It's just really interesting to think about luck and skill. And if you really are humbled how much luck there is in the world and in whatever pursuit and domain you're doing, then it opens you up to the possibility that there's randomness and optionality, and you try to maximize that as cheaply as
Hello and welcome.
I'm Shane Parish,
and this is the Knowledge Project podcast.
Exploring the ideas,
methods and mental models that help you learn from the best of what other people have already figured out are more in step to date.
F s dot blog's slash podcast.
This conversation is with Josh Wolff,
a founding and managing partner in Lux Capital in New York.
Now Lux is a VC firm,
but not your typical VC firm.
They spend most of their time in the hard sciences.
Josh is a believer in the idea that inventing the future is the best way to predict the future.
As you'll see in this conversation,
Josh is exceptional.
We talk about learning,
finding ideas, information processing and our shared interest in old school rap. Let's get started way before we get started. Here's a quick word from our sponsor. Burnham Street is sponsored by Metal Lab. For a decade, mental lab has helped some of the world's top companies and entrepreneurs build products that millions of people use every day. You probably didn't realize it at the time, but odds are you've used an app that they've helped design or build absolutely slack. Coin based Facebook Messenger, Oculus, Lonely Planet and so many more metal Lab wants to bring the unique design philosophy to your project. Let them take your brainstorm and turn it into the next $1,000,000,000 up from idea sketched on the back of a napkin to a final ship product. Check the Merida Metal Lab dot Co. That's metal ab dot Co. And when you get in touch,
tell them Shane saying you, Josh, I'm so glad to be here with you today, man. Shane's like to be with you. Can you tell me a little bit about what Lux Capital does?
At root? We are trying to find brilliant people and back them and get really, really lucky. Um, I mean, if you think about it as a midwife, we raise money from endowments and foundations and wealthy families and individuals, and then we deploy it into people who are inventing the future, as the old adage goes, that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. And then we're basically trying to figure out who's full of shit and not and who Israel and who is faking it. And we try to deploy money to people who are real and, um, to believe there's a people that were drawn to who have irreverence and slight arrogance, and they have a conception of the world that some people would conflate with arrogance of the highest order. They basically say This is the way that the world auto look and I disagree with the consensus, and then we try to find those people and back them and give them the resources that they need to recruit and raise further money and execute on some plan. But we, in essence, are trying to fund the future and trying to bet against the past and find the people that are inventing it.
It sounds like that's almost an investing issue, but when you think about, ah, large part of our lives are spent trying to distinguish between people who know what they're talking about people who don't. People who sound like it look like it and feel like it. But aren't the real deal versus the people who are the real deal? Well, how do you go about separating the people who know what they're doing from the people who are just b s
a big portion of what we do our fund scientists and entrepreneurial scientist.
And so you have a mechanism which society has evolved over hundreds of years.
where you have peer review and you have publications.
And those served as a filtering process to determine is something just Apophis hypothesis or was it observed and tested and you actually have conclusions and evidence.
And so anybody that is coming up with a claim like you know,
this market by 2025 is gonna be,
this hockey stick projection.
you're extrapolating into the future,
and the crazy thing about venture capital is you often have no prior Sze.
You have no prior compass that you can look at because the most important companies that are going to exist never existed before.
And so you're trying to figure out extrapolating from the recent past into an unknown future.
You're trying to look at science,
which itself Israel because you know the number one question. It's amazing when you talkto some late stage growth investors, they go into companies and they say, What's the company? What's the question that I should be asking of this company? And the number one question is, Does it work? And you'd be amazed in diligence ing how many big investors failed to ask a simple question like Does it work? So we have the benefit where we have a bias toward scientific entrepreneurs and those people that are generally rigorous. They're inventing something. It's patented, It's a peer reviewed. It's replicable. And so it's not B s. And if you look at some of the frauds in our field, you know,
typically was all of those things right? It was not exactly I mean, that was, you know, the iconic one in this book Bad Blood, which details it insulation.
I just I just finished that an amazing sort of story, right?
But what's amazing about it is, I always say technologies change and businesses change and markets changed. But human nature is a constant and so It's interesting because in the early days of locks, I really believed if we had an edge in understanding something technologically that other people did not understand, we would have an advantage. So whether it was nanotech, advanced materials or something in chemistry or something in semiconductors or understanding solid state physics and what it could imply for energy dense, all that's important. But what really matters is understanding human nature and psychology. And so 90% of our successes and 99% of our problems in our companies are us playing armchair psychologist and trying to diagnose. Why is this team not effective? Why is the CEO of narcissist you know, and trying to find ways to ameliorate the situation or edging towards a way that we want to go? But it all comes down to the end to these two legged mammals, thes people and psychology. Let's
go back to that for a second because you operate in one of the most competitive markets in the world. Everybody wants to get an edge, and understanding, like everybody, is that they're trying to do that like what are you doing? That's different.
Part of it is understanding.
First what is everybody else looking at?
And then you try to find the white space where people not looking at.
And I would argue,
public markets have got a lot harder because you have a universe of companies,
those that universe of companies is known.
And then people are basically diagnosing whether something is undervalued,
If there have higher expectations than what the fundamentals support and and and that's relatively,
inefficient market in venture capital.
It's a really inefficient market because there is no known universe.
You and I could be talking in a private room,
and we could decide that we're going to start up a company tomorrow,
and nobody else knows that information.
And in fact,
if you accept the premise that the best way to predict the future is to invent it,
the people who are inventing it, our asymmetrically distributed. So there's a scientist or a group of scientists in a lab, or there's an entrepreneur who teams with a scientist, and my job is to find those people and persuade them that I'm the best partner as they persuade me that their science envision Israel before everybody else does. And so we always say, even in venture capital, which you could argue is the most lemming like feel that there is right. You see, one company gets done and then there's 100 followers we're trying to find. Something that we think nobody else has discovered are found. And we actually, even though we view ourselves contrarian, we want us. We want people to agree with us just later. And so, um, it's really finding these people a symmetrically distributed and then being the midwives to get it out to the masses
later. And you find them through the publications, the journals, the How Do You How do you map like somebody who's great at science versus, like, great running a business? Or do you partner them up with people
are It's a fascinating question.
So on the business hide you are.
Generally you get to observe people who are great operators.
And there there's some pattern recognition,
and you have a network of people who can triangulate and diligence and tell you okay,
were they have great communicator.
They can really raise money,
but they can't deploy it well.
And so over time you develop a cadre of people who you trust that our operators now that said,
some of the greatest entrepreneurs in history never ran a business before,
Steve Jobs or Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or Larry Ellison like that was their first foray and is just have this founder passion and right place,
right time, brilliance, technological advantage, whatever it was. But on the scientific side, you're looking for sort of the informational surprise. Right now there's a, I think, correlation between people who are very prodigious, that putting out a lot of papers. They're doing a lot of research. They're doing pretty cutting edge, non obvious things. They're not just trying to get grants, but they're trying to really, like,
make a name for themselves. They're driven by the same virtue that they want discovery and all these sort of benevolent things. But they're also driven by the greed and ego of reputation. And if you find those people, they tend to be the aggressive post doc in some other famous scientists lab because they navigated to that. So, for example, Bob Langer at M. I. T. Is a prodigious output of PhDs who are very commercially minded This is a guy who has made hundreds of millions of dollars, created billions of dollars of market value and companies and attracts postdocs that want to be like him. They want to be rich. They want to be renowned. So that's a great vein to tap. And there's probably a dozen such scientists in the war in the country without you in the U.
S. Where you can go and find these people and the post ox and where they sort of a traverse two and find that diaspora and develop relationships with them. Stay close to them. They, in turn, are going to attract the postdocs. We're gonna want to be like them rich and renowned, and it becomes this fountain of opportunity and innovation.
You mentioned something in that response that really struck a chord with me, which is patterns. What are the patterns of success? It's successful t able successful leaders, like Are there commonalities,
you know, post facto. It's easy to find these patterns, but a priori. Sometimes I think it's like what I call randomness and optionality, which to find so much of what we do and so much of my own personal life patterns. Somebody that is a great storyteller is really good for a start up business because they can recruit really well. They're telling a story where you meet with that person, and one of my partners used to call it somewhat inappropriately, the Pampers effect. You're like wetting yourself like Oh my God, I need to I need to join this personally to invest with them And you. It's one of those things, like the Justice Stewart Potter definition of pornography. You know what? When you see it, you
can't define it. But you just you
have this palpable sense that this person has something special and you can see that they're talking to Person X and Person X is gonna go home to her spouse and say,
I need to join this person And you can sort of predict that you can predict that you put them in front of a sophisticated investor.
This person is going to get them to part with their money.
Um and so that is one pattern,
great storytelling ability.
Now it's very hard in the early,
nascent embryonic stages of a business to really and I'm being intellectually honest here know if somebody is going to be an absolute genius or a total fraud,
because the best storytellers are also the best con men or women as it wasn't their nose.
And so I think it's really important to parse that.
But that definitively is a pattern,
storytelling ability that captures all of the best and worst things about humanity.
It captures our aspiration,
our virtues, our sense of ah, status, desire, greed and people that are able to tap into that who understand? People I think are really influential with people are almost always predictive
of great success. If you can't predicted this start and you go into this with optionality and randomness, which I like that approach, I'm gonna come back to that, especially in your personal life. But if you can't produce, start, start one of the signs as you're you're working with, these people are going along that it's they're not who you thought they were or one of the patterns that are emerging that are you knew, reducing or increasing the odds of failure. I guess
I'll give you one.
And this This isn't a few instances,
somebody might be a great storyteller.
They might be a great pitch person.
And so we meet them and we spend an hour or two with them and we're really persuaded.
they could tell us Xing story.
They get people really excited,
but we don't yet know how they operate a business.
And you can start telling very early on if somebody is a control freak now,
somebody who would be a control freak either because they're not hiring well and therefore they don't trust the people that they're working for,
because if they do,
they would delegate to them very frequently.
But there's other people that want to be involved in every decision.
