Update: I’m so grateful for the support of my early patrons! Since landing a grant from Schmidt Futures through the Innovation Fellows program, I’ve ended all patronage subscriptions.
I quit my job exactly one year ago, with no plan to make money, simply because I couldn’t stop thinking about community.
In this period we have:
- picked a location after 300 hours of research,
- had 40+ people move in three months from around the world,
- launched The Commons,
- hosted dozens of events,
- interviewed dozens of people about friendship and spontaneity,
- begat the creation of new communities (the Civics Club series and a potential makerspace), and
- piqued the interest of thousands.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. My goal is to work on this full-time for years. Too many once-great communities have lost their magic by the pressure to extract profit or hit a venture-backable scale, and I’m hell-bent on making sure that doesn’t happen to the Neighborhood. If you find this work promising, then I would greatly appreciate your patronage.
Meeting living expenses until I sell my first house
The goal is to meet my baseline living expenses until either a) the housing market recovers and I sell my first house as a real estate agent (hopefully next summer?), b) we figure out how to commercialize the Neighborhood, or c) the Neighborhood doesn’t need me to work on it full-time. In other words, you don’t need to commit to this forever. I’ll email all supporters when we achieve one of these outcomes.
Otherwise, if I can’t meet my living expenses through this or from grant applications, I’d have to spend 30% of my time on contracting gigs.
To align incentives, I’m only sending this to folks inside the Neighborhood. Accepting money from folks that aren’t values-aligned creates a bad incentive. Great community is entirely about people, and is far more scarce and precious than profits (and PB&Js are cheap).
My break-even point is $4K/month: that’s 10 people donating $400/month, 27 people donating $150/month, or 333 people donating $12/month.
Hence, welcome to my “Patreon” page — minus their 9% fees! Money and monthly subscriptions are all handled by Stripe:
You can choose a lower tier and adjust its quantity:
Level 1: Bob Taylor
Bob Taylor created a scene that was company-sized. He assembled the team at Xerox PARC that made breakthroughs in graphical displays, Ethernet and more. Known to say "none of us is as smart as all of us.”
Level 3: Alfred Loomis
Alfred Lee Loomis created a scene that was village-sized. He used the fortune he made from shorting the Great Depression to buy a science castle and mailed first-class plane tickets to Nobel laureates around the globe.
Level 4: House Medici
I’ll invite everyone at this level (and higher) to our Notion workspace, so that you can see our progress in real-time.
House Medici created a scene that was country-sized. They funded great Florentine artists and humanists, inspiring the Italian Renaissance.
Level 4: Susan B. Anthony & the Ultras
I’M HUMBLED. At this tier, I’ll organize and facilitate or co-host any kind of event you want (within reason), with any kind of audience that is within my power to attract.
Susan B. Anthony created a scene that was movement-sized and which resonates throughout history. She turned an egalitarian group of friends into an influential women’s rights conference and political machine, 60 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment.
As of 7/10, I’m at $300/month.
😀 Goal 1: crowdfunded rent ($1,700/month)
When we hit this goal, you will collectively cover my rent (post-tax)! This means that I'll be able to afford housing in the Neighborhood. It'll be hard to be good at this job if I have to move to Hayfork. Achieving this goal would be much more than a proof-of-concept of this “Patreon”, and a major sustainability milestone for me.
🤗 Goal 2: crowdfunded sustainability ($4,000/month)
Hitting this goal means we'd cover my basic costs of living in San Francisco, transitioning me from Ramen profitable into my lifestyle holy grail, PB&J profitable. Hitting this goal means I'd officially be in the black, which would be a huge relief: I’d be able to focus fully on the Neighborhood for however long the housing market remains remains terrible.
🥰 Goal 3: crowdfunded salary ($8,333/month)
At this point, I'll be compensated about as much as I was as an entry-level software engineer in 2013. Around this point, funding will safely extend beyond my expenses, and I can begin to spend it on accelerating my work and replenishing my long-suffering savings.
An inspiration for the Neighborhood
Edison’s idea machine
Turns out there used to be a golden age of invention in America. From the 19th century and into the 20th, large corporates used to have these R&D departments that would review newly created patents, usually from hobbyists, and then they'd decide which to purchase and then take to the market. This enabled a whole cottage industry of inventors.
Edison was the greatest of these inventors, not just because he invented the lightbulb, but because he was the first to systematize innovation.
In 1876, at the age of 29, he built a white house on a cow pasture in Menlo Park (...New Jersey). He then hired 15 happy geeks to live there together, reproduce experiments, and play with the massive adjacent possible newly opened by the telegraph and electricity. Edison himself would work for 24 straight hours and then sleep for 18. Every night at midnight they'd break to share stories and ideas, drink scotch in front of the fireplace, and roast each other.
Edison, while building his idea machine, accidentally created one of the happiest bands of nerds to have ever lived.
I take two things from this story.
One, that while our individual memories are terrible (I can barely remember the articles I read yesterday), we can store knowledge and ideas in each other's heads. Edison's idea machine was able to collectively perceive and sieze opportunities at the intersections of deep fields, far outcompeting the sensemaking abilities of any individual, and ultimately producing a breathtaking 1,093 patents and taking most of them to market.
This was a group with an abundance of impact and felt purpose.
Most of us spend decades searching for work with purpose — that is, work that is both useful and enjoyable — and we usually search on our own. But search problems are usually solved better by a community.
Two, that without explicitly designing for it, Edison created a group of friends that would fondly remember this era for the rest of their lives. Happiness cannot be pursued directly. But by designing a place with a high degree of connectedness and an abundance of purpose, a meaningful life emerged as a byproduct.