Josh Elman

Josh Elman

Partner at Greylock. Previously Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Seeking crazy ideas.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 01, 2015

Discussion

Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
Hi I’m Josh Elman. I’m a VC at Greylock where I get to invest in great founders and companies building new consumer apps and products. I’m involved in Medium, Nextdoor, Operator, Jelly, Meerkat and SmartThings. Before becoming a VC, I got to help build Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zazzle, and RealPlayer as a product manager and engineer.
Hey @joshelman, What's a prediction that David Sze and Reid Hoffman have for the future that you vehemently disagree with and why? Mazz
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@mazzeo so the hard part is we agree alot - I got to work with them both at linkedin and facebook as they were contrarian believers in social networking. Since I joined Greylock, one area I pushed that I didn't have as much agreement on was Internet of Things / Connected Home. I'm a huge believer that every mechanical device in our home is going to get smarter and have more sensors and data, and will make our lives smoother and easier. When I proposed investing in SmartThings, there was some resistance and skepticism. Fortunately, as a partnership, I had the support to go hang myself out to dry, and even better the company made great progress quickly and we sold to Samsung last year for a nice outcome (and they have continued doing great work there).
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Excited to have you here, Josh. When we first met IRL about 3 years ago, I asked you for advice on which startups I should consider joining as I was considering leaving PlayHaven. I recently met up with a friend that's going through the same transition. What advice would you give and what type of questions should young PM's, marketers, designers, etc. ask themselves when deciding where to go next?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@rrhoover great question. Whenever I have thought about where I work and where else I could work, I always asked myself "what product do I love today and think should be much much bigger and used by many more people in the world?". If the product I was working on wasn't in the top 5, I'd think about trying to go work on a product that was in that list for me. I think it's really important to choose something you legitimately love and believe can be a lot bigger and more important in the world. If you convince yourself to work somewhere because you think it can pay you a lot of money, you won't be as happy working on it, and you won't go to sleep or wake up thinking about how you can make the product better nearly as often (except perhaps in nightmares)
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@joshelman Thanks for joining us Josh! What advice would you give to your 22 year old self if you were 22 in 2015? What about your 30 year old self?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@eriktorenberg i would tell myself to marry the girl I'm with (fortunately I did!). And I'd tell myself to realize that everyone I was working with had good intentions -- it makes a huge difference when you trust the people you work with and vice versa.
Scott Hurff
Scott Hurff@scotthurff · Product Manager & Lead Designer, Tinder
@joshelman great to see you on PH Live, and sorry I missed you when you were down at Tinder. Question: What's been the DNA held in common by the hugely-successful orgs of which you've been a part? In other words, why do you think Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter were so successful?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@scotthurff this is a great question. What impressed me about all of the companies is the founders and in those early days pretty much all of the employees shared this optimistic belief that we could make a big difference for the world. And every decision came back to whether it would help make that more possible, and avoided any short term tradeoffs. Also all of the companies had a very healthy mix of understanding of data along with this vision so decisions were not just based on he said / she said opinions
Scott Hurff
Scott Hurff@scotthurff · Product Manager & Lead Designer, Tinder
@joshelman thank you, sir!
Leo Polovets
Leo Polovets@lpolovets · Partner, Susa Ventures
@joshelman I've worked with a lot of great PMs in my career, but you were the very best one. I'd love to know: 1) What do you think are the characteristics of a strong PM? 2) What advice do you have for people starting out in PM?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@lpolovets aww thanks Leo - I loved working together too. I still tell stories of the name hack we figured out. I think the characteristics of a strong PM are someone who gets the team to build consensus and own the problems together. It's important that everyone on the team gets a chance to contribute to finding the best potential ideas to solve the problems they want to. For aspiring PMs, I encourage as many as I can who have engineering backgrounds to code professionally for at least a year, maybe two. You go through the entire cycle of building something, changing features along the way, shipping it, learning what worked and didn't, staying up late to fix the bugs, and building v2 on top of what you built. With at least one turn through the cycle you'll have a totally different perspective when you are in a meeting and say "can't we just do this instead?" and know how much work an engineer or few now have to do because of that. Without that empathy, it's hard to be a great PM
If you could start a business in any industry/sub-sector tomorrow what would you choose and why?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@alfink92 something that makes cities work better -- massive shift right now from suburbs back to cities that I don't think is going to change over the next few decades
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@joshelman Hi Josh, Loving the Medium posts and your talks (like at @jason’s Launch incubator) about product development. Keep them up :D During the extremely early stages of a product, what should be the main things a founder should focus on and talk to the users about? Say somebody comes up with an idea that they think can be a great company and solves a killer problem. Builds a basic prototype in a day and launches on ProductHunt, has 1k users now. What’s next? There are obviously a lot of things that need drastic improvement with the product because it’s so early, probably every piece of the funnel could use drastic improvement and the core use of the product as well. Where would you look for indicators of what to focus on/change first and what would the next 7 days of working on the product look like for you? Thanks a bunch! Sydney
