#2 — Mike Maples
Below the Line with James Beshara
Mike Maples is one of the original seed investing gangstas. Seriously. He was the first investor in Twitter, along with investments in other world-changing companies like Cruise, Lyft, Okta, Twitch, and more back when “seed investor” was barely a term.
He is consistently named as one of the best investors in Silicon Valley and is also "the man who taught me how to invest" according to Tim Ferris, and beyond his brilliance as an investor, he might also be the nicest guy in Silicon Valley. Listen in as he shares his stories from his childhood, what's really causing the growth of inequality in our country, and a bit about a concept I had never heard about called "scissor statements" that is borderline terrifying.
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In this episode
- 00:12 - Who is Mike Maples, Jr.?
- 04:02 - What are Mike’s favorite things about being a seed investor?
- 07:59 - What is something that Mike learned as a parent?
- 12:49 - For Mike, what’s one big takeaway about life that he’s learned from his parents?
- 18:15 - What’s a more scalable approach to make an impact?
- 33:32 - What is Mike's opinion of decision making?
- 46:04 - What is something that Mike learned as a student?
- 52:46 - What should you do when you have an opportunity to meet a person you’ve been wanting to meet?
- 56:05 - What can hurt your deal flow over time?
- 57:45 - Why do the odds seem stacked against a person as they’re older?
- 01:12:20 - Why do free markets work?
- 01:19:45 - How is wealth inequality visible today?
- 01:25:44 - How much of an increase has the standard of living gone up since 1850?
- 01:33:20 - Are robots really going to eat our jobs like some believe?
- 01:43:20 - What are scissor statements?
- 01:53:41 - How can scissor statements help us?
Smash Notes summary for this episode
Who is Mike Maples, Jr.?
He’s known to be the first investor in Twitter, and an investor in other game changing companies. In Silicon Valley, he is known as a person who is as humble as he is bright.
What are Mike’s favorite things about being a seed investor?
He says that when you get it right, you get to see these companies come out of nowhere and make a huge difference. He feels fortunate to get to work with startups, and that it’s fun to be more of a co-conspirator than an investor.
What is something that Mike learned as a parent?
What helped him was realizing that when you have kids, they owe you nothing. They didn’t decide to have you, but rather, you chose to have them. There’s a trap where parents want to have gratitude from their kids. Expecting it from them is a form of manipulation, which is the wrong reason to think that this is what parenting is about.
For Mike, what’s one big takeaway about life that he’s learned from his parents?
His parents used to tell him that you have what you have. Every day is a gift, and having the gift of being alive is a limited privilege. The real questions are, what do you want to do with your time? How do you want to make the most of your time? Mike says to not fall into this trap of learned helplessness of saying the world isn’t fair.
What’s a more scalable approach to make an impact?
It works better to get real than to get focused. Do less, but better. Think small and increment yourself there. Too often, we want to talk about abstracts and be inside our heads.
What is Mike's opinion of decision making?
Decisions are more like a product. A product should have a ship date and a quality level with a timed value of decisions. People don’t make wrong decisions because they don’t have the facts or framework to decide, but it’s because they let their emotions get attached with the decision; thus, it interferes with their judgement or timing of the decision.
What is something that Mike learned as a student?
That you have a bunch of free moves and they’re perishable. It’s easier to meet someone when you’re a student, rather than as another guy in Silicon Valley or elsewhere. While he was a student, he made a list of people he wanted to meet. If you don’t take these types of opportunities, they pass you by.
What should you do when you have an opportunity to meet a person you’ve been wanting to meet?
You should ask a set of questions that tease out secrets, rather than the common questions. Rather, you want to come up with questions to “get hit by the lucky truck” as Maples says. You want to create strategic luck.
What can hurt your deal flow over time?
Mike says that deal flow, ultimately, becomes your enemy because you tend to focus so much on the flow and reacting to what’s going on. Rather than focus on the flow itself, you should try to spot what no one else has seen before.
Why do the odds seem stacked against a person as they’re older?
Mike thinks that once you turn 50, the odds are against you. At this age, your peer group is no longer at the edge. Whatever age you are as an investor, you should always be talking with those closest to what’s happening-- and this may be the younger generation in some cases, the millennials.
Why do free markets work?
Because they allocate capital and resources dynamically and correctly without any central authority to set it.
How is wealth inequality visible today?
By the lack of soundness for money. When the average person has worked their career, played by the rules, and was honest, their money is appreciated at a lower rate than if interest rates were set by supply and demand.
How much of an increase has the standard of living gone up since 1850?
The standard of living of humanity has went up fourteen fold from 1850 to 2000. There has been a shift of what it means to be poor because back then, rich people didn’t have what poor people have now. A fourteen fold increase in the standard of living within 150 years is a miracle.
Are robots really going to eat our jobs like some believe?
Mike believes no, they won’t eat our jobs as much as they’ll eat the need for people to join companies. The real question is, why can’t technology help talented people find customers and all the stuff that a company has? He believes that ideas like that will be more likely to happen than people out of work.
What are scissor statements?
They are statements generated to inflict controversy and manifest it. Most scissor statements are intentionally, cynically, manipulative, and designed to pit people against one another.