Geoff Lewis

Geoff Lewis

Partner at Founders Fund

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 21, 2016

Discussion

Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
Hi – I’m Geoff Lewis, Partner at Founders Fund. I’ve led investments in dozens of companies and some of our more well know investments at Founders Fund include Facebook, Airbnb, SpaceX, Spotify, Lyft, Stripe and StemCentRx. I’m also a 2x entrepreneur myself. Excited to be here – ask me anything!
Jonathan Hursh
Jonathan Hursh@jonathanhursh · Founder @ Utopia
I've deeply admired how Peter Thiel and Founders Fund views the world and how it changes. For years I've seen this group as the most progressive out there. Yet now with Peter's recent high profile choices, there is dissonance for me. How can progressive and regressive be a part of the same organism? Or is there no dissonance? Or is it just the messiness of being human and there are no clear answers.
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@jonathanhursh Yeah, being human is messy. And part of being an engaged intelligent curious person is surrounding oneself with other people who have different viewpoints, and not silencing them but rather seeking to at least understand why they feel the way they do. On this specific issue, I have a different view and have been very vocal about it - I am very strongly against Trump. For me the answer is clear: For me personally, there is no rationalization or justification that would enable me to support Trump in any way. I respect that for other people the answer can cut the other way or be unclear. And for me, occasionally being on a different page from folks in my orbit is far superior to the alternative (surrounding myself entirely with others who think exactly like me and agree with me on every single issue.)
Jonathan Hursh
Jonathan Hursh@jonathanhursh · Founder @ Utopia
@justglew Appreciate the human candid response!
Jack Smith
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
Peter Theil is well known to be interested in longevity and does some abstract experiments in pursuit of this (such as supplementing HGH). I also understand that Founders Fund offers employees some 'office perks' related to health/longevity. Do you personally undertake any experiments related to improving health/longevity? Have any proven to be successful?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@_jacksmith We have healthy snacks in the office - thats about as far as the Founders Fund office perks related to longevity go :)
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Hey Geoff! Thanks for joining us! What qualities/skills have you seen to be most useful when it comes to analysts and associates at VC funds, and Founders Fund in particular?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@nivo0o0 #1 by a mile at Founders Fund is being proactive. Just proactively doing things and taking initiative without direction / having confidence and high conviction is critical. Another important attribute is not needing a lot of validation from others - some people do need this and it's totally fine, but that's not our culture at Founders Fund
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@nivo0o0 e.g. the validation we get is doing awesome work, not pats on the back
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@justglew 👌💯
Paul Sondhi
Paul Sondhi@paulsondhi · Student
Hey Geoff, thanks for doing this! As a college student, I'm curious to know: would you recommend working at a startup directly after school?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@paulsondhi Hey Paul! It is really startup-dependent. If you join the wrong startup you'll learn the wrong lessons and your career will start off on the wrong track. If you join the right startup, it's by far the best move / biggest career arbitrage play out of college. Happy to chat offline if there are specific startups you are considering. Generally I recommend anyone straight out of college joins a startup that for sure has product market fit and at least 2 years of runway in the bank
Paul Sondhi
Paul Sondhi@paulsondhi · Student
@justglew Hey Geoff, I would appreciate the chance to chat specifics offline! I find that there's little to no resources online for non-engineers looking to work at a startup. Just followed you on twitter :)
Tristan Pollock
Tristan Pollock@writerpollock · Venture Partner at 500 Startups
How did you build and transport the incredibly large Founders Fund front door?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@writerpollock this question FTW. No idea and I take zero credit slash blame =)
Gabriel
Gabriel@pi4n0m4n · CEO at naologic.com
Using a new approach to coding, I made a platform that enables individuals to innovate faster I'm in the process of turning it into a generator of niche ERP systems. That's my way of turning a technology into a business. Do you think something this technical would do better in an open-source business model?
Gabriel
Gabriel@pi4n0m4n · CEO at naologic.com
Open-source won't get free labor but otherwise it will have a strong business component
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@pi4n0m4n Would need to drill down further to give business model advice. def happy to talk offline.
Gabriel
Gabriel@pi4n0m4n · CEO at naologic.com
@justglew Thanks! I'd love that. I sent a Linkedin request.
Timur Zhiyentayev
Timur Zhiyentayev@tima_zhi · Cofounder of Drizzle
Geoff, out of curiosity, how is an investment decision made within FF? Majority vote? Did anything change in FF's Manifesto? Thanks.
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@tima_zhi It depends on the size of the investment. For larger investments (e.g. when we invested over $100Million to lead Airbnb's Series C in 2012) - It's consensus-driven, everyone weighs in and it needs to be unanimous. For smaller investments, if one or a few people are strongly in favor we can do it. The biggest difference vs. us and other firms is Non-partners can lead investments (our Principals and associate can and do lead investments so pitching them is never a waste of time.)