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@sydney_liu_sl so if you got to 1k users, that's a huge first step. The key is to think about who is sticking around and finding the product useful, and why. Once you start to understand that, you can continue to build more features that lean into that use case. I would look less at the data from your users, and in those first few weeks talk to as many as you can to hear the early anecdotes. I like to joke that the plural of anecdote is data, but in some ways it's true - you start with a few stories and then your data shows you if those stories are happening more and more frequently even with users you can't talk to
Sameer Noorani
Sameer Noorani@sameernoorani · CEO, Roomvine
@joshelman Scenario: A startup has a built unique product. Not based in the US. Nature of the product is such that its difficult to seed without adequate marketing capital so it has limited traction and growth. Team with a great resume but not in tech/startup. Massive market size with no competition. Question: What would it take for you to realistically invest in such a startup?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@sameernoorani i think the best way to get your first investment is to find people in your region and / or domain that understand what you are doing and are willing to make the bet. As you get more traction and growth, it becomes easier for others to understand your plan towards world domination. For me personally, I focus most of my investments on domains I have worked in and understand well, have built strong networks, and in areas where I can really help the companies succeed
Brett Watson
Brett Watson@brettewatson · Learner
@joshelman I am deeply interested in highly technical fields that I foresee being huge industries in the future (eg: automated vehicles, hyperloop, etc), but I am non technical (I do marketing). How can I break into companies that are reserving spots only for essential/technical people before they get big?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@brettewatson great question Brett! To get into an early company, you have to hustle, network and become as much of an expert as you possibly can. I also find sharing up front work to show how much you want the job and are thinking about the problem. Just saying "hey I can market, i'd like to work with you" isn't as compelling as saying "Hey I've been studying everything i can about automated vehicles, I've done 3 studies with professors, and here is one idea I had for a campaign to encourage truckers to try trucks with new automation systems"
Brett Watson
Brett Watson@brettewatson · Learner
@joshelman Great advice. Thank you Josh!
John Lilly
John Lilly@johnolilly1
What've you learned from working with founders in your role as an investor (as opposed to an operator)?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@johnolilly hi John :) the thing I've learned the most is how hard and how important it is to find the right employees and executive mix for a company. The investment in finding a partner to own an area like marketing, engineer, or product can be such powerful leverage for a founder, but if it's not the right person it can also have such a negative impact too.
Daniel Landy
Daniel Landy@danolandy · 📚Babson Student
@joshelman I recently read Hatching Twitter and its funny to see that you worked at Facebook on Facebook connect. Then you worked for Twitter and tried to integrate Facebook connect and Facebook disabled the service for Twitter. Fast forward and you invested in Meerkat and Twitter decides to disable the social graph for them. My question is do you think these companies are in the right to disable these services to companies they deem as competitors or do you think these companies are doing the wrong thing?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@danoliverlandy this is a great question. When companies have opened up platforms - like Facebook or Twitter, it is so that developers will make products that make users more addicted to the platform such as Twitter or Facebook. It's not for other developers to just get big and suck out the graph. Facebook has historically always prevented this without clear use cases that make the experience of Facebook better. So I don't think the companies are doing anything wrong. That said - when Meerkat first popped on Twitter it was one of the most amazing experiences I'd had with my Twitter network in a long time. It got me excited that the Meerkat team could continue to build great products and features to connect a new graph and experience well beyond Twitter which is why I invested.
Shaan Puri
Shaan Puri@shaanvp · ceo, Monkey Inferno
hiya Josh. You get a chance to talk & work with lots of talented people. What is a skill/trait that you've seen in others, that you wish you had (or had more of) in yourself? -shaan
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@shaanvp great question. One of my weaknesses is I tend to process a lot of things externally or verbally. So when I'm thinking about a problem some people think I'm babbling lots of random stuff. Once I get to something I'm comfortable as an answer, I can state it pretty clearly. But I always admire people who speak softly and crisply the first time. Communication is very important in every professional and personal setting, so it's something I hope to get better at
Patrick Rogers
Patrick Rogers@mrpatrickrogers · Developer @realm
Ricky Yean
Ricky Yean@rickyyean · CEO, UpbeatPR.com (formerly PRX.co)
@joshelman if that's how you think that's fine. I think it takes away some of the mystique but that's all. People like us who think by babbling have a branding issue. @dtran320
seth goldstein
seth goldstein@seth · co-founder: crossfader, turntable.fm
ok smartypants, let's say the governor of massachussetts michael dukakis II gives you carte blanche to do what it takes to return beantown to its former splendor as a hotbed of startups and venture capital, what would you do?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@seth i'd still invest in the bay area. Weather is just better :)
seth goldstein
seth goldstein@seth · co-founder: crossfader, turntable.fm
Jared The Dude
Jared The Dude@jaredepicpower · EVP & Co-founder @ Muxy.io
@joshelman I have heard you are the biggest troller in the SV. Circle T or F.
