You’ll love this episode of the Remarkable People podcast with guest Chris Messina — the inventor of the hashtag and is the number one Hunter on Product Hunt. Fans of technology and Silicon Valley will love this discussion with Chris Messina, star of The Social Dilemma.

Chris is a man of many talents.

He may be best known for inventing the social-media convention called the hashtag. That’s a helluva of a moniker: What have you done? Oh, I invented the hashtag…

But this simple concept made Twitter and other social media platforms much more useful when people are searching for information.

He designed products for Uber and Google and helped create BarCamp, the free and flexible “unconference.”

He is the #1 “product hunter” — meaning that he’s uncovered more products than anyone else on Product Hunt, the website featuring new products.

What he explains about new product introductions is helpful to any entrepreneur.

He currently leads West Coast business development for Republic, a fundraising platform that is democratizing venture capital by enabling people to invest in privately-held startups.

In short, he is an evangelist with few peers in the areas of open source, tech innovation, and tech investments.

Enjoy this interview with Chris Messina:

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Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with the remarkable Chris Messina:

Guy Kawasaki: I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is the Remarkable People Podcast. This episode's remarkable guest is Chris Messina. He is a man of many talents. He may be best known for inventing the social media convention called the hashtag. That's a hell of a moniker. "What've you done?" "Oh, I invented the hashtag." This simple concept made Twitter and other social media platforms much more useful when people are searching for information. He's also designed products for Uber and Google, and helped create BarCamp, the free and flexible unconference.

He is the number one product hunter, meaning that he has uncovered more products than anyone else on Product Hunt, the website featuring new products. What he explains about new product introductions is helpful to any entrepreneur. He currently heads the West Coast business development for Republic, a fundraising platform that is democratizing venture capital by enabling people to invest in privately held startups. In short, he is an evangelist. He has few peers in the areas of open source, tech innovation, and tech investments.

I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People, and now, here is the inventor of the hashtag, and so many other accomplishments, Chris Messina.

Are you tired of talking about how you invented the hashtag?

Chris Messina: I am not, actually. It's a known story, it's a story I've told many times, but it's an important one. It's a relevant one. The reason why it's so important is because it gives a different version of success than what a lot of people come to Silicon Valley looking for. I think it's really important to have other models that give people the self-permission to try to do something that everyone else is not. And the hashtag is I think representative of a success of, like pursuing non-monetary, non-economic, non-exit based returns. The hashtag is a product of culture and of a set of ideas that I think needed to come to the forefront.

And telling the story of the origin of the hashtag and how I didn't work for Twitter and I didn't do it for commercial purposes, I think is important to remind people of where the web and social technology came from. And so it doesn't get tiring to me because we have not convinced people that there are better or different ways of building success with technology and with social products. So that's why so far, at least, I'm not sick of it.

Guy Kawasaki: Well, far be it from me to prevent you from telling the story. I thought you'd be sick of it. So go for it, be the hashtag evangelist you are.

Chris Messina: I feel like you probably got the same sort of story. I'm talking about Apple. So in a similar way, we are memory encapsulations. We remind people of an era and of a time and of a set of ideas that are still playing themselves out. Everything that I see happening now in the crypto space reminds me of the conversations that we were having back in the early two-thousands around de-centralizing social networks. That is actually where the hashtag came from.

At the time, Twitter had just come out in 2006 and there was a couple of thousand people, mostly in the Bay Area, trying out this new thing. We were using SMS as a new medium for publishing updates and sharing to our friends. We were gradually migrating off of laptops and desktop computers and becoming more mobile and bringing technology with us wherever we went and the way in which we made sense of those updates and chose what to train our attention on were crude and rudimentary.

But essentially if you posted a tweet and I was following you, I would get your tweet sent to my phone and that was it. And all of your followers would also get text messages sent to their phones. That became overwhelming as social media and as Twitter scaled and grew. And so there needed to be a way to add some additional information or intention or to filter content, and it had to be on both sides of the marketplace, both the creators and the receivers of that information. You had to create a solution to filter that content that would work only in text format.

There was no ability to add another button, or another form field, or anything else to help people express what this content was about. I'd been a long time participant of the open-source community. I'd been in IRC chats. And in IRC, just like you have with Slack today, Slack is just a prototyped version of IRC, you'd bounce around these different channels and those channels were very topical. Of course, now it's discord for a lot of people, but the architecture of that software is identical.

All I wanted to do is really bring the behaviors that we had on IRC into this tech space, SMS, new service called Twitter, but I needed to do it in a way that was adaptive to the form. And so by simply adding a pound symbol in front of a word or phrase that was squished together and didn't have spaces in it, suddenly you created a new token of meaning, a new way of labeling your content, a new search term that developers could allow you to search on. So that was the form of it. And then the benefit to people creating content using this new, strange, archaic language was using a feature called track. And this was essentially kind of a saved search function.

If you think about the way that Twitter works, every tweet that's created has a username embedded in it and if you are tracking that username, those messages from that username will be sent to you. The same thing could be true for any word in a tweet. And so the difference there as opposed to just using any arbitrary word or phrase, was that hashtag implied a little bit more intentionality. There was a person saying this is about #BlackLivesMatter, as opposed to just the phrase Black Lives Matter. That allowed other people then to see that that phrase was important and was different and then could be imitated. And then that allowed other people to join in that conversation and to participate.

And so the whole idea was that this was an open-source kind of behavioral technology to get people to participate in this growing trend of social media and sharing our lives. And so I think that's one, that again is why I think telling that story is important, and two, why I think that story is interesting and relevant today because you have to take a look at the behaviors that people are already engaged in and slightly modify it.

I kind of think about it as changing the spin on the curve ball in one direction or another. And that by the time it gets to the plate, it's in a different place than where it started from. But the subtle shifts are very different, but in aggregate, the mass compounding of difference can make a huge impact over time. And so if I think about where the hashtag was in the beginning and how people were skeptical and thought it was stupid and resisted it, to where it is today, but it's become part of that social fabric, that social technology because of where I started from, because I started from the pitcher's mound, and now we're closer to home plate. And so you can see it's gone all the way across of the strikes on... to extend that metaphor a little too far

Guy Kawasaki: And all the hype about artificial intelligence and machine learning doesn't come close to the effectiveness of putting a pound sign in front of a word.

Chris Messina: I think that's the crazy thing too. In the beginning, when I pitched this idea to the Twitter co-founders, they didn't believe that you could convince humans to essentially change their behavior. I think with good reason. I think humans, we are calorie preserving machines, we are very lazy, we don't want to change anything unless we absolutely have to. We'll create all sorts of structures to prevent having to change because I guess the way our psychology is, is like, "Well, if it's worked this way for so long, why would we do something different?"

But there are those of us who live on the bleeding edge. We are sort of genetic mutations with behavior and we try different things. We behave in new ways that over time, prove to be advantageous in some way. And when you combine messaging and communication with technology and amplification and "digification," if that's a word, or digitization, some of us who were willing to try new things and change our behavior have adapted better to this new world and are surfing at the leading edge of it with the wave behind us, as opposed to being crushed under it. So I do think that it was not the wrong, perhaps, attitude for the founders to be skeptical of my proposal, but the thought that they would use the algorithms of a Google or something like that to make sense of the corpus of data that they were ingesting was just ten years, or maybe fifteen years actually, because the hashtag has had its fourteenth birthday, thirteen, fourteen years too early.