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@tima_zhi our manifesto has not changed and we still believe it! Do think we will get flying cars quite soon, although autonomous is far more important :)
Timur Zhiyentayev
Timur Zhiyentayev@tima_zhi · Cofounder of Drizzle
@justglew Wow, that's amazing that Principals and Associates can make decisions.
Samuel N. Njoki
Samuel N. Njoki@sam_njugunah · Head of business mlinzi.co.ke
Hello am from Kenya and we working on a beta version of an escrow service that is tailored to the kenyan market.My question is do you invest in Africa startups ? If not why?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@sam_njugunah Haven't invested in Africa yet, would absolutely be open to doing it. I think Kenyan market alone would probably be too small of an addressable market for us. Would the same product work in other adjacent african markets eg. Ethiopia?
Samuel N. Njoki
Samuel N. Njoki@sam_njugunah · Head of business mlinzi.co.ke
@justglew we have growing online market places in Africa but no buyer/seller confidence and that is what we are essentially working on . What advice could you give to budding entrepreneurs such as me ?
Uhma
Uhma@deleted-594972 · Brr
Hello Geoff, Thank you for giving us an opportunity to ask you anything. Question: With terrorist attacks happening almost on daily basis, we do not see a lot of new start ups with technologies aimed to prevent them. Is this area not profitable enough to attract entrepreneurs? Thank you
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@victorpolyushko You are right. While there's tons of cyber security stuff (in fact it's so competitive that I think sectorally it's a bad area for investment), but there's been very little innovation on security and anti-terrorism in the world of atoms. I guess one of the reasons why is that it would be really unfashionable to start a weapons/terrorism defense related company
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@victorpolyushko If you start a company in this area I'd love to talk!
Ace Wang • 王心田 💪
Ace Wang • 王心田 💪@acewacewacew · ▲ Health with ❤︎ - WeChat @ xtw1009
Geoff, do you personally think  Watch & watchOS will dominate the smartwatch market in the next 5 years? Why or why not?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@acewacewacew Honestly: To me smart watches are super boring. I don't care who dominates but forced into a bet I'd bet against Apple on this one on 5 year timescale.
Hicham Amine
Hicham Amine@hicham_amine · Head of Growth, Hidden Founders
Hello Geoff, what are the best channels you can use to reach out to early stage founders? Thanks.
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@hicham_amine Some of my best investments and relationships with early stage founders have come from either my cold emailing them, or them cold emailing me. A thoughtful, personal cold email when there is a shared interest is a powerful and underused tool
Roland Rick Perry
Roland Rick Perry@roland_rick_perry · Founder Revelers.IO
@justglew @hicham_amine Yup, cant beat the cold call..
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you had to be a tech CEO for a week, who would it be and why?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@bentossell I think fantasizing about trading places with other people is generally not a good use of time and only useful insofar as it can help you empathize with where they are coming from; so if I had to do this it would be one of the founders I've backed who is facing a challenge, so I could better understand/empathize with them and help them through it more effectively .
Tobias A Huber
Tobias A Huber@tobiasahuber · Researcher, ETH Zurich
Dear Geoff, I am following you and Founders Fund for a while now. Founders Found really is one of the most exciting VC’s firms. How can I become involved with Founders Fund? Does Founders Fund provide internship opportunities? Many thanks, Tobias
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@tobiasahuber Hi there! Thanks for the kind words. We do occasionally bring interns on for the summer. The default is that it's a summer experience / not a path to full time job. Definitely feel welcome to send over some info on you via email!