They want control every decision.
if they do that, it's either because their standards are so high and again they don't trust the people or they've got something died and they're trying to control the information. That's interesting. And so I think it's really hard to tell. Is somebody going to be a control freak or not? You can get little clues of that in a presentation if somebody is there with three people presenting to us and they do all the talking and they are talking for the other people. It's usually not a great sign. If somebody sort of steps back and starts lauding, let's say CEO is the founder and they turn to their CTO and they say, Oh my God, she's incredible And then just hand the floor over. That's
a good sign. Any other signs that somebody would be a control freak or any negative signs that you look out for that you get a hint of through presentation.
I have a really politically incorrect one,
which is going on.
They're older CEOs that by choice,
not biologically because there's a big difference never had Children.
I find that for whatever reason,
they tend to be very controlling.
Now my sample size here is like five of five in,
CEO CFO is people who were at,
variety of our companies that were over 50 never chose to have Children,
and I find that you maybe never experienced the humility,
maybe never experienced the the fact that you know you mean you've got kids.
You grew up with them.
You see them?
They could be like a little terrorists,
right? You can't control them. They act irrationally. Well, sometimes your suppliers or your vendors, your employees, your investors or you're bored act the same way. And there's something that is very humbling about having Children that I find that the best operators tend to be able to manage their employees better when they've managed their
kids. Well, how is the Josh? I'm sitting across from right now, different post kids. Then the Josh. I would have been interviewing pre kids. Probably a little
bit more patient,
I would say on the spectrum.
I am very impatient.
people here joke that I have this little lip curl and you could sort of read my impatience or if I'm in a meeting,
I unfortunately have a terrible poker tell,
which is this deep sigh,
which is basically signaling my partnership will laugh because they know.
Josh has done with this meeting,
but I would say patients because I think I'm a reasonably intelligent and influential person and being able to persuade somebody of something,
when you haven't eaten 1/2 year old six year holding two and 1/2 years old and you're trying to get them to do something you can use every tactic that Robert Baldini has come up with in every tactic from Munger and every behavioral psychology thing you've learned from condiment.
And you still get tantrums and crying and, uh, dogmatic, You know, intransigent kids. And so, um
ah, a lot. A little bit more patients, people with their kids laugh when I tell them I get a negotiated by my eight and nine year olds, like on a regular
basis, and not because they're necessarily that's sophisticated. They're not using tactics of like, you know, I know you know her sister on just like a willingness to totally embarrass you in public and scream and throw a tantrum. And by the way, when they do those things, they do them because it works.
Yeah, definitely. I try not to give into that stuff. Um, talk to me a little bit of randomness and optionality and how you use that at work and how you use it in your personal life.
So a lot of this is a post facto,
intellectually honest observation,
which is my gosh,
so many things that have happened in my life for better and worse,
or a largely outside of my control.
you always have that sort of overlapping,
of what are the things that matter and one of the things that you actually control,
And that's where you should focus.
But I look at it,
the circumstances post facto of how probably the most important decision in my life,
which was meeting my wife and her agreeing toe date me and marry me And,
you know, choosing to have kids the circumstances of where we lived. Timing, you know, sort of the the old sliding doors, you know, phenomenon. All the counterfactual that could have been that could have happened. And so when you look at the panoply of things in life, there is so much randomness. And of course, you have to be smart, and when you see an opportunity, you sees it. But there's so many things where just a chance meeting or somebody that you're meeting with who is in a good mood or a bad mood. You know,
it could have been a totally different situation on a singular pivoting turn of events, one fulcrum of an individual. So I look at this. There's nothing in my life that a priory would have predicted that I would have met this guy, Bill Conway, the founder of the Carlyle Group, who would have put us in business. And the day that he put us in business, I believe he was in a good mood. He could have been in a terrible mood. He could have gotten bad news. He could have been meeting with me and said, You know, what am I doing me with? This young guy? Don't have time,
you know, And I've been in that right. I've been in that situation where I'm distracted. I've got something else on my mind and the person that I'm sitting across from this suffering from the misfortune of the circumstances of that moment. And there's other times where I just ate a great lunch and I just had some chocolate and caffeine, and I'm feeling great. And I just got a great news from my wife about something else, and and I'm gonna be a bully in mood, and it's totally changed. The circumstances has nothing to do with the person that I'm sitting across from, but the circumstances are just in their favor at that moment and you see this, you know, there's there's, um, empirical evidence. I don't think it's pocketful of judges and the fate of people who are standing before judges before or after lunch,
and whether the judges air cranky or whether they're well fed and instated. Um, so that's one thing, which is when I look at the at the post facto circumstances of my life. Ex post facto. What's this perfect linear chain of events, but a priori? You never know. You never know the person you're sitting next to on a plane. You can sit there quietly or you can strike up a conversation. And it might turn out that one of the topics that you talk about is relevant because their brother in law's friend is actually the exact person that you need to meet. And you never would have known. Known that, um, you know, so meeting my wife meeting our first big investor who really changed our life even across the portfolio.
I have this phenomenon that I call 100 0 100 and it's an interesting observation that is a mix of arrogance, certainty, total uncertainty, humility, ambition, and you put all these things into this framework. What it basically says is it's different probabilities. The first probability 100% is the arrogant assertion. I am 100% certain that Lux will be investing in the most cutting edge crazy stuff that you could imagine over the next two years. Zero that follows is I have 0% certainty what those things will be. No idea. Now I have an inkling, and it's near 100% certain of where I will find them, which is at the edge of our already cutting edge companies in case after case of starting a company in a crazy area like Meta Materials, which led to this company called Chi Meta, which I co founded with Bill Gates.
And I'm in a board room with Bill Gates and he's on the board of this company is the only board has been on. Besides Burchell and Microsoft, there's nothing that a kid from Coney Island, Brooklyn could have imagined or done, or classes to take that would end up in a board room with Bill Gates. Nothing. You know, it was a city, a series of circumstances in luck. But I'm in this boardroom and then I find out that these young guys in San Francisco want to take these antennas, there's flat as an iPad and put him on small satellites, and so we go and chase those guys down. Now that was a piece of lucky information followed by, you know, the instinct to go chase it down. But that led to our investments company called Planet.
And then from that we get the insight that all the imagery that's gonna be coming off of the satellites is going to be commoditized on. The real value is going to be the processing of that. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning to look at different spaces over different times to make insights for hedge funds and corporate espionage and all that kind of stuff. And that led to this company Orbital insight. None of those things a priori was knowable. It's how one thing led to the next led to the next, and I've got five or six different companies where the only way I would have found them was because we were invested in some prior company where I got some secret insight inside of a boardroom that led me to it. So total randomness and Optionality. And if you are, I think, humble to the idea that luck matters so much and particularly, you know, I always love Michael movies, and I think, as the the best measure of whether something is lock of her skill, Can you fail on purpose?
And in our world, you know, you could totally fail on purpose. And so I think that there's a little bit more skill in the public markets. Interestingly, if I try to pick the very worst company in the world, it could still double on me if I was shorting it because you could have a promotional CEO. And so it's just really interesting to think about luck and skill. And if you really are humbled how much luck there is in the world and in whatever pursuit and domain you're doing, then it opens you up to the possibility that there's randomness and optionality, and you try to maximize that as cheaply as possible.
How do you go about maximizing that well, keeping in mind opportunity,
cause it is a constant trade off between exploration and exploitation.
I am trying to read as much as I can,
and I get information anxiety.
I read not only the things that I think everybody else is reading,
because to me,
That's table stakes.
So I read in the morning The Financial Times.
I read The New York Times.
I worry The Wall Street Journal.
The Washington Post I read USA Today.
My wife makes fun of me.
I need to read USA Today because I need to know whatever X 1,000,000 Americans are waking up in Marriotts and being influenced by that gives me another angle of information.
But then when I'm reading those things,
I'm also reading them, not for what it says on Page one, because I've got this other theory, which I'll share with you. But I'm reading for what does the editor put on C 22 of the newspaper that they decree to be less important? And I have a different waiting of the magnitude of its importance. That, to me, is the meta insight. So I've got this framework on information processing, which I call Fitzgerald Twain and Shopping Hour, and each of these was a famous literary giant that had a quote that I think defines where we should direct our attention. And so Fitzgerald's famous quote was the test of a first rate intellect. Is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time and still retain the ability to function? I mean great. Who wouldn't want that?
Most of the front page news for The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or the FT Our Fitzgerald Situations? There's a smart person saying that gold is nothing but a shiny piece of metal. There's a smart person saying it's a great store value in an otherwise Fiat currency world. There's somebody saying that China is a fraud about to blow up with over indebtedness and ST manipulation of statistics when there's somebody else that saying This is the engine of growth for the next decades to come. And the only certainty isn't the uncertainty in the volatility between these two sides that are playing out over time. The second situations air Tween situations and his famous dictum was, It ain't want you know what, you don't know that kills you. It's what you know for sure. That just ain't so. And so what is the thing that everybody is predicting linearly is going to continue and then boom. There's informational surprise. An informational surprise will turn to also because I think it's such an important concept. To me, it's like the physics of information. It's entropy,
informational, surprise, I think, to find everything in markets especially. But here great examples, you know, 10 years ago is housing. Housing prices could only go up. And on that false assumption, which you had historic support for all of a sudden Boom. There's this big shock and big surprise and so informational, surprised when people are predicting linear continuation of some trend and then it surprises to the downside, shocks the heck out of people. Um and so there were basically saying, What do people know for sure and where might they be wrong? And we're looking for the non obvious low probability thing.
And in the final situation, which is where we spend most of our time is the shop and our dictum, which is talent, can hit a target that nobody else can can hit and genius can hit a target that nobody else can see. And that goes back to the asymmetric information contained in the minds of the scientists who feel like they have the answer or have a secret that nobody else knows. And our job is to find those people before everybody else knows that secret. Typically, it is a technological secret. And then give them money.
I wanna want to deep dive into not only what else you're reading, but how you go but processing this information and specifically like the physics of information.
so my processing I wake up in the morning,
I'm check my email because I've got a West Coast team.
three hours behind.
if I go to sleep 12 or one o'clock and I'm usually most productive in the evenings,
that is a longstanding thing,
because I'm a psychotically competitive person,
and I would feel most productive when I thought that everybody else was sleeping.
So I was motivated thinking that my peers were sleeping on Sundays when they were watching American football.
