New Year, 24

last updated 2024-01-01

To succumb to the annual practice of reflection and ambition on the first day of an annum is to become a True Blog.

Okay, fine. Last year was challenging. The most challenging in recent memory. It was my first full year of being a parent: sleep deprivation, the stress of "am I doing this right?!", and my health taking backseat (or stuffed into the trunk, more accurately).

I ended up abandoning my garden but we had a solid start
I ended up abandoning my garden but we had a solid start

Pair that with an absolute extrinsically-forced cluster on the work-side. I haven't written about this publicly, but since a few months have passed I think it's fine to share some detail at a high level.

I started {Upstream Tech} in 2016 with Alden. It was acquired in 2018 by a company Natel Energy. Since then, to the credit of the leadership of NE, we operated independently and autonomously. As 2022 became 2023, runway for the parent company, and by extension, Upstream, dwindled and their fundraising efforts bore no fruit.

Since its acquisition, Upstream has found a lot of success: a highly-retained and talented team, millions in revenue, and hundreds of environmental and renewable energy customers. Early in 2023, the board decided: alright, Marshall - go for it. Try to raise money yourself. Mind you, I had a two month old when I started the process, and there wasn't a whole lot of runway left for me to operate. As I got up to speed and started the process I was being told that it (early 2023) was one of the most challenging funding environments in recent times. Great!

Spring and Summer were spent making beautiful slides, weaving rigorous spreadsheets and responding to diligence question after diligence question. There was a lot of positive interest and folks were excited about our traction, which was rare in the space we operate.

However, as I was nearing the later stages, the parent company's board decided that the best way forward from a corporate structure perspective was for Upstream to subsume the parent company. In other words, we'd rename the parent company to be called Upstream Tech. Sounds fine at the surface, but this meant that we'd inherit everything. Some good: a board that is a who's who of climate technology and renewable energy were mentoring and coaching me; but also the cruft: debt, a strained cap table, etc. As soon as this decision was made, the prospective investors who I'd worked tirelessly to get excited became allergic. The complexity of it all was immense, but more importantly, it felt non-standard. In a fundraising environment like what we had last year, no one was willing to step outside the bounds of "known quantities" so most people at that stage backed out, wanting to keep in touch for when "the complex part was over."

Hiking up the Green River
Hiking up the Green River

Thankfully, we were able to pull things together in the end. We did end up subsuming the parent company; we secured a lot of money from a renewable energy-focused PE and one of the world's largest renewable energy utilities; and I my focus has shifted back to developing mission-driven products and making Upstream an awesome and rewarding place to work. It was grueling, but on the bright side I have some experience now navigating Succession-level corporate shifts, and feel confident about raising money (if needed) in the future.

But holy shit, I do not recommend combining a newborn with this level of corporate chaos. The only silver lining was that the moment I exited my office and held, fed, played with my child Meadow the work brain was extinguished. I could not help but smile, laugh, and in the best cases, cry.

The rolling hills of the Northern Berkshires
The rolling hills of the Northern Berkshires


Okay, what else goes into these things?

I read a lot of books. My favorites were probably The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin (I ration Le Guin and good lord this one was worth saving and savouring), Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, and A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (whose pen name I can only assume is a nod to Strugatsky!?). Non-fiction wise, I enjoyed {You're Paid What You're Worth}.

Sometimes when stress was at its highest and Meadow was asleep, I'd play DayZ with my best friend Henry -- a masterpiece of a social game, in spite of it's buggy, clunky, unfinished mechanics. No game has made me feel more like my life was actually in danger. Wait, you might be wondering - is that a positive?! The game (in its "vanilla" un-modded form) takes place on a 236 km² map comprised of coast, small towns, larger cities, forests and mountain passes. There are usually 60-80 other players with you, so interaction is sparse and intense via proximity voice chat. If you die, either from exposure or via the self-preservation of another player, that was it - you started over with nothing. It was a form of "shooting the moon" so to speak, and stressing myself out after being stressed out all day. Makes sense, right? Right?

Alej, Quinault, Henry and I also began our BG3 campaign and have been having a blast.

I'm Goose Goose, the bard. Flanked by August, Kes, and Diligibat
I'm Goose Goose, the bard. Flanked by August, Kes, and Diligibat

This fall, I became obsessed with alternative corporate {structures} (especially co-ops), {games as tools}, and {meteorology}. For the latter, I dove deep into learning the historical context, the current art, and the areas where we can improve access, accuracy and resilience. I'm nearing the conclusion that is where I think I'll spend the majority of my technical career. Alden (my longtime friend and business partner) agrees.

I also made a lot of music that I've kept to myself until I have some more time to polish it.


The achievements, in short:

  1. Meadow turned 1 and is a brilliant, beautiful, and happy child.
  2. Alej and I survived that first year of parenthood together and are closer than ever.
  3. I fought for Upstream Tech's survival, and it's in a great spot now.
  4. I found a new passion in meteorology and the structures in which collaboration occur, and I hope to pursue that further in the future.
  5. I cleaned piles and piles of trash out of a nearby forest with my neighbors

Dax in the fells, overlooking Boston
Dax in the fells, overlooking Boston
Cleaned up a ton of trash
Cleaned up a ton of trash
Marsh and Meadow
Marsh and Meadow
Alej and Meadow enjoying some pasta
Alej and Meadow enjoying some pasta

<3

Compiled 2024-2-14