Gerald ("Gerry") Armstrong is a legendary gadfly. Some say he wrote the book - although Gerry would scoff at the thought. He was also a mentor.
Gerry was the former CEO of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company in Denver. The New York Times first wrote about him in 1978.
I met Gerry in 1990, because my office was down the hall from him on the 7th floor in the Denver Gas & Electric Building "DGE" - now known as the carrier hotel. At one time 18% of the world's phone traffic flowed through DGE. While all the telephony companies were moving into DGE circa '87 Gerry stayed. Seymour Fortner who owned DGE loved Gerry, let him stay. Gerry was the last non-telecom office in DGE before he finally moved out.
So what's a gadfly? This defintion is sort of right.
"A gadfly, apart from being a fly that annoys livestock, is also an activist investor who attends shareholder meetings and causes problems. Specifically, problems for senior management. We often refer to this person as a corporate gadfly. They are activist investors who passionately advocate for change during shareholder meetings. A gadfly is usually distinctive for aggressively grilling senior management during the meetings."
Watch this video from 016 of Gerry taking on Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. You can find other links of Gerry doing the same thing.
Towards the end of the interview the host asks Gerry, "why not just sell the shares"? Gerry's answer is the true definition of a gadfly:
"I don't believe in just selling the shares. As a shareholders advocate I try to advocate better and improved management where I see weaknesses. And then it comes that there is improvement - the earnings are even better, and the profits and dividends are increased too".
I've been criticized for being a gadfly in the crypto space.
I own Bitcoin. While everyone in crypto was praising El Salvador Nayib Bukele's adoption of Bitcoin I was the only one I know of on crypto Twitter bringing attention to the fact that Bukele is a brutal thug who imprisons women for having an abortion. BTW. The Bitcoin thing isn't going well in El Salvador.
I've been critical of some NFT projects.
When Stoner Cats was announced I was the first one to speak out, calling the project a "money grab". I pointed out that the project's founders are billionaires, they can afford to fund the project themselves. I also pointed out that one of the founders - Ashton Kutcher - was an early investor in Airbnb. In our community, and many other communities like ours, Airbnb is responsible for the lack of workforce housing.
Another NFT project I've been critical of is Blazed Cats. I initally praised them, which was a mistake. Once I started to see clear signs of impropriety and worse, I spoke up in their Discord. I was immediately booted. In the last 14 days there's been just 2.9 ETH traded in the project. If sales are a metric, I was right. But why isn't anyone calling Allen Hena, who endorsed the project, to voice their concerns? Why isn't anyone calling Allen on the carpet as to why he endorsed the project? I did. Allen never replied.
I'm in the Top Dog Beach Club ("TDBC") NFT project. When they ran their promo with Carol Baskin, I spoke up. Because no matter how you look at this, one has to acknowledge the other side of Baskin's story. Which is, she's profiting from animal cruelty and is connected to her husband’s disappearance. Using Baskin in the ad was reckless and wreaks of a cheap publicity stunt. TDBC has said they support animal rights. If animal rights is what they stand for there were far better choices for the star of their ad.
To TDBC's credit, they didn't boot me from their Discord. They listened to my criticism. They didn't agree, but they did listen. One of the founders sent me a nice DM. Someone who holds a lot of their NFTs also contacted me, they were open minded.
While crypto Twitter and key influencer farokh was lionizing Time's "Building a better future" drop, I spoke up. When I did I was booted from farokh's Discord.
I pointed out clear hypocricy and double speak. I wrote a post about it. From my post:
"Time commissioned 40 artists to contribute pieces for the drop. Judging by the images alone, half of the artists pieces are progressive messaging - voting rights, equality, climate catastrophe, etc. Reading the artists statements, 10 more are progressive sounding: Here's one from Parin Heidari:
"I would like to see a world in which it doesn’t matter where you were born or what color your skin is, where all languages, cultures, and ethnicities are valued the same and peace is found across borders."
"So Time has an overtly progressive drop. But Time's owner spent years fighting progressive causes. Say what?"
I own Adam Bomb Squad NFTs. Recently I spoke up about concerns of mismanagement and a botched product launch. I wasn't the only one - others shared similar concerns. Here's what I wrote in their Discord:
"I love everyone here. I root for the little guy.
This post has nothing to do with the ~ 12 ETH I have invested in bombs. If I lose my ETH it's my fault - not Bobby's, or anyone else's.
I've been in high tech marketing for 32 years and counting. I've done killer apps - one recently.
There's an old saying in marketing - "you can change someone's behavior, but not their beliefs".
Simple example is this: You can get me to change brands of toilet paper (behavior). But you'll never get me to think I don't need toilet paper (belief).
What Bobby did, by design or mistake, was to tell people rarity.tools doesn't matter any more. He tried to change their beliefs.
There's rules in product marketing you just don't go against. This is one. He's broken a couple of other rules too - like testing the market. But this is the biggie.
I wrote a blog post about this topic here:
Step 1 is for Bobby and his team to admit how badly they missed it. Then they need to get to work to rebuild all the momentum lost. It's a major uphill climb, it'll be a major accomplishment if successful. I don't envy their position.
I'm rooting for them".
They booted me from their Discord.
I have other issues with the project that are personal to me and outside of the role of a gadfly. The project just doesn't reflect what I value.
I wrote Bobby Hundreds (not sure if that's his last name) a DM, most of which I'll leave out because again, it's outside of the role of a gadfly.
Bobby has been critical of flippers. In my DM to him I wrote this:
"Next, I think it's clear you don't understand this market. You've dissed flippers ad nauseam. But what you fail to see are that flippers are crucial for any project - and for that matter, any investment. They help establish a baseline price, they bring liquidity. Flippers are the first sign that a project has legs. Yet you've dismissed them. Not just dismissed them, you've ignored and vilified them".
A gadfly challenges the status quo, which I have a long history of doing. It's what my mother taught me to do. My tech career and for that matter today's tech industry tracks back to challenging the status quo - because two liberal Democrats, Judge Harold Green and former President Jimmy Carter broke up AT&T.
Everyone on crypto Twitter goes on about FUD - fear uncertainty and doubt. It's kind of not cool to criticize – anything, especially a project you're in. They tell you, "if you don't like it, sell".
No. I'm going to continue to speak up - for others. I'm going to keep saying what others won't. Because "Think Different" is important to me.
If you're wanting to make a profit, are in crypto for the long run, if you stand for what crypto is, then speaking up and calling foul should be important to you too.
Because after all, what does it say about a project if when someone speaks up they're banned? If project founders aren't willing to face criticism what does that say about them? Banning someone, anyone, for speaking up flies in the face of decentralization. It's the antithesis of what crypto is about.
In closing I'll quote the great Chris Remus and Neil Young, two gadfly's in their own right. Chris Remus:
"And if all we accomplish with this decentralized movement is to rebuild the current economy and the inequitable and exploitative power structure it enables, which is controlled by a shrinking number of increasingly wealthy participants, well, then what’s the point?"
- Days That Used To Be
"People say don't rock the boat, let things go their own way
Ideas that once seem so right, now have gotten hard to say
I wish that I could talk to you and you could talk to me
'Cause there very few of us left my friend
From the days that used to be"
Here's to you, Gerry.