No Simple Highway

no simple highway

I’ve just finished reading Peter Richardson’s magisterial No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead, and what a journey it is.  I experienced my first dead show 33 years ago, and have been a dead head ever since.  In the book, Richardson identifies three broad themes that have characterized the life of the Dead and the heads that have been hanging their hats there for the past fifty years: ecstasy, mobility, and community.

I won’t rabbit on here about dead shows, no one wants that.  However, I do think that there are threads that connect then and now.  Specifically, I am talking about mobility and community.  In the first chapter of the American Cultural Revolution (ACR) in the late 1960s/early 1970s, millions of young Americans untethered themselves from square, in-the-box lives in suburbia and set out to explore new frontiers of consciousness and community.  Crew-cut America fought back with the ‘war on drugs’ and wars, really, on anything that wasn’t inside the picket fence.  There have been times when it appeared as though the Reagan-Thatcher years would succeed in herding subsequent generations back to the past, in a kind of boomerang to the 1950s, but alas, that did not happen.


Rather, and thanks to the pioneering efforts and progeny of Baby Boomers, we have more slingshots into an unknown future than ever before.  Risk taking and experimentation in life, set in motion in the Bay Area during the ACR, is now alive and well in the lives and careers of Millennials and (some) Gen Xrs.  Today nearly 32% of workers in our economy are ‘freelancers,’ and that number is expected to rise to 40% by 2020.  Why is this important?  Does it really matter?

Millions of young workers today, like their Baby Boomer predecessors (and parents), are saying NO to life inside the box.  They have honed their skills to be guns for hire, and are moving from project to project, from city to city, and from country to country, making a living as digital nomads.  Freed from the social cage of large companies and their mindless rules, today’s digital nomads are making good on the promise of freedom that was announced many years ago.


This is not, though, a selfish and hedonistic nomadism.  Rather, it is more fully committed to community than any cultural movement we have seen since the early days of the ACR.  Enter coworking…Coworking has grown from a single coworking community in 2006 to over 5,000 worldwide today.  An entire generation (GenFlux) of independent minded souls are out there doing their own things professionally, but in the context of ever expanding local and global communities of others committed to the same type of freedom.

Yet, as the title of Richardson’s book suggests, it is ‘no simple highway.’  Going it alone professionally as a freelancer or small business is an uncertain ride.  It is not for everyone, that is for sure.  At times being out on the frontier can be quite lonely and empty.  Yet, it is the long-term co-presence of other coworkers (or dead heads) that provides support and assurance that we are on to something.

Mobility and community, empowered by technology, are here to stay.

Once, when Jerry was asked about Reagan’s war on hippies in the 1980s, he famously said: “The point is, it happened, there was a revolution, and we won.”

Amen Jerry!




Welcome to Nomatik

Nomatik is a work social platform for freelancers and corporate employees who work remotely or work in Activity Based Work environments.  Connect and collaborate with people you know, and with people you don’t yet know.  Nomatik extends the coworking experience to people beyond coworking spaces- freelancers in coffee shops around the world and nomadic corporate workers working opportunistically in hotels, coffee shops, and airports.

True Story of Serendipity at a Coffeeshop in Austin, Texas

serendipity-story-shareIt’s crowded, 11AM, at the neighborhood coffeehouse.  I stand in line and place my order. I look for a seat and find one at the end of an open table.

I sit and put down my things, an Italy travel book across from me.

Two college age females to my right working on their laptops, across from each other.

I ask them if this table is reserved for a study group thinking they may be waiting for a classmate. They respond no, as one of them points to a pair of older women waiting in line.

One of the women says across the room to me, “There’s two of us…” and shrugs her shoulders.

“Oh.” I grab my things and pickup my order at the counter – and begin a search for a replacement seat. Checking outside and then coming back in. Finally, I’m standing, trying to make my final decision where to sit in this crowded coffeeshop, as one of the older women calls out to me, “Hey!”

