Category: greylock

Future Follows Fiction


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


Award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter J.J. Abrams is known for drawing inspiration from cutting-edge tech, showcased in his imaginative takes on science fiction, drama and fantasy in “Star Trek,” “Lost,” “Alias” and more. Ask him what truly intrigues him — and drives his storytelling — and it will sound familiar to any budding tech entrepreneur: the “ooh” factor.

“I rarely think of things in terms of what genre it is, as opposed to what is the kind of ‘ooh’ factor. The, Oh my god, I want to see that! Or, Wow, what if I were there?” Abrams says. “There’s a kind of vicarious wish fulfillment or cautionary tale aspect to science fiction… It’s a wonderful way to talk about who we are and where we are without being literal about it.”

Of course, it’s about humanity, too. Abrams discusses how “Westworld” explored “this question about what it is to be human… Yes, there are real things about creating robots and AI, but what you’re really telling is this entire story that plays out all of these very canonical human tendencies.”

These are all similar concepts faced by tech startups today, where innovation means, as Greylock partner Reid Hoffman says, “creating products that have or might fundamentally transform everyday life.”

In the latest episode of Greymatter’s Iconversations series, Hoffman talks with Abrams about how science fiction and real-world technology take inspiration from one another, how to recognize a good idea when you see (Read more...)

Announcing the agenda for TechCrunch Sessions: SaaS



TechCrunch Sessions is back!

On October 27, we’re taking on the ferociously competitive field of software as a service (SaaS), and we’re thrilled to announce our packed agenda, overflowing with some of the biggest names and most exciting startups in the industry. And you’re in luck, because $75 early-bird tickets are still on sale — make sure you book yours so you can enjoy all the agenda has to offer and save $100 bucks before prices go up!

Throughout the day, you can expect to hear from industry experts, and take part in discussions about the potential of new advances in data, open source, how to deal with the onslaught of security threats, investing in early-stage startups and plenty more.

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names and the smartest and most prescient people in the industry, including Javier Soltero at Google, Kathy Baxter at Salesforce, Jared Spataro at Microsoft, Jay Kreps at Confluent, Sarah Guo at Greylock and Daniel Dines at UiPath.

You’ll be able to find and engage with people from all around the world through world-class networking on our virtual platform — all for $75 and under for a limited time with even deeper discounts for nonprofits and government agencies, students and up-and-coming founders!

Our agenda showcases some of the powerhouses in the space, but also plenty of smaller teams that are building and debunking fundamental technologies in the industry. We still have a few tricks up our sleeves and will be adding some new (Read more...)

Taking on Tech Titans


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


Few startups set out to compete with the biggest leaders in their respective industry. Even fewer attempt to compete with those leaders who happen to be among the biggest and most influential companies in the world.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, or that success for the challenger startups isn’t possible.

Greylock investor Sridhar Ramaswamy, who co-founded search engine startup Neeva, says it’s more important for startups to think about creating a product that is useful and resonates with people before worrying about whether a large incumbent is doing it.

“Creating a compelling product goes a heck of a longer way than simply worrying about, ‘Hey, is this going to be copied if we are successful?” says Ramaswamy, who joined Greylock in 2018 following 15 years at Google, where he ran the company’s massive advertising business.

But the key is to ensure your product has a strong differentiator, which is exactly how Ramaswamy and his Neeva co-founders positioned the search engine company when it launched last year. The company takes a starkly different approach than its closest competitor by offering ad-free, subscription-based search that does not track users’ internet activity. Given Ramaswamy’s history at Google, he had the unique vantage point to understand every aspect of the business – and how to build something differently.

Additionally, as Greylock general partner Reid Hoffman points out, competition from the big companies isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“If you get so relevant that they’re paying attention, that’s a happy place,” (Read more...)

Philosopher Versus MBA


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


As I discussed last week in the Greymatter podcast with my friend and Blitzscaling co-author Chris Yeh, I believe that a knowledge of philosophy is actually a great asset for entrepreneurs. During that conversation, we talked about some of my favorite philosophers and how I’ve applied their ideas to my own career.

This week, we discuss how a philosophy degree compares to a much more conventional business background: the masters in business administration or MBA.