I would be reading and learning something,
and you know, I loved football, but I love playing it on like mad, and I could do it quickly. And that's how we learned my team rosters. Um, so I'm typically in the morning waking up in catching up on Let's say, what's the equivalent of 9 p.m. West Coast? Time to midnight, where my team is also competitive. And so So that's the morning email first, that I'm checking Twitter. Ah, you know, I follow a lot of people on Twitter. There's a lot of engaging conversations.
A lot of rich content. You never know. I mean, it's total randomness and optionality. Then I'm reading that I'm reading, Ah, handful of papers in the morning, and when I say read, I'm really skimming headlines and trying to find patterns and trends. I'm taking screenshots of various charts and information, and I might share with my team or cross reference things. I might even assemble a little collage of interesting phenomenon or headlines. Um, then there's a whole slew of blog's, including yours that I find really information rich and give me lots of interesting ideas. Then when I get to the office on any given week,
I've got nature and science and chemical and engineering news and proceeds the National Academy of Signs and Ah, New England Journal of Medicine and and and I'm I'm flipping through these things again just looking for interesting trends and sometimes the trends, Papa and I never know, right. There are times where I get depressed. I said, My God, you know, I just had this great idea on nuclear, which we'll talk about it and then a few years go by and I was successful. I have no idea what my next idea is gonna be, but it's had 100 0 100 I'm always confident that's going to come from somewhere. I mean, where there's endless, you know, it's just like this cornucopia of possibility and ideas.
Then you just reach in grab minerals. Ah, there's this thing that nobody else is thinking about. And so, um, it's sort of this mosaic of just finding different sources, putting them together, seeing trends and patterns. Um, and it's really for me. Is anybody else talking about this for thinking about this, you know, like to me, crypto today is not really interesting because two people know adjusting to everybody. Yeah, exactly.
I mean, you know, the clean tech and green tech thing going back almost a decade everybody was talking about when nobody was talking about was nuclear. It's just interesting. It's like some famous people set the agenda, and that was Al Gore. And it was John Door. And it was who's a venture capital firm? Kleiner Perkins. It was a node, Costa, another famous V C. And they were talking about solar and wind and bio fuels and ethanol and electric cars and batteries. Nobody was talking about nuclear. And so I got really interested in the thing that nobody was talking about. Maybe they weren't talking about it for a good reason.
But equally or more probable was that it didn't comport with a worldview or didn't comport with something that they understood where they didn't know about it. And so, as I dug into nuclear, I started looking at every part of the fuel cycle in nuclear. Now, mind you, this is 2009 10. I knew nothing about nuclear. I mean, literally nothing. I knew how to pronounce it better than George Bush. But aside from that, I knew nothing. We look at the uranium miners, mostly hucksters and fraudsters in New Mexico and Nevada. We said,
Okay, not really. Venture backup. We looked at the people that were doing processing, uh, and, um in Richmond and that's really for you. No defense and very small contract. Um, we looked at the service is business when we looked at every part of the fuel cycle and then we looked in modular reactors and we said, OK, well, maybe there's something here. Instead of building a $1,000,000,000 nuclear plant, you could build 30 30 megawatt plans for very cheap and build them one at a time. But it turns out that the time frames in the regulatory risk,
and it's just in the amount of money that you would need was to capital intensive and too risky. And then you look and I always turn my turret of attention to this very sophisticated to work question. What sucks? And it's amazing. In the same way that big investors often don't ask, Does it work about a technology? You just turn to something and you look around almost everything that we use. Everything that was invented started with somebody saying, huh, That sucks. You know, that could be better. I've got a better idea. Yeah, and then they take that better idea. And actually in Stan,
she ate it and raise money and build a team and so on. And the more sophisticated the technology that captures the solution, the better advantaged they are. In this case, we looked at nuclear and said, Well, what's the biggest problem? The biggest problem is, what do you do with waste? You've got this big political debate about whether you take it to a place Yucca Mountain and make this geological repositories. You've got people saying that they're gonna trans mutate and process it. And so we looked for the best and the brightest in the field. We locked up a whole bunch of people. A whole bunch of technologies started this company from scratch, Really out of crazy idea. Named that after Madame Curie,
who discovered and ultimately died from radiation called a cure EON spelled with a K. We funded that in 2010 and then a year later, positioned it again. Randomness and optionality. We have no idea. Is nuclear gonna be a renaissance? Are people gonna catch on and say, Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. Or are people gonna just stay shut down? Nuclear. We want alternatives like solar and wind. Or are things just gonna stay status quo in any one of those situations. If you look at it, you were intelligently positioned. If there's new nuclear,
you have more demand for waste cleanup status quo. Plants get older. They produce more waste, more demand for waste cleanup, catastrophe strikes or a zeitgeist that says, Shut down nuclear more demand for waste management. So anyway, you cut it, we could win. And we got very lucky as a company, a small company when Japan got very unlucky on the Fukushima disaster, which was never forecast, was never imagined. We never thought you know what will fund a nuclear waste company that does high tech cleanup. And, geez,
I really hope that there's gonna be some geological, you know, catastrophe that leads to a tsunami, earthquake, tsunami in this Fukushima disaster. But this little company became the only U. S company pick for the cleanup, and we on very little capital invested in that end up having this positive black swan. There's really low probability, high magnitude event. That was a reaction to a really low probability, highly negative event in Japan, and that all started because we had this crazy idea that nobody else was thinking about. I have two questions
on this first one is how did you go about knowing nothing to get uncomfortable starting a company and very complex industry.
So it's interesting because when we started locks,
people told me that I was taking the biggest risk,
and I looked at this and said,
What's my risk?
I come from no money.
My mom's a schoolteacher in Coney Island,
My worst case scenario is I fail,
and then I go back and join the mainstream,
which was just not part of my sort of mindset.
When you start a company,
everything is a risk financing risk technology,
risk management risk,
I always think of this like the first law of thermodynamics that energy is not created or destroyed,
risk in value themselves just changing form. And every time that you can kill a risk, subsequent value gets created because a leader investor arguably is taking less risk. They should demand a lower quantum of return because they're taking less risk. And so I was thinking about risk is killing it to create value. But in this case, we're starting a company. Sure, it's all risk, but the worst cases we put a few $1,000,000 in it doesn't take off. We can't recruit a team. We don't get traction. The technology doesn't work. But you know that to me isn't really risky. Now for an entrepreneur, remember,
there's an asymmetry of risk taking. We have, ah, portfolio 100 plus companies for an entrepreneur. They're putting all their eggs in one basket, and so, you know, it really depends on the risk tolerance of the entrepreneur. Um, but in this case, we were able to find ah group of people that we're really passionate, deeply believed that their nuclear was the answer. Believed that it was under discussed and under invested, and we teamed with them. We funded them on then really together. A combination of good execution and an enormous amount
of lock. But you did a deep dive on this. Well, I spent a year and 1/2. What was that process?
so it started with reading,
reading scientific papers and reading journals and trying to understand.
what's this nuclear waste problem?
And I had a few analysts were working with me.
They were feeding me information and helping to distill it.
But most importantly,
they were setting up calls,
and so we would talk to somewhere between four and six people a day.
So you're talkinto 20 to 30 people a week and you're trying to triangulate,
and I would actually map out.
different people use different mind mapping kind of software.
We actually use the thing called Popular,
which you can download for free.
It's ipad app. Um, I happen to like it because you just you start with a square and then you make a link to somebody else, and it's like, Okay, who you just spoke to and then you can change. I do it visually, the sort of waiting of the size of the squares over who you think is more valuable and insightful with every person that you talked to incrementally, you become a little bit more intelligent so that when you have your subsequent your third conversation, your fourth conversation, you've now have taken the best ideas that you learn from the second person and you're sharing it. And now I have a little bit more credibility when I'm talking to the fifth person. And so a combination of learning from each subsequent conversation and then almost like a neural net. You're back propagating. I speak to the fifth person and they're like, Oh,
yeah, that person that you spoke to the second they're you know they're full of it. Well, okay, now I have to understand Are the academic rivals or they just disagreeing about something? Or is this person like really more of a promotional scientists and don't know what they're talking about? And sometimes I have to change the waiting. And so I changed my story and that, really, for the first year, I was just talking and learning from everybody so that I would be able to go, let's say to the head of the nuclear Energy Commission and impress because I knew what I was talking about. And so I'm reducing my ignorance. I'm sucking up as much as I can from different people. I'm evolving my narrative, and then the more credible I get the lower the slope for me to be able to recruit people.
So a CZ we became more informed than I start talking to people. I start sharing a vision. They get excited. Now they're on board now. All of a sudden, I start with this entity that was just a total crazy idea. And now I've got somebody who's very serious involved. And then I go and start recruiting advisory board and these air very famous people that built big businesses in the space. And now I've got more credibility. And so it really is very much like starting a movie. It starts with a script, and before the script, you know you have sort of a napkin. Sketches like a storyboard have an idea of what this movie should look like, and now I have to go on a casting call and I've got to find the actor. But the actor doesn't want to go unless the director's there,
where the director doesn't want tojoin less, this producer is gonna do it. And so it's a little bit of a con game where you're trying to build confidence amongst everybody in this hugely risky and uncertain thing to them, which to me is very un risky because my worst cases it doesn't work, and
but for them the risk is reduced if this other persons involved,
really because it's social proof and but But then you say OK,
you see somebody and they say,
that person's incredible person,
and they've got a good reputation and I want to be affiliated with them.
we get pitched,
by the way,
I'm not gonna name names,
but there are some people that come in and I love what they're doing.
But then I see an advisory board with one or two people,
and for me,
these air like red flag people,
they're like total B s.
Promoters are like authors that I think are full of it,
and I just like, shake my head. And to me, it's a It's a signal of bad judgment, for the CEO doesn't know how to discern between the scientifically credible on the total promoters. And, um, you know, I'm not gonna bad mouth that person and say, Oh, my God, you shouldn't be in business with them but, like, well, just passed sometimes. But it's a signal.
So the process we started, we read voraciously. You meet with a ton of people, you're sharing what you're learning. You're testing your hypotheses in real time. They're giving you feedback. You're changing your narrative. You're using that narrative to then talk to recruit other people. Those people be, get credibility for the next person and on all of a sudden just gets a life of its
own. And then you wake up a year and 1/2 later and you're like, I think I understand
and and we're gonna put real money to work here,
and we're gonna recruit People were starting this company,
and then it's the signal also.