You're starting to see, for example, Twitter and certainly Instagram and other places, especially TikTok, using machine learning and using categorization systems and using computer vision to make sense of the content that people are producing. But that required a lot of tagging, that required a lot of manual human training. The thing that those systems still lack is generativity, to make sense of what a new phenomenon that's coming out of language means.

This is why #BlackLivesMatter or MeToo are significant, is because a machine or an algorithm wouldn't necessarily know that those things are important or meaningful or have some cultural import, but people coming together, recognizing the subtle intentions of those words brought together in a phrase, put together as a community conversation from voices that previously weren't represented in the mainstream, allowed for those topics to trend. I think that typically a machine learning algorithm is only retrospective. It doesn't allow for you to see where the arc of history or the arc of culture is going and to respond to it. So these things, it's yes, and. It's machine learning, it's AI, but it's also human communication, its human facilitation, its human interaction.

Guy Kawasaki: Does it make you crazy when people and companies try to hijack a hashtag?

Chris Messina: I think it's part of the design of the thing. I say this because again, as someone who works in open-source, and I'm not an immunologist or someone who follows all that stuff, but obviously we all have been exposed to information about the way that virality and the medics and all those things work. But in the era of COVID, if you have an open system, you inevitably invite some sort of infection or co-optation. And yet, that is the very thing that you need in order to survive. If we were a closed system, we would not breathe, we would not eat, we would not poop, we would not do any of those things that are required to transform the things that we ingest into more meaningful sustenance, nutrition.

So when I see brands co-opting hashtags, to me what I'm happy about in a way is that, it's going through the intestine at that point. It's about to be crapped out because there is no central registry, there is no DNS for hashtags. They retain their cultural cache as a result of their utility and cultural conversations and the moment that a commercial entity, some sort of virus comes in and tries to take over a hashtag, hopefully it's over, or it will be transformed or changed. Or in the many cases where McDonald's and others have kind of screwed up and they've ended up at the brunt of a joke, they've learned very quickly that this is a system that, "Okay, we have to be much more nuanced about and actually show up and participate, as opposed to just kind of blast out messages in this kind of shotgun-style; let me shoot you in the face with our marketing messages that no one wants to hear."

Guy Kawasaki: My God, the gospel according to Chris on hashtags, shit. I'll just end the interview right here. Can I move on to another topic?

Chris Messina: Please.

Guy Kawasaki: I have greater appreciation of hashtag than any other point in my life. So what does it mean to be the number one product hunter?

Chris Messina: My life and career in technology has taken many shapes and forms and without a whole lot of, I would say intention, it's a lot more sailing, I suppose, and then I tack kind of from one thing to another, and I kind of go where the wind takes me, and I have a sense, maybe on the horizon, of where I'd like to end up, but ultimately I've got to be adaptive. And in the case of becoming the number one product hunter, this was not something that I intended to do, but it arose as a response, I suppose, to circumstance.

I joined Product Hunt in the early days, in 2014. I was at first actually rather skeptical because I was concerned that it would be just another popularity contest. The way that Product Hunt works is that people, essentially on the Internet, go out and find cool products and they submit it, as you would on Reddit or Digg or platforms like that, and then the community votes on the things that it likes. I mean, there's comments and so on and so forth.

And in the beginning, that active curation, the act of finding a product and then posting it to Product Hunt, was the act of hunters. And so we would go out and try to find cool stuff and share it with our friends. And this became a great place. I was constantly trying new apps out. I was talking to makers and creators, and I just loved being at the cutting edge of technology and seeing how people were solving problems with emerging services and APIs and technologies. And over the course of several years, I just became kind of a resource, on the one hand for people who wanted to launch on Product Hunt, and on the other hand, when I would see cool stuff on Twitter or elsewhere I'd say, "Hey, do you want me to post this Product Hunt?" And they'd be like, "What's Product Hunt?" I'd be like, "Okay, let me just do it for you and we'll get you some users." And they'd be like, "Cool."

And so I left the Bay Area in 2019. Basically, I kind of felt just a little bit jaded and kind of disconnected from the scene and the community. I'd gone through YCombinator, but then I ended up leaving the company that I co-founded, which was a conversational AI startup, and I just needed a big reset. And so while I was gone for a year, I was doing a lot of just public speaking and talks and that's how I was making my living, but when I came back in January of 2020, of course COVID hit, and suddenly I could no longer travel. I was no longer making any money and very quickly, my bank account, especially being in the Bay Area, was diminishing quickly.

And it just so happened that a friend of mine launched a platform called Super Pier that kind of was the combination of Calendly and Zoom all through the web browser. And so this allowed me to start charging for consulting services. And a lot of people ended up wanting to launch on Product Hunt to find their first users after their initial validation. And so I kind of turned that hobby or habit of mine into a kind of daily ritual of finding cool products and launching them and as a result, just kind of rocketed my way to the top.

And what it means to be the number one product hunter is essentially the person who has hunted the most products across the entire platform and who has received the most number of cumulative upvotes across all the products. Now, I don't necessarily only share products that I think are going to do well. There's a whole range and a whole gamut of folks that I'm interested in supporting and helping them to find that audience and really hone their message. But I'm actually about fifty hunts away from hitting my 3,000th hunt. My plan at this moment is actually to retire once I hit 3,000. And so I'm going to be doing something cool and interesting I think for my last thirty or so hunts, we'll see; I'm still working on the rollout plan right now, but that's what it means. But it's good to be like Michael Jordan and go out while you're at the top, I guess.

Guy Kawasaki: So you're not going to just start playing baseball.

Chris Messina: I'm not "Bo" Jackson. No. Actually, so I joined a company called Republic and the reason why I joined Republic, which was essentially does many, many things in terms of helping makers and founders raise funding, but I was specifically interested in the equity crowdfunding part of Republic. If you're familiar with Kickstarter, you can back a specific product, but you can't invest in the company itself. And what I found was the missing piece of the work I was doing with Product Hunt and launching makers, was converting those upvotes into dollars in capital that would enable those best product makers to go on and build the things that they were building.

Now, of course, venture capital has been around for a while. I've taken venture capital. It's a big part of the Bay Area ecosystem. But the thing that I don't like that has been happening is that a lot of venture capitalist will put money into a company or a product, and then they'll ride it for a generation or a cycle, let's say, anywhere from four to ten years, then they'll have an exit. And that product will probably end up either being absorbed into the acquirer or it'll be shut down. And all the users that were part of that core base that helped to contribute to the success of that product, they have no upside in that exit or in that financial transaction.

And so what I like about equity crowdfunding is that it provides a legal mechanism for customers to invest in the companies and the founders whose businesses they patronize. And then they may have an upside if and when that company succeeds. So that alignment felt like the thing that was missing from the work I was doing at Product Hunt. And so I want to be able to direct my attention more towards what's happening there and in that space. I don't know if it's going from...I don't know what two sports would be related here, but certainly not going from football to baseball. But nonetheless, same general sports ball environment, but slightly different focus.

