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No matter where you look, the technology industry — from stalwarts to startups — is going through a reset. And that has led many companies to lay off people, cut costs and pare back their ambitions.

For so many of our startup founders, this is a new experience — a whole generation of entrepreneurs hasn’t experienced a bear market. And as a result, they don’t have frameworks to deal with this new reality. It is not as if they don’t want to deal with the situation. It is just that most founders are biased towards optimism (as they should) and have a hard time optimizing for the realities of tough times.

One of the toughest tasks for founders is figuring out how to tighten their belts. It is hard to decide how many people to cut from the company payrolls. People make incremental cuts to their teams — and these cuts don’t have a real impact and lead to more cuts.

Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark Capital, is a venture investor who has been through a few ups and downs. He recently tweeted:

The tweet, while succinct, didn’t really do justice to Bill’s thinking. I remember recording an interview with him in which he talked about downturns, layoffs, and surviving downturns. It is some of the best advice you can get in 15 minutes.

August 10, 2022. San Francisco.

Little did I know that this photo would start a journey to find a creative visual identity. Unsurprisingly, it was in Japan, just off the shore of Naoshima’s famous art island. The photo below is a companion photo. Both photos were made with a Leica Q — which quickly lost relevance as a tool. They were both JPEGs. I forgot to record the scene in the native DNG format.

August 5, 2022. San Francisco

Beyoncé has a new album, Renaissance. You might have heard it. Or you might have heard about it. It is the summer musical event, and that has everyone in a tizzy. Reviewers are gushing. Social media is lit with euphemisms from fans. And why not? The Economist notes:

Beyoncé Knowles, who now appears to occupy a cultural position somewhere between Maya Angelou, Billie Holiday, James Baldwin and St Bernadette. She had become, in an increasingly popular phrase, “culturally dominant”. Her seventh solo album, “Renaissance”, arrives not so much as a release, but as an event, heralded not just by reviews, but by reviews of reviews, previews, analyses of track titles and parsings of the lyrics.

Beyonce Renaissance

I have been listening to the album — on Spotify. Unlike the critics and reviewers, I am not having an eargasm. Except for two songs, Church Girl and Move, the album left me underwhelmed. She has done better work and will do better work in the future. (I am partial to I am Sasha Fierce and Lemonade, though Dangerously in Love is a guilty pleasure.)

I love her music too much to be upset. And life is too short to be upset over something, anything. More importantly, I don’t have a reason to be upset. After all, I didn’t drop a Jackson to buy the album. The upside of streaming is that if you don’t like something, you move on to something else.

Still, I appreciate Beyoncé bringing attention to house music and its legends. As someone who has been a house music fan since the earliest days, this made me happy. But that doesn’t mean I will go ga-ga over the album, which is a bit ho-hum, at least to my ears. My reaction is very different from that of critics and reviewers. According to Metacritic, it scored 93, and 19 out of 19 reviews are positive. Fans gave it 9.4. I understand that taste is subjective, and not everyone likes the same thing.

Beyoncé has not only got the fans and reviewers in the palm of her hand, but she is also smartly manipulating the algorithms. And it is not just the Queen Bee. Every artist needs to play this game. Let me explain

Shortly before Beyoncé’s album is about to be released, rumors start flying on Twitter and elsewhere. On the day of the release, Beyoncé (or her record company) pushed the content on social media. She has 56 million followers on Facebook, 25 million on YouTube, 4 million on TikTok, and 263 million on Instagram — that is enough to rev up the hype machine. Everyone is talking about it, and it’s trending news everywhere.

The media machine sees page views and clicks. It needs to ride this wave. News pieces roll in. Reviews roll in. Most of the reviews are good, and good reviews beget more reviews. Fans share reviews on social media. The echoes reverberate. No one wants to upset the apple cart. The Economist deftly explains:

Many superstars enjoy unquestioning critical veneration. This is driven by a number of factors—chief among them journalists’ fear of a social-media backlash.There is also the fact that the biggest stars rarely let their records go to reviewers before release, resulting in articles written on the fly, in which no one wants to be the person out of step. 

Artists have figured out that — herd mentality is good for business. As long you know how to herd the herd. The more people listen to something, the more it will force algorithms to push the songs in front of others. The engagement pushes the message on social platforms. And more people are listening. The “recommendation” gods are smiling on the album.

Regardless of what I think or feel about the album, it will soon be on top of the Billboard 100, and it is rising on Spotify charts and is already leaping up Apple Music charts. It doesn’t matter whether the album is good or not — everyone says it is, and in today’s climate, that is all that matters.

After all, everyone is getting paid: the artist, the record company, the streaming company, the media company, and the platforms. It is the culture of today. It is Renaissance 2.0!

August 4, 2022. San Francisco

It is the middle of the night or the start of a new day — I don’t quite know. I feel suspended upside down in a vacuum—a throbbing ache in my heart, wrapped in deep sadness and an overwhelming sense of loss.

I have laid awake– remembering, rewinding, and playing back the tape of my life. There are memories — primarily good ones. But today isn’t going to be one of those. It has been a rough day and a worse night, and I am mourning a very close and dear friend.

I can’t stop but feel sadness for his small, close-knit family. We all know life goes on, but does it? How do they fill the gap left behind? I don’t know. I will try and go through the motions of another day and then another. Hoping that one day I will do what I must. As Thoreau said:

“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living- that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”

I am not ready. I am not ready to say goodbye. Yet!

August 3rd, 2022. San Francisco

On a rare windless late-night drive along one of the fjords in Iceland’s Westfjords, moody cloud cover and near-perfect reflections were great ingredients for a monochromatic landscape vista. Made with Lecia M11 using Leica 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M. ISO 800. Shutter speed 1/90th of a second. Aperture f/4.8.

August 2, 2022. San Francisco.

This photo was featured on Leica Camera’s social media feeds on August 1, 2022