She was holding up my car key.

I moved towards her appreciatively to reclaim my key.

“Well, this space is really crowded. I may just squeeze in here, if that’s alright?”

Everyone at the table shifts a little and accommodates. I set my espresso and book down on the table and claim my seat.

And that’s when it began.

The two women began chatting with eachother, their Italian accents strong. One of the women remarks to me, “Well, I hope you’re not studying too hard because we may disturb you with our talking.”

“Oh, no worries at all, “ I reply. “What are the coffeeshops like in Italy?”, I ask the woman directly to my left. “How are they different than this one?”

It was a busy day at this neighborhood cafe. In fact, I would say it was the most brewing with energy I’ve experienced in this place before. It felt quietly abuzz with something intangible.

Quick to respond, she says “People talk to eachother. They don’t bring their work.” She motioned toward the whole room. Nearly everyone in the room was on a laptop, tending to their work.

Just then, the female student across from me opts-in to the conversation.

“Did you say you’re from Italy?”

Both women reply with affirmations, smiling.

“I was in Rome. I just love it there,” she continues. They chatted a bit, the three of them, enjoying the unexpected conversation. “Oh, you used to teach Italian at the University?”

She later shares that her fiancé is a professor at the same school.

The Italian woman replies,

“Yes, I used to. But not anymore. Now, I work on an archeological dig project in Southern Italy.”

The four of us chat about archeology a bit, when the other female student to my right, completely quiet until now, unexpectedly interjects,

“Are you excavating art remains or biomass remains?”

She explains she’s a student who is about to graduate with a focus in Biomass Archaeology.

“Wow, this is cool. I’ve been studying archeology for so long and you’re the first archeologist I’ve actually ever met! After I graduate I’m going to take a year off and see what I can do and then do my graduate studies to learn more.”

I turn to my left, “Are you looking to hire anyone for your project?”

“Well, I don’t know…” She pauses. “Well, maybe an intern or something!” She looks at the soon-to-be-grad down the table, “I’ll give you my contact info before we leave.”

Then, the two Italian women chat amongst themselves.

We all do our separate things for a while as we each momentarily revel in the serendipity unfolding before our eyes. 

The female across the table speaks up.

“I’m a student filmmaker and everyone in our industry always gives ‘networking’ a hard time. But it’s really just having conversations and being friendly with people you meet. It’s normal for people to talk to each other!”

She talks about her latest project and I share with her my friends information who runs a indie filmmaker co-op. She says she’s heard of the organization and is excited to know they’re a resource.

We all tend to our work for a while longer.

I speak up.

“Ya know, it’s kind of funny we’ve all had this conversation like this. I’m reading this book,” as I motion down to the book laying face up on the table. “The Serendipity Machine

We all share a laugh.

“There’s this thing in the Netherlands that’s really amazing. It’s helping to lay the groundwork for what they’re calling Society 3.0

As I continue to explain the concept, and how much it has helped to bring people together in unbelievable ways, they’re all interested.

The conversation comes to a conclusion as I finish my espresso, put away my book, zip up my bag, and stand to exit the group.

Just before leaving, I lean over to the soon-to-be-grad and tell her, “Make sure you get that woman’s contact info. You might get a job from it and maybe even a trip to Italy.” 

She smiles, knowingly, “Definitely! Thank you.”

“Have a good afternoon everyone. It was a pleasure.”

And everyone waves goodbye.

Nomatik chosen as finalist for the M-Prize

Nomatik bridges the working experiences and collaborations of freelancers and corporate employees.  Building on the explosive growth of the coworking movement (from 1 space in 2006 to 3,500 spaces worldwide today), Nomatik is an online/offline coworking platform which connects people in physical spaces (both at the company and ‘in the world’ in coffee shops, hotel lobbies, airports, and coworking spaces), by keeping them connected in a virtual coworking space.  Nomatik is a “work social” platform.

Announcement of Finalists

Our Initial Submission