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@jaredepicpower can I circle the OR?
Jared The Dude
Jared The Dude@jaredepicpower · EVP & Co-founder @ Muxy.io
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
THANK YOU EVERYONE. These were all great questions. I wish I could have kept going and answered everything. I'm sorry if I didn't get to your question - some I wanted to would take even longer answers than I had time for - but hopefully prompted a few good medium post ideas. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter and Medium- @joshelman. And I look forward to more ways to talk more in the future !
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@joshelman everyone please give a HUGE thank you to Josh for taking the time to chat with us today!
Alex Cook
Alex Cook@aacook · Founder of NanaGram
@joshelman Thank you!
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@joshelman thanks Josh!
Jeff Needles
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
@joshelman What is the most fun/entertaining part of working with new startups?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@jsneedles the optimism. The ability to move fast and see ideas go from a brainstorm to users within just a few days or weeks at most
Phillip Yang
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@joshelman Hi Josh. Thanks so much for doing this on Product Hunt. Big follower of you. My 2 questions are: 1. Mobile Ad Tech: I saw your response to Rob Leathern's Medium Post re: The Mobile Video Ad Lie. Do you feel that there needs to be a change in Mobile Ad:Tech, and if so, any thoughts on how? 2. LinkedIN Messaging - Stickers: Saw your Tweet on this new update. Do you think Stickers/Emojis/GIFs are just too much? Or, do you think they can evolve further and have an impact on advertising, especially for mobile?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@geeky_yang mobile ad tech: Rob's post was excellent. And frightening how much data loads on every page load on our devices. The thing with our mobile devices is they know who we are better than computers ever did. Yet the ads don't seem to have access to any of that. I think what companies like Snapchat and Facebook are doing to make the ad formats truly native and integrated are a good step. Re LinkedIn - I think the messaging is great and it's fun to have stickers / GIFs that add a large emotional impact with few characters. I'm already seeing advertisers use these kinds of emotional content in their ads. My snarky comment about LinkedIn was just that I didn't associate the brand with anything cartoonish -- eg a dog sticker and the word "paws-itive"
Phillip Yang
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@joshelman Thanks so much for answering! Appreciate it!
Emily Veach
Emily Veach@editemily · writer @Feedly
@geeky_yang Great post. The Mobile Video Ad Lie: https://medium.com/@robleathern/...
Phillip Yang
Phillip Yang@geekyyang
@editemily It was wasn't it? Rob's post was really interesting. Loved how he really 'dug' deep into his research. :)
Anthony Onesto
Anthony Onesto@anthonyonesto · GM Konrad Group/Entrepreneur/Advisor
@joshelman very specific question - does a startup B2B product need beta clients in the US to get its first round of funding if it already has product 1.0 and clients in India but wants to expand into the US and build out a version 2.0
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@anthonyonesto i don't know the answer since I invest mostly on the B2C side. But I'd suggest first investors being in a similar market to first customers can be a great advantage for all
Anthony Onesto
Anthony Onesto@anthonyonesto · GM Konrad Group/Entrepreneur/Advisor
@joshelman appreciate the insight, thank you.
John Owen
John Owen@thejohnowen · Program Mgr, Wright State Research Inst
Josh, What's the most important thing a a community (government, universities, nonprofits) can do to support the entrepreneurial community?
Laura Gluhanich
Laura Gluhanich@lauraglu · founder, signal camp
@joshelman How would you recommend a founder/PM determine when do let go of a product or company and move on?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@lauraglu hi Laura! This is a really hard question and a very personal one for every founder or product manager. The key is resources ahead. Whenever you have something that you have built or invested in, you need to do an honest assessment and say "given how much $$ we have left (or resources if you are within a company), is the best thing we can do to invest further in it, or use our time money and energy to invest in something else. If you are unable to raise external capital (or your executives at a company won't give you further funding) that is often a sign as well that you should reconsider. But ultimately, each person should decide if investing more energy tomorrow has a chance to achieve the desired outcome
Laura Gluhanich
Laura Gluhanich@lauraglu · founder, signal camp
@joshelman Helpful and pragmatic response. Thank you!
