Auren Hoffman

LiveRamp founder. Likes reading. Quora lover.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 13, 2015

Discussion

Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
My name is Auren Hoffman. I’m the founder of LiveRamp (acquired by Acxiom in July 2014). I’ve started and sold 5 companies and I’m currently an investor in over 70 technology companies. While I don’t think that I am totally awesome, I love helping other people become awesome. I’ve learned one very important lesson along the way: It is better to do one thing great than ten things mediocre. I live in San Francisco and enjoy reading, dinner party discussions, playing tennis (badly), and spending time with my wife and kids. Some of my favorite reading material is Quora, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and the Atlantic Monthly. You can find me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/auren) and Quora (http://www.quora.com/Auren-Hoffman).
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi @auren thanks so much for joining us today. You say it is better to be awesome at 1 thing than mediocre at 10. What would you say you are awesome at? What is your biggest strength and weakness? With regards to your investing career, what is your primary methods of deal sourcing? Sorry for the double question but such a fascinating career!
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@harrystebbings my weaknesses are really large. one: you can probably tell from this AMA that I am not a very speedy typist. I tried to work on this a few years ago as it would really increase my productivity ... but then I realize that I would get much higher returns to focus on my strengths. like most ppl, I have a few strengths and LOTS of weaknesses (this is true in basically 100% of people). so focusing on your strengths can lead to a much bigger impact in your personal growth.
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@harrystebbings with regard to deal sourcing for investments, my advice would be pick a niche that you can have an unfair advantage in. maybe you are from Turkish and know all the amazing Turkish entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley (there are a lot of great Turkish entrepreneurs). while that might seem like a small niche, it gives you a core advantage in that niche and that's really important. Most people can't just declare that they are Reid Hoffman / Ron Conway / etc. -- they need to start with a smaller niche and build their base. You can also pick an investing niche that you have a lot of knowledge in that other investors might not -- like certain type of batteries.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@auren Thanks for being here today 🙌 During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@ems_hodge the proudest moment is working with super talented people and developing that talent. LiveRamp is today a company of extraordinary talent and leaders -- many of which we hired out of college and gave them the ability to grow as the company grew.
Vasu Nadella@vasu_nadella
If you were speaking to someone trying to build an API for consumer intelligence/personalization, what would be your advice from your time building Rapleaf?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@vasunadella my general business advice is to focus, focus, focus. pick a very small niche and then be the very best at that niche. so make an API that no one else is doing.
Vasu Nadella@vasu_nadella
@auren @vasunadella What was your niche with LiveRamp? or Rapleaf? What learnings led you there?
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@auren What's the best answer you've ever seen on Quora?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@jeffumbro not sure the best answer I have seen on Quora. the best one I have wrote is: https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-... -- how a person can accelerate their growth
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@jeffumbro also like this post by Marc Andreessen: https://getpocket.com/a/read/366... (an oldie but goodie).
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@jeffumbro another good essay is the power of the marginal by Paul Graham -- https://getpocket.com/a/read/442842
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
@auren @jeffumbro unfortunately the pocket links don't work :( I think they're specific to your personal pocket account
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
Hey, I’m Auren Hoffman. Most recently was cofounder and CEO of LiveRamp ... was there for 9.5 years … we sold the company in 2014 to Acxiom and I left in Sep 2015. I write a lot on Quora (www.quora.com/Auren-Hoffman) about management, hiring, career advice, company culture, starting companies, and more. Note: my weaknesses are: I’m not funny (even though I try to be) and I type really slowly.
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
a) what are your favorite topics of conversation (at your dinner parties)? b) who has been your favorite dinner guest? c) who would be your dream dinner guest?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@katesegrin the best dinner parties all have one thing in common: they have one conversation (everyone in the dinner is part of the same conversation). they usually also talk about ideas (rather than anecdotes or other's lives). and they are never about the food -- the conversation trumps food 100% of the time. dream dinner guests are all no longer with us -- that's why they are the dream. an amazing dinner would be with: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Alexander Hamilton, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, Abraham Lincoln, and my wife's grandfather. I hope to have that dinner one day in the afterlife.
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@katesegrin I once did a dinner to discuss global warming. it was super interesting. we put together 6 of the top climate scientists in the world. they all agreed there was global warming but none agreed on what the ultimate effect would be on the planet (we had six completely different answers). this led me to better appreciate how complex some our global issues are.
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
Thank you all. This ProductHunt Live was really fun (and hopefully was interesting). I am signing out.
Ben Casnocha@bencasnocha
What's your current thinking on the importance of a professional network and the best way to build/engage/maintain? I know you've evolved a bit on this question over the past decade.
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@bencasnocha thanks Ben. you're right, my thoughts have evolved. I think the value of a network, while important, is decreasing every year. at the same time, the value of being excellent at what you do has grown. see my quora answer: https://www.quora.com/In-busines... so if i was to advise someone, I would tell them to spend less time developing their professional network.
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@bencasnocha another thing I have been thinking about recently is weak ties vs strong ties. Mark Granovetter's studies on weak ties came in the 1970s (even though they were popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in th early 2000s). my guess is that weak ties, while still very important, are less important today then they were in the 1970s
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
What is your favorite part about investing in / working with new companies?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@katesegrin working with new companies and building awesome products is, to me, much more awarding than investing (which, at least in my case, tends to be much more passive). so while I have invested in about 80 tech start-ups to date, i get much more rewards from actively working in and building companies
Vasu Nadella@vasu_nadella
What was your niche with LiveRamp? or Rapleaf? What learnings led you there?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@vasunadella LiveRamp developed a very successful niche being the middleware of marketing applications. Today LiveRamp is the largest middleware player in the market. when we initially went after the market, the total market was about $2 million per year in revenues. talk about small TAM!! today the market is much bigger. so it is important to pick a small market to start -- and ideally a market that is both growing and one that other people do not think will grow so fast.
Vasu Nadella@vasu_nadella
@auren @vasunadella Sorry - can't seem to delete comments. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer and do this AMA.
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@vasunadella absolutely. this is my first AMA. it is fun
dj share it@djshareit · Software Product Designer
What would you look for in finding and investing in a startup that you think has 1,000x upside?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@djshareit a company that has a collective of extraordinary people that can dominate its niche ... and than can move to adjacent market once it has dominated the niche.
Vasu Nadella@vasu_nadella
Where do you think the biggest opportunities are in creating data assets today in the marketing world?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@vasunadella there are ton of opportunities. the core is to pick a smart niche. like B2B marketing data for SMBs in Latin America ... or something like that. one of the other things is to try to pick something that has a low privacy risk ... so selling data about companies will be ultimately much easier that packaging data about people (where the privacy and security risks are very real).
Vasu Nadella@vasu_nadella
What were the coolest use cases you saw people use LiveRamp for?
dj share it@djshareit · Software Product Designer
I agree Quora.com is a great resource for questions and answers. Where do you see Quora in the coming years? What feature requests do you have for Quora?
Auren Hoffman@auren · CEO of SafeGraph. fmr CEO of LiveRamp
@djshareit I love Quora. long term, it would be great if I can get very specific questions asked by experts (like a lite version of Gerson Lehrman Group). this is something I would pay for -- could be really useful.
dj share it@djshareit · Software Product Designer
What early stage, small, medium, and large company do you each admire most right now and why?