I first had the inkling on how to fix the Internet in 2016, and when I began to express the vision, people thought I had taken leave of my senses. I mean, technically, sure, anything is possible, they supposed, but they didn’t think anyone could take on the task, execute towards success, you know, make it happen.
I can’t blame them.
Things never went according to plan either.
The first time around in attempting to solve the universal problems of all digital networks on the Internet, I ran headlong into an unsupportive board. The company I had founded and was running at the time was a perfect springboard upon which to launch what I had in mind, a new way to monetize digital content, and it had to do with retail.
And it began with a plan to fix journalism and the news industry.
We had built up the company to 100+ employees, and with relatively small tweaks in the roadmap, we would have turned it into a major network of digital cash flows. Instead, they got cowed by the appearance of “big tech” and ended up not grokking the non-linear power of digital and higher levels of abstraction.
So, instead of understanding the opportunity and seeing the possibilities, we decided to part ways, and I decided to go it alone.
And in the fall of 2017, we decided to use the promising new technology called blockchain to create the new ecosystem that I was seeing in my mind’s eye. But we missed the train.
The technology was fine, the problem was the crypto traders and governments around the world. I was exposed to dark underbelly of people who claimed to care about the democratic aspects of blockchain and crypto, but in reality who just wanted to pump-and-dump any token. I thought these types of people only existed in the dark pools (pardon the pun) of the Internet, but boy, I was yet to learn how wrong I was.
And then BTC crashed from the $19K high it reached during that year, multiple countries including India banned crypto, and the general blockchain / crypto freeze began. It would be 2020 – 2021 before things came back up. The project was paused as it ran out of steam.
Luckily, the work done here isn’t lost, and this ecosystem will relaunch in the coming months and years, as the tech, regulatory, and political environment becomes more aligned with the mission.
So, after 2018 passed, I began to formulate Awake, a far more ambitious and broader solution, and decided that this third attempt would have to be it. In my enthusiasm, I thought others would understand what I wanted to build, after all, the technology part was the easy bit, we just needed business folks who believed it was possible. And we needed money.
It never occurred to me that I would get robbed, and that many of the stories people say about the underbelly of Silicon Valley and Wall St. were true. I had never really believed those tales, truly having drunk the kool aid of meritocracy, equal access, technocracy, etc. but man the money people I met were awful.
I met and worked with several investment bankers, who took my money, a lot of it, promising many things, delivering absolutely nothing. I was depressed for a while from this experience. DM me for recommendations of who to never work with. Lol (crying sound).
Failing at something because you tried and it didn’t work, that’s one thing. Getting cheated by folks who claim to help entrepreneurs, that was totally heartbreaking, and particularly because these folks are based in Silicon Valley, my adopted home land, and I felt entirely betrayed by the system that I thought I understood and was in love with. It turns out my love was with the idea of meritocracy and democracy, and I just imagined that these virtues were embodied in “the system”.
Vision vs. Obsession
When does a vision take over over everything you see and experience? When does your logical mind that rationally evaluates everything turn into irrational seeking towards what must be manifested? When does everything you look at and do become about your object of attention?
So as I continued to look for the new partners, the vision of an Awake universe kept getting stronger and clearer, how a wonderfully abstract bit of code can change a very large part of the existing human experience, and can play a part in creating a world that works with more compassion than it does today.
A world where everyone is acknowledged fully, is seen as they are, and can use their being to make an impact amongst the people they know, and where any group can co-create anything, with technology and people enabling participation and sharing in any and all upside. Together.
So what next? I was running low on funds, having spent over $1M over the 2017-2019 period with basically nothing to show, and with savings run down very significantly.
Over the years I had run a tech agency and had been doing angel investments via what I called HigherOrder.VC, a kind of pre-cursor to Awake. I returned back to this basis, and looked around for new partners. This time it had to be good, real good, and I felt I was on my last go around, it would be next to impossible to restart if things wouldn’t work our right this time.
And I had to design this in a way to maximize the chances of success, and to increase the surface area of where we can connect with customers and drive value.
