Note to Flipside: 12/29/23

Year end wrap on what a bear does in the woods

Dave Balter
5 min readJan 3, 2024

It was a bit artsy.

So was the feedback from one Flipsider on my last Friday CEO Note.

Hell, I liked it.

But I know, I know, a ‘more serious CEO’ (thank you CEO Note of 11/24/23) might have provided the straight shot of a solid year-end wrap up.

Can you forgive me for a bit of artistic license? A writer writes what, well, what feels right. And so that what was right, was written.

This may be a holiday week, but it’s also now actually year’s end, and I’m still delivering a CEO note, so I suppose it would be unconscionable to not fulfill the ‘serious CEO’ obligation.

Truth be told, if I were given free reign I’d just write about Niraj Shah. Don’t know him? Well, you should. That aside, if I did write about him, I’d probably get dinged for again falling prey to art-house-writer-vibes, so, hmph, I’ll just set that one aside for the first week of 2024. Lucky you.

And so, a year-end wrap it is.

I guess I should start by attempting to thread the needle on all of 2023, a year that felt mostly of negative g-forces like a rollercoaster getting airtime, but somehow by the end managed a bank turn and barrel roll into a catapult launch. A family coaster this was not.

If I were to kick off a year-end note, I might begin with Adam D’Augelli, smiling ear to ear after our November 2023 Board meeting, remarking, “well, we survived,” and noting that every great crypto business has had to endure at least two bear market cycles.

Of course, in a cliche of itself, I’d then go on to reflect that we did a whole lot more than survive in 2023. We were performant at killing a lot of things that weren’t working (like MDAO) and committing to things that were (like Community Analytics and our Treasury). We kicked off a new data business that generated a respectable [$] in revenue in its first year alone.

But then it would make sense to reflect on the term ‘survival’, as apt as it is in a bear market. First, fittingly, this is exactly what a bear does in winter, as it hibernates in its den, waiting out the chill and the milk-white snow. But also, one might need to reflect on the old sarcastic rhetoric, “does a bear sh*t in the woods?”, which, in case you didn’t know, a bear actually avoids while hibernating, substituting instead a miracle of science as it recycles its own waste.

What exactly this has to do with our year end, I’m no longer quite sure, but ‘bear’ with me, I’ll get there.<dad joke, hat tip to you, friend>

But back to our ‘2023 survival’, a term that falls somewhat short of recognizing our deft navigation of bear traps, as we stealthily (tip-toe’d in gigantic strides) snuck up on the industry and performed one hell of a data-provider Flippening. And all the while we activated Data Studio into the product we always knew it could be; and we cracked the code on cool-kid analyst adulation, and certainly on contributor analyst motivation, delivering virality that is both able to be planned and able to be measured.

Survival be damned. I’d argue that in 2023 we led more than we followed.

But, c’mon, who wants to argue?

<a truly oblivious question, given the nature of ‘know-thyself’ and of my apparent appreciation of the art of the argument.>

And here’s where I’d catch myself, remembering decades of CEO training and experience, noting that this post is not actually about me, but about you. You who persisted. You who had to bite down on the a sapling of a pine tree to regulate the nearly unmanageable pain of a crypto bear market. I doubt a single one of you hasn’t felt the sting of a judgement of your choice of industry by, say, a crabby uncle at a family gathering, explaining to a group of your relatives that they always knew crypto was just a pyramid scheme for suckers, and then crunching down noisily on a stalk of ranch-dip-drenched celery from the crudités platter, as if to deliver an exclamation point to their remarkable intelligence.

But reminding you of a tough year would be kinda ridiculous, a telling of yesterday’s news, because, hell, like all good rollercoasters, things have been looking remarkably up in crypto over the past few months — as most obviously evidenced by our treasury, which has f*cking tripled since Sept 2023 alone.

You might argue that our persistence has paid off. That we’ve added, refined, and adapted incredible talent at key roles around the org. That at 6 years in, we are better than ever at planning and execution. That we’re starting to grip how we measure what matters; that we’re more focused and directed in our authenticity and relentlessness.

And because of all that that we’re set up for one hell of a 2024.

And so that might be how I’d write a year end CEO note; a note, by the way, that is long overdue to come to an end.

And so end it I will. With a toast, if I may.

Let’s raise a glass to our Uncles (and our Aunts), who have quickly forgotten their family gathering diatribe, and have been incessantly texting asking for advice about whether they should buy Bitcoin or Solana or some rando crypto token called $FLIP. To them, we hoist our champagne glasses: kind sir and sirette, n00b, tourist — and one sitting at the bottom of the pyramid — this isn’t investment advice, but forget all about what a bear does in the woods in the depths of winter and ask yourself, does a casino count your drinks after you hit the jackpot?