Guy Kawasaki: I have questions about Republic. Do you want me to go deeper into Republic or do you want me to finish my questions on Product Hunt?

Chris Messina: Yeah, let's stay on Product Hunt and then let's hop over to Republic.

Guy Kawasaki: Okay. So with Product Hunt, basically you put yourself out there and you say, "Send me your ideas." So are you swamped every day? Do you get 200 of these every day?

Chris Messina: This is a little bit why I'm deciding to sort of step aside. I think there are two things that are happening. One, it feels like Product Hunt is growing up. They have a new CEO, there's been a succession of kind of changes afoot, and it feels like what's happening is that the curatorial aspect of the hunter, that role, and again, this is totally from the outside, I mean, inside knowledge, is becoming just less important. And so YouTube needs its creators, Twitter needs its Twitters, Instagram needs its influencers, and I'm not sure that Product Hunt believes that it needs its hunters in the same way that hunters have been important for Product Hunt's growth in the future. In other words, makers and founders themselves, one are savvy about Product Hunt, and two, there's enough information out there about how to launch yourself that you can hunt your own product. And so essentially you become the person who is posting your product to Product Hunt.

To answer your question, yes. I probably get four to five, if not ten pitches a day. There's probably two major problems that I have. Well, I haven't met many major problems, but at least in Product Hunt, the two that are the most relevant is that one, hunters are limited to two hunts a day. So at most I can do 720 hunts a year, which is a lot, but I easily get, again, three to five to ten a day. And the other problem is that people want to launch in two to three days. I have a calendar that I let people book for free, thirty days into the future.

So increasingly I have this race condition where I have people that are ready to launch, they want to go live, they've read some blog posts, and talk to Chris Messina, he'll hunt you. And I have to keep telling people, "No. Go to my website, try to find a date." Everyone comes back and they say, "Well, you're booked out thirty days." And I'm like, "I know." So people are literally camping out my calendar to get hunted by me. And on the one hand, I feel a great sense of responsibility and pride that people come to me for that service. But it increasingly feels like I am a transaction along a path to some marketing thing.

Me as an individual, as a person, isn't that important. So that feels like I don't want to be a toll booth holder in this case. I like working with founders and makers to help them tell their story, but I just can't do that at scale and that's another reason why I think Republic is an interesting next step for me.

Guy Kawasaki: But if you're getting two, three, five, ten a day and you're asking them to schedule out, but aren't ninety percent of those crap and you don't want them on your schedule? Do you reject people?

Chris Messina: I definitely reject people, for sure. And I wouldn't say that ninety percent are crap. One of the interesting benefits of the scheduling system is that it requires people to be more thoughtful. It's very easy to set up a no-code website or a notion database or something else that is, I don't want to say it's not a product, but it didn't take you raising capital and hiring a team and doing a bunch of due diligence. I get some very, very high quality stuff organically just coming to me that I've never heard of before from amazing founders. So I do believe, just like I said, with an open system, you kind of have to stay open and receive some of that crap, some of the stuff that isn't that interesting, some of the stuff that you've seen a million times, and then I do apply a selection criteria that's sort of personal and based on where does this fit? Is this a real product? What is this person really trying to do? Are they just harvesting emails? Is there something real here? Because I am contributing to some degree, my reputation and my high pass filter.

So I do get a lot of crap, but I get probably less than you might expect. I do get some founders that are just makers that are really irritating and clearly don't have any respect for me, and I've had to put the kibosh on some, and that also doesn't feel good. And it's just me. I don't have a team. I'm by myself. So I evaluate all this stuff. I set up an air table to bring these things in. I think I do relatively well. I feel like the product world is also changing.

We're in a moment where we need to start thinking a little bit differently about the types of things that people are building and why they're building it and where they're heading with it because we've made it so easy to build a bunch of stuff. The harder question now is, should we build it? Who are we building it for? What is the quality of this thing that we're building? Does it actually solve people's real problems?

And the next step is really going to be about coordination and deeper integrations between software that do things really, really well, but we're just at the beginning steps of that. And that coordination part, honestly, is probably the hardest part for humans to do. We can be good at collaboration when there's an emergency, but doing so just for the benefit of broader, vague humanity, we seem less equipped for pursuing that long-term.

Guy Kawasaki: So can you list out what you're looking for?

Chris Messina: Yeah. I hate to say it, but it is a little bit like the Supreme Court and pornography. I sort of know it when I see it. But that said, I'm looking for quality and clarity of design. Very important. I'm looking for people to say, this is what this product is, this is who it's for, this is how we know or have some good sense that it works. This is why we built it, why we have credibility, ideally beyond just going and listing a bunch of random logos that don't link anywhere like, "Oh, tech crunch, New York Times, like okay, I can pull those logos too, let's see something real here." And then are there maybe combining or merging different technologies or trends or themes in a really interesting, timely and effective way?

For example, one of my favorite hunts from last year was a product called butter. I believe they're at They ended up winning and becoming a product of the month for the month that I launched them, maybe it was November last year. And these guys, I think they were referred to me, and they essentially had built kind of a whiteboarding/video/workshop live in-browser video chat platform, video conversation platform.

Product Hunt has another feature called collections and I probably collected about seventy or eighty different video products that launched last year, because one, coronavirus and the pandemic, but two, WebRTC suddenly became this enabling technology where you could embed video in a web browser or webpage like you could an image. And that opened up lots of people to start to realize that they could build in video, not to mention that we have the tech and they have the cameras, et cetera, but they also added a layer of character, and a narrative, and it's just fun.

If you go to the website and you're about to get into a butter room for a workshop, the waiting room music is super well-picked. It's like jazz and it's buttery slick. It's really good. It's on brand. You want to hang out there. The whole thing is bright yellow. It's the best butter that you've ever had. And so you just want to slather yourself in this web app, and that might be the pinnacle maybe but in that realm where there's a good story and you kind of get it instantly, and like, "Why didn't this exist before?" The thing that really differentiated them was the focus on workshops, was the specific use case. It was not for teams getting together and having a virtual presence or something like that, it was when you're running a workshop you have specific needs and from a facilitation perspective, from a white boarding perspective, from managing your members and people who have to come and go, and, "Oh, I have to go to the bathroom and this is happening to me" or whatever, like having side channels and back channels for those things to occur.

So specifically designed with a very specific user set in mind and then telling that story really effectively, clearly without any hubris, without using big five dollar words, those things tend to help really well. I will say this, one of the other things that I say often to the makers that I consult with on their launches on Product Hunt is, Product Hunt is essentially a dating app for products. And you have to be very clear, like on any dating app, the things that you're into but also things that you're not into. So if you want to win Tinder, yes, you can put a bunch of photos of puppies on your profile photo, but if you're allergic to dogs, that's not going to really be the right selling point.

So when you're putting together your Product Hunt pitch, you want to be able to work for this, and not for that. We think this is a really good use case for us. We've seen really great use in the medical field or whatever it is, but we're really not great for construction, or whatever it is, just that self-knowledge, that self-awareness, I think is a big piece of really doing well and performing well on Product Hunt.

Guy Kawasaki: Have you recognized any patterns in the entrepreneurs?

