I write this letter to share some of the things that I’m working on and thinking about. A little about me:
I own and manage an agency in Toronto called August. We design and build digital products. We spend about 80% of our time on client work and the balance on internal projects. I also invest in real estate with my two brothers.
I’m fascinated by how polarizing Elon Musk is.
Here’s a guy who’s doing more than anyone to combat climate change, doing more than anyone to get us back into space, in a big way, doing more than anyone to connect every corner of the world to the internet, doing more than anyone, maybe, to promote free speech online, among other things, and yet many people hate him.
It’s honestly baffling.
I have many unpopular views. Usually, I expect and understand when people disagree with me on them. On the general awesomeness of Elon Musk, however, I often feel like the guy yelling, “why are you booing me? I’m right”.
To better understand the disconnect, I asked a few Elon-haters I know why they hated him. This is what they told me:
He doesn’t think the rules apply to him (referring to his anti-lockdown stance throughout covid);
He’s ruining earth-based astronomy (referring to claims that Starlink satellites are interfering with telescope observations);
He’s got stupid ideas about urban transportation (referring to his Boring Co’s ambition to solve urban traffic by tunnelling beneath cities); and
He has a habit of overpromising and underdelivering (referring to a few things, but mainly to the shortcomings of Tesla’s Full Self Driving driver-assist features); and
He’s a twitter troll.
That’s it. A shorter and weaker list than I expected given the intensity of the hate.
There’s got to be more to this, right? What am I missing?
I think that we should celebrate extreme ambition, competence, and success, especially when it’s applied to domains that really matter for advancing our civilization. And to be clear, many people do. But many people don’t.
I think that, by the way, because I think it’d be great if more people developed extreme ambition and competence and pursued extreme success for themselves, especially in domains that really matter for advancing our civilization.
I want our civilization to advance!
We’re just starting to see what one Elon Musk can accomplish. Imagine if we had 10? 100? 1,000?
August continues to grow. We’ve almost doubled our headcount since the start of the new year.
Despite that growth, and despite what I wrote in the opening of this email, our designers and developers are now spending close to 100% of their time on client work. We’re doing so well that we can’t peel away to work on any internal projects.
It’s an interesting challenge, which brings me to my next point.
I mentioned in last month’s newsletter that I had my good friends at Junto completing the design work for a new Buildstack website. I’ve now also had to find a freelancer to built out the backend.
He’s working out very well, and this might be the way things go for a little while: our whole team on client work, until we staff up a bit more to regain some slack, and outside agencies or freelancers on internal projects.
We are now just a few short weeks away from our COA hearing for FH1*. As these things go, we’ve spoken to a number of neighbours who support and others who oppose our proposal.
We think it’s a good one, that will do much to improve the site and block, and provide the neighbourhood with some desperately needed new rental housing. But not everyone agrees. (As an aside, I’m giving a talk at a conference in Calgary this weekend titled “nimbyism, properly understood, is our greatest political problem.”)
I’ll admit: it’s a bit nerve-wracking to be waiting for a panel on webex to determine the fate of our project.
MR1 has successfully closed!
We’ve since engaged a new architect and planner and submitted a Pre-Application Consultation package.
We’re hoping to have that booked sometime this month, which will provide us with an initial reaction from the local planner to our proposal, as well as a checklist outlining all the materials we’ll need to submit for a complete Zoning Bylaw Amendment application.
*Forever Hold 1. A proposed four-storey multiunit rental building in Toronto’s west end that we plan on holding forever.
**Midrise 1. A proposed nine-to-eleven-storey multiunit residential building (tenure to be determined) in Toronto’s west end. We’re going to start with a rezoning and see where we take it from there.
stuff I’ve enjoyed
Article: Where there is no vision, the people perish. God said that, I believe. This piece by the always great Eli Dourado makes a similar point: that if we want people to adopt a definite optimist outlook regarding the future, we should paint a pretty (“credible and concrete”, in his words) picture of what the future could look like.
Book: I’ve been reading Bitcoin is Venice. It’s more of an anthology or collection of essays than a single book, but the content works well together to form a cohesive narrative. It reads a bit Talebian, if you know what I mean—at times philosophical, at times practical, pulling from a wide variety of often esoteric sources, mostly irreverent, and interesting throughout.
Podcast: The All In podcast continues to be a fun listen, if a bit political (and that’s coming from me). The crew is now planning an All In Summit in Miami, with tickets selling for $7,500 a piece, and a funny friend of mine predicted that we’re seeing the birth of the new Davos World Economic Forum. I think he’s right!
Video: I’m going to recommend a series, and that series is Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Canadians can watch it on Crave, Americans can watch it wherever you get your HBO. It’s my favourite show running right now, and John C Reilly as real estate investor turned LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss is especially good.
And that’s it for now. Here’s to a good and productive May.
Feel free to reply to this email with any comments or questions. I love chatting about everything discussed above.