I have a standard aphorism I share when I speak with a group of MBA students:

“There are two things that need to be explained away in order for me to invest in your startup: An MBA or a background in management consulting.”

Notice that I didn’t say I wouldn’t invest in a founder with an MBA; there are many amazing entrepreneurs and investors with MBAs, such as my friend Aneel Bhusri of Workday.

To say categorically that MBA equals “not entrepreneur” is a foolish assumption, just like saying Masters in Philosophy equals “not entrepreneur.” Success or failure comes down to the individuals and their dispositions.

But if you ask me whether I’d rather invest in the entire class of Computer Science graduates from Stanford, MIT, Georgia Tech, and CMU, or the entire class of MBA graduates from Harvard Business School, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Wharton, and Kellogg, I’ll take the CS graduates.

In fact, I generally view pursuing an MBA as an adverse signal for entrepreneurship.

In the essay below, I (Read more...)

The Philosopher-Entrepreneur


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


When people think about the backgrounds of successful entrepreneurs, philosophy rarely comes to mind. Computer science, biology, and design seem immediately applicable to starting a business, but philosophy conjures up images of bespectacled academics sitting in an armchair with a book and pipe.

I believe, however, that a fundamental understanding of philosophy can be a powerful tool for entrepreneurship.

In the following essay, based on the latest episode of the Greymatter podcast, I explain how the principles of philosophy can help entrepreneurs succeed by using examples from my own career.

We’ll also discuss three of the philosophers that have influenced me the most — AristotleFriedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein — and the lessons I’ve learned from studying their work.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Greylock Partners · Reid Hoffman | The Philosopher-Entrepreneur

WHY PHILOSOPHY MATTERS

Philosophy isn’t just an abstract intellectual exercise. At its core, it focuses on improving our understanding of humanity, of how we evolve as individuals in a society.

Most people tend to be blinded by the now; they tend to think that the past isn’t that different from the present. They don’t realize the profound shifts in thinking that have occurred with the passage of time. We’ve evolved from living in tribes and thinking of kings as gods to valuing human rights as part of a nation-state. All these changes, including the birth of science itself, started with philosophy.

The other common misconception about philosophy is that it’s about providing the (Read more...)

Human-Centered AI


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


Learning from mistakes is one of the most important skills that humans possess. Ideally, this knowledge evolves over time — to the point where we can prevent or mitigate future mistakes from even occurring.

But computers evolve far faster than the human brain. In recent years, artificially intelligent systems have progressed at a breakneck speed to serve critical data insights. But it is much harder to program the nuances of emotion, societal context and overall ethical considerations that humans learn from their biggest mistakes. Too often, the unintended negative impacts of AI – such as racial, gender or socioeconomic bias in AI tools for hiring, housing, or legal assistance – aren’t understood until after its implementation.

If AI is to serve the collective needs of humanity, how should machine intelligence be built and designed so that it can understand human language, feelings, intentions and behaviors, and interact with nuance and in multiple dimensions?

It starts before the technology development even gets underway, says Stanford University computer science professor Dr. Fei-Fei Li, who is the co-founder and co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI.  The organization works to advance AI research, education, policy and practice to improve the human condition. In June, HAI launched the Ethics and Society Review Board. The program, which was piloted over the last year, requires AI researchers to consider the ethics of their projects before they can receive funding from HAI.

“Fundamentally, how we create this technology, how we use this technology, how (Read more...)

People-First Capitalism


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


When COVID-19 upended the travel industry last year, Airbnb was among its earliest victims, losing 80% of their business in the first two months of the pandemic. Such a blow would leave any CEO reeling, if not prove fatal to the company as a whole.

While many travel industry leaders chose to “go dark,” as Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky put it,  while they decided how to navigate next steps, Chesky took a different approach: He got candid.

“The biggest risk [for] the company is your stakeholders don’t trust you — not that you’ll say the wrong thing or get sued, but [that] people don’t trust you,” Chesky says. “[In a crisis], it’s really about being totally as transparent as you can be, trying to be incredibly compassionate, speaking from the heart.”

Chesky joined Greylock partner Reid Hoffman (who recently reflected on Airbnb’s 2010 Series A) for our Iconversations speaker series to talk about how he guided Airbnb from an 80% loss to a record-breaking IPO by the end of 2020, why Silicon Valley needs to redefine how it measures growth, how Chesky’s design background informs Airbnb’s business strategy and, ultimately, the importance of putting people first.