Chris Messina: Yeah. The ones that I think do well are humble, they're curious, they ask good questions, and they take feedback like they're drinking water. It's not only natural, but it's essential. I have lots of feedback. I have lots of opinions. I've seen tons of apps. I'm not offended if people don't take my feedback. I especially appreciate if they're able to say, "Okay, here's what I hear you saying, and here's why you're saying what you're saying, but here's why it doesn't work for us or for our users." Essentially, those founders who have learned non-violent communication in their communication style is incredibly valuable and validating and it makes me feel good and I want to use their product even more because clearly they can receive the feedback without defensiveness, which I know means that their product is the result of, kind of an ego-less approach to solving problems.

And if design is the manifestation of intent, then the way in which you solicit that information and receive it and then build it into the product that you're building by taking like a stratus of just lots of different inspirations and synthesizing it into a thing that's going to solve the most number of problems for the most number of people in the most elegant way, you can't be too attached to any particular design or solution or idea. So I guess the way that I think about that is that a product is an artifact of a conversation. You have a conversation with a set of people, which is your audience or your users or the people who you're trying to serve, and through doing a better job of listening and understanding what's being communicated to you, the products that you produce are artifacts of a healthy understanding, and that your product is not going to be set in stone.

We live in a world of software that is delivered over the Internet. So we're constantly able to improve and adapt into adjusting, to evolve. And for those founders that believe that getting to the launch is the last step of the process, they probably are not going to do well. They're going to get it out there and they're going to get bored, or they're not going to be truly engaged with their audience on a daily momentary basis and showing that they're listening, adapting, responding, and building. And so to me, a great product is really a great conversation.

Guy Kawasaki: I don't know if this is a valuable comment, but I think you basically just described the opposite of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.

Chris Messina: Yes. And here's why. I think they are of the previous generation, Steve Jobs specifically, but Elon Musk in particular, I think that there needed to be and there's still perhaps needs to be a certain idiosyncratic approach and worldview, but I believe you probably also have to be somewhat neuro-atypical to be able to hold in your minds all the various things that my perception of them, because I'm not them, and I never was them, and I never will be them, is simply that they're able to listen to a lot of the feedback cut through the noise. Hear the parts that are relevant to what they want to achieve, and they can ingest that into their solution. So they're having those conversations within themselves and in their own mind at a level that many other humans just don't seem to operate at.

So it's still a matter of conversation. It's still a matter of constant iteration. It's still a matter of wanting to improve through craftsmanship and through integration and through exposure and through dynamism and invention. But the pursuit of excellence or greatness seem to be something that is really, really hard to attain because you have to be willing to piss a lot of people off to achieve what you want to achieve. Now, you've obviously had more exposure to them. So I'd love to hear if I'm way off base because I'm still learning. But that's my sense that the generation growing up now on the Internet faces a different set of constraints and a different environment for building products.

The speed, especially with software relative to hardware, is so much different than it was when you were building a phone or a computer because you'd have to spin up literally factories. Now, you can change your no-code like website forty times and do A, B, C, D, E, F, Q testing all in the same day and granted, maybe the data is not useful, but that feels different.

I think in an attention economy, the level of engagement from founders in conversations with their user base is, I think essential, at least. And again, you asked me in Product Hunt, that's what I'm seeing, that's what seems to work well there. I don't know if we're talking about cars or we're talking about rockets, or we're talking about boring under Los Angeles if that same attitude would work, because the user base in those cases are very different. We're talking about regulators and cities, and I don't know if you want to talk to those folks. But at least in my world, those conversations are the things that I see that differentiate really great products.

Guy Kawasaki: Okay. So now I have a tactical question, and it comes from an experience that I've had two or three times in the last six months. I guess the height of this would be, Mark Cuban has funded this company called Fireside. It's a new kind of podcasting platform, et cetera. I as a podcaster, I was curious about it, so I contact them. Now, I am not that arrogant in the sense of, "Do you know who I am?" kind of attitude. All right. So anyway, I get through to them and they start sending me this email that we need to set up a one-hour conversation, where we're going to onboard you to determine your needs and help you come up to speed and blah, blah, blah.

My guttural reaction to that was if you have a product that takes one-hour of onboarding with the CEO, you have a bigger problem than you understand, and I am not stupid. Just give me the fricking link and I will tell you what I think. Now, that's my attitude.

Now, you're Mr. Number one Product Hunt. Has anybody ever contacted you for Product Hunt and say, "Okay, Chris, I'm interested in you product hunting me, but I need to have a one-hour meeting with you to onboard you, so you truly understand what we're doing." So I think it's fundamentally startups don't understand that they are selling, they're not buying. What am I missing here?

Chris Messina: This is a good one, man. I appreciate this question. I think Superhuman probably was the platform that initiated this style. And...

Guy Kawasaki: Oh my God. That was the second example. I just told them, "I'd rather be inefficient and email than do your survey."

Chris Messina: So I got to push back a little bit, and I think it's because... Let me try to separate this because there are two things that are kind of happening in my mind at the same time. One is that, the half an hour that I spent with Rahul on Superhuman, I thought was very valuable and valid for a number of reasons. First of all, this is a thirty-dollar-a-month email program. And so when it comes to establishing why you would spend money on email that you already have for free directly through Gmail, and this is just a front-end, you're like, "Who in their right mind would do that?" And yet, I would say two things came out of this experience. One is that, Rahul designed Superhuman to be more like a video game that gets you into flow in theory.

Now, if you're a salesperson, if you use email for your business, moving through your email quickly is actually very important. A few people I think are aware of, although in the developer space this is not necessarily true, is that a lot of people I think are still not even aware of keyboard shortcuts. And so the way in which you adapt and use keyboard shortcuts in Superhuman is something that kind of needs to be shown to you and that you need to pay attention to and you need to learn.

So I would say that on the Superhuman side, one, this is like you're buying your first Ferrari or Jaguar and granted I have zero, so I don't even know what that was like, but if I had the money to buy one of those things, I would imagine that I would have someone come to my house and essentially show me or walk me through or wine and dine me, or whatever it happens to be, to get me into that place where I'm recognizing the value of the service, the white glove service that I'm getting with this email product. Second, it's to show you the paradigm or the worldview that is contained within this software. I do think that Superhuman has that. And if you've used it, you kind of get it. Because now when I go back to Gmail, like my partner, for example, she drives a Tesla, and then if you go back to the Ford Focus or whatever, the first sort of EV car, it's like night and day. Like the thing doesn't have any torque or pick up or whatever. That's what Gmail is. It's like the Ford EV, and now driving the Tesla is like superhuman. Anyways, I don't want to go too far down that path, but those two things are very different. When you drive a Tesla, you're not really driving a car, you're driving a phone that's on wheels, and Gmail is driving a combustible engine vehicle.

When it comes to Fireside, now I'm on Fireside, I feel like I've used it a couple of times. I feel bad because I really kind of tried to jockey to get an invitation. But then once I got it, I'll say this, it clearly has a worldview and it clearly has a design paradigm, but it is one that I have no ability to understand. It makes no sense to, I was an early adopter of Clubhouse, I got it. I was an early user of Twitter Spaces, I got it. When it came to Fireside, I don't know what the hell is going on, on that platform. I don't like to criticize or critique designers when they're not around, but I really don't understand it. So if they needed an hour to explain to you how it works, I actually can understand because it's, I hate to say this, but probably failings in the product itself, which doesn't actually suggest that that hour is going to convince you to stick around.