Laura Gluhanich
Laura Gluhanich@lauraglu · founder, signal camp
@joshelman Interestingly, just read https://medium.com/@tmzier/why-z... which is a great start at explaining some of this. Would like to see more of these from other entrepreneurs.
Tristan Zier
Tristan Zier@tmzier · CEO & Co-Founder, Tandem
@lauraglu thanks for the note, Laura! Transparency and integrity are essential for founders, IMO.
Eric Willis
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
@joshelman Do you have an anti-portfolio? I'm interested to know what's the biggest startup you had a chance to get in on early but passed on it. And if you remember, why did you pass?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@erictwillis snapchat. I just wrote the answer of why but it already disappeared. (Note added later: we didn't pass but it certainly the biggest we wanted to get in on and didn't quite pull it together)
Emily Veach
Emily Veach@editemily · writer @Feedly
@joshelman I see what you did there.
Paul Robert Cary
Paul Robert Cary@prcary · CEO, Findie | www.findie.me
Hi Josh. Greylock backs Vessel. Is there a platform in the world right now that is truly going to allow for talented filmmakers to find an audience and make money from their creations when they're not very good at marketing themselves? Or are we in an age where creators must be entrepreneurial to succeed?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@paulrobertcary great question Robert. The hard part of being an artist is you have to be both a brilliant creative and find ways to build a sustainable income from your work. Many of our favorite artists from the past ended up sadly poor or broke and their paintings now sell for tens or hundreds of millions. In today's world, the tools available for creators to build their own audience though are better than ever. Between twitter, instagram, facebook, youtube, etc you can engage with your fans and community and build audience. Patreon is one of my favorite companies for artists - they can invite their fans to support them directly as patrons. The only other model is to work with studios and manage to get upfront fees, but not own the audience and business directly - but this is all shifting quickly
Paul Robert Cary
Paul Robert Cary@prcary · CEO, Findie | www.findie.me
@joshelman Thank you Josh.
Josh Carter
Josh Carter@prodigaldesign · Product Manager, Bodybuilding.com
@joshelman I'm an avid follower of your thoughts and ideas. I'm wondering if you could help shed some light on something. I work at an established company where everything has to go through the CEO. There is little to no empowerment. In your opinion, what would be the best way for me, as a PM, to move the culture of creating product into the hands of empowered teams? How do I sell this to the CEO and get him on board?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@prodigaldesign your job as a PM is to help the team and company make great decisions. Hopefully when you and the team present something to your CEO, you aren't "asking for approval", but instead say "hey, we thought through this very deeply, here is how. And this is the conclusion we got to. What do you think? Did we miss anything on our thinking that you may know from experience or conversations you have had?" That will make it more of a dialog vs a request for approval
Taufiq Husain
Taufiq Husain@taufiqhusainca · Managing Director at Polar Hills.
Hey @joshelman, why do you think Twitter has such a large leaky bucket and how should they fix it? What do you think Instagram or Facebook did right compared to Twitter in-terms of their growth i.e. why do you think they're growing much faster?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@taufiqhusainca so I think Twitter is a very different product than Facebook or Instagram. All of them have a basic premise -- set up your network, and then view a feed of the content shared by your network. But they serve very different purposes. Facebook and mostly Instagram are feeds from your friends. It's pretty easy to get it set up and declare which people are friends and which aren't, and then you start seeing your friends content right away. Friends' content is magical, personal, intimate, and addictive. We all come back many times for that. Twitter on the other hand is much less about finding your friends. It's about finding out what's happening in the world. (at least for me and lots of the 300M+ people who use Twitter). However, that's much harder to set up. It's hard to say "I'm interested in tech startups" and then translate that into the 50 accounts to follow which will give you a very interesting feed about tech startups. Same for any other topic you may be interested in such as a favorite sports team, a favorite artist. The amazing thing with Twitter is that nearly all of the content you would ever want is there, just hard to tune into. Twitter hasn't made the tuning much easier than directly following individual accounts, and it hasn't gotten much easier to find the right accounts to follow. We started some of this a few years ago when I was there but it has a long ways to go. I'm optimistic though that they can make this better and easier (and I have a bunch of ideas still!) since I still believe Twitter itself should have 1 billion+ users on it every day learning what's happening in the world with the things they care about most
Emily Veach
Emily Veach@editemily · writer @Feedly
@joshelman What are the main reasons it's hard to feed people tailored content on Twitter? Volume/noise? Something more technical?
Patrick Breitenbach
Patrick Breitenbach@pbreit · Amex, PayPal, Eventbrite
@joshelman I wonder if it really is that hard? Nuzzel takes a very simple approach to surfacing content you might be interested in and extending your "graph" in a helpful way. What I have learned is that the best people to follow are the people who...are good at Twitter.
