Spray Painting Venture

It feels good 
To say what I want
It feels good
To knock things down
It feels good
To see the disgust in their eyes
It feels good
And I’m gonna go wild
Spray paint the walls
- Spray Paint by Black Flag*

(*Also covered by my favorite Bay Area hardcore act, Loma Prieta. Look ’em up!)

Once you’re a hardcore punk kid, you’re a punk for life. Punk owes a lot to Black Flag, one of the most iconic bands of the 80s hardcore scene. I owe a lot to the punk mentality.

I’m an immigrant from Bogotá, Colombia who grew up on punk rock, skateboards, and computers in the muggy suburbs of Ocala, Florida. Like most immigrant families, mine didn’t always have the easiest time adjusting to America. They paid their dues waiting tables, working in hot factories, and scrubbing toilets. Actually, they still do all that, proudly so.

I was surrounded in love by black, Latino, teenage punk communities that carried the spirit of irreverence. We knew the odds were stacked against us, but that was just glue to make us rely on our collective kindness. We had each other, our struggles, and no fear of being a lil scrappy to make ends meet. From strip mall churches that served as community centers to DIY punk shows in backyards and skateparks, people power was everything.

Long story short, I found myself at Stanford excitedly diving into artificial intelligence. AI isn’t all just number crunching and programming either. I felt some philosophy and neuroscience was key in getting the full picture of the limits of our own intelligence and its role in human culture. Thankfully, there’s the perfect major for that. I owe my intellectual development to the always relentlessly curious folks of the Symbolic Systems program. From neural networks, to metaphysics, to critiques of technology, it’s all the reason friends back at school chuckle at my dinner table ideas.

I got to know (and be inspired by) Obvious through Applied Symbolic Systems in VC and Entrepreneurship, a class in the SymSys program taught by Obvious’ very own Nan Li. I’ll be coming back to Stanford in the fall to extend my SymSys education with a Masters in Computer Science (concentrating in AI, of course).

I’m getting a thrill over the idea of democratizing AI and technology in general. It’s a concept I picked up from François Chollet, creator of the ever popular Keras deep learning library. I’ve spent some time working at Google and was even lucky enough to get lunch with François there.

The concept of democratizing anything fits squarely in Obvious’ People Power investment theme. It’s about letting people govern their own technology and using it in a way that promotes equality. Equality gives people power. The people want to live long, well, and free. Freedom lets people help themselves in the most innovative ways. What would be more radical than letting people spray paint whatever they want to say? Break whatever inefficient and constricting environment is around them?

I think if we enable every individual to have full control and ease of use with the latest AI technologies, they’ll go positively wild making fast, efficient, sustainable, and social business. That’s my personal mission of world positive.

Skateboarding is all about falling down, brushing it off, and trying again until you land that flip trick like butter. Venture capital is kind of similar. Not every project will land the impact desired, but it’s always worth trying. It makes the sticky landings all the sweeter.

I’m joining Obvious over the summer as a software associate intern. I’ll be be writing some code to help us find better ways of scoping out those world positive projects and taking notes along the way of how AI can be imagined with an eye for improved empowerment of the individual.

I’m simultaneously humbled and angsty to be here. Humbled by the rad people enframing technology in all the right ways; angsty about dropping into the ocean of wealth in Silicon Valley and making sure it’s put to the right uses. A little angst never hurt anyone. If anything, I embrace it as my energy to be relentless.

The Bay Area has grown to be my home for the past four years. It’s still a fantasy land to me. It’s full of technology and individuals who genuinely bring people together. Neither is the Bay Area a shining utopia, no matter what the clean-cut, minimal websites make it seem like. It’s a stage for the growing complexities of modern life. The rest of the world is watching us.

I’m restless.

Nothing sums up the flourishing emotion and energy of it all quite like some lyrics from my favorite San Francisco metal act. Their album, Sunbather, has stuck with me since my first week of living in the Bay Area. It sounds like the enriching light of a bright San Francisco morning. Sunbather is about striving for perfection but never quite catching it, yet being intoxicated by the pursuit of it all.

“I’m dying”
“Is it blissful?”
“It’s like a dream”
“I want to dream”
- Dream House by Deafheaven
Me at a Deafheaven concert at The Chapel screaming below the mic stand
I want to dream.