If they're going to pay you to host shows, great. That hour then is a down payment on your participation in that community. And increasingly when the number of creators, they're not dwindling, but the quality creators, as you suggested, if ninety percent of them aren't any good, then the battle over that top ten percent is going to be fierce. Then they should not only be paying you for that hour, but setting you up for success, where it's giving you... Like Snapchat has a hundred million dollars or whatever. Facebook is spending a billion dollars on creators. That's what that money should, that's what you should be looking for in terms of that onboarding.

To get you to spend an hour with them for free, just to learn how to use their app, that I don't understand. So I'm with you there. Hopefully you can see the distinction between those two approaches.

Guy Kawasaki: But you would only know the distinction between those two approaches after you figured out that Superhuman is worth using...

Chris Messina: Yeah. Well, that's the other thing, right? Where if you spend that half hour or forty five minutes, now you're bought in. You're like, "Well, I already spent all this money." It's like the sunk cost fallacy. You're like, "Well, I guess I got to stick this out." So maybe it's a clever growth act, but I don't know.

I can imagine with someone like you they want to get you on there so that you influence, you inspire, you get people to say, "Oh, well, if Guy's using this, then clearly we should try it." But I don't know. Again, I don't want to speak out of turn because I don't know these folks that well and Falon is actually kind of a friend, but I'm a little bit confused relative to where they sit in the marketplace and what they think they're actually building.

Guy Kawasaki: So I'm not a total asshole for having this attitude.

Chris Messina: No. Also to add to your question, your point, yes. There are an increasing number, especially in the video call space, where there are founders that are like, "Here, hit me up on Calendly. Let's spend half an hour onboarding you." And I'm like, "Bro, I've got fifteen apps that I've got to check out. I'm going to download it and install it. If it doesn't crash my computer, we're off to a great start." Otherwise, if it's like an operating system with an operating system, that isn't the way that you're going to win, unless you're Apple. I'm sorry, Apple is only Apple now.

So I don't know. I think that founders that do, try to do the Superhuman onboarding thing need to be very, very careful because one, it does sort of scream of arrogance and two, it suggests, unless you really have dialed in something where the benefit is going to be immediate, and maybe for some it is, I think you're going to piss off people more than you're going to attract them.

Guy Kawasaki: Okay. I feel vindicated somewhat. Okay, Republic. So in a prior life, I will see over a company called, which had become a broker dealer. We were trying to democratize venture capital kind of like Republic. So I know all about broker dealer, NASD, SEC, all that kind of stuff. So my first question about Republic, is it basically involving an honor system that you are a sophisticated investor?

Chris Messina: I would say not exactly. In fact, no, that's the major difference. So there's one major thing and then a secondary thing that happened that has changed the marketplace. And the second thing is probably why I decided to join Republic now. But the first thing is the one that's the most significant and that has been proven out, I would say over time. And what that is, is that in 2016, as a part of the JOBS Act, the rules were changed that allowed unaccredited investors to invest in startups or riskier investment vehicles. And what that means is that if you are accredited, you are either self-certifying or through some other way, proving or asserting that you have at least a million dollars in your net assets with you and your partner or you through a company or a corporation, et cetera.

What changed was essentially anybody could start to invest in what are called Reg CF or Regulation Crowdfunding campaigns up to, let's see, I believe you can invest... I forget what the specific number is, maybe $5,000 a year as an individual in those campaigns. And the reason why they were able to change this was because formerly, when you're an accredited investor, that means that you can go to Las Vegas and you can gamble all your money away and you won't become broke. Essentially, you lose all your money, but you've got some money in reserves or whatever, and you're also sophisticated. But that the house usually wins, but you're willing to take those bets because you have your own systems for evaluating those offers.

What Regulation Crowdfunding does, it essentially establishes an entity like Republic to do a lot of diligence on the deal, to then surface a lot of information about the potential of that company to either do well or not do well, et cetera, and then to offer those listings to unaccredited or accredited investors and or. And essentially that allows for people that may be only able to invest fifty dollars or one hundred dollars at a time, to learn a whole lot more about what they're getting into, as opposed to VCs who will, again, like I said, have their own diligence process. That's the major thing that happened in 2016. What happened in this year, and so previously, companies could raise up to a million dollars through that regulation. As of this year, the regulation was changed to allow companies to raise up to $5 million.

And so one of the first companies that did that on Republic was Gumroad. Gumroad of course is a digital creator platform in the creator economy space that allows people to sell digital goods, assets. I actually sell an icon set on Gumroad, so I'm familiar with them. They sold out their $5 million investment in a matter of, if not hours maybe, very fast. And that's, I would say pretty remarkable relative to the conventional seed funding or VC funding route. This isn't to say this is going to happen for everyone, but you can raise a great deal of money very, very quickly through Regulation Crowdfunding, especially if you have a community of people that already knows what you're doing, love what you're doing, wants to see you succeed, and perhaps are already your customers. So that's something that's changed since, I think you were doing

Guy Kawasaki: Just being a devil's advocate for a second. Now, what happens when you're a Gumroad, or other company, and you have 200 to 500, 700 little investors? I mean, do you send out a shareholder's report and 700 people get it and are rich dentists and they're telling you, "Oh, when are you going public?"

Chris Messina: I would say two things to that, maybe three. The first is that the regulation crowdfunding, kind of regulations specify, or at least with what Republic does, is that that group of investors are one line on your cap table. So it's not the kind of thing where you have a huge, enormous party round, where now you've got all these different people that you've got to go and talk to and collect information from. Yes, you can provide updates to them through Republic as a platform. Yes, you can solicit their feedback, but no, it's not the case where each of them has this outsized influence as though each one is a venture capitalist in the conventional or traditional sense. So that I think is actually very convenient for founders.

I would say it also goes to the point that I was making before about being in conversation with your customers. Now, if you're a founder and you don't want to talk to your customers, that's your own thing. That's different. But if you are someone, now you're talking to people who have skin in the game and are actually paying attention to you because they want you theoretically, I would think, to succeed, because they've invested in you. And so those conversations, ideally, especially if you do a good job of bringing people along your journey, and that I think is a major change and shift that's happening in, especially the world of the software, but I would say in the world of products in general. And you see this on Instagram, you see this on Facebook, you see it in lots of different social media contexts where founders from the very beginning are basically building in public and building in the open.

Those folks that are seeing you struggle and are seeing you succeed are there and they're part of your journey and they're rooting you on. Yes, there might be the case where you have some folks who are like, "Oh, when are you going to exit? We should do this or do that." I would say the vast majority of folks become your allies. They become your Tesla fan club. They are people who will go out on social media and defend you because they know what you're doing, and they are part of that story and that mission. I think that type of belonging is what a lot of people are actually seeking and looking for because so much of capitalism and commercial activity so far really excludes them, leaves them out. It's opaque.

So this is a shift and a change where I think the economics of capitalism is becoming more participatory. And for those who are able to ride that, they get the upside and the benefits of that from free marketing, from engagement, from interaction, from a share of voice and getting people to tell your message on your behalf.