So I designed the Awake ecosystem, starting with AwakeVC, aka Awakened Value Co-creation, the platform for tech innovation and private equity. I determined to solve not just the technological challenges that the current Internet economy is straining under, but also the value flow that happens in the startup ecosystem, and to stop founders from getting taken advantage of. This last bit would be a side effect.
I needed a crack team of technologists and product whisperers. I went back to my old stomping grounds, and re-initiated contact with a company I’ve always respected but that I’ve come to love.
Where to (re)-create a team of hyper effective doers? Where to create a group of Awake Imagineers? (Imagineering is trademarked, and we’re reanimating the term Imagineer).
What happens when people come together in a open-hearted way to co-create something? BTW, I’m a ThoughtWorker at heart, and among many things that are in my DNA, there is the Agile Manifesto, something that is much more than the words, if one truly groks the implications. And one of them I always live my life by, sometimes to my own loss, is customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
I have not experienced better, more value-focused engineering and product development than with the fine folks at Coffeebeans. I say this despite having started Quintype prior to this go around, having grown Runa from ground up, and also having experienced Nilenso and C42 and ThoughtWorks and so many other top agencies. I say it despite being an eternal ThoughtWorker.
And what came out of pouring all my remaining savings into Awake? What have certain kind friends / family / angels put their money into?
What is the Internet Protocol? You know, the IP from TCP/IP? How have we reimagined the building blocks of a new Internet? Here’s a quick overview.
Opentangle is the Awake Inter-network Protocol, I like to joke that it is a layer 8 protocol. Get it? It forms the basis of the known world, the reality within which everything happens. This is also the Knowledge Protocol, and also known as the Network of Networks Protocol.
And then there is the Awake Internet-work Sovereign Identity Protocol, allowing certified identities to be recognized in sovereign ways, and allowing anyone to log into any Awake network. We call this Awake Me, and it also forms the basis for the upcoming developer platform, AwakeOS.
The Awake Inter-network Market Protocol allows for platforms like Shoptype to exist, that represent the singular interconnected market network that is the Internet, so Awake Market is a commerce protocol if you will.
With the Awake Inter-network Asset Protocol, which we call Awake Money, one is able to interact with the singular virtual network of banking services – starting with a ledger, payments, treasury, loyalty, and so on.
There are more Awake Internet protocols, but with just these, we are well beyond the MVP set, with a solid product market fit, existing customers, multiple countries and currencies live around the world, and a team and process ready to be scaled.
I’ve written more on all this elsewhere, but this has been one hell of a journey from darkness to light. I am incredibly excited to say that the awakening is near. And now to go back to why I started to write this post today.
Why do anything? In life, I mean? Why do anything at all?
Is it just for oneself? I lived my life in a very self-obsessed manner for a very long time. And then, in 2015, when my life was going through a particularly low phase, I had my first glimpse of something that was not dark at all, but something that was full of light and vastness and freedom.
Since then, the urge to explore and conquer the outer world we experience transformed itself into exploring and conquering the inner world of thought and feelings, one that we can’t seem to control, or turn off, or generally have very much awareness of.
I discovered much about myself and the human condition from my deep meditations and explorations of the vast unmanifested source of consciousness. I am writing as much as I can here, iRealization, though I’ve had very little time to dedicate to it since Awake.
Passion to Compassion
I do not live for myself, I live for humanity. My own humanity.
I am an Imagineer, and I understand the Inter-network at a level that very few do. In the first half of my lifetime, I seemed to have used this knowledge without awareness, and I contributed to the state of things today.
The Internet was meant to be a unifying force, one that was meant to create a global village and create a global economy where everyone could benefit. That didn’t happen, indeed, today despite the “Creator Economy” and all the hype, less than 2% of folks make more than a living wage as a “creator”. Which is just bonkers, given that everyone is a creator on the Inter-network, and a few big networks are extracting so much of this value for themselves in the name of connecting people and organizing information!
And so, with this second half of my time on the Earth, I want things to be better for everyone. I want the passion economy to become the compassion economy, where we can leverage the raw unbridled energy that comes from pursuing one’s passions to co-create for everyone, not just for for the few.