Tobias A Huber
Tobias A Huber@tobiasahuber · Researcher, ETH Zurich
Many thanks, Geoff! How can I contact you or Founders Fund? Thanks again, Tobias
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@tobiasahuber find my email online ,
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Geoff thanks for being here today! What's one piece of advice you've received during your career that's made the most impact on you?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@ems_hodge The riskiest thing one can do career-wise is to take no risk, because the world is constantly changing.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Geoff! What's the best way to get into the VC industry and make a difference with no technical chops?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@theo_dimarhos My general advice is that it's almost always a bad idea to become a VC if you are an ambitious young person. This said, lots of VCs do not have technical chops. ( Based on your bio, I'd advise you to start or join a fast growing Series B or C series VC backed startup in a core BD role and transition after a few years)
Jonathan Hursh
Jonathan Hursh@jonathanhursh · Founder @ Utopia
What's the biggest mistake you've made that you're perhaps embarrassed about now looking back (other than a missed investment)?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@jonathanhursh Well to be brutally honest one huge one comes to mind: From 19-24, I worked in brand management at Procter and Gamble (first as summer intern for sophomore and junior year summers, then full time at HQ in Cincinnati). I did this because I grew up truly middle class in Canada (both parents were teachers), and I wanted my green card so I could get to the USA, and P&G was only company willing to sponsor me. I learned almost nothing of value applicable outside of P&G and it was really boring. If I could have a do-over I would have found another more entrepreneurial way to get to the US. This was 2002-2006 and I had zero network here back then so its hard to envision how I'd do it, but ex post I would have taken a different path. To this day I feel like I wasted some of my best young years
Abhijit Suryawanshi
Abhijit Suryawanshi@abhijit · CEO, Crab
Hi Geoff, Thank you for being here. I am greatful! What do you think are opportunities in Indian Startup environment these days?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@abhijit I don't have any great insights on India. I would like to spend some time there and learn more about the country over the coming years. My gut intuition is that the current TAM for tech products is a lot smaller than the huge population and perhaps over the past few years people got ahead of themselves thinking the addressable market today is bigger than it actually is. But long term I'm very bullish on the country as a place where very large tech companies will be built and thrive
Abhijit Suryawanshi
Abhijit Suryawanshi@abhijit · CEO, Crab
@justglew extremely thank you for the reply. I am on it. Your words are motivating. I will build one here. :)
Derek Morris
Derek Morris@derek_j_morris · 3D Organ Printing $UTHR, BTC/Bio/AI HVF
Hey Geoff, what are some common characteristics you've seen from great companies/markets?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@derek_j_morris Hey Derek! Great companies: - The founders tend to be very non-needy. This is out of fashion to say in an environment where every VC is all about value-add, offering founders help, etc. But the truly transcendent companies have tended to have founders who were extraordinarily self directed. - One of a kind, cannot describe them in X for Y terms - Tend to have tons of problems and skeptics all along the way (think Amazon until very recently)
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@derek_j_morris Great markets: - Probably wouldn't be described on Product Hunt as a great market, because they are so nascent and off the radar that the answer would have zero tweetability :)
Mo Bjornestad
Mo Bjornestad@mobjornestad · Founder
@justglew @derek_j_morris you give hope as I fight for believers in my effort to tame persistent social problems
Titus Capilnean
Titus Capilnean@titus_capilnean · Director of Marketing, Civic
Hi Geoff, where do you think artificial intelligence will evolve in the next 12-18 months? What use cases could become commonplace and which organizations are more likely to adopt practical application of AI?
Pierce Neinken
Pierce Neinken@pierce9ken
It's impressive how much you've been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. How do you approach work/life balance?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
Too self serving of a question to answer but thanks for asking it :)
Mo Bjornestad
Mo Bjornestad@mobjornestad · Founder
Noticed FF's interest in heath - our premise is Safety Changes Everything - meaning kids face unsafe conditions every time they walk onto the schools grounds - Stress and fear are destroying socialization, learning, confidence, and health - have you invested in a company addressing these issues?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@mobjornestad important problem. Would be open to learning more if you want to email me. Thanks for sharing!
Christopher Stadler
Christopher Stadler@christopher_stadler
What books are you reading now?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@christopher_stadler Three excellent ones I recently finished: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, Technological Revolutions & Financial Capital by Carlota Perez, and Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini
George Perkous
George Perkous@george_perkous · CEO Holoptica
Hi Geoff. Why is it that when I contact a venture capital group to look at our product and services for potential funding nobody answers? What am I doing wrong? Thanks, George george@holoptica.com
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@george_perkous @holoptica Check this out and let me know if it helps -- different context, but its guidelines are broadly applicable to your situation: http://www.businessinsider.com/h...
