Ben Horowitz

Entrepreneur, investor, and author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 03, 2015 Thank Ben Horowitz on Twitter

Discussion

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M
Hey, I’m Ben Horowitz, cofounder and partner of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to a16z I cofounded Loudcloud, a cloud service provider, along with Marc Andreessen. I tell the story of building a company, how Loudcloud became Opsware, and dealing with “the struggle” in my book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Ask me anything!
Andrew Chen — Uber
@bhorowitz who are your mentors for work and life? Who do you find yourself going to, for advice, besides @pmarca? :)
M
@andrewchen At this point in my life, I would probably refer to them as friends rather than mentors. Bill Campbell and Andy Grove are probably the two that I have learned the most from. Andy's whole life is a great lesson in how I should live mine. The way that Bill listens to people is so advanced that I learn something every time I'm with him. There are other people on other fields. Like Nas. Nas has the ability to see the world in such a radically different perspective. We can listen to the same song and he'll hear 30 things that I didn't.
Ryan Allen — Designer, Dapper Gentlemen
@bhorowitz Any tips on becoming a better listener?
Frankenmint — The one and only Frankenmint
@ryanallen_com Keep at it .... you're doing a great job :)
vitaliy.hamuha — StiKey
@ryanallen_com listen for more music. I.e. rap or hip hop :)
Erik Torenberg — Product Hunt
Hey @bhorowitz ! Thanks for joining us on LIVE.

Q: You released The Hard Thing About Hard Things last year. If you released it today, what lesson would be added (or changed) in the book? If nothing, what has most surprised you about the book's reception?
M
@eriktorenberg I probably would have put in more war stories. I didn't know if people would like those, but they definitely did. The biggest surprise about the book's reception is that I wrote it for a very narrow audience, but everyone from teachers to pastors seems to like it. That's been shocking.
Ben, what you mentioned about Nas hearing 30 things that you didn't when listening to the same song is one of the realest metaphors for why diversity is such an important issue. How do we do a better job of helping founders, VC's, LP's, and others see this as a competitive advantage?
Chase Roberts — Partner Sales, Box
@bhorowitz I would LOVE more war stories!
Hey Ben — I just from graduated Columbia and really enjoyed the graduation speech you gave.

What stuck with me was the comment that you made about how a girl growing up in Bangladesh today has a better library/access to information than a student at Columbia/Harvard had 20 years ago. Given the present accessibility of knowledge (MOOCs, Google, etc), in what ways do you think universities need to adapt their curriculum/offerings to provide more educational value to its students?

Thanks for taking the time today to answer questions.
M
@brianlshultz I'm not sure if Universities adapting are the most interesting thing. I think that the greatest teaching professors making their courses available world wide for free/cheap will be the big breakthrough. Universities do a great job educating the elite/lucky today and I think they will continue to do that very well. It's hard for me to imagine them getting into the high volume business.
Paul Robert Cary — CEO, Findie | www.findie.me
@brianlshultz Hey Brian - fellow Columbia alum here. Great question :)
Sergey Elizarov — Co - Founder AdBike
@bhorowitz @brianlshultz University studies are mostly outdated today. We live in the fast moving world, books and modules can't keep with the new data everyday. From my point of view, studies will move to online resources where everyone will be able to choose what to learn and where to get most reliable information from
Shaun Modi — Designing for Product Hunt and TM
@bhorowitz

I'm a huge fan of your business philosophy and have worked with several of your portfolio companies on the design side.

My question is about your love of hiphop. Why do you personally admire the genre and quote lyrics? I adore hiphop as well and it makes your writings and concepts grounded in another context, which is super interesting.
M
@shaunmodi Hip Hop is really just the soundtrack in my head. It's hard to explain why. The great hip hop artists are the top poets of this generation and I have always been a poetry fan. ee cummings is my guy!
Grace Chih Ellis — partner, andreessen horowitz
@shaunmodi You should read the backstory to Ben's love of hip hop: http://www.bhorowitz.com/the_leg.... #tictoc
Focus On Risk — Director of BD at Cashplay, Game Dev
@garcegarce love that! Thanks for sharing!
Grace Chih Ellis — partner, andreessen horowitz
@focus_on_risk it's one of my favorites!
Zack Fisch — CEO, Dash MD
@bhorowitz Hey Ben! Projecting financials is a difficult thing to do when the numbers are purely hypothetical. What's the best approach to this, and can you offer any input on the best methodology to creating investment friendly financial projections? Thanks!
M
@zfiscr If you're an enterprise company, then the best way to do it is probably salesforce math. I.e. add up the quota of the productive people that you have. If you are a consumer company, financials are usually a derivative of some other metric. I'd just be explicit about how you get there.
Bruno Vilela — CDO
@bhorowitz If the direct sale of advertising (non-programatic) is your main source of revenue, would it qualify as enterprise since you have to rely on a sales force to bring in the numbers?
Sydney Liu — Co-Founder of Commaful
Hey Ben,

Thanks so much for dropping the knowledge on your blog and here today! You always talk about unconventional ideas and working on the truths that other people don’t.

