218 - Tessa Brown

Tessa Brown is the CEO of Germ Network, an encrypted messaging company on a mission to promote healthy communication

Tessa Brown is the co-founder and CEO of Germ Network, an encrypted messaging company on a mission to promote healthy communication.

She last was a Lecturer in Stanford’s writing program, where she taught about expressions of language, literacy, and social justice in hiphop and on social media. She lives in San Francisco.

Twitter → twitter.com/tessalaprofessa


  • Mead College ruled notebook
  • Pens in a broken Small World mug - my fave are Bic Crystal Ballpoint in blue
  • 3M Post-Its in a few sizes
  • Keiastr YS-390 double kitchen timer
  • Kinesis Freestyle2 Blue Split Keyboard
  • 13" Macbook Pro with M1 chip from 2021
  • Samsung S27D590 Monitor
  • Standing desk - I bought this for $200 from a robotics company that was going out of business (#siliconvalley moments, thank you Craigslist). They threw in the monitor for $50. The desk is an Ikea dining table top affixed to a geekdesk.com base. It’s electric and I love it.
  • Crystal swan lamp from my grandpa via my childhood bedroom and small painting by my sister of my head in the clouds
  • Logitech m705 Mouse
  • Sony WH-1000X M3 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones
  • Spider Plant
  • Stones and shells, matchbook cars for when I get bored but can’t leave, paper lanterns from Nepal, religious icons from around the world, a paper doll set called “Tessa of the Twenties,” and Yo-Yo Ma’s autograph my parents got for me in 1990 when I was his fan from seeing him on Sesame Street.


  • Microsoft Word… 4life
  • Google Office… until I switch to Skiff
  • Spotify…but rarely when I’m working
  • Figma… will eat us all
  • Calendly… it’s not rude to send first
  • Slack, Discord, iMessage… chat is life
  • Twitter… the people’s Slack
  • Germ

Books ("Books are tools, and solace"):

Some other books here I recommend to your readers are: Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression, Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Undrowned, Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels (also a trilogy), Tricia Rose’s Black Noise, adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy, Studs Terkel’s Working, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism without Racists, Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, Ralph Cintron’s Angels Town, Adrienne Rich’s Lies, Secrets, and Silence, Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Marc Bousquet’s How Universities Work, Silvia Federici’s Revolution at Point Zero, and Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included.

What is your favorite item in your workspace?

Honestly, I love the gestalt of it. I love my laptop whom I joke is my best friend, I love having a huge dining table for myself and my dreams, I love all my sentimental objects and books that push me to keep dreaming and doing. I’ve always prioritized an indulgent desk area in my homespaces and my current setup is no exception.

How do you spark creativity?

I learned as a writer that the muse only comes if you wait for her at your desk every day. So even when I’m starting something new—especially then, actually—I just start doing it, 5 days a week. “Butt in chair,” “500 words a day,” “shitty first draft”… they all work. Creativity happens when you’re committed to your process and you don’t give up and you just keep creating—and you keep studying, absorbing, circulating your stuff, so you can develop your barometer for what’s good. The more practiced you are at your craft the better you know whether you’re done. But the way to start, and keep going, and then finish? You just get up every morning and do it again.
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