And so I'm doing this right now in the genetic space,
a space that I know a little bit about.
But we started with this crazy thesis about X men.
Could you find the rare mutants in the world?
And could you sequence them and search for them and then sequence them and then develop drugs?
That might be the opposite of the condition that they have toe help humanity,
that they may possess the secrets inside of their code.
And it starts with an idea.
When I start talking to people and I get referrals and and then I think I've got one scientist and then somebody else is like,
that person is not really credible.
And so then I discount the weight on that person and literally like waiting a neural net and then before you know it, I've got five people that are scientists like Oh my God, this is what I want to do for the next 10 years of my life And they're so inspired by the story. And then those people, I'm able to point to these executives and say I have some of the best scientists in the world and then one thing leads to another in office and you have a company.
What is nobody talking about today? Aside from the X Men thing that people will be talking about in your mind and five or 10 years? Well, it's
There is a ah,
broad set of phenomenon that I liketo identify across segment sectors,
industries that I called directional arrows of progress and the directional arrows of progress.
They're sort of undeniable They And by the way,
this is what led us to the company Curie on and nuclear waste.
If you look a directional arrow of progress in energy yuen from carbohydrates to hydrocarbons to uranium and the undeniable arrow of progress,
there was more and more energy density per unit of raw material.
When you discover the directional air of progress.
it's almost like this universal principle.
It's trending in a certain way,
regardless of who the actors are,
regardless of who the people are or the companies are.
It's just trending that way.
Same thing with semiconductors you went from or computing.
You went from spinning disks and mechanical systems to solid state hard drives with lighting, you went from filament bulbs and the analog, or you went from fire to filaments to solid state L E D's. So you see these trends where you're like, Yeah, why would we ever go back to that other thing? And so in energy, people were going back to the agrarian economies where we were growing biofuels, and that made no sense. You know the idea today if somebody was like, Hey, I've got a more efficient flame, you know, Candle, you'd be like, Why would we ever do that?
We've got led as they are more light than heat. They don't give off heat and and their energy efficient. Um, and so you see some of those hours of progress, one that I don't think people are paying a lot of attention to today is one that I've called the half life of technology intimacy. This is a trend about how we interact with our computers and you you see it. And regardless of how it is in Stan, she ated undeniably to me, This is the direction that things were going. Now we've made one recent bet one investment around a team of technology, and it embodies all of the things that we love to do. I don't know if we're gonna be right. I have high confidence in it. But you can see the trend of which I feel really certain about. Here's how it works. 50 years ago,
you had a giant ENIAC computer sitting over there in the corner of a room, and it was the size of multiple refrigerators. And the way that you would interact your human body with that computer was to go up and flicks him switches Poulsen plugs. And it was, you know, enormous body sized first half life 25 years ago. Now you have a personal computer on your desk, a desktop. You are tickling the keys with your fingers. You have a mouse under your palm. That's the way you're physically interacting with you touching the monitor with your thumb on and off 12 and 1/2 years ago. The dominant form is now a laptop. Now you're tickling the keys. You have a touch pad instead of a mouse, maybe still use a mouse, and now it's physically on your lap.
The computer has gotten closer to you six and 1/2 years ago. The next half life. Now you have an iPhone, the first thing you touch in the morning. The last thing you touch a night. You swipe it, you tap it, you caressing you click it. And for most men, the Onley separation from the human body is a thin film of fabric in your pants as you keep in your pocket. All day long. Three and 1/2 years ago, I'm wearing and I watch right now constant physical contact with my skin with no barrier A year and 1/2 ago, next half life air pots people forget them, right? They believe in their ear. They're so comfortable, the undeniable arrow of progress. That directional trend is more and more intimacy.
It's becoming closer to you totally soon. It'll be other like inside. You are just omnipresent
And what's interesting.
As the technology becomes quote unquote,
more technological and more sophisticated,
it actually becomes more invisible and more human.
And so what has intrigued me?
standing in front of these giant super computers,
like bi boo bi boo bi boo bop with flashing lights and its human interaction.
It's literally gesture and voice,
things that feel more natural.
And there is a trend across a lot of fields where this idea of natural,
I think not in a moral sense but in a technological arrow of progress.
I'll give you another one in a moment,
but in this case we found a scientist.
And how do we find this person? Because they were a postdoc under one of our other scientists that we find it so randomness and optionality. We back one guy. He happens to be this brilliant scientist at Columbia who reverse engineered the neural Carl. It's for taste, and we funded him in a company called Callie Obey. That is reverse engineering your gut brain access to understand how you feel, the sense of satiety and fullness or sugar sensing inside of your gut or psychosocial feelings like I have a gut feeling or I have butterflies in my stomach. That guy. His name is Charles Zuker. He was a thesis advisor to this guy, Thomas Reardon, who, like any good SciFi character, goes by Reardon single name and Reardon's work after I mean, this guy's fast and he's got a twin brother and sisters.
He was a math and science prodigy, didn't go to college, gets tapped by Bill Gates, becomes build right hand guy for a decade. Plus in Microsoft singlehandedly codes Internet Explorer and makes a lot of money retires, doesn't other company retires? And then early thirties now being rich and retired, technologically praised, doesn't anybody ought to do and goes to Columbia and gets his undergraduate degree in classics and Latin and Ah, and literature and then spends the next eight years getting a PhD in neuroscience? And the result of that PhD work was exactly this trend of technology that we're talking about, which was being able to put something like a wristband on your forearm, where it can detect your neural signals as you move your fingers and perfectly. But what's crazier is I could hold your for your hand in a fist and you could just think about moving your fingers, and it's able to detect the signals from that. What that implies is that you will wear something a quick akin to a bracelet or a wristwatch,
and you will be able to gesture like Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice, to flick your fingers, to turn on the lights, to swipe like you would swipe in free, dimensional, three dimensional free space to change a song on Spotify to raise your fingers like you were in a conductor in an orchestra to raise the volume or toe lower. It and I fell in love with the science with a technology with the possibility, with the fact that it was singular, that there was nobody else doing this and we funded it. But that is an example that I don't think people are really talking about today. And as they see it and experience it, it's like that quote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. It feels magical and people's response when the experiences I want that and that's a really powerful thing. So that's a trend that I think people are under appreciating in the same vein, the idea of technology becoming more natural, more invisible.
There's a phenomenon in three D printing called generative design, and it's really a computational approach to making stuff as we sit in this room and most people are listening most of the objects around them if they just look around or rectilinear their squares there, rectangles there, straight lines. And that's the way that we engineer things because they're mathematically precise the way that nature engineers things. You look at a forest, a tree, you look at river. I mean, all this stuff is is sort of crooked timber Benton. But it's It's mathematically precise, but in a biological way, even the structure of our bones they're not perfect rectangles. But nature evolved mathematical precision in these amorphous, asymmetric structures. Well,
it turns out that the best way, if you want to make a hinge, is not to just make a right angle hinge, but to tell the computer, figure out for the given material the best structure and what it evolves. Computational E in silica. In the computer is something that looks more like Gowdy architecture or um ah, in HR Geiger alien looking model. It looks flowy and organic, and I believe that within a decade you will see architectural structures. You will see product design. You will see components inside of vehicles and industrial products that look way more biological because they were designed. Interestingly, by that are figuring out ways that don't rely on what humans have evolved. Created, mathematically precise architectural structures.
It won't be that strict, you know, right angle, federalist kind of building. It'll be this weird flowy thing, and it'll have properties that have almost outsmarted
us. I wonder what will office buildings look like? If, like, I mean, we have this this very square design, usually with like, this is what an office looks like? This is what a cubicle looks like. If this were if we had a biologically designed office building, what would that and what variables with the computer be maximizing forward to be interactions between people quiet
like you have to pick something totally and there's trade offs, right? So this is interesting, because if you look at the Gates Foundation building, it's sort of too big to to boomer rings that traverse and look like an X and you say Okay, well, the people, the far ends of the ex are very distant from each other. If you look at the new Apple headquarters, it's a giant circle sort of infinite loop. It's symbolic, but I think she's If I had to get from one place to the other, like you know, you have to sort of go back inside the radius and then, you know, traverse in a different angle. And so it's gonna be very interesting thinking about that. I do remember there
is a building like the Apple building that existed long before the Apple Building, which is G C H Q, which is the British version of En ESA created the exact same Dylan
were the sociological effects of that. Were people more likely to bump into each other, less likely to bump into
each other, I think the argument was they're more likely to bump into each other. But whether that makes them more productive or better or happier workers that remains to be remains
to be seen.
I'm a Cornell alarm when they were building the engineering center at the time was called Duffield Hall after Dave Duffield.
I remember the architect had all these different designs and typically when you see these designs.
They're like these big flowing atriums,
and they've got these three dimensional,
models of the people you know,
interacting in the engineering in the halls.
Most of these people are very introverted.
They're not social people.
They want to do their work.
They keep themselves.
They're not interacting.
If they had the structure that was this big atrium, they found that people were not interacting with each other. They would hug the walls and stay away from each other. And the empty space stayed. Really, Anna? The way to create interaction, interestingly enough, was to constrain the space. So they had to make. The hall is narrower. And the buildings, you know, tighter instructor. Um but it is fascinating and thinking about it. I know you've written about this.
You've covered this. Like how our spaces define our behavior, which in turn define our spaces. And, um, you know, city planning and organized. It's a fascinating
phenomenon. What are your thoughts on how your environment here at Lux influences your decision? Making your curiosity
I like the randomness and optionality,
so I like bumping into everything.
We have a very open glass offices.
we have big open space for people to get to my office.
They have to pass through.
everybody else's office people are seeing.
So there's information flow is people see who's walking by.
it increases the Optionality where somebody is meeting with somebody and they can come and just sort of signal outside my office.
I pop out and say hello.
And so what? We really want that sort of randomness and optionality in the flow in the networking and the connectivity of people that are coming and going here, But, um, but I don't know that we've optimized and
how do you create you? Said information flow, which is super interesting because it's also highly competitive field externally, censure. It's highly competitive. Internally, I would imagine the type of people that you're attracting. How do you create a culture where knowledge is not necessarily power, which would enable people to share
I am not very fond of many management books,
but there's one that I like a lot that was tribal leadership,
and it's interesting because the details exactly what you just said,
about how people silo information.