What advice would you give to founders that most investors or founders would think initially disagree with you on or think is crazy?

Thanks,
Sydney
M
@sydney_liu_sl Nobody who ever built a great company wasn't ridiculed along the way. If you are driven by social signals, you shouldn't be an entrepreneur. That's not say that you shouldn't ever listen to input, but you have to decide for yourself.
Paul Robert Cary — CEO, Findie | www.findie.me
@sydney_liu_sl You're always asking great questions, Sydney. Thanks.
Sydney Liu — Co-Founder of Commaful
@paulrobertcary Thanks Paul :)
@bhorowitz with the advent of companies disrupting regulated markets, (uber, tesla, spacex, airbnb) do you see this happening with goverment, and if so, what's your take on it?
M
@emivelazquez6 I hope so. My partner Balaji has a very interesting theory that God was the original leviathan then the state and in the future the network. At a very basic level, people behaved themselves originally because they feared God then later the rise of uniformed police and the state and eventually their reputations on the Network. If he's right, we are in for a lot of changes :-).
@bhorowitz Great answer. Balaji has some amazing ideas, and love what they're doing with 21inc. Thanks for the reply!
Dan Prisk — Product Manager
@bhorowitz That's an interesting theory. I just finished re-reading "The Quiet War" by Paul McAuley, and that includes something similar to the Network reputation model you're talking about.
@danprisk you can read "The magic Kingdom" by Cory Doctorow, where reputation translates to money if you want to kick it up a notch ;)
Jon Anderson — Operations Manager, Clear Health Stratgs
@bhorowitz brb, making subscription-based "Heavens" for networks. Pay more if you have a bad reputation and still want to enjoy access to the nicest VR rooms.
Dan Prisk — Product Manager
@emivelazquez6 Thanks! Think I've read that in the past, but long enough ago that I have no memory. Will have to take another look soon.
From what you’ve noticed, what are the 20% of techniques, mindsets, skills, etc. new/first-time entrepreneurs have that result in 80% (or a large part) of their success?
M
@troyshu The big thing is to focus all of your energy on product/market fit. I.e., get to a product that people are adopting very quickly or that you can reliably sell repeatedly. To some extent, everything else culture, management, etc is secondary. Don't take your eyes off the prize.
Tom Klein — Founder of Suggest It
@bhorowitz This quote should be an opening statement to...I pledge of allegiance to my vision that I will "focus all of my energy on product/market fit, and get to a product that people are adopting very quickly or that I can reliably sell repeatedly".