Laf. Julius
Laf. Julius@laf_julius · co- founder @evolvesports
Good Day Geoff..are you currently seeking companies in the virtual reality/ augmented reality market? What's your vision for founders fund in next 5years?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@laf_julius Vision for founders fund over next 5 years: Back the founders building THE MOST IMPORTANT companies in the world. This is critical both for us as a fund (to drive the returns we need given how large our fund is now), and honestly I don't think VC would be a very fun career unless you are actually trying to back some things that have a shot at being really important
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@laf_julius Re: VR/AR yes we've made investments in the space such as 8I more recently (and we were seed investors in Oculus) . Very open to doing more. Still agnostic on whether it may be like social networking in 2001 (few years too early / best companies could emerge in a few years from now / dont yet exist)
Luke Constable
Luke Constable@l_constable
@justglew How do you define "most important"? What important areas do you think are generally overlooked (eg your previous public points on mental health and on religion+tech)?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@l_constable I think there are three ways to define "important": (1) Large positive impact on a small number of lives, (2) Large positive impact on a large number of lives. (3) Small positive impact on a large number of lives [small positive impact on small number of lives ≠ important] . (1) and (2) you know ex-ante - e.g. "if this drug works, it will cure this type of cancer". (3) you generally won't know until ex-post / after it's already working - e.g. Uber and Lyft didn't seem important to very many people in their first few years
Marius Chawa
Marius Chawa@marius_chawa · Analyst, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hey Geoff I have a two part question. This may sound very confusing but would really appreciate your advice. We founded a company called Houlem LLC, we have built a web app called Houlem, a mobile app called REBEL which enables folks to stream from the web app, and lastly built mobile app called IGNITE which allows users to stream their music from Rebel/Music Libraries to their friends phone without being in the same city/state. And all this apps have their own unique value prop/business model but still are under Houlem LLC. My question is what would you advice us try to focus on or tie everything together to make a simple pitch, branding, etc for our company Houlem LLC? Second question - do you invest in media/entertainment startups? if so, how can we pitch?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@mariuschawa Paragraph was too confusing for me to digest, so your pitch is definitely too confusing. Need to really streamline and simplify before pitching. Tons of good advice on how to do this all over the web.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What were your 2 ventures, and how did they go?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@bentossell first one was Topguest, a travel SaaS startup which we sold to Switchfly very quickly (a little less than 2 years after we started) and it was around a 3X for investors but didn't make any sort of a dent in the world. I joined Founders Fund following that . Currently incubating a new company in the brain health space that i'm chairman of but not involved day to day. Hopefully this one will make more of a dent :)
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@justglew looking forward to seeing it!
Jonathan Hursh
Jonathan Hursh@jonathanhursh · Founder @ Utopia
What's been the most unexpected/surprising thing of working with Founders Fund?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@jonathanhursh Peter, who is by far the highest profile of us on the team, actually is not a "top-down" type leader: There is a tremendous amount of autonomy. It's an extraordinarily unstructured environment and is dependent on people taking initiative
Jonathan Hursh
Jonathan Hursh@jonathanhursh · Founder @ Utopia
@justglew That's remarkable insight, thanks for sharing. Good encouragement for the rest of us.
Jonathan Hursh
Jonathan Hursh@jonathanhursh · Founder @ Utopia
The coming wave of next generation technologies (AI, VR, bio, etc) has been well documented in the last couple of years. What belongs in that category yet is rarely mentioned?
Mo Bjornestad
Mo Bjornestad@mobjornestad · Founder
NotifyIF.com is launching on 9/27 - global transaction processor for safety, productivity, transforming into a utility - so you think there is room for a dedicated utility?-
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@mobjornestad It doesn't matter what I think! Prove that there is. I'll check it out on 9/27 and good luck!
Ryan Johnson
Ryan Johnson@ryanctj · OurCrowd
how are you working with your companies in this M&A / IPO environment to ensure the best outcomes for the companies and yourselves
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@ryanctj Environment has clearly changed at the growth stage. Our general view is that we can be helpful with strategic advice and we love to engage on this level, but it's really the responsibility of the founders to drive fundraising and M&A and not our role to step in and be super active.
Lesley Wu
Lesley Wu@deleted-407305
how do you choose a atartup? because idea,team,business model or technology?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@lesley_wu all of the above matter. One shortcut in pitches for starting to figure out if the team is potentially good: If they want to talk about the technology, ask them about the business model (and really drill down). If they want to talk about the business model, ask them about the technology (and really drill down)
Lesley Wu
Lesley Wu@deleted-407305
@justglew thank you,your reply is late,but you did.
Michael Diaz
Michael Diaz@michael_diaz12 · Artist, Programmer, Business
Hello Geoff, would Founders Fund/yourself consider advancements in student accommodation in education to be critical enough to be considered funding?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@michael_diaz12 we are open to anything. What type of advancements?
Michael Diaz
Michael Diaz@michael_diaz12 · Artist, Programmer, Business
@justglew Creating a medium for students that have no experience in real estate or international students trying to find a place to live, schools trying to accommodate students with the least amount of physical barriers, and property owners making the legal work seamless for students just getting out of high school.
Roland Rick Perry
Roland Rick Perry@roland_rick_perry · Founder Revelers.IO
What's your favorite holding in the Privateer portfolio ? Does Founders look at the portfolio holdings for ideas to invest in, in the space, or do you just let Privateer do its thing ?
Geoff Lewis
Geoff Lewis@justglew · Partner, Founders Fund
@roland_rick_perry They do their own thing. I think Tilray has great potential on the pharma/medicinal side of things. Still early days
Michael Diaz
Michael Diaz@michael_diaz12 · Artist, Programmer, Business
Constantly looking for VC's that provide support beside the literal funds of the investment, how do you see yourself or other VC's providing-to/mentoring the companies you help fund?