If you think about the different tribes inside of a culture you have,
called Tribe number one,
which are basically people who have the life mantra of life sucks.
They're just bitter there,
they're they're miserable and it's like 2% of organizations.
And that would be like,
people in jail and homeless populations and really unfortunate circumstances. The next layer up, which would be tried to is my life sucks People who feel like they're victims, and you probably have 20% of people in organizations that are like that, and probably the vast New York City square. Rectilinear office buildings are filled with people that feel no sense of loyalty. You know, they're local worker. They just are punching a clock, can't wait to go home, watch TV, pop a beer, be with their families. The next layer is I'm great, you're not, and these are people that are exactly as you described the silo information.
It is a zero sum game. They're competitive because ultimately somebody else's losses their gain internally. They're fighting for promotion. They're fighting for title, that fighting for bonus. They're fighting for credit. They're fighting for status. The next layer up, which I think is where we are, is where great they're not. We have an internally collaborative, externally competitive culture, so we are trying to share information. I mean, probably half my emails on any given day, our internal emails where we're recapping meetings that we took information that we gleaned,
you know, noting what's confidential and what shouldn't be shared outside the organization or with our portfolio companies. But it's just there's so much intel in information that we're triangulating amongst the team and we typically, if somebody is like quiet, right amongst, we've got 10 investing professionals. If somebody is not opting it, sometimes they're traveling a lot. But we want to make sure that they're recapping their meetings, recapping there, conversations, recapping tidbits that we heard from board meetings because that institutionally shares and creates this network effect internally. But at the same time, we're silo ing that from our competitors. Now,
on occasion, we would everybody internally has access to that. All we do is
summer is very simply right.
Like we do it through Gmail,
super easy toe searching query.
you slack gets varying levels.
some of the systems are only as good as their weakest user.
Oftentimes that weakest users me,
but females really effective.
And we have,
simple subject have certain queries and elements that we use in the syntax of how we describe these things,
whether we're meeting with a person or giving a recap of a board meeting.
But it's all there.
And so if I type you know,
Shane Parish into Google, it's gonna show everything in Gmail, including because we share so much that my colleagues had interactions with. And so that's, I think, a really rich way to do it. It's in perfect, but, um, we definitely air on transparency.
Talk to me. A little bit of it, how the information flows like I'm just envisioning. You got 100 companies. Ah, you have outside investors. You have evil internally are summarizing meetings at these companies summarizing technological trends, giving you information. You're you're the mecca of where this information flows like, How do you process that, like, how much of your time is on E mail? How do you filter information?
What's the so so if we think about what's important,
in any given company,
the first thing is,
how can we help them?
somebody you know,
we always put literally at the bottom over top of emails,
depending on what it is.
We're describing the net of the meeting so it could be okay.
We just got back from the port meeting.
Here's the cash position.
Here's the number.
Employees were reminding people that snapshots is the most important thing for the next month,
depending on the cadence of different companies have different cadence.
Some we have monthly board meeting summits,
bimonthly someone's quarterly,
but this is the most important thing. And so we're tracking that internally both so that we know how the company is performing. But also what can we do to help them? They really need help with these three hires. Somebody's hiring a VP of finance. Somebody is hiring a VP of product. Somebody needs a chief people officer, and then we're thinking in our network, okay, who do we have access to? And so now everybody is primed and through our Monday and Thursday weekly meetings were thinking Okay, you know, this is our recruiting list, and then we have to make the decision. A candidate comes up where we find out about how do we rout them toe which opportunity? And so there are some companies where they could be the perfect fit.
But relative in our portfolio, there might be a higher and better use for that person. And so part of that is people routing the collective information that we have. We're recapping where sharing information. We're getting tidbits of information, and then you're just trying to connect a dot toe one of our company's somebody else might say, Um, you know, we just got these terms from this particular venture debt lender. Well, that for us is information that we can use across our portfolio. If we say, jeez, they're lending at a lower rate than okay. We now have competitive information that an existing bank auto match these prices, and so it's important for us as an aggregating note.
Its value add to our portfolio that if we know that Silicon Valley bank or Square one or somebody else's offering somebody better terms, you know that should normalize across the portfolio. Um, if there's somebody that is teeing up a media opportunity, if Bloomberg is looking for the 40 under 40 where going into figuring out who were the technological geniuses inside of our portfolio that we can t up to give them media exposure. And so everybody sort of always, you know, all hands on deck. We call this, uh, you know, um, locks, one locks. And it's not just about your portfolio companies, and we want people to know even his portfolio managers of your individual companies where you're sitting on boards like,
you know, the good things are all one locks and the bad things were all one looks. So, you know, sometimes you might have a situation in a company and you've got a difficult CEO, and, you know, maybe you have a good relationship with them and I have to come in and be the bad guy. Or maybe another partner has, you know, the ability to recruit technological people and they're coming about. But everybody sort of always working on each other's cos
it sounds like you could almost get caught up and just spending your day reading all the other information coming in. How do you prevent
I get information anxiety that never stops.
It's like way beyond the Red Queen theory.
you have to run,
three times the fastest,
even keep up and a lot of things will get lost,
in the in the mix.
if something is,
super important, somebody internally will resend it. You know, um, at various times, you know, our VP of finance might be asking people to fill out something related to reserves. How much money we're reserving forgiven company. And sometimes, you know, that's the most important thing for her, and somebody else might be saying. The most important thing is I need your candidate recommendations for this media list and somebody else might be saying, You know, um, we're gonna host an event around the future of technology in automation of manufacturing and I need And so at any given point,
somebody has a priority. That to them is the most important thing. And part of the job that Peter and I who run the firm have is dialing up and reinforcing those priorities, saying, Hey, you know, we need answers to this, this or that from the people. But reading is a huge part of it. I mean this against this exploration various exploitation. You're ingesting enormous amounts of information. Public information are sort of secret, proprietary information from all the information flow that we have. The network of our entrepreneurs, um, tidbits that we're hearing,
you know, here and there. Parsing what is public Kassab versus what is private and really confidential. And then, by the way, at any given point in time, we've got bad news. You know, across 100 companies, you know, something's going wrong. You might have misbehavior by a CEO. You might have, um, a contract. You might have a dispute.
You might have a litigation. I mean, you know, until after the prioritize those and every now and then you have fire drills, and that can be all consuming, cause now you're reacting to something that you failed to anticipate. I have a quote internally which everybody has been indoctrinated by, which is that failure comes from a failure to imagine failure. So venture by definition is a cheerleader business. You're optimistic you're promoting the future. You're supporting companies who against all odds are likely to fail. And you're you're cheering them on. But I think internally and privately, you have to anticipate what is everything that could possibly go wrong with this company so that you can help to put time and talent and money to prevent those bad things from happening. Do you schedule time to think and reflect? You know,
not enough. There were times where I would have two or three hours, and often it was reactive. I would tell my assistant BB runs, you know, seeing reality time. And we allocate cash and be really helps allocate time. But there were weeks where I would say, Okay, I need you know, these two or three hours from the day blocked off. Almost Charlie Munger sense, right? He used to sell himself the best hour of his day for himself, and sometimes you just can't do it. Sometimes I have a board meeting for three hours,
and then I'm recruiting people, and it's just it's chaos. Um, I find that late nights for me You're really good. My kids sleep by, Let's say 89 o'clock. My wife and I are up for another two hours talking, catching up, watching TV binge, watching something, you know, plotting and planning family stuff and travel and business stuff that we help each other on. And then I probably have another hour, hour and 1/2 from 11. 30 or 12 till, like,
one in the morning. And that's like my personal time to, like, just read and crank Listen to audio books and, you know, all of which I do only three x speed. And but what time do you get up in the morning? Uh, typically, like 6 to 7. So I'm getting about, you know, five and 1/2 to 6/2 hours sleep, um, drink a lot of air.
You one of those super humans who just doesn't need a ton of sleep?
No, I mean, I wouldn't say I'm ever chronically tired. I think after the birth of my first child, I realized how much you can get, You know what with little sleep, you know, and I always marvel that people were like, Oh, I'm so tired and they don't have kids and, you know, they're waking up at, like, 9 30 or 10. Understand? I haven't seen the north side of 7 a.m. You know, in nine years,
in the exact same move, my kids earn around a normal person. Yeah, you're a voracious Lerner told me some of the lessons that you've learned about parenting and how you've become a better parent.
the best advice I got actually was from another venture capitalist who said that the most important thing that you can d'oh in with your kids is the most important currency is attention.
And when I look at the behavior most the time,
whether somebody is acting really well or misbehaving,
they're seeking your attention and rewarding them with positive attention when they do something that you really are proud off,
whether that's studying for testing,
getting great grades or performance,
or even just kind behavior,
sitting down with them.
I think about this like if you allocate time during the day,
I've roughly got two hours in the morning with my kids and I walk him to school every day,
and then I've got,
like, another hour and 1/2 to 2 hours a night before they go to sleep. And so that's not that much time and ah, but I feel lucky because I hear other people, you know. Oftentimes they have to get to work before you know their kids are up and they get home after the kids are asleep. And it's really hard. A
friend of mine who sees his
kids on weekends exactly right,
um and so in that sense,
I feel really lucky.
But But in the time that I'm with them were increasingly,
really thinking about attention itself as reward.
Now you have three kids.
I have three kids who are competing for our attention,
and they're competing with each other and so and weaken over time.
Figure out the tactics that they use,
to sort of divide and conquer.
And sometimes they want mom's attention.
Sometimes they want ads attention.
Sometimes you know,
they're vying for both.
