The future doesn’t have to suck.

“We’re at the crux of becoming a Star Trek or Star Wars society.” – Greg Chase, Pivotal Software, Inc.

Last night I attended the Thrivable Future Salon hosted by Jean Russell and Mark Finnern. It was one of those times when I felt truly grateful for living in San Francisco and being a part of the magic here. I found myself in a room full of people doing amazing things, dreaming big, making their life’s work about building a better future for all. My people.

Topics covered

My big takeaway is this: huge groups of people will find themselves without jobs soon. The largest segment of the US workforce is Transportation… and if you don’t think self-driving cars are coming, you’re wrong. What happens when 4 million people are suddenly out of a job?

We need to rethink how people can survive (and thrive) in this new world. Life is already tough for far too many people, and unless we invent new avenues of value creation/distribution that are fair and transparent, and account for all the externalities, we will find ourselves in a more massively exploitative and impoverished world than even the worst dystopian fiction imagined.

Don’t fear it, fix it

Thankfully, the solutions are becoming more clear.

If we empower makers to invent novel uses for our data, we create jobs. If we consider users not as minable resources but as partners in this value creation, we help people earn a basic income simply by being themselves.

If we architect generative systems that enable massive groups of people to work towards common goals, we can tackle really large problems. Wikipolicy anyone?

If we educate people in practical and rewarding ways, guided by each individual’s own inner compass, we can unlock vast human potential.

If we foster strong communities that understand their place in the global narrative, we can create positive change that begins where it counts and then trickles up.

If we believe that the world doesn’t have to be a terrible place, doomed to resource war and total extinction of all life, then we can open our minds to beautiful alternatives.

If we build a thrivable future, then we can live in one.

Founding a Startup on Gratitude

When we started Gratzi, we really didn’t know much about the legalities of setting up a company. We took the generic advice of serial entrepreneurs and founded a Delaware C-corp. We split founder shares somewhat arbitrarily. We found an angel investor and signed Y-combinator’s SAFE docs, promising Gratzi shares at a discount when some sale-event causes a valuation. Sounded good… we shrugged and said, we’ll see if it works for us.

Those details out of the way, we focused on building our dreams. For a year we built, tested, dreamed, built, tested… rinse and repeat. But we put little action into preparing for what comes next. What will we do if our dreams for this little app come true? What happens when our startup grows? What kind of company are we?

Next year we come out of the workshop to show the world our little baby. So I’m preparing by putting this story together about who we are and why we’re the ones to do this… and why you might want to help.

Thanks for all the fish

Gratzi is short for gratitude, sort of. It comes from the Italian grazie meaning thank you. It was the name of our first app idea. Back in 2012 we set out to build an app for expressing gratitude. Months later we had a prototype built on a relatively novel architecture (unhosted) that put users in control of the gratitude data the app helped them create and share.

We wanted the world to say thanks more. And we wanted to say thanks to the world by giving people control of their data.

But something didn’t feel quite right. The goals were laudable and achievable. The path was clear. But somewhere along the way we lost that special joy in the product. It became depressingly clear that we just wouldn’t use it ourselves. It wasn’t fun enough.

Boom. FUN! That matters to us it turns out… Shocker, I know. ;p But it was odd to discover that something so innocuous could be so integral to our business. Fun is non-negotiable. We wanna laugh with our product.

If you know who made this, please let me know! I love it.

So we ‘pivoted’ or whatever the buzz word is today. We ditched the idea of gratitude as an app.

And we threw the unhosted baby out with the bath water. We still wanted to help solve the epic problems of data ownership, but even better solutions started to appear on the horizon: MaidSafe, Ethereum,Interplanetary File System, Sandstorm, among others.

The name still ruled, though. We couldn’t give that up. So after finding a mentor, investor, and partner in 2013 we were sitting around thinking about what we should call our fledgling startup… and the answer was there: Gratzi.

Gratzi is still a way to say thanks more. It’s just not an app. Gratitude was poking around in our minds for another reason: to be part of the foundation of our organization.

It’s time to tell our story

I’m a young idealist. Well, these days not so young and much more of a realist… nonetheless I’m still that young idealist I was when I was a 10. I’m still that kid who tried to build a weapon to help America in the Gulf War, and tried to learn hacking so I could bring down the real-world Gibson from that movie Hackers.

I’m just a bigger kid now, working on real solutions to real problems. I’ve a wide-eyed obsession with humanity’s big struggles and a fool’s belief in my power to do something about them. I’m also more humbled than ever by the great Unknown that lives between ideas and reality.

My name’s Augustin Bralley. I started a company in my head long ago. From that day in 2006 when I had a vision while napping at my parents’ house to today… I’ve been piling ideas on action on more ideas… churning the cycle of manifestation. Last year the idea became a startup, called Gratzi, and soon (next year) an app called Pegg.

This journal is about documenting the process of manifesting, the cycle of dreaming and doing, that I’ve been fortunate to find myself in. More importantly, perhaps, this is about telling a good story — a magic story that not just finds an audience but a cast of characters.

Hello world.