise to the empowered worker. 

A couple of behavioral themes I think will become more commonplace include: 

Agents of our careers 

With this new persona, I believe that workers will want and expect new methods for navigating their careers. We will be more intentional and data-driven about how we plan for our career and navigate our next steps - many of which will be non-linear and more frequent. For example, Glassdoor gained prominence as the place we would go to for information about potential employers - largely relying on anonymous reviews and data around salary expectations. As worker considerations start to evolve beyond just salary and how we define an employer expands, I wonder if there might be an opportunity for a new and evolved Glassdoor 2.0.

Rise of professional wellness

Much like we have gym memberships to take care of our physical health and therapists for our mental health, I think we will see a rise of tools/networks to help us maintain our “professional wellness”. We’re already seeing companies arise that leverage the power communities to help you improve your craft, expand your network, and reach your professional goals. I expect this to continue and become more mainstream as the concept of investing in your professional health becomes a cornerstone of your identity as an empowered worker.

Rise of entrepreneurism (in & outside of the workplace)

Historically, there has been a lot of friction around self-employment. That said, as we enter a recession where there is decreased trust in employers and a need to generate new income, that friction will gradually decrease. Platforms like Shopify, Outschool, Substack and others that enable people to generate income based on their talents will become more popular. And for new platforms, it will become easier than ever to acquire supply. 

Similarly, while companies will likely not look to materially increase hiring for a while, I do expect there will be a desire to find ways to re-deploy talent they already have. Internal “gig” marketplaces will become more common, arising to meet the demand of non-linear career paths, the rise of hybrid jobs, and reduced budget for new hires. 

Despite my direct line to God, these are all very generalized predictions (and all are probably to some degree wrong), but I do believe the archetype of the empowered worker will arise and an ecosystem will be built to support it. 

Thanks for entertaining my #ThoughtBoi post. I promise my next one will be a lot more fun. DM me if you want to nerd out on any of this. 

Warm wishes, 

Jomayra 


Welcome to Maria's corner!

This isn't a call to build; it's a call to think (s/o to Sarah for the great tagline)

Since consumer social apps are having a comeback (looking at you Clubhouse), I decided I would dive into some relevant philosophical papers for the consumer builders out there. Here's a TL;DR:

Two big-brained, scholarly dudes named Tim* and Philip** remind us that the original "social technology" was the invention of morality and ethic systems. What I loved about Tim's paper, aside from his fascinating deep dive into how varied moral systems likely exist for evolutionary reasons, was the bit about the two universal concerns of every moral system:

  • How to initiate and maintain cooperation amongst self-interested individuals; and

  • How to coordinate the activities of those individuals to mutual benefit

Morality, according to Philip, "appears to be a tool to guide how we act, how we respond to others’ actions and how we urge others to act, particularly in social situations." Obviously most of us probably don't feel like Aristotle in our day-to-day lives, but we do all still live within the same moral norms that have evolved for generations before us. Why is T+P's work relevant to consumer social?

  • First, if the OG "social tech" was in response to those two scaling problems, aren't these equally as relevant in today's online communities as they scale?

  • Second, what is a better way for social apps to define, measure, and access these two problems and if their products are either improving or worsening in these areas as they scale. Often times as we build social we lose sight of the human part of the "social technology" term.

The concept of 'moral ecology' (Tim's stuff) ties this all together — Social programs and many tech solutions are based on the assumption that the individual is the most important unit to measure. Think about how we typically address issues such as mental health, fitness, social mobility - with a focus on the individual. But if we, as humans, develop norms, culture and even our morality in a dynamic ecosystem, what is the real unit to measure for theories of change? As David Brooks wrote in his latest book, "science often seeks to disaggregate to correlate, but actual lives are longitudinal and relational." I am a strong believer that the platforms who focus most critically beyond the individual unit will win.

Hope you enjoyed my philosophical nerd-out, feel free DM me any thoughts or interesting reads on these topics.

Sincerely your favorite thought girl & future chicken owner,

Maria

*Tim Dean, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney; re: moral ecology

**Philip Kitcher, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University; re: social technology