But but allocating attention,
sitting down and be like Oh, my God, like you know, I'm so proud on the science thing. You just did. You tell me more about that and really fully engaged an eye contact. It's just that is the best positive feedback that I think could encourage really positive things. Um, with our first child, I think we probably micro managed a bit, and over time you become, you know, more. Relax when we used to joke like, by the time our third was born, it would be at the dinner table and he'd be in his high chair and we forget about it,
right? You just heard him making noise. Right? Okay, Um but the one thing that I know for sure is the mere existence proof. When you walk into a Barnes and Noble and there are 1000 books on parenting means nobody knows what they're talking about because if there was an answer, you would have won one book, right? And so it's the same thing with business and the same thing with relationships. And, you know, maybe people in religion have figured it out. I don't know, because each one has seemed to have one book. But with parenting, you know,
it's it's to each their own. And every child is different. Every circumstance is different, and what they need is different. And so, um, how do you
teach your kids to think critically on? And I would imagine read widely.
so the two of the three older read my older loves to read the oldest ones.
800 1/2 and she likes to read graphic novels And so,
like sort of more mature comic book type books.
it's usually the characters.
She is very into the I know that,
you know that I know that very psychologically astute.
the middle is very into science and engineering holds middle 66 and and from birth,
I could see this like I could look in my olders eyes,
and I know that she knows that I know that there was there was just a connection.
she's very student.
I remember we were at Disneyland and she looked at my wife and there was like, this princess thing and she looked. And my wife, she goes, you know, Mom, I don't think she wants to be here. And she was able to tell the disdain from this actress in a Cinderella princess who didn't want to be around these bratty kids. But she could read the face. And so you know that sort of her superpower. It's interesting because I talk about our family as, like The Incredibles, where everybody's got their own little superpower. And if you try, if I try to get my older one to have the patience of my middle one. With time on task,
I'll fail. And if I try to get my middle one to be more psychologically astute, like my older one, it'll it'll fail. But I realized, like each one, you know, one might be really fast or what might be really stretchy, A really strong as a family unit. You know, it works. Um, what's your super power? Oh, I don't know. I I think very high expectations and ambitions.
Um, there's certain things. I indoctrinate my kids with certain sayings. So at a young age, I would always say it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And that applies to everything. Um, an umbrella when you're going outside, Um, you know an extra sweater if you're goingto the movies, but always basically getting them to think about hedging and these little recitations of these sayings over time. You know, at first they're just words. They don't mean anything. And then there's a moment, and the moment has sailings emotionally because they are like happy or they forgot something.
And then suddenly it's like that. Ah ha! You know, I get it. That's
why Dad's been saying, What are the other sayings that you Oh, let's not go into
probably touching on controversy,
but at a very So I you know,
I grew up Jewish,
e got bar mitzvahed and then basically collected my bar mitzvah money and ran.
I became atheist.
I rejected it all,
and my wife would consider herself spiritually and,
um and I want the kids to be really skeptical and rational and questioning everything.
And so we've negotiated about how we've talked about,
the tooth fairy and Santa and only sort of childhood things.
So it's to cortical, not strip them of their imagination, but make them query things. But in a very young age, I would walk out of the house and say, Do you see an invisible man in the sky? And they say, No, I wanna be like, uh, interesting, just sort of let it sit there, you know? But my preference has been that they embrace, you know, open skepticism and not take dogma because,
particularly for kids, it's just kids evolved to listen to authority figures and adults and just believe whatever they said, and I don't want them to be credulous in life. I want them to be skeptical and to encounter other kids who believe things and say, Well, why do you believe that? And they say, Well, my mom told me that, you know, and to just sort of question things. How
do you talk to them but
Um I say,
this is what Dad believes.
This is what my mother did with me,
by the way.
And she's probably more well,
she is more religious than me.
But she was like,
This is what I believe in.
My parents split when I was super young and is what your father believes.
And this what other people believe.
And she sort of gave me the freedom to choose.
So she didn't really powerfully indoctrinate me.
I I basically I'm always just indoctrinating with skepticism. So they'll, for example, older one you know, Santa Claus Real. She's reading my face to see if I'm lying. I'm going to say yes or no. And when I agreed to move, my wife was rather than say yes or no, I would basically just keep asking, what do you think? And eventually And this was like one of my proudest moments when she was younger. She I think she was six. When she came up with us, she came up with a Santa trap. If Santa is real,
she concocted this sort of like, mouse trap like thing. And, you know, she didn't actually design it, but she described how she was going to design it, which was It had a laser, and it had a bird cage that was gonna fall on him. And like the cookie, you know, if he took the cookies and I'm like, Well, what if he's invisible in like it was just that to me was success because she was using critical thinking to say Okay, if this guy is really then, you know, I would be able to design an experiment to test at six years old.
So I was really happy with that. Now my wife decided to play a trick on me and she hires we have a rooftop and she hires a guy to play Santa. Uh huh. And she can't have any knocks on the roof and comes down. And I was you know, anyway, but thankfully, the girls were looking at me like I don't think he's really
He fell off the roof of a man. He could not do a 1,000,000 houses. Exactly. Do you always do that with your kids? I don't wanna dwell on parenting too much, but I find it really interesting. Um, and we get a lot of good feedback on the questions basket parenting. Like, what else do you do with your kids to encourage sort of thinking critical thinking skills? Um, not not just being fed something and going, Oh, that must be true.
lot of it is,
is things that they ask questions about.
I think our natural,
inquisitive scientists and I think over time,
conformity basically starts to stultifying kids to stop asking questions.
we put them in science camp for the month of July.
Columbia to this amazing group called Hollingworth,
and I would have an hour on the train from TriBeCa upto the Upper West Side in Colombia,
and we would pick a topic where I would pick a topic sometimes and we would just talk about it.
The entire way on the train. Sometimes I pull up some things on iPhone. We'd reference it, but it could be, you know, action and reaction. So simple concept, That's universal action reaction. So, you know, you push on them, they push back, um, you push on people, they push back so it could be action, reaction,
the context of physics or in interpersonal relationships or in markets. And I start to explain these things, and I know that some of these things will not make sense to them. But if I keep repeating it over time, then suddenly it clicks and they see something like, Ah, you know, I get it. And, um, again is such a great feeling when you see that the reason through something and then you feel a sense of pride of like I think in part, they got that because of this thing that we talked about a year or two ago.
And you just kept repeating it in the same sort of themes. One of the other common themes that you,
ah lot of them are sort of scientifically rooted.
So action and reaction,
long term consequences.
if you think about you want to sort of delayed gratification.
This to me,
by the way,
is the perennial paradox,
Seize the day and,
capture the moment and plan for the future.
There's two things were irreconcilable,
life in balance, you know, finds the right portion between that, but getting them to delay gratification. Um, you know, we've done our own version of the marshmallow test with cupcakes. You know, you can have one now or if you wait two hours, you get two and watching. How they reason through that? Um, I do that with fortnight now. Oh, boy. My kid.
Look, this is interesting. I grew up playing copious amounts of video games and watching a ton of television and some people that were friendly with restrict screen time. And my view is, when you were strict something, it sort of becomes more desired. And so we allow them screens. Is it a limit? You know it is it? Is it okay to our now? I used to do this. Actually, when, um, my daughter my older daughter earned through lemonade, sand sales,
a laptop she contributed half eliminates, eh? So we just did this last week 160 bucks and you know, it's pretty good. Um, but we got her, Ah, laptop last year. And I said parental limits on how often she could use it and and through good behavior, you know, increased limits. And now I trust her. And trust is a really important thing. So this is something. Trust her to be responsible? Yes.
And and, um, you know, she loves roadblocks, and she loves fortnight, and we explained appropriate and inappropriate behavior and what the consequences are and so far, so good. You know, I mean, I I leave myself open to the possibility that there's gonna be some disaster in the future, but so far. OK, here's another thing we do. We detail, um and this is something that I think I got from Charlie Munger thinking about human misjudgments, the dumb things that people do.
So I will pull up every day in the best catalogue of the dumb things that people do. New York Post. You can pull up the New York Post and you confined example after example of people that behaved badly. It could be a corporate executive doing something stupid. It could be. So there's one that I remember just a few weeks ago of a kid who was on Instagram that was standing on a roof or something like this and plummeted to his death. Now a lot of parents be like, Oh, my God, that's terrific. I'm never gonna show my kids that, but me and my craziness sat
down with them and some crazy look at this idiot
exactly now, so you can learn from the mistakes of others. Don't make that mistake ever. Yeah. What was he
doing that caused us to hop in and think back through the chin?
he was trying to impress friends.
And so I talk about that.
I talk about peer pressure.
I talked about the importance.
Here's another one.
Another quote that we in Dr any of them with is finding a balance between fitting in and standing out,
and there are times where you want to fit in.
And there are times where it's really important to stand out from a very young age.
If there was somebody who was disabled,
if somebody was being made fun off and and and the way that we would do this is our family does this,
and this is almost like a tribal norm.
Our family does not make fun of other people.
If you see somebody in need or there's a group of people that are teasing somebody,
our family stands up for that person,
and I feel like that's really important.
I've seen the behavior and I've been so proud of the kids. When they do that, it could be somebody with a disability. It could be somebody with a disease. I mean that. That's another really important one.
I like how you bring about family. Are there other things that you say
your family does?
We never give up.
I literally might.
My two and 1/2 year old,
he gets frustrated.
Does our family give up?
do the wolf's give up?
And the kids really know,
it's like it's like watching Rudy,
we we watch a lot of family movies and we try to come up with the principles of this and we watch a lot of you watch Miracle and League of their Own and Rudy,
I mean, there's so many great sports movies. I'm not big sports guy watching, but so many great you know, Horatio Alger coming of age of personal responsibility, you know, rise of the under trot and I just like the the hero's journey. They love
those. Do your kids listen to audio books at all.
We listened to one recently on we switch off between Dad Reading and when we're in the car, I put it Hon of the Magic misfits. Oh, it's, um, Neil Patrick Harris. Things a great entertainer and a great magician. Wrote a book about a young kid who's loses parents, has a disreputable uncle who is basically a con man magician. I happen to love magic. I love the philosophy of magic. I love the the the honest liars that most magicians are. And the kids love magic, too. So So this was one that we all loved recently.
How did you use? Have you tried the 39 clues? I just downloaded it because of you. Yet that is, my kids are like addicted to this. Like we were drunk. We drove to New York and we started playing.
I read. I read your note. It said you came to new York last weekend? Yeah, the kid. And you just did Volume one.
