As we move into August I thought it'd be fun😉 to wrap up the summer by sending emails that are built from song titles or lyrics from the music of a certain genre. To build off of last week's GnR reference, we'll start this series with late 80s/early 90s rock🎸.  Most of the hyperlinks will take you to an awesome video and soundtrack of this newsletter. So pull out your best cut-off tank top and come along as we talk about 1stDibs recent IPO and who decides the future of commerce.  

Last month, 1stDibs, the design and antique platform went public. Much is being written about how the industry's future is "online". To be clear, from what I can tell in interviews, David Rosenblatt, the CEO, is referring to the design industry. What's so interesting to me, are the global statements made by Rosenblatt such as "everyone ultimately will do everything online".  In fact, in his interview with Dennis Scully of Business of Home, Rosenblatt says that the buyers of design are living online and Dennis Scully confirms "no question".  And they both agree "the internet is the future". There's really no digging into the fact that the company has never been profitable nor does it even think it can maintain profitability if it were achieved

There's an embrace of Rosenblatt's decision as if his going public with the company was proof of the future, and not an opportunistic, calculated move made possible by the boost the home space received from the pandemic. He's being treated no differently than most CEOs who walk this path. The illusion😏  makes us high enough to succumb to it because moneytalks and hysteria tends to follow these moves. We suddenly find ourselves blindly following those CEOs instead of reading the signs and questioning the reality of what's happening. In 2019, Ginia Bellafante wrote one of my favorite quotes that I come back to every time I see one of these examples:

"What the ordinary person might interpret as a con game or sheer lunacy, the heavily credentialed investor, with his TED Talk understanding of things, will reliably regard as brilliant eccentricity. While he may have nothing but disdain for the Fox viewer’s commitment to climate denial and birtherism, he has his own attraction to falsehood — a blind faith in “disruptive’’ innovation."


If you read between the lines, the future of the industry is far away from being "online". Rosenblatt says it himself noting that it's less than 5% and what they're really trying to do is woo 95% of the market online

Sure, the winds of change have shifted consumer habits and the online space is part of that. But even reading about the online future, you'll find it full of contridictions. Dazed's 2031 report on the future states that only 9% of GenZ users want to stay on social media. But remember less than a decade ago when we were told social media was the future? When I dig into all of this research, I find myself seeking something to believe in. And what it takes to figure that out is patience, and ironically, a coming home. Because ultimately you have the right to choose the future of commerce that fits with your vision. 


Recently, I came across the work of L.M. Sacasas who writes a substack called the Convivial Society. In it, he has a post of 41 questions to ask yourself about technology that I have found incredibly helpful to continue to shape my approach to how I engage with it and why. The point of this exercise originally began with a moral question, but as someone who needs to decide daily if/why/and how to live online, I found them to be the most illuminating exercise I've done. 

It's not about rejecting a future online or painting a picture of the days gone by as morally superior to the present. The point is don't blindly head down fascination street and let a CEO, who's run an unprofitable company for a decade, become a personal Jesus persuading you that the future is online. Instead, seriously question your own experience and the multitude of possibilities when you're rockin in your own free world.

It is said that in the wild the remedy for a poisonous plant is usually growing nearby. This is how it felt when I stumbled on Warren Shoulberg's article about Casper Mattresses now getting into bed with the very retailers they were going to disrupt (LOL). It was in Business of Home just the week before the interview with Rosenblatt. Shoulberg's summary of the illusion that Casper intoxicated so many with feels applicable to 1stDibs IPO as well: What was promised to be massive disruption is looking more and more like a momentary bother.


Our next book club will meet on SEPTEMBER 14th at 7 pm. We will be reading Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics. This is a free event, please email me to register. 


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