I do not built anything for myself, I invite co-creators to build for each and every living being on the planet. Each person has a unique expression and contribution to the whole, and each is an indivisible portion of the entire experience and reality of what we call the human race and humanity.
Vision and Reality
Awake, an ecosystem built on the actual Internet is the vision that I can’t shake off. I am unable to stop, until this reality is laid bare, the fact that there is already an underlying unifying ground that connects all of us, the Internet that was launched in 1989, something so basic and available that we’ve forgotten it exists.
How difficult can it be to point to what is already there?
The basis of the Internet, the underlying Internet Protocol, was forgotten, and de facto protocols such as Facebook and Google and Apple and Twitter took hold, constructs that exist as such only because people on the actual Internet give them power.
How difficult can it be to get the users of the actual Internet to understand what the actual Internet means?
How difficult can it be to create technology that simple reflects the design of the actual Internet, something widely available everywhere already?
As usual, it turns out that the technology is not the problem, the existing frameworks are the problem. Frameworks represent unspoken protocols of how things are, and how things are done. It is our mental models of what reality is, and what is possible and not possible, what we entertain as worth trying, and what we dismiss outright.
It is the power of imagination that gives us the ability to see what is not so at the moment. From imagination comes creativity and passion and courage and drive. From imagination comes the power to manifest a new reality.
Imagination + Engineers. This is the formula. Software is eating the world, and that we now live in a digital universe is merely an unequal insight. And the essence of digital is information and knowledge. So to manifest the actual Internet, the ultimate knowledge economy, what is needed?
Awareness and the Metaverse
The original nerds were geeky and loved technology and innovation and hacking for their own sake, not for the sake of accumulation towards unending greed. I’m talking about the original hacker ethic.
The Internet is the closest thing we have to awareness, that people can tangibly understand, something that can’t be seen but is everywhere, something that connects us all, enables us to know things and each other, to be conscious of ourselves and others, to communicate in various ways, and to express ourselves to others.
The Internet even allows anyone to become anything they want. It enables the creation of new and alternative realities.
They are calling it the metaverse.
A New Reality
Awake brings a new reality to the surface of daily experience. Today, the actual Internet is buried under platform companies that dominate the world economy and the peoples of the planet. As a reminder, the power wielded by Big Tech companies is made possible by the actual Internet, something that is available to all.
To make this underlying power instantly accessible to everyone in their daily experience of life on the Internet, that is the vision of Awake.
What is this underlying power? What is the meaning of the “inter-network”? It is the power of open and democratic access to the means of exchange, so that humanity can communicate and collaborate with itself.
What is the raw unbridled power of people coming together to make things happen, to effect change?
The actual Internet was designed to unite everyone. That is the underlying power of the Internet, a united humanity that is connected in real-time without cancerous cells extracting much needed nourishment from all the organs that form the whole.
Where does focus end and obsession begin?
I constantly think of Roy Neary and how he must have felt, having a seed planted in his mind, unable to resist as it takes hold and begins to sprout, creating a whole forest of thoughts and ideas, ultimately leading him to obsession and into action at any price, just to get to that end goal of understanding what it all means.
What does Awake mean? Where will this journey take me? I have put so much into this that I see now that I have done nothing all these years, but the vision has done it all. It has tried to manifest itself in several ways, through me, and this time, the seed has taken.
Awake is like a banyan tree, once it takes hold, it creates a network of trees and forests that last for millennia. The design and reality of the actual Internet is the same, but has become hidden in layer after layer of platformization. The raw underlying power of allowing anyone to create such platforms, even by composing and building on other platforms, an utter democratization of monetization, this is the promise of the new reality.
Awake makes this the daily experience of everyone, anyone can join with a single click. Awake makes it possible to earn a living for oneself, enabling all the creators on the Internet, without who nothing is, it allows those folks to earn a living, indeed more than a living, as it enables global movements driven by identity and purpose.
It does this by leveraging the true nature of the actual Internet, that we are already connected directly with each other. When this underlying connectivity and inherent interconnectedness can be leverages by anyone with a single click, everything changes for them instantly.
How can I not be obsessed until this is true for every human being?