Sebastian Dobrincu
Sebastian Dobrincu@sebyddd · Serial Entrepreneur. I turn💡 into 💰
🔴 If you were to start bussines from the beginning now, what would be your first step?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@sebyddd find amazing people to start it with. People I'd want to go work on some problem with every day for the next 10 years
dëw
dëw@dwaldron · Design Lead @ Pushd / Aura Frames
Hey Josh, what advice do you have for product people who have been at startups and big corporations looking to get on the other side of things by advising or investing in said companies. How does one transition into the VC world and go about making that leap?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@dwaldron every path into venture is unique. But the general story is usually don't focus on becoming a VC. Focus on making cool products and learning how to grow startups and early ideas into large successful companies. The job of a VC is to find teams working on interesting ideas and invest and join the board and help them become great big companies and businesses. So anything you can do to get experience finding opportunities and helping them grow can be very valuable to becoming a VC in the future.
Aaron Gopp
Aaron Gopp@aaron_gopp · co-founder Triipmates
Hey @joshelman, happy to see you on PH Live! You have a lot of experience (in a lot of roles) in mobile and it's ability to connect people. Products like Nextdoor are attempting to build communities in a non-traditional form and will often require users to interact outside of their comofort zone. What do you see are the keys to establishing communities like Nextdoor, especially as you attempt to scale?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@aaron_gopp i think the power of social products is that they let us communicate with each other in a more human way online. When you see someone's face you treat them differently than when it's just an anonymous handle or something. Nextdoor is amazing in that it takes our offline community of the people we live near, and lets you interact with them online. I hope that when you have great online interactions with your neighbors, you will be even more neighborly when you see them on the street. Maybe you'll cross the street to say hi, or lend someone your lawnmower that you would not have before. The only way to get help communities scale is that you have to be vigilant to set good examples, find leaders in the community who are welcoming of others and continue to set good examples, and ask or kick out the people trying to hurt the communities.
Aaron Gopp
Aaron Gopp@aaron_gopp · co-founder Triipmates
@joshelman Incredible points... use online communities to strengthen real world interaction + engage leaders, set examples and weed out bad apples. Thank you for your insight!
Tiffany Zhong
Tiffany Zhong@tzhongg · @ZebraIQ (gen z), ex Product Hunt
What is 1 thing you regret not doing in your teens and 1 thing you don't regret doing?
Carlos Jaramillo
Carlos Jaramillo@cabad79 · Fundador Krecr
Hi Josh! Thanks for your time - my questions is pretty simple if you could build again from zero one of USA traditional companies which one will be and why?
@joshelman Thanks for taking time out to do this, I've learned a lot already. My question: We all want to become more technical, and there are a ton of resources on learning to code, but what do you recommend consumer product entrepreneurs (or anyone) do to grok the rest of their technology and industry?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@mm hi morgan - this is a great question. I think there are two things I'd recommend: (1) with codeacademy, treehouse, and many others anyone who wants to learn can now go through the process and try some early examples. The power of writing some random jibberish that causes your computer to do specific things is powerful. (2) as a non-technical entrepreneur, find a great technical partner who is a true co-founder and shares the vision with you. They should feel like an equal partner and can teach and explain what is easy and hard for the ideas you collectively want to build together as they execute it.
Malcolm Levy
Malcolm Levy@mal_levy · Founder, Generate
@joshelman Hi Josh really happy you are doing this today.. Super exciting to say the least. I've followed your writing for a while and seen you speak in the past in Vancouver. I was wondering about what you think around the concept of 'Creative Networks' and their value to the larger network ecosystem?
Hi Josh, I remember you once discussing the difference between products and systems/platforms. What do you think are the important characteristics that differentiate a system from product? Have you seen products transition into systems and if so, how?
Billy Riantono
Billy Riantono@kebluk_id · Fullstack Engineer @ Snapcart
@joshelman if you come with two ideas one is facebook and the another is speedtest . which one you choose to build first ? Thanks :)
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@kebluk_id if I could go back to 2004, probably Facebook
Russ Smith
Russ Smith@russ_sm · Product Dude @ Codeq ᕕ( ᐕ )ᕗ
@joshelman hey Josh. If you could time travel backwards in time what would you bring with you and why? Also, would you bring a sidekick? If yes, who and why?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@russ_sm as much gold as I can. Because gold has always been valuable. And I'd bring Norm.
