Friday Sabbatical

Whatever you’re doing this Friday, I hereby invite you to take a mini-sabbatical from it. Check in with yourself. Feel your breath, the sensations of sitting, or standing, the contact between your body and the world. Notice what’s going on without trying to influence or change it, and simply feel what it is to be alive. This, right now, including everything even COVID, is your life. Be here, just for a second.

The above is way more important than the below.

That said, there are five things below which I think are also pretty important (even one request of my readers), so I invite you to please enjoy:

1. There’s a sense that the world is disintegrating. That everything that was once solid and reliable — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, say? — is now falling apart at the seams. This well and truly sucks. This week I refreshed one of my favorite books on the topic: When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron. She articulates beautifully the fundamental reality that things are always falling apart, and our peace is reliant solely on us embracing that fact. This feeling of disintegration is usually a solitary one, so it’s truly unique (and maybe important) that this time, everyone in the world is confronting the reality of disintegration together. The world is dying all around us. And the world will continue afterward.

2. Speaking of, COVID feels like one of those moments in history with a Before and an After. We know what the world was like Before, and here are experts from all over the spectrum predicting what life looks like in their field, After. I hold out hope that the last one is prescient, as I think it makes life much more raw, visceral and ultimately worth living.
And, if you’ve read Yuval Noah Harari’s work, do yourself a favor and read his latest essay, an analysis on the bridge between Before and After, and the two decisions that citizens of America are already making that will reshape our society after COVID (whether we’re aware of it or not).

3. In 1970, Milton Friedman said “the sole purpose of a business is to generate profits for its shareholders.” Based on current events this can now be understood to be demonstrably not true (if it wasn’t already), as business leaders across the globe are stepping up in what effectively amounts to a wartime effort to combat the virus, putting people’s wellbeing at par with or above their own profitability. A personal mentor of mine, founder of Cascade Engineering Fred Keller, who even in peacetime operates by a more complete set of rules than most companies, urges business leaders not to waste what we’re learning through this crisis.

4. The world is changing, and people are feeling tremendous pain, both physically and economically. No matter who you are, you can help.
PHYSICAL: Godspeed to the heroes in the healthcare field right now, some of whom I speak with personally. Even if you’re not in that field, Tim Ferriss has an excellent episode on his podcast about how you can help.
ECONOMICAL: This one is hitting more people than anything right now, as 1% of the US filed for unemployment in the last week alone. There are a few ways to help, including the United Way’s COVID Fund and Humanity Forward’s fund, each helping individual people make ends meet. If you are struggling yourself, findhelp.org and here are good places to start.

5. Finally, an issue near and dear to my heart. The CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security, the naming of which is probably why it took so long to get passed) act was passed, and includes $350bn in potentially forgivable loans for any small business (<500 employees) to help them get through COVID without layoffs. It’s truly the mack daddy of programs available right now (soon) to business owners.
HOWEVER, in Congress’s efforts to avoid giving undue favors to big business, they have constructed the Act in a way that unfairly penalizes venture backed startups. Check out this Twitter Thread from a leader in the VC community and the NVCA for details, but below is a synopsis:

  • Otherwise eligible businesses <500 employees are subject to something called the SBA “affiliation” rules. Basically, SBA determines the 500 employee test by looking the applying entity, as well as all of its “affiliates”. Unintentionally, a company applying for a loan that has “significant” minority stakeholders – such as one or more VC firms, or a family office, or major angel/HNW investors – will be subject to a requirement that the 500-employee limit be applied *IN AGGREGATE* to all of the *OTHER* portfolio companies in which that minority investor is also a minority shareholder.
  • Let’s use VNN as an example, a company of 70 employees, which you’d think would be well underneath the line. We’re who this program was written for. However, since we have about five VCs with “significant” interest in our company (guessing here as to the definition of significant), as written we would be ineligible for this funding because “VNN’s employees” would include all the employees at those five VC firms, as well as all the employees from all the companies they have invested in, even as those entities are entirely unrelated.
  • The rules weren’t meant to disqualify small VC backed startups from accessing the exact same small biz loans offered to literally every other small biz, but someone missed this scenario so that’s what it does. VC backed startups are the ONLY small businesses ineligible.

So a request: We have contacted our local Chamber and Congressman, but we need help. If you have connections to the Senate or the House, please reach out to them and explain the situation. The entire unfortunate situation is due to something called the SBA AFFILIATION RULES. If you don’t have any direct connections, you can contact the Senate Small Business Committee at +1 (202) 224-5175. And if nothing else, please share this info far and wide (just copy/paste. No need to attribute — just get it out there). In advance, thank you.

And as always, please let me know what you think in the comments, or if you stumble upon something excellent I should be aware of let me know that as well.

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