Guy Kawasaki: Do you have some success stories that you say, "See, if you put $150 in this, today it's one and a half million?"

Chris Messina: I can't speak to any specific outcomes as you can imagine, but I would invite folks to go check out There's just a wide range of different investment opportunities and people that are, again, telling their story, it's been really fascinating to watch and as someone who has also been able to invest in some of those companies, the level of engagement is great. It is different I will say, than kick-starter. With kick-starter, you're backing a specific product and when you get that product, your interaction kind of ends. It's sort of shipped to you and you're like, "Cool, campaign's over, done."

We're talking about building businesses. We're talking about building companies. We're talking about building the next generation of who's going to be out there in the ecosystem that ideally will last five, ten, fifteen, who knows? 100 years. So the way to think about it is to really, as we like to say, to invest in the future that you want to see and yes, of course people are focused on returns and about investment strategy and things of that nature, but it's a level of participation that I think is different. So I can't speak to specific outcomes, but I would invite people to go take a look for themselves.

Guy Kawasaki: I have to say Chris, from one evangelist to another, you are a great evangelist. I'm ready to go sign up for something right now.

Chris Messina: I will say, and actually I'd love to hear this from you too, I'm a very reluctant evangelist. I'm a very skeptical evangelist. I ask a lot of questions and I don't believe in things easily. It's not out of spite or judgment, it's because I want to understand them. And then if I think they're good and I think there's integrity, then I think they are worth promoting.

I think that your integrity and my integrity kind of comes down to what we do say no to more than also what we say yes to, but our ability to say no, and our ability to discern what things are positive and maybe not so positive. How have you navigated that? I'm just curious. What has that process been like for you?

Guy Kawasaki: For me, I have a fundamental belief that lots of people ask me, "What's the key to evangelism?" I tell them the key to evangelism is a great product. It is very hard to evangelize shit.

Chris Messina: That's absolutely right.

Guy Kawasaki: So to me, it's all about the product or the service. And I call this Guy's Golden Touch, and Guy's Golden Touch is not what I touch turns to gold, Guy's Golden Touch is touch gold.

At the start of my career I touched Macintosh, at the end of my career I touched Canva. Between that there was a lot of thrashing. But as any Silicon Valley person will tell you, we throw a lot of shit up against the wall -- some of it sticks, we paint the bullseye around it. Of course, we knew Canva would be successful. Of course. "Well, Guy, what about the other fifteen you did between Canva and Apple?" Oh, that was my partners.

I didn't invest in, I only did Google and Yahoo and Pinterest and Instagram. Next question. Talk to me about this hashtag coin, why?

Chris Messina: To learn, honestly. So let me give you a little background here. So in the creator economy, which obviously has been under development for some time, I feel like it started probably on YouTube and Instagram where brands realized a number of things. First, that social media is a huge threat to traditional advertising. So advertising is enormous economy. People spend enormous amounts of money on it. And as they say, advertising works, just we don't know which fifty percent does and which doesn't. In the case of whether it's influencers or the creator economy, you kind of don't care about that calculation anymore because you can flood the zone because influencers are seeing sizes of money and checks they've never imagined possible before because of the reach of the Internet. So you've got crazy different economic circumstances. That means that people are getting $500, for example, an Instagram post, seems like life-changing money, whereas the same money might've gone to a $500,000 ad in Vogue or something like that before.

So in terms of the economics of the influencer space and the creator space, everything was changing and shifting. What I think is interesting about Creator Coins, specifically enabled through blockchain technology, and I have created the HashCoin on the Rally side chain, it was, one, to learn a couple of things. I obviously saw this crypto thing coming up. I saw the values of decentralization and DeFi being brought to the fore and being prototyped, and as someone who advocated for and created technologies around decentralizing social networks in the first sort of cycle, I wanted to see how commerce was going to be folded into this world now. I couldn't do that really from the outside.

Additionally, before I joined Republic, I really wasn't quite sure what my future was going to look like. I kind of thought maybe I will become sort of a creator in this greater economy now that it's happening. And yet, how do I become dependent on these platforms? Do I adopt super follows on Twitter or do I become an influencer on Instagram and rely on badges? I will say that I did a couple of actually live streams with my partner on Instagram and we turned badges on, and I think I made six dollars for an hour. It's just not sustainable, I'm sorry. And so the alternative was to say, "Well, is there a way where you can create your own cyclical or circular economy where the people that you're working with and interacting with on a daily basis and who care about what you do, care about your perspective, care about your offerings are then able to either be rewarded with your own currency or reward you back with the currency that they've accumulated or held onto?"

And so Rally enabled that. Rally has a bunch of different creators across all different platforms and different verticals and it allowed me to issue my own coin, where people can purchase a coin using Fiat or other cryptocurrency, and then they can share it. They can pay me with it, they can use it for other purposes. I would say, this is largely an experiment.

Now, the one thing that has been most interesting to me out of this and that I really want to see more of, and that is kind of adjacent to the Product Hunt work is, there's a creator, his name is Christopher, and he runs a site called Twirlhq, which I believe is Anyways, it's something along those lines. What it allows you to do is, essentially it's kind of a visual bookmarking tool that allows you to let's say, link to NFTs or tweets or other things that you find on the Internet. It's sort of like a visual Pinterest. And what he has done is he essentially rewards people that provide feedback to him with my currency. So he has bought or obtained a bunch of HashCoins and then when people provide feedback that turns into features, he essentially pays them in my currency. And then those creators, or those people providing the feedback, will then turn around and spend that currency within my ecosystem.

So again, it's really an experiment, but the idea is to try to think about how we can build an adjacent economy based on participation and...a lot of people provide feedback for free. That's actually quite valuable, quite good. And so if platform builders or entrepreneurs can reward their customers, you see this through rewards programs or referral programs, and they say "We'll give you ten dollars here, ten dollars there," and that's nice, but wouldn't be interesting maybe, and again, the whole world has to shift in this way, and I don't know when or if it's actually ever going to get there, but that if I were rewarded in $100 or 100 Guy coins, for example, and I could spend that within the Guy ecosystem for other fans of Guy for their contributions for when they say something smart or when they leave a good comment, now, you're getting to what I think of it as, is a way of shining a spotlight on the most valuable types of participation or engagement.

You can downvote things and it doesn't cost you anything. You can upvote things and it doesn't cost you anything. But if you have a limited supply, an artificially scarce supply of some resource and you can spend them within a circular economy, and this is the real thing that I don't think we've mastered yet, which is growing these communities to be healthy and not only focused on, for example, Spotify launched another social audio competitor called Greenroom. Greenroom previously was only focused on sports. And as I was exploring that platform, what I realized was that, Greenroom does have this internal currency called diamonds; I think they're called, maybe they're called gems. And what would happen is, just like people had started doing on Clubhouse where you'd go in and everyone would follow each other to boost their rankings which just erodes the signal, frankly, on Greenroom, people were creating these diamond for diamond rooms where they would give each other diamonds as a way of creating a multi-level marketing scheme. And it just eroded the fabric of the thing. It became just boring and uninteresting. It demonstrated that this was an immature community context, that the community didn't notice what it was for, what it was about, except for generating more currency, but with what benefit or upside?