Sheel Mohnot
Sheel Mohnot@sheel_mohnot
I'm thinking of making the jump from operator to venture capitalist. Do you ever miss being on the other side? If you had to divide your time, how much would you say you spend on investing in new companies vs. helping your portfolio?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@pitdesi Hi Sheel -- short answer is that I miss a lot of things about working at the same company with the same people every day. There is an incredible sense of purpose, intensity, and camaraderie when you are collaborating on products you hope can have a big impact. That said, in other ways, I see my job today similar to the span of my career -- find great people to work with trying to change the world, and go join them (now as a board member and investor rather than as an employee) to help them do that. I spent probably 30% of my time with my companies - whether board meetings, joining product meetings, brainstorming new ideas, meeting potential partners, doing recruiting, or late night texts and phone calls working through hard issues. Of the rest of the time, I'm either meeting new companies, with my partners at Greylock, or meeting other smart people or joining events to continue to learn more about what's happening and exciting people today.
Adam Marx
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
Hey Josh, great to see you here. Love your Medium posts, so excited to get the opportunity to see these great questions answered. One thing I'm always personally curious about is what specific traits in a founding team VC's and others look for, beyond the normal things (like solid data research, a good MVP beta, etc.). What are the things that draw you to the people? Or rather, what characteristics/dynamics (if any) of a team would you find so powerful as to draw you to that team, even if you're not yet 100% clear on the idea? Thanks! -Adam
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@adammarx13 in a founding team, what gets me most excited is someone who has a big vision of how the world *should be*, and seems like they understand one of the many paths ahead they may be able to take to get there. It's important the the founders are constant learners and seeking new information and incorporating that into their worldview. Reid Hoffman is amazing at this as he built LinkedIn. It's also important that the founders are pragmatic about what they know and don't know -- key to being able to learn.
Adam Marx
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
@joshelman Thanks! I agree 100% that a lot of one's magnetism comes out through wanting the see the world how it can be, not simply as it is. As per constant learning, it should be as much of a desire for the founders (and general team) as it is a requirement; if there's an underlying desire to continually broaden one's knowledge horizons, expansive thought processes are likely to follow. Reid Hoffman is indeed a great example. I love his line concerning MVP development and release: "If your first version doesn't embarrass the hell out of you, you overdid it."
John Reynolds
John Reynolds@reynolds_wrap · director
Josh - whats your view on the fintech space? anything on the horz?
Chris Schroeder
Chris Schroeder@cmschroed · investor
buddy -- when have you been wrong in a significant way, and what did you learn in it? We talk alot about "failure" as part of the DNA of the entrepreneur but obviously (and mathematically it is a regular feature of our worlds as well). How do you treat your sisters and brothers when they get it wrong?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@cmschroed my dumbest moments were not treating people with the right respect and being a better friend or building a better friendship. It's amazing how after 20 years so many people I've met come back into my life, and I can see some of the cases where I wish we'd been better friends before and maintained that over time.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@joshelman - I work with authors all the time and always suggest they use Medium, sometimes I even say they should ditch their own blogs and writer on Medium instead. I see it as a community of readers with the collections, but I still see myself being driven to the site mainly via email. What's the future look like for Medium as a destination?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@jeffumbro Thanks for the support of Medium! I agree it's becoming an amazing community of writers, readers, and responders. I think going because of email is a good start -- you have to build the habit somehow. I know myself and many others have started going directly because, well, why wait for the email when you just want to read great work. Habits always take time to build, but I'm bullish that more and more people will start reading first on medium every day.
Michael Carusi
Michael Carusi@michaelcarusi · Independent Consultant
@joshelman Thanks for being on here, Josh. :) Do you have any specific advice on aspiring entrepreneurs when it comes to expectations of success or failure? Specifically how to weigh optimism with pragmatism when it comes to your potential success.
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@michaelcarusi you have to be optimistic and believe anything is possible. You can't let that go. But be pragmatic and when something doesn't feel right say "is this the most worthwhile use of my and our team's time or are there things we could do, even if joining forces on other problems that would have more impact". If the answer is no, stay on course.
Hrayr Artunyan
Hrayr Artunyan@hrayr · Cofounder & CTO at Focalpool
@joshelman how do you balance betting on the jockey and the horse (founder or idea/product)? And how do you determine that for first time entrepreneurs?
Freddie Iboy
Freddie Iboy@freddieiboy · Product Designer
@joshelman Hey Josh, What did success mean for you in your 20s? In hindsight, were you wrong or right?
rachel
rachel@serial_milk · co-founder, Kip
Hi Josh! Thanks for taking the time to chat with everyone - based on your experience, what's the most important social feature/experience needed to have in order for the product to be "sticky"?
Dakota Boin
Dakota Boin@dakotaboin · Lockitron
@joshelman Hi Josh, why do you believe in the smart home and what would be your advice to teams developing smart home devices?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@dakotaboin my advice to teams making smart home devices is make a great product that people will see and desire for their home. This becomes a visible device so it has to look great beyond just adding value (and the value has to be real). Nest did an amazing job with the thermostat - making it desirable and functional. Premium pricing is ok in the early days of this transition - better to have a great product than a cheap one for now, as I expect costs to go down over time .
