Launching in the wake of the election

Skyliner, the company I started with my friends Dan McKinley and Coda Hale, launched this week. We’d planned on launching after the US Presidential election to escape the miasma of horrible news that seemed to ooze in greater volume each day leading up to it. People will be relieved, we thought. A great time to start a new project, turn over a new leaf! We’ll be there to help.

It’s hard not to feel a bit hopeless right now. Many of the things I’ve focused on in the last few years now feel trivial, or badly broken, in the wake of last week’s election. — Andy Baio, “Creativity in a Post-Trump America

As many others have said, the outcome of the election left us in a tailspin — for many reasons, most of them personal and having to do with concern for friends and loved ones, the state of our country, and the future overall. The effects on our company are completely minor and unimportant in comparison, except of course to the company itself, and the people involved in it. It turns out we had a good launch and got lots of interest, which was both gratifying and, for sure, a very welcome distraction from the feelings we all were carrying.

I mentioned to an acquaintance on Twitter, though, that all of our launch activities occasionally made me feel like a clown at a funeral. Obviously, not everyone in the country (or the world) shares my feelings about the election outcome, but where I live — the East Bay, California — every precinct but one, and 78.01% of voters, voted for Hillary Clinton.

See http://electionmaps.acgov.org/

And that election map pretty well reflects the mood I’ve seen all around me. A trip to the grocery door on election day felt more like last meal preparations than a normal shop. Watching two parents at my kids’ school reassure each other that “it will be fine,” while another, wearing a head scarf, gaped at them in astonishment, left me reeling. Hearing about racial epithets and “Trump!” being howled at friends walking down Market Street in San Francisco made me horrified. For all that the Bay Area has become an industry town, obsessed with tech disruption for your every need, this was one week when everyone’s mind was somewhere else.

Once we got going on preparations, the launch started to be a welcome distraction for periods of time. I’d have bouts of news whiplash, seeing the latest from Trump Tower, diving back into despair about the next four years and my kids’ future and everything else. Then, back to work. Finish that help page, set up that Slack team, he nominated who?! — okay, back to those demos. Call my governor, ask him to stand up for immigrants, then what’s next on the to do list. And so on. I didn’t disengage, at all, from political concerns (my tweets over the week often reflect the whiplash I was feeling), and I won’t. I can’t. But, I can’t wallow in depression over them, either.

It felt good to build something. It felt good to show what we’d been up to, to get great feedback on it, to have people launch things with it and report back in happiness. It felt good to create something, however small. I wish it had come under different circumstances, but this week turned out to be a good reminder that you can be outraged, engaged, and active, while building and moving forward.