We all witness that most founders spend far to much effort being distracted by startup events, fundraising, networking, team brainstorming, corp formation, IP protection, legal, admin functions, and the myriad of other distractions instead of the singular focus of customer development to ensure PMF.
Mitali Pattnaik — Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@bhorowitz the current state of public markets has scared a lot of people, and there is a talk of some unicorn and "decacorn" startups being affected. how do you think this downturn will affect early stage companies (seed / A) or will it? how will early stage investing be impacted?
M
@mitali I think that early stage investing, if done right, is pretty disconnected from the public markets. The average Venture Capital exit is over 8 years, so the public markets will change a lot by then. Having said that, a lot of hobbyist investors will stop if the markets crash and that will make it more difficult to raise money for sure. In addition, if you are a VC and you pay a bubble price even at an early stage that can be hard to recover from (for both you and the company) if the climate changes radically. .
Mitali Pattnaik — Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
What are some things you miss about being a founder/ CEO now that you're a VC? Do you find yourself reverting back to "CEO muscle memory"? :)
M
@mitali I don't know if I miss much, but there are definitely times when I can see what needs to be done extremely clearly and I am working with a less experienced CEO and I get carried away. I need to control myself in those situations.
christopher — music pro turnt digital comms pro
@bhorowitz What do you mean by "carried away"? To what extent?
Ben Center — Investor Relations Associate, Onevest
@bhorowitz Thanks for being generous with your time. What do you believe is the best way to get into VC as a young professional?
M
@benhcenter Start a company or join a start up and learn what the process of building a company feels like. It's almost impossible to learn any other way.
Sameer Noorani — CEO, Roomvine
@bhorowitz Whats AH's perspective of taking on a failed entrepreneur as a VC?
Ben Center — Investor Relations Associate, Onevest
@bhorowitz Thanks so much!
Hi Ben! What are your thoughts on bitcoin/blockchain and where do you think the opportunities lie?
M
@fornaio It may be the most important computer science breakthrough since packet switching. We are in the very early days though. TCP/IP was invented in 1973 (I think) and it took 20 years to get to the beginning of what we consider the Internet today. Bitcoin is still a baby by that measure.
Terry Xu — Engineer, Twitter (Opinions are my own)
@bhorowitz really put it into perspective...
Mustafa — Co-founder Egyncy
@bhorowitz Not a question really, more of a thank you note,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, I read your book twice, and watched all of your interviews online. I've learned alot from you and your advice helped me save my company from multiple crisis.. Thank you, sincerely.
Bart Dessaint — Partner, Andreessen Horowitz
@bhorowitz would you be Kanye's VP for 2020? :-)
Anuj Tyagi — Product Manager, Vee
@8artd interesting to see the combo Kanye + Ben :-)
M
Thank you everyone for joining. Stay strong in the struggle!!!
Julie Delanoy — Design @ProductHunt with @wearetm 😻
Hi @bhorowitz ! Awesome to see you here.

I read that you didn’t invest in TransferWise at first because they were based in London.
Distance seemed to be the problem. Did this experience give you a new perspective about remote/long-distance working?
Kamil — Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@bhorowitz Ben, what are some books you're currently reading or have on your shelf?
Grace Chih Ellis — partner, andreessen horowitz
@kamilszybalski I do know that one of @bhorowitz's favorite books on leadership is The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
Kamil — Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@garcegarce Thanks for that. Ben, we have 13 people now who are curious about your shelf.
Kamil — Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@kamilszybalski here's what Marc Andreessen is reading -
Corley — COO @ Product Hunt
@bhorowitz thanks for making the time to answer our questions! much appreciated!

What excited you the most about the future? And what trend to you worry that if not changed or stopped could be problematic in the future?
Andrew Torba — CEO, Gab.ai #SpeakFreely
@bhorowitz what are your thoughts on the future of digital advertising? With the rise of Adblocking (especially soon on mobile with iOS9,) what is the next step for digital advertising business models over the next 5-10 years?
christian stewart — Brand Strategist @ Anomaly
What keeps you up at night?
@bhorowitz One of my favorite parts of your book was the description of hiring Mark Cranney. How the frak does one get their hands on his sales training bible?
AJ — Product Manager, NowSecure
@elilaipson +1000 on this question. Just read this chapter and am wondering what was in that bible! @bhorowitz, give us some insights please!
Terry Xu — Engineer, Twitter (Opinions are my own)
Q1: Stealing Peter Thiel's question: "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?"

Q2: How do you take notes / manage information?

Thanks!
@bhorowitz what is the best rap cd of all time?
Blake McDowall — Executive Talent - Adobe
@alexstanton17 Liquid Swords or Illmatic. hard to choose.
Focus On Risk — Director of BD at Cashplay, Game Dev
@alexstanton17 Ready to Die
christopher — music pro turnt digital comms pro
@blakemcdowall I'll take the Purple Tape over Liquid Swords any day.
@chrstphr_ @focus_on_risk @blakemcdowall I know this will be met with some disagreement, but I grew up through the 90s and 2000s for rap, so mine is Get Rich Or Die Trying, followed closely by College Dropout and The Eminem Show.
christopher — music pro turnt digital comms pro
@alexstanton17 Get Rich or Die Trying was a classic in its own right. My personal fav is 'It Was Written'. Nas showcased true professional skills on that one.
ilan abehassera — Founder, CEO at Insensi
@bhorowitz Hi Ben, what are your thoughts on the new wave of Hardware companies? How do you think about it at a16z?
Suzy Ryoo — venture/tech/innovation at Atom Factory
@bhorowitz Thank you for sharing with us on Product Hunt today.

Would love to hear about a particularly impactful moment or experience during those formative years -- undergrad at Columbia & grad school at UCLA. One that comes to mind immediately & you still think about to this day as life/perspective changing.

Much respect from beautiful & sunny LA!