Discover more from Decentralized Economy by Connor Leech
Introducing decentralized economy - on tech companies and startups
What is the decentralized economy? Switched from ConvertKit to Substack. Open data about today's tech companies and companies challenging big tech right now.
I’ve relaunched the Employbl newsletter to use Substack instead of ConvertKit. I was originally drawn to ConvertKit because of its “indiehacker” roots, that it was a bootstrapped company and most importantly they featured Courtland Allen, founder of Indiehackers whose podcast I’m into. Substack on the other hand is backed by venture capital has built a platform kind of like Medium. Though most email platforms these days allow you to export your list and leave I still felt like with Substack I’d be writing for their platform and building up the substack dot com domain and pigeon holed as a “substack writer”, whatever that means.
The first is that with Employbl me and the two other guys I work on it with are looking to grow web traffic, primarily through Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO. ConvertKit does offer a landing page where people can read past emails but it’s pretty much an afterthought with no customization. Substack in contrast is built like a blog for people to search through and read past issues. The landing page is much friendlier and I’ve got a hunch Google ranks Substack websites a lot better than ConvertKit ones. It helps that Substack launched a new one time payment feature where you can host your Substack on your own subdomain like newsletter.employbl.com instead of substack dot com slash your newsletter.
The second thing I realized was that holding me back from publishing newsletters was that it didn’t feel easy for me to write. The ConvertKit editor is fine and people build massive lists on their platform but to me it felt clunky and out of touch with the rest of the work I was doing. Combined with the fact that I didn’t think my newsletters with ConvertKit would rank on Google I routinely favored writing on the Employbl blog instead where we have a pretty slick editor set up with Statamic. Making something easy and pleasurable to do is important to building a routine so it’s something I prioritized, even though it kind of sounds silly.
The final thing I realized that was holding me back from publishing a regular newsletter was that I didn’t really have a theme. What was the newsletter about? I’d mostly used it to share product updates, but I had to wonder did anyone really care? Sure we shipped a new feature or I wrote a new blog post but why did I need to let people know about that? I constantly delete those tone deaf emails from my inbox so a newsletter about product updates only made me cringe. There were definitely things that I wanted to keep like startup news and reports on recent funding rounds in addition to the powers that Employbl gives people for free but I wasn’t sure what tied the whole thing together. Without a thread reporting on “startup news” as a general topic is a recipe for making your head spin.
Enter Decentralized Economy.
I’ve listed this phrase from Tim Wu’s book The Curse of Bigness where he writes:
As Louis Brandeis, the great prophet of decentralized economy, put it, the antitrust laws answered a question: “Shall the industrial policy of America be that of competition or that of monopoly?”
This combined with Matt Stoller’s books and newsletter struck a cord with me that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the American economic system and it’s not “capitalism” which seems to be the common lazy critique from the left. America’s issue is economic concentration and monopolies. Power is centralized and in a democracy it should be decentralized. This makes sense from a political perspective: one person gets one vote. But from an economic perspective things start to break down. How should our society work when a corporation has bought all its competitors, raised prices and squeezed workers and suppliers? What about when oligarchs or monopolists buy politicians, propose propositions, intimidate competitors and flood the media with their lines of thinking? 100 years ago Louis Brandeis recognized that economic concentration breeds political concentration. For democracy and free markets to work power needs to be decentralized but today’s startups, citizens and even financiers need to act.
The Web3 movement proposes that government is too bloated and incapable of fixing society’s problems. Instead we need to build and rebuild technological solutions that eliminate gatekeepers and concentrated middlemen. I think there’s some truth to that but it’s clearly not the only way.
With this newsletter and the Employbl project I hope to showcase and propose some of the way’s today’s tech companies are decentralizing power and what we can do to build a decentralized economy instead of a concentrated one.
On the data front:
One important aspects of free markets is open access to data. That’s something we’re building into Employbl but we’re not the only ones. These are some data sources we’re looking at and that you’re free to check out too.
Growjo released a new “top 1,000” companies list that’s free to export as a CSV.
CB Insights published a free comprehensive list of unicorn companies that lists each company’s country and more info.
Featured tech companies and startups
In this section I’d like to showcase some startups and tech companies that are decentralizing power away from big tech and/or providing awesome functionality for the community.
Cloudflare provides CDN and security services for tech companies. We use them at Employbl to block bots and serve our web pages faster, which helps us rank better on search engines.
They’re launching a direct competitor to Amazon Web Services’ S3 offering called R2 for object storage.
Ahrefs is headquartered out of Singapore but they provide amazing functionality for seeing exactly how web search traffic is behaving. They’ve indexed the internet and provide an incredible tool for doing keyword research and seeing how your pages are ranking.
They recently launched their own consumer search engine called Yep that is free and doesn’t have ads right now as a direct competitor to Google. They plan on giving 90% of ad revenue to content creators.
Diffbot is headquartered out of Menlo Park, CA and is one of the only companies besides Google and Microsoft to build a Knowledge Graph of the entire internet.
We use Diffbot at Employbl as our secret sauce to pull in information about companies, funding rounds, founders and investors. They’ve recently launched functionality to see each company’s competitors and customers with one API call!