“Conventional wisdom says, ‘Don’t get too close, don’t get emotionally attached.’ Because if you do, it’s going to skew your decision making,” says Chesky. “I always saw it as the opposite.”

You can listen to the conversation on the Greymatter podcast here.

Greylock Partners · Brian Chesky | People-First Capitalism

EPISODE (Read more...)

Game On


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


In discussions with founders and investors, as well as interviews, I describe the role that games have played in my career. It’s become a somewhat quirky facet of my public persona: Reid Hoffman, game geek. I love games, and I love talking about them. But none of these profiles has ever focused on the games themselves. They might (at best) mention one or two games and muse.

So, for the latest episode of Greymatter, I sat down with my friend, Blitzscaling co-author, and fellow game geek Chris Yeh to take a deep dive into the details of how games have shaped my personality and career. Not only do we discuss why I think games are so valuable for entrepreneurs, we take an in-depth, geeky look at the specific games that impacted my life.

You can listen to our discussion on the Greymatter podcast here.

WHY GAMES ARE SERIOUS STRATEGY

In my experience, games are one of the best ways to understand the important field of strategy. Strategy arose from the life-and-death stakes of warfare. Choose a good strategy, and your tribe or nation would win the battle or the war. Choose poorly, and you might be driven out of existence. To help develop winning strategies, militaries developed wargames as a way to explore various strategies and analyze specific scenarios. And while most of the important games in my life are not wargames, they share with wargames the ability to ask and answer key questions:

How to Decide


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


Making decisions is one of the core competencies of entrepreneurship. When you’re in the thick of things, you may be making multiple decisions per hour. And even when they don’t seem like big decisions, the impact of each decision – however small – compounds rapidly. Let’s say that improving your decision making allows you to increase the utility function of each decision by 0.5%. But after 1,000 such good decisions, that same function will have increased 147X.

Despite this large impact, the techniques of decision-making are often overlooked.

I sat down with my Blitzscaling co-author Chris Yeh to discuss this in depth on the most recent Greymatter podcast, which you can listen to here:

WHAT IS GOOD DECISION-MAKING?

Entrepreneurs and executives will do all sorts of things to improve themselves, from taking a class on a particular technology, to reading a book about venture deals, to practicing intermittent fasting. Yet very few of them stop to ask the simple yet powerful question, “How can I make my decision-making better?”

And by the way, “better” doesn’t just mean “more accurate.” It also means “faster.” Many of the decisions facing entrepreneurs seem to have high stakes; they can literally mean the difference between the life or death of the company. When faced with such weighty decisions, the normal human instinct is to slow down, collect all the available information, and get emotionally comfortable with the possibilities before making a decision. That instinct is almost 100% wrong for entrepreneurial decision-making.

I describe entrepreneurial-decision (Read more...)

How to Decide


This post is by Reid Hoffman from Reid Hoffman


Making decisions is one of the core competencies of entrepreneurship. When you’re in the thick of things, you may be making multiple decisions per hour. And even when they don’t seem like big decisions, the impact of each decision – however small – compounds rapidly. Let’s say that improving your decision making allows you to increase the utility function of each decision by 0.5%. But after 1,000 such good decisions, that same function will have increased 147X.

Despite this large impact, the techniques of decision-making are often overlooked.

I sat down with my Blitzscaling co-author Chris Yeh to discuss this in depth on the most recent Greymatter podcast, which you can listen to here:

WHAT IS GOOD DECISION-MAKING?

Entrepreneurs and executives will do all sorts of things to improve themselves, from taking a class on a particular technology, to reading a book about venture deals, to practicing intermittent fasting. Yet very few of them stop to ask the simple yet powerful question, “How can I make my decision-making better?”

And by the way, “better” doesn’t just mean “more accurate.” It also means “faster.” Many of the decisions facing entrepreneurs seem to have high stakes; they can literally mean the difference between the life or death of the company. When faced with such weighty decisions, the normal human instinct is to slow down, collect all the available information, and get emotionally comfortable with the possibilities before making a decision. That instinct is almost 100% wrong for entrepreneurial decision-making.

I describe entrepreneurial-decision (Read more...)