Kaytlin Louton
Kaytlin Louton@kaytlinlouton · Operations Support Manager, iCracked
@joshelman Hey Josh, you've obvioulsy worked with quite a few successful companies. I'm wondering if you've ever been involved with a nonprofit startup? If so, I'm curious how determined that nonprofit to be "worthwhile". If not, why?
Tom Limongello
Tom Limongello@tomlimongello · CEO of Truffle
Hi Josh, I'm interested your thoughts on what changes need to happen before US messaging apps platforms can offer the same level of services that exist in China. It seems from Facebook's more recent moves to open up messenger that the day is coming, but it's not coming via webhooks. Any thoughts on either what needs to change, or is it just a matter of time before we have the same ability to automate services via messaging platforms here as can be done in China with WeChat?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@tomlimongello i think it's just a matter of time and happening. Remember in the mid 2000s when everyone talked about how far behind the japanese we were in texting and mobile? Feels like the same thing with the Chinese here. What i think happened is they leapt ahead on mobile innovation whlie we were still innovating on desktop
Nick Horsthuis
Nick Horsthuis@horsthuis
@joshelman Would you prefer to see Silicon Valley build products that really improve lives, as opposed to the current trend of startups chasing VC funding building products that serve only their own community.
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@horsthuis personally what i love about the bay area optimism is most people I meet truly believe they are changing lives. I remember in the early days of Twitter people thought it was a stupid product to share what you were having breakfast. Later it was instrumentally involved in revolutions and arab spring. A product like Facebook makes everyone feel a little bit better and more connected in their lives every day. Maybe it's not as impactful as curing a form of cancer, but it's also at a totally different scale so the sum of impact may be similar. I only try to fund or get involved in companies that I truly believe can make the world better, and I believe that's true for the other VCs I know too.
dan m
dan m@danielmeng07 · Person, among other things.
Hi Josh, I really enjoyed your Medium posts, thank you for writing them. In your early days at Twitter, what were some of the most unexpected challenges you faced? How did you guys solve those problems?
Marcell Almeida
Marcell Almeida@almeidamarcell · Product Manager
@joshelman When you say "Seeking crazy ideas" what you mean? Are you looking for new ideas in USA or you are looking to invest in disruptive ideas anywhere around the world?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@almeidamarcell we'll invest anywhere in the world, but we look for companies that can become interesting both in the US and globally. Because I live in the US / bay area and a lot of my network is here, it's easier for me to help companies focused around these markets or building teams here. That said, I invested in SmartThings in Washington DC, and Meerkat where a lot of the team is based in Israel so it's not a requirement that it has to be in bay area!
Marcell Almeida
Marcell Almeida@almeidamarcell · Product Manager
@joshelman Are you interested in fintech in emerging countries such Brazil? We built a personal finance software that has a huge potential to be global. But the main focus is Brazil at this early stage - specially because the market here isn't too competitive like USA with Level Money and Mint.
Kevin Hurley
Kevin Hurley@iamkevinhurley · Growth, Nudge
@joshelman What advice can you give to a marketer / growth professional looking to get more involved with the product development process? Are there ways to approach the product team that would be more open to hearing from marketing?
Lucas Loboda
Lucas Loboda@4th_seguleh · Developer, Inventor (Inventing Myself)
@joshelman I wouldn't be myself not to ask VC a cute VC question! How do you like VC "secrecy" atmosphere? It's common that VC partnership is very intimate about their internal processes and practices.
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@4th_seguleh one challenge in our work is that we meet so many founders discussing potential investments and they share with us their secret plans, dreams, and progress. We have to protect that completely or they won't share with us those plans and we can't make sound investment decisions. I think that's the sense of "secrecy" since it's other people's data we most want to protect
Martin Otyeka
Martin Otyeka@otymartin · Capsule
@joshelman Hey Josh, major props for sharing your time. Q: Do you consider investments outside the U.S. Specifically in Canada && What are usually the issues that would prevent or detract you from making Canadian investments.