Yeah, but the kids were, like, running into the bathroom at the rest stops running out, going. Okay, put it back on. Oh, my God. Like
they were just so I could not have you sent it out, I think yesterday or the day before. And I downloaded immediately on your recommendation. So thank you.
I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about decision making. Do you guys have What is the process that looks from making decisions? And what are the feedback mechanisms that you set up to know that you're Oh, this isn't going as planned. And we either need to, like, cut bait or intervene.
Or so a few different things decisions in terms of will something make it into the portfolio.
Somebody is recruiting an entrepreneur in because it fits with a thesis,
or they think that they're back,
or maybe another firm has reciprocated and share deal flow with us,
whatever the circumstances of somebody coming in.
the way that we do this is it is Thea Entrepreneur knows that they've got a certain amount of time with the partnership.
We're getting a a priori come up with questions.
So what we do is if somebody is presenting on a Monday to the partnership when everybody's assembled between New York and Menlo Park on Thursday or Friday,
the champion partner is sending out.
Here's my thesis.
This is what I'm thinking about.
Here is the opportunity for us to invest.
The team is then populating a whole series of questions.
Some of them might be generic questions.
I'm always very psychotically focused on competitive advantage.
What can they do or assert that they could do that Nobody else can do. Somebody else might be focused on a very specific aspect of the technology. Somebody might be focused on the landscape for the industry structure. Somebody might be focused on the business model. Somebody might be focused on their 1st 4 hires that they have to make whatever it is. The champion then takes that information and gives the entrepreneur the advantage of saying these air. The most important thing is based on what the team knows from what I've shared with them, that you're gonna be asked so they have an opportunity to prepare, which would be very disappointed if somebody came in and didn't address all those questions. As a result of that, people come in more prepared. They know where the kinds of things that we're gonna ask at the end of the hour, and it's typically an hour. Sometimes it's a little bit longer, shorter but typically an hour. We immediately detail our thoughts and we do it through a technological mechanism.
People, we have an online, internal, proprietary lock system. People are basically saying, You know, do we invest? Do you want to lead? Does need more work. Do we participate if somebody else's leading or do we pass? And, um, and if you do want to lead, what's your recommended investment amount? On what the valuation parameters and often times, then you have a common section that is just filth,
right? Somebody's like I loved sheer he they were incredible. But I'm really skeptical about this or this, or we know these people on our network. We need to diligence next, and so when the team has total consensus, we typically make an investment. We've typically been very wrong, interesting. When everybody agrees when the confidence is high, we're missing something. If we pride ourselves as being contrarians, and we think that we're thinking differently from everybody outside the walls of the firm's. But then, internally, we all 100% agree something's wrong.
We're missing something, and so on. Lee. In hindsight, after a few examples of that where we had 100% consensus, we all thought that we should lead. The conviction correlated with our sizing of the investment, which was higher. The speed with which we moved because we felt so, so confident was high, and we were typically wrong. We missed something, and in each case that we did this. We missed something. But now we try to identify. Okay, sometimes it's me by default. But who's gonna be the red corner? Who's gonna be the person that's gonna be the devil's advocate to identify one of the reasons why we shouldn't do the deal. A priory.
What could go wrong? Does that person rotate or is the
Sometimes it just occurs naturally.
Somebody's got a bias against a market.
we had a bunch of people coming in with the scooters,
the electric scooters and I had some very skeptical,
We wanted to learn about the market,
but I just did not feel strongly that this was something that was a quote,
a quote lakhs deal that we should be investing in this market.
so I was the natural,
sort of antagonist.
But it depends. There's nobody that's a pointed it. With 10 people really contributing and voting at any given point. You know, you got at least a 10% chance that somebody is gonna be the devil's advocate. But more often than not just my disposition, it often is made. So then a decision is made. Now it's best when there's, you know, support and enthusiastic support. But a few dissenters. At the end of the day, the buck stops with Peter and I. We make the final decision. Everybody's got a voice and a vote.
Pete and I are never going to invest if everybody doesn't want to do it, and we're gonna be a little bit hesitant if everybody wants to do it until we find the skepticism. But here's where it gets interesting. If you have one partner that is dogmatically table pounding, and everybody else has said I don't see it. What we decided to do for the tribe is everybody gets one of those. So if I'm the one that sees it in her
year one per career in per fund
cat, one per phone per fund. Now, the funds typically invested over a year and 1/2 or two years, but one per fund. Why, if we made an error of commission? Fine. Okay, everybody gets one. You made a mistake. Okay? Everybody else gets to tell that person. Look told you. So you saw something that we didn't and you were wrong. Okay, But if there's an error of omission where this person is like I'm telling you guys, we should have done this. You know that regret will exist forever.
Well, it's not only graduates like you feel like you didn't believe in me.
Everybody still knows,
by the way,
we don't believe we don't see what you see,
but we'll give you this one.
We trust trusses,
and typically it's not sized as high as we would with another,
but the sum total of the dollars if that were to occur and the reason we do one,
by the way,
is in part because of me,
because I can be persuasive in a table pounder.
And if I did that all the time,
we would end up with a portfolio where I was being dogmatic and assistant.
And so we've put in a structural constraint where everybody gets to have input.
But if you feel really strongly,
you get one of those.
um, we've wanted to restrict somebody being able to say, you know what? Fine. I'm gonna do it personally because that's total on aligned and everything has to be sort of like, you know, snapping the bracelet on the wrist like what would be best for our l a piece? And if somebody's making a personal investment because the partnership rejected it, that's a bad thing, because now they're personally rooting for the company to succeed. They want to prove people wrong, and so we don't know that we have the perfect mechanisms. But we think that that helps to create long term camaraderie and the team, and it gives people the ability to do just one of those things where they descend from the
consensus. What are the other structural things that you put in place to either keep people engaged and encourage that or make better decisions.
I think the best thing that we've done for better decision is you know,
people talk about decision journals and these kinds of things.
The process of recording people's judgments and perceptions and observations at each deal is really important because what we observed before we started doing this in a very formal way was that people had very selective memory.
They would say,
I always thought that they were gonna be wildly successful and then somebody would be banging their heavy like No,
You thought they were total idiots.
So being able to go back and refine our judgment has made everybody a little bit more nuanced and a little bit less absolute.
I will say,
even with skepticism,
I'll be like hot,
If I really don't see it,
people joke, I'll be like maybe, you know, could could be, um but it has reduced. I think the extreme certitude and I think that helps to make us a little bit more nuanced, and from that you get a diversity of viewpoints and the diversity of viewpoints leads us to the best questions. We just had somebody in on Monday, immediately after the ranking process. Where we go through and analyze it doesn't start with. Why should we do this? It starts with Okay, if we are gonna do this, let's look through the dissenting comments. What are the things that our diligence double and we can find out? So there's actual information that you could get discern fact check.
Find out, you know, could be market size. It could be trying to figure out what's noble, what's knowable and and and let's go and find that out. And if it does, let's go back to the group and say it doesn't reduce people's uncertainty or give you heightened confidence that, you know it's not what you thought it was, because sometimes somebody just might be ignorant on the team that doesn't know something that somebody else does. But other times it might not be knowable. We don't know if the dogs are going to eat the dog food. They make this product. We don't know there's market risk, and then we have to look okay. Well, what? How do we underwrite that market risk? What is the amount of capital that we're willing to put in until we can turn over that cart. And what's the conversation that we would want
to get? How much money do we need to figure out exactly to make
that noble by this simple question? Really? If you if you reduce our business to a simple question, how much money accomplishes what in what period of time? Now the great virtue in venture capital is you get to fund to milestones. So in a perfect world were able to put a little bit of money in. We can de risk a set of things. You're fighting off that risk problems, and then we could put in more money later on. And I'm gonna put it in a higher price because you've dearest something. But but I think that's the way the best wayto proceed sort of round by round.
I want I want to go back to what you record around people, not only to calibrate them and give them feedback, but record about the decisions so that you're making You're getting better and we're in a competitive world, right? Like getting better at decisions might not make you better on a relative basis because the world is always changing. You might need to do that. This might be the table stakes just to stay where you are. How are you actually pushing beyond that
and getting somewhere?
So we're constantly ranking people,
which to me,
is the most important thing.
Because over time you have more and more examples where you were able to say,
that person sort of reminds me of this person and you start to see your earlier questions about pattern recognition,
what you see in certain people that give you the sort of,
new ones instinct that they're gonna be able to raise money and recruit and sell a story and actually executing operate.
So people is the biggest thing technology.
You're sort of assessing what's the uniqueness and is their i p of their patents.
you know, not just like the competitiveness of the market, but are the dog's gonna either dog food. And so you're recording, at least on those three metrics, people's judgments about the market, about technology, about the people, and then you're coming back and you're looking and saying, You know, in part because of availability bias, you might look at a company and say, Well, you know, how could we say this in about company X y Z when we just did company ABC And don't those things hold? And so you're always looking a reference cases,
and somebody will say, Well, those are actually apples to oranges and we really shouldn't look at that right what we should be looking at or the public calms. And you know, there are precedents in this case, and like I said earlier, I think the best performing companies often have no comes because they're doing something that nobody has done before and that sort of the singularity of, um but But it's it's a really innovative process. And then and then by the way, to your point about the markets, you could have your best internal process and you can underwrite and say, you know what? We've decided that we think the right amount of money is $5 million we need to own 20% and we're gonna value the company in a $25 million postman evaluation. And we think that these are the milestones that they want to. But then somebody else comes in and says We'll give you 10 million and $50 million valuation. Well,
now I have to decide. Okay. You know, do you just let it go and, um, be priced disciplined? Or do you participate? Or do you try to compete because you think Okay, maybe even if they're pricing it too high, we could be in the Dione, and then we can figure out the next round's financing. It gets very complicated when you have what I would consider irrational actors that are changing the market today. In the market environment we're in, there are more irrational actors than ever before, just because there's more money than ever before. And so you have this phenomenon right now?
I call it the Minnows and the magazine Venture Capital. You have tons of individuals that are competing to write early stage checks. It's creating a lot of noise now for us. Those are our peers, are friends were trying to be helpful to them. In some cases, they are source of deal flow for us, and so we like to feed them and be helpful. At the other end, You have the Maiga's, which Softbank is the great example of this. But there are other firms that are raising multiple billions of dollars and doing very late today drowns and there. I think the best way is that you want to have product. You wanna have companies that you can bring to those guys to finance. But thinking about how those guys air changing are these ever undulating fitness landscape where somebody can write $100 million check and somebody else you know is funding 10 competitors. It's it's always
evolving. How do you stay true to what you want to do in that situation and feel How do you make it okay to feel left out
of this can.