So I think we're in that phase of this development cycle. And so I needed to be in it with my own currency to see what's hard, what's easy, what's good, where's crypto going? Can I participate in some way? Can I reward people that have been with me for this journey for so long? So that's what the HashCoin is all about.

Guy Kawasaki: So I have two more questions. So one question, and I have learned in this fifty-four minutes and twenty-seven seconds that I can just ask you one question, and you'll just go off on it and evangelize the whole thing, so I don't need any follow-on questions. So one question is, give me your spiel on open-source.

Chris Messina: Well, I will say that open-source has come a long way, and I feel like it doesn't quite need the evangelism or advocacy that it once did. When I got involved in Silicon Valley in 2004, open-source was like a communist plot. It was socialism. It was giving away everything and not part of the capitalist engine. And that was actually quite contrary. I think the sophisticated way of understanding open-source is to realize that we can actually build much more complex and interesting systems and platforms that enable lots more generative outcomes. In other words, not predicted beforehand outcomes than a system that is closed.

Now, I think Apple is very interesting because it is a blend, and it is sort of a savvy hybrid of many different types of economic participation and activity. The conversation around the App Store is super interesting because that's very much about an economic model, and around, again, artificial constraint that's controlled through a hardware device, which is limited in the physical world and also access is gated, et cetera.

And the open-source world though, there are things in which you don't necessarily want to compete, that they can be commoditized and therefore change the level of competition for many other people to be able to join in and create other types of economic activity. One way that I think about this is to draw an analogy with sports. We talked about sports ball before. What I think about is, open standards and open-source are different, but they're adjacent in the sense that the more people that participate and adopt, whether it's an open-source project, whether it's Linux or whether it's React, or whether it's a standard like OAuth, the more people that adopt it, it lowers the marginal cost of subsequent generations of people using the same innovations and technologies and solving the same problems over and over again.

So for example, there were a bunch of identity standards and technologies that used to exist, that eventually consolidated around OAuth because there were just so many libraries that the developer community wrote and wrote in the open as open-source, then enabled people to adopt those things without having to bear the marginal expense and cost of hiring security, engineers and developers for different platforms. It just came free. And so by lowering that cost and that barrier to adoption, OAuth became essentially a universal standard more or less, for the web. And that was something that I was a part of.

Open-source meanwhile, again, it's like, you want to think about, do you want to create a sports team? I guess yesterday, the 49ers and the Raiders played, which they haven't played in 10 years, because last time people were killed or something, I don't know, whatever happened, or do you want to create the NFL? The NFL creates a set of rules that are enforced through referees, that are essentially the open standards of a space. And in that space, you're going to have multiple teams coming together and innovating on how they play the game, but ultimately all those players are playing in the same space against one another. It's actually very fun and interesting to watch. This is what's happening in the social networking space.

So you've got a bunch of people who are in the social world fighting against, the TikTok format or the stories format, and there's a set of standards and norms. In this case, actually, probably largely fomented by the advertising world because they want to be able to distribute their ads on as many platforms as possible in front of as many eyeballs as possible and so then therefore there becomes a kind of defacto or derived standard for that content because you want to create it once and then propagate it to all the different social platforms. And so then you start to see innovation at the edges. You start to see tools that TikTok has produced that make it easier to edit a video.

Canva, for example, creates different templates that work across these different platforms, because you're starting to see standardization occur. That standardization to me is almost like the creation of a new sport. And that's I guess maybe, I don't know if I fully explained how those things relate, but the team itself is an instantiation of using the software or the standard. Whereas the sport is the broader set of standards that define how different people in groups will participate in that environment. And as you carve out different areas, it's like having multiple sports that you can choose from and different people innovate on.

Guy Kawasaki: But wouldn't somebody say the NFL is the antithesis of something open because you have to be a billionaire to have a team?

Chris Messina: That's different. So I'm not talking about the economics. I'm talking about the fact that within the NFL, there are a set of rules that define how sports teams can play and what they're, for example, if I grab your face mask and pull you down, it doesn't matter which team I'm on, that the player will get penalized. And so those rules define how you participate. So open-source is similar in the sense that here's a set WordPress, for example, here's a set of APIs that allow you to expand and extend the capabilities of the core product. And just like I was saying, where great products or conversations, the WordPress core developer team is in touch with their user base to figure out what features need to be added to that core to expand and extend the sport of WordPress.

So yes, you may still need to be a billionaire. Let me put it this way. Open-source isn't about defining the rules of economic participation. It's about defining the access and the accessibility and the inclusivity of what goes into who can play. And as long as you meet the criteria, you can download and you can... frankly, you can take a whole sport and you can create your own. If you want to create football, but use the ball that star shaped, you could fork football and you couldn't really fork the NFL, but you could create your own sport with a star shaped, I don't know, ball and call it star ball. That's actually not a bad name. But anyway it's like, so in open-source, that's encouraged. In open-source, generative outcomes are embraced as a means for creating better and better software over time. Whereas the alternative is proprietary software, which is kept in-house or kept secretive.

And there are many aspects, for example, of the Mac operating system that are proprietary, but there are many components that are open-source. And the idea is that many companies can all use that same open-source underlying infrastructure because it's not really competitive. It doesn't really make sense for Apple to have their own version, let's say SSL, which is the Secure Sockets Layer, relative to Microsoft, relative to Google's Chromebook or something, they can all benefit from, let's say sharing the effort to create more secure software and not competing on who can do that better.

Guy Kawasaki: What if Elon Musk says, "My supercharger network is proprietary, you can't pull up a Ford to it." I know they're discussing this, but isn't that a key salient selling point for Tesla?

Chris Messina: This is an excellent point and example. So one, I think it's important to recognize the difference when you're dealing with atoms instead of bits. The fact that Tesla has built these supercharging stations in the real world is very similar to the same argument that the Telcos will say about the kind of telephony infrastructure that they put down in their wires and what's called the spectrum. And so they've invested all of that capital expenditure in building out that network. And so therefore they believe that they should be able to charge whatever rents they want upon it because they made that initial investment. So Tesla very similarly will say, "We put all these charging stations around, we have a proprietary charger. And so we want to incentivize people to buy Tesla vehicles because you want to not have the..." What's the fear of running out of battery? I forget, but losing charge, anxiety, or something.

Anyways, you don't want charging anxiety. And so Tesla can basically add that or offer that as a benefit to buying and staying within their phones on wheels, their Tesla vehicles. Whereas other competitors, Ford, et cetera, if they don't have as robust a charging network, now suddenly they're going to need to pay Tesla a licensing fee to be able to use their charging network. And so now that's a great business for Tesla. I do think that this is where the government, if it wanted to step in and say, "Well, look, we actually want to move to electric cars. And to reduce the desirability of gas vehicles, we need to make it so that you can, one, supercharge a car anywhere, that there's ample abundance of these superchargers wherever you go, and there is no proprietary-ness." So you can pull into a Tesla supercharger or a Ford supercharger or whatever supercharger exist and that you're going to be able to charge your car.

