A little over a month ago, I decided to take leave from Harvard Business School to join Llama, a crypto startup building economic infrastructure for DAOs. At Llama, I'm taking the role of Community Lead. I'll focus on the contributor experience and making Llama the best DAO to contribute to.
The decision tends to generate polarizing reactions ranging from "what on Earth are you thinking??" to "no brainer."
For me, the decision wasn't an easy one, and I wanted to write down my thoughts on how and why I made it.
Quick disclaimer: This post is taken through the lens of my life and isn't meant as prescriptive advice. HBS is a wonderful place and I'm lucky to have the opportunity and stability to be able to leave such a place to go join Llama.
During your first week at HBS, you're encouraged to think about the following question, taken from a poem by Mary Oliver:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I've thought a lot about that question in the last few months. It's a question to which there's no easy answer, in part because it's impossible to predict the future, but also because it's hard to know what you want. A lot of business school students are in school precisely because they want to change directions or explore new areas.
So while it's impossible to know exactly what I want to do, I know what types of things I want to do with my one wild and precious life.
With my one wild and precious life, I want to work on hard and meaningful problems.
With my one wild and precious life, I want to build at the bleeding edge of technology, where I can get the most leverage on my time and skills.
With my one wild and precious life, I want to take big risks, to bet on myself, and, as cliche as it sounds, to build a better future for tomorrow.
I want to make the most of every day I'm here on Earth. Knowing I wanted to go into web3 made the value proposition of business school much more difficult. In crypto (and I think tech more broadly today), people don't care whether you went to business school or not.
Though I had a great time and was comfortable at school, I ultimately felt like I wasn't living up to my full potential. Life is simply too short to be spending time reading crypto blog posts in class when I could be building instead.
In short, I felt I wasn't using my one wild and precious life in the most optimal way. I was in class learning about supply chains when instead, I needed to be on the front lines, taking risks and solving problems.
Jeff Bezos famously used a "regret minimization" framework when deciding to leave hedge fund D.E. Shaw to go start Amazon.
For those that aren't familiar with the hedge fund world, this was not as obvious a choice as it might've seemed today. Bezos had an incredibly prestigious and (most certainly) well-paying job at D.E. Shaw. On the other hand, he saw an opportunity to leverage a new technology, the Internet, to build a company selling books online. At this point in history, the rational decision was clear: stay at the hedge fund... the Internet and e-commerce were unproven domains, and an online bookseller would most certainly fail.
When he told his boss about his plans to leave the firm, his boss told him "That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job." His boss urged him to think things over for 48 hours before making a final decision.
In those 48 hours, Bezos used what he called a regret minimization framework to help him think through the decision. When he turned 80 and was looking back on his life, what would he regret?
Would he regret striking out on his own and starting Amazon, even if it failed? Or would he regret staying at D.E. Shaw and wondering "what if" he had started that company?
“I didn’t think I’d regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all,” Bezos said.
Regrets of omission are almost always more painful than regrets of commission.
I thought about my decision in the same way. What would I regret least? Leaving school to join Llama, even if it failed? Or staying in school and watching from the sidelines?
The much more terrifying option to me was not trying in the first place and always wondering what might have been. I think we all owe it to ourselves and to others to be wildly ambitious; we should all want to leave the world in a better state than we found it.
Some say that leaving HBS is risky. To those people, I say that the opposite is true. Though Llama is much riskier from a financial standpoint (there's no $200k+ consulting parachute), it's much safer from a personal satisfaction standpoint.
One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is his famous "dent in the universe" line (which I actually used in my HBS admission essay):
At Apple, people are putting in 18-hour days. We attract a different type of person — a person who doesn't want to wait five or 10 years to have someone take a giant risk on him or her. Someone who really wants to get in a little over his head and make a dent in the universe. We are aware that we are doing something significant. We're here at the beginning of it and we're able to shape how it goes. Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.
Jobs' quote resonates with me a lot; I'm not interested in working on small problems, easy problems, or problems that don't change the world in a significant way. I also don't want to wait any longer to work on these problems.
I believe web3 is at an inflection point and is the biggest technological shift of our time. Web3 today is where the Internet was in '95: too early for mass adoption, hard to understand, and to many, seemingly crazy. But on the inside, people in web3 see the same thing that the builders of the early web saw: technology that has the power to transform the way we work, play, and live.
I believe we're doing something significant at Llama by betting on the future of DAOs. As we see DAOs soar in adoption, we'll have to build new systems and tools that allow them to scale and become as effective as traditional organizations. Working on the ground floor of the DAO ecosystem gives me the chance to form the blueprints that will shape how we coordinate with one another in the future.
Jobs' quote resonates with me for another reason: the people and energy in web3 are phenomenal. People working in web3 have this unmistakable, contagious optimism and energy about them. They’re dreamers, builders, and risk-takers. The crypto community doesn’t accept the world the way it is but instead looks for ways to make it better.
We’re filled with optimism about the future because we recognize that we’re shaping the future. We’re building products that compensate people for the value they create and inventing new ways of collaborating that will change the way people work forever (DAOs!).
At Llama specifically, we have 40 of these dreamers and builders doing great work on how DAOs can manage and analyze their treasuries. From the moment I joined the Llama Discord, I could sense an energy and excitement that I’d found nowhere else. And not only is everyone excited about what we’re building, but they’re also some of the highest caliber people I’ve ever met.
It would be disingenuous of me to deny that potential financial upside plays no role in my decision; of course it does! Though I'm not taking leave for the opportunity to make money, if Llama is successful in its mission to increase the deployment of DAO treasuries, the upside is significant.
I've been investing in crypto since 2017, and my conviction in the space has only grown since. I want to double down on this bet by spending 100% of my time there.
Like any startup, Llama could fail. If I wanted a safer path to wealth generation, I'd have pursued typical post-business school careers like consulting, banking, or investing. All great careers, but not what I wanted!
I considered what might happen if Llama failed: where would I be, what would I have left, and what would I have given up? In the worst case scenario, I'll have spent multiple years building a company with a team I love, in a space I'm fascinated by, and will have had the chance to meet hundreds of like-minded individuals who feel the same way I do about the future of crypto. I'll have the skills and experience to know what problems still need to be solved, and I'll go solve them.
I'm really excited to be able to spend all my energy on crypto.
As Llama’s Community Lead, I’ll have the invaluable opportunity to help shape the way that DAOs work. I believe this is a critical problem for the future; for DAOs to be a better alternative to their traditional counterparts, the DAO experience needs to see a 100x improvement in the contributor experience. At Llama, we want to build the best DAO on the face of the Earth, and that's what I'll be focusing on.
I'm moving to New York! Come say hi if you're around.
Thanks to Shreyas Hariharan, Sami Pal, and Andy Beal for reading drafts of this.