It is about being long term greedy,
and you know it's this idea of process first outcome,
and so I'll give you a great example.
We had a process with an autonomous vehicle company called Cruz.
We gave them.
I think it was 10 or 12 million baht by Jim,
and they got bought by GM in part,
and they will give credit to my partner shaking,
who made the introduction to GM during our diligence.
During our diligence,
we decided we wanted to invest.
It didn't have a product on the market.
That wasn't revenue.
It was risky.
There were some competing efforts and we underwrote this. I think a $10 million valuation of a 40 or 50 million pre on we wanted to own call it 15% of the company and what ended up happening with somebody else? Ah was able to say No, you know, we could get a better price and they were right, and they ended up getting, I think, a 10 or $20 million investment in $80 million valuation, about double what we were offering. And the rational thing for them to do at that point was to take it now. We had a choice. Try to match the offer, try to compete with it, try to fit into it or just stay price disciplined. And the typical mantra we have internally is I would rather lose half mile piece than half my Opie's money. And so we felt the right thing to do was that that was too high of a price to pay.
Now that was our process. The outcome nine months later, or 11 months later, GM buys him for a $1,000,000,000 nominally a little bit less, actually, but nominally a $1,000,000,000 that would've been 11 x in under a year. And so we look at that and say, Was that an error of omission or an average commission? Now, nine times out of 10 we would make that same decision. We felt that there was too high of a price to pay, given what we had at the term all the time. And it's not clear whether we made a mistake by not investing at that price in hindsight, or if GM made a mistake by paying too high of a price. And so you never know. And you can't run the counterfactual because you only get one shot at these things.
And so most of the time we try to stay price discipline. We know that there's always going to be some other great entrepreneur, some other great adventure that's gonna come along in that process. The most important thing is that we treat those people well so that they don't resent us during the process that they would come back to us. In this particular case, I think the founder and CEO who made a lot of money is grateful to my partner Shane, for making the introduction to GM. And we've stayed, you know, close to them. We've We've applauded them from afar, and, uh, you know, we just didn't make money for our investors. In that case,
it sounds like you get a lot of information that would lead to perhaps difficult conversations with people not only who run companies that you're invested in, but difficult conversations with people that you work with. How do you go about having this difficult conversations?
You know me personally, I'm very blunt and very direct. And so, um
and I expect you always that way or did that.
I think it evolved over time,
part of my circumstances.
You grew up in Cornell,
people are pretty tough.
dancing around things.
it's interesting because the cultures of companies matter.
I was at a board meeting and there was somebody there from Google,
and there was somebody there who spent a lot of time in Microsoft.
Somebody's talking about how Microsoft you had sort of this blackball culture where you know,
the winner of ah argument in a conference room was the person that sounded the smartest,
sort of shunned the other people, you know, you're an idiot. How do you believe that? And it's interesting because Bill Gates, in a sense, was notorious for that, you know, uneven marveled, Brilliant, you know, but would sort of eviscerating people if they were wrong. The Google person was saying, You know, Google is a very kind culture, and that kind of behavior,
like, wouldn't exist, So people sort of dance around the issues. Now, I don't know if one is better than the other. I think it attracts a different kind of person. Um, internally, people know that if I have something to say, I'm saying it very bluntly. So that could be like, Look, you had a situation with that particular company and you should have stepped up and owned it entirely yourself. And you put me in a position where I had to get involved and I shouldn't have. And it created this complicated dynamic. Uh,
you know, psychologically with the founder, and I'll just be blunt about that, and somebody else might come and say You know, you talked way too much in that meeting and you didn't let the person get a word in edgewise or whatever. But we expect that it's not an ad hominem attack, that it's about making the firm better. And so very, at least internally, very direct conversations. Externally, different partners have very different styles. I am very blunt, and so I will be very direct with CEO. I also tell my CEO is probably the first thing that they hear from me when we make an investment or I joined the board. I want the bad news.
Good news. You're gonna get applause for me. All right, I'm gonna slap you back. It's a great job. There's not that I can help with. But I am your partner. I'm invested with you. I want the bad news. I want to know what happened. What's going wrong? Because that's where I can actually help. Other people are way more diplomatic than me on the team, and so we sort of have different horses for different courses, different project partner personalities. But I really feel you waste so much time if you are not direct and honest.
Two final questions for we we end this the versus what have you learned from working with Bill Gates and sitting in a room watching him work and being a part of what you guys were doing together? Amazingly, he's able to
get to the 90 10 of an issue where he reads everything.
yellow know Pat,
we'll sit there and take notes and then it'll be he'll be quiet for 30 minutes,
and then he'll say the one thing that matters of the 20 things that we talked about.
he sort of has this Mister Rogers persona.
And I think in the board room,
he'll eviscerates somebody, somebody else say something. I'd be like, Why would you possibly do that? You know, that's the stupidest idea. And if he's right on the merits, he's not holding his tongue. And he's almost always right. Um, it's interesting. I just had a negotiation with him on a company that were invested in three or four companies together. But in this one, we had a particularly tough direct Toto negotiation on. It's like it's crazy, right?
I mean, Bill gates. Um, and I made an argument and he wrote me an email and I was upset reading it because it was so damn logical. It was so damn logical that I couldn't disagree with him. And I had a proposal. He rejected the proposal. He gave me a fair and reason reason why I agreed with his logic, modified my proposal. We ended up agreeing coming to terms on this particular financing for a company. But I just was amazed at how simple and clear the logic was and how he identifies, like, what? Really not air. It was like, You know,
I'm talking about these other things. I'm sort of making an emotional case about why we should do X, y and Z. And he was like, I don't understand why you're resisting A because I think that it's b and C, and if we do that at least a d. And it was just it was very clear and separating out. You know, I wanted a very specific thing, but aside from the fact that I wanted this the logic of the situation objectively, he got too, and it was irrefutable, and I think that that is the best way to win arguments is to find the normative thing and the objective truth of a situation. And you can't disagree with it unless you're either not seeing it clearly or you're lying to yourself. And he was really good at getting to the objective truth of the situation, and I couldn't refute it
a developed skill or something you think he's had all his life. I think that's probably partially genetic. Um, because that's what people say about Munger to write like he just gets to the heart of the issue. The Buffet said he had the best 32nd mind
in the world. I think it's, I think it's partially genetic for many, but I think it's, um if you turn again your turn of attention and say I want to think like that I find that whereas I normally might, you know, write a screed of, you know, emotional laid and things to try to influence somebody. If I actually want to try the bill method, you know, you sort of put that thing on your wrist. You okay? What would Bill do then? You will stop and revise the logic of your argument and make it irrefutable because you were talking about it. Some sort of objective
truth. I love that mechanism. People think of mental models as concepts just from the physical world that you're maybe applying to a different domain. But one of the best ways that you can have a mental model is like, sit there and go like, what would Josh do? What would I tell people all
And it literally is like,
the what they call it when you had all the Roman,
headstones on the Coliseum or the,
um And so,
I've met Munger.
I've never met Buffet Bill.
for me is like one of these,
the pantheon like,
the pantheon of these people. But you get to observe them in their decision making. You can say, like, what would this person do in this situation? And by the way, you can see, like, the bad actors to write an invert. And so I find that that if having like this Hall of heroes of people that you think make good decisions, um, it's almost like you get to have these little mental quiet conversations with them. So, like, what would they do in this situation? And that's your best guess,
right? Sometimes you have the benefit of the fortune of being able to actually ask them. Hey, what would you do in this situation? But I do think that having that sort of hall of heroes that Pantheon is is really valuable. And that comes with just reading, right? You get all these dead people living people whose ideas and decision making is you can study in. You are like amazing chronicler and profiler and compendium of all of this kind of decision making. So I'm grateful that I get to read you. That's very generous. Thanks.
Um, last question has nothing to do with anything of interest to probably anybody but you and me. But I know we share a love of old school rap. Yes. One song. Oh, my favorite songs want one. It depends. No depends. You got it? You got to go out there. You gotta put it out
there. I mean, my my favorite song, which goes back to 90 91 92 is because it's called Shit. Israel by Black Moon. That to me it was like old school. It's amazing because somebody was on Twitter the other day and they were, like, first things first. And then I think they were referencing a Nicki Minaj song. Yeah, and I was, like, First thing first. You hear? Biggie? Yeah. We hear O d b from Wu Tang. Yeah. And they they never heard those verses. No,
no, people need to go. But I I've introduced a couple of friends, too, And they're like, I never listen to this, uh, when I was young, but I like I get it. Like, this is kind of cool. No, it's, um a lot of people don't know this, but old school rap takes me out of a bad mood. I have no idea why, you
is some people's favorite music is,
emotionally tied to formative emotional period in your life.
So for me,
let's see 9 17 90 I was 14 years old in 92.
that's you know,
you have all kinds of first,
your hormones are going and you're hanging out with girls Really?
For the first time,
and you got your crew of guys and like you're in high school freshman sophomore year.
It's just like the world possible and you got change and you got social dynamics and then got this amazing you.
Everybody's favorite music.
I think it was like from 13 to like 22 those formative post junior high high school.
You know you're making all these memories.
It's tied to this emotional content of music. Um, but like early nineties rap, Not not, you know, not even like Mace and Puffy, but like, you know, ice Cube, predator and grand poobah and brand Nubian and try Amazing.
Yeah, definitely. Thank you so much, Josh. This has been a great conversation. Austin be with you thighs. This is Shane again, just a few more things. Before we wrap up, you confined show notes at Burnham Street. Blawg dot com slash podcast. That's f A R N A M E S T R E t blog dot com slash podcast. You can also find information there on how to get a transcript. And if you'd like to receive a weekly email from me filled with all sorts of brain food, go to Farnham Street. Blawg dot com slash newsletter. This is all the good stuff I found on the Web that week that I've read and shared with close friends, books I'm reading and so much more. Thank you for listening.