The government could step in and make regulations to that end and make a common carrier, like email, essentially. Currently it feels like, and I don't know if the government has an opinion about this or not, but they would prefer to motivate the building of these networks as proprietary systems where rents can be charged to motivate and incentivize investments in that type of system.

So I feel like that's kind of where we're at right now. And this is the way that actually the web and open-source kind of work together. There was a period where certainly Microsoft was rushing ahead to create a proprietary version of the web built in WebEx, or I'm sorry, ActiveX. There was an antitrust complaint filed by Mozilla and Netscape and others that essentially said, "No, you can't tie your operating system, which is dominant to your browser and your browser technologies, because now you're actually closing off innovation."

And so you kind of think about that as the common or open roads that exist today, maybe in the future, the government will say, "Well, yes, Tesla, you built all the supercharger network, but actually to incentivize more people to buy electric cars, we're going to force you to actually open up your charger network to any electric car." And yes, maybe the manufacturer has to pay you a premium or maybe those car owners will pay you a premium, but now that you have that coverage, we actually need to use it for the benefit of humankind and the environment, and we'll see.

Guy Kawasaki: In a sense, HyperCard could have been HTML.

Chris Messina: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Again, the economics of the adoption of standards is so interesting to observe and to watch because you have to kind of get the incentive structure right, where enough people are willing to go along with it, but also a little bit uncomfortable that it kind of works. I say this because that's what the hashtag was. The hashtag was not the best or most elegant solution for engineers or for Twitter or for users, but it gave enough benefit to every participant in the ecosystem that it became the last thing standing when it came time to being like, "Well, how are we going to solve this problem and we need this problem solved yesterday?"

So when I proposed this idea fourteen years ago in a blog post, people didn't get it, they didn't really understand it. But in October, two or three months later, my friend Nate Ritter was down in San Diego and was reporting on these wildfires that of course now have become commonplace, but it was probably the first example of a wildfire that was caught live on social media, and he was using Twitter to tweet about it. He was trying to get the word out to his community that the place was on fire and that they needed to escape and they needed to get out, and realized that SMS was one of the more robust mechanisms for getting that information to people because the Internet was down, the cell towers were not working or whatever. I reached out to him to say, "Hey, Nate, if you prefix all these tweets that you're putting out there from all these different sources with information about what's going on with a hashtag, people can then track that hashtag to get the updates pushed to their phone."

And so that was the moment where it tipped over and became useful for citizen journalism, which then propagated its use subsequently, but it had to be not the best solution. You can imagine the ideal solution perhaps would be to build an app just about fire preparedness, and that the government would send out, distribute this to the phones, and everyone would install it, and they'd all create accounts. All these things that would never happen would happen. That's magical thinking and I appreciate it, but that's not reality. So the reality was you had to have something that was just amorphous and adaptive and that's the process of building these standards, of building these systems, and then realizing how they can evolve and change as needs evolve as well.

Guy Kawasaki: I could make the case that the very genesis of Twitter was that people at South by Southwest wanted to find the best parties.

Chris Messina: Oh, for sure.

Guy Kawasaki: Right?

Chris Messina: Yep.

Guy Kawasaki: The Remarkable People Podcast is sponsored by the reMarkable Tablet Company. The reMarkable Tablet company wants to help you become more creative and more productive.

One of the ways to do this is to help you focus and that's what the tablet does; no email, no social media, no cruising around websites, it helps you write and think and focus. The second way that the Remarkable Tablet company helps you focus is by having me ask each guest how they do their best and deepest thinking. And here comes Chris Messina's answer.

The last question is how do you, Chris Messina, do your best and deepest thinking?

Chris Messina: I would say that the way that I think about things is, lattice isn't quite the right word, but I'm a very visual thinker and I kind of need to work things out as a visual story to see the connections, to see the relationships. I think I'm constantly looking for, or asking the question, why? Why does that work the way it does? What is there to learn from that model or that example? What brought that system to be the way it is? Did it have to be that way, or I suppose things have to be the way that they are? And so if you can observe things as they exist in the moment, in the present, and then work backwards, what were the pressures that were brought to bear on the thing itself? Then you can learn a lot that can be adapted to, I don't know, other technologies, other contexts.

So an example of this, I would say is, just in my personal relationships, I've had to do a lot of investigation into my own self and to the way that I relate to other people, and the way that I talk to people, and the way that in the past was a more defensive person or was less secure. And so would act out in different ways to prevent myself from being, or feeling embarrassment, or other types of emotions or feelings. I had to understand why it was that I behave that way and what brought me to, I don't know, not think I was superior, but when you act a certain way, you must sort of presume that it's superior.

Anyways, what I found over time was that the way that I was behaving in relationships was not working for me. And so I had to really investigate it. What I found was just this tapestry of almost like logical gates throughout the course of my entire life, where I subconsciously or unconsciously adapted them just based on stimuli.

I know this is very abstract but let me try to come up with a real example. Okay. So for example, I joined Republic this year because for the vast majority of my life, I believe that money was the root of most evil and corruption. And so I avoided it studiously throughout my career. This is why I gave away the hashtag. This is why I got involved with open-source. This is why I got involved in open standards, was because I was afraid that money would corrupt the reason why I would do things, and it would cause me to question my own faith or belief in something. And what I learned this year, actually, after doing meditation and all sorts of other stuff was that, my parents got divorced because my dad had sort of made this implicit promise to support my mom's desire to send me to a private school. And then when I was of age to go to that private school he reneged and said, "No," and as a result, they got divorced. And so I internalized a message about money, that money was the root of this evil and was the root of this corruption.

And so I internalized a message that I should not go near money because it would lead to the same sort of outcomes. Now, once I became aware of that earlier this year, I suddenly realized that actually money was not the source of the problem, it was actually the lack of aligned incentives and lack of truthfulness and lack of commitment and integrity. And so if I were able to find a context in which those circumstances could be avoided, then maybe actually I could bring money into my life and into my work. And that's how I ended up deciding to join Republic in this role because I now believe that I can actually work with founders and creators to bring their visions into reality using capital and money that they raise from the very people who care the most about their success.

So I know this is a little bit sort of strange and abstract and all over the place, but nonetheless, this is how my mind kind of works. And so when I'm thinking my best thoughts, it's ingesting stuff from all sorts of different sources and place. I listen a lot of podcasts, as do a lot of people. I guess I dig in with a lot of openness and open-mindedness and non-judgment, and that seems to help me a lot.

Guy Kawasaki: Well, so Chris, I just want you to know that I have asked about 100 people that same question, and in ninety-nine percent of them, they either say, I go on a walk or I take a shower. And then, there's Chris Messina.

Chris Messina: I know. And then I'm unpacking my childhood. So there you go.

Guy Kawasaki: I'm going to say that is a very deep answer. So it's not just a shower or a walk, I figured that out. So thank you.

So there you have it, the historical and philosophical significance of the hashtag. Think about it. Without hashtags, how much less valuable social media would be. And he's also tackled early stage investment, product introductions and tech innovation and open-source. That was our remarkable guest, Chris Messina

My thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick for helping produce another remarkable episode of the Remarkable People Podcast. They are the hashtags of podcasting. I'm Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People. Until next time, please get vaccinated, please wear a mask, please wash your hands. Let's get this pandemic over. All the best to you. Mahalo and aloha.