Emily Veach
Emily Veach@editemily · writer @Feedly
@joshelman I've learned a lot from your blog posts -- thank you! How much of your time is spent helping Greylock's portfolio companies attract great talent vs. your other responsibilities?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@editemily I think I answered this above -- right now probably 30%, but I wish it was even more. I have the most fun when I'm working with founders and teams on building their products and I hope I can help. I just had a fun brainstorm this morning that might turn into something cool :)
Hey Josh, what would you say it will be "the next big thing" in your opinion in the next 5 years in tech? Thanks
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@hmitrea i think we're going to see massive changes in entertainment when VR/AR become mainstream, and I am very excited about the connected home or "internet of things" when everything mechanical becomes smart with sensors too. That said, I bet the things that most surprise us feel mundane or silly when we first see them -- as humans we are always looking for new ways to connect, share and communicate with each other and that's not going to stop. oh and also I'm excited about the future of intelligent agents that do work for us, such as from the movie Her
Irina Jordan
Irina Jordan@irinajordan · Director of Inbound Marketing
@joshelman How do you scale an online marketplace that only specializes in handmade cremation urns - all of them made to order by hand and by a limited number of artisans (think very niched Etsy)? If a bit confusing: take a look at Artisurn: www.artisurn.com. Thanks!
John Dineen
John Dineen@john_dineen · Co-Founder & CEO, Pubble
@joshelman Hi Josh - were you ever tempted to choose the founder side of the fence?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@john_dineen you know, for whatever reasons, I personally have never wanted to be a founder. Maybe I'm a little risk averse on starting from zero, or maybe I never quite had an idea that I couldn't shake. That said, I have always enjoyed being an early joiner - getting involved when a founder has a big vision and needs a team to help them get it working. I've loved that phase and kept going back to it over and over, and now I get to do that even more on the investor/board side
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
When a startup pitches an idea to you what is one most important thing that gets you excited in their product?
Alex Cook
Alex Cook@aacook · Founder of NanaGram
@joshelman Hey Josh, I'm a big fan of your approach. Can you touch on the kinds of metrics you look at when evaluating an investment? Obviously it's only one part of it. Do you have an analyst on your team who gets involved? Do founders every try and massage the metrics? Curious about how all that works. Thanks!
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@aacook hi alex - we do have some great folks on our team who help us dive into metrics too. But metrics even in the early days are too hard to forecast forward from. So what we really look for is signs that some groups and communities of users are addicted and any ways we can predict whether more groups and communities can become active on a product together. Broad but light engagement metrics are much less useful than finding at least some users who are very heavily engaged.
Amantide Religiosa
Amantide Religiosa@mantereligieuse · Book-Flow
Josh I have crazy ideas, what should I do, in the first step? It is hard to find a direction... Thank you...
Kevin Strasser
Kevin Strasser@kjstrasser · CEO TribeBoost / Founder MoSquatch
There has been a lot of negative press about Twitter recently. My personal view is that Twitter is as strong and relevant as ever. What are you views on Twitter at the moment?
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@kjstrasser i use the product many many many times a day and it gets better and better for me. As a business I think they have more potential than ever and are just in a negative cycle. I hope it turns around!
Vick
Vick@blangkonds · Observer
Hey Josh, South East Asian markets is super cheap. Great founders and Startups. Any plans to get into the regions? oh did I say cheap valuations ? it's crazy over there man.
Elaine Lu
Elaine Lu@elaineluyi · Co-Founder & CEO, Visbit Inc.
@joshelman thank you so much for having the chat with us! I read your blog "Four Questions Towards Understanding User Adoption of Your Product". Very helpful advices! One question though, after seeing the early signs, what should founders do as the next steps? What is a proper product launch process to maximize the success and minimize the possible failure for a mobile app product? Thank you!
Paul Tomkinson
Paul Tomkinson@paultomkinson · Founder, Textras
@joshelman Hey Josh, what do you think the big social media companies can work on doing better? Do you see any major changes happening in the short term?
Artur Kiulian
Artur Kiulian@arturkiulian · Partner at Colab
Hi Josh, happy Tuesday! I was wondering, what are the average numbers of KPIs for the consumer app in 2015 to be financed by an average VC? Thanks!
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@arturkiulian i don't know much about averages as we all look for outliers. But I will say sometimes we invest with zero traction and just a pitch deck, sometimes with great traction and millions of users. It really depends on which are pointed to the biggest visions and potential businesses that we get excited about
Vlad Ciurca
Vlad Ciurca@vladciurca · Executive Producer, Techsylvania
Hi Josh, are US based investors starting to be interested in Eastern European startups? Or is this part of the world still interesting only for the engineering talent? Thanks
Paul Robert Cary
Paul Robert Cary@prcary · CEO, Findie | www.findie.me
@vladciurca I have invested in an Eastern European startup in the sense that my startup's engineering office is in Bucharest :) Great talent and great people, if you have the patience to find them and coach them.
Vlad Ciurca
Vlad Ciurca@vladciurca · Executive Producer, Techsylvania
@paulrobertcary Hi Paul. It's great to hear that! :) Do you know of many startups from UK doing the same thing?
Ryan J Negri
Ryan J Negri@ryannegri · Co-Founder & CEO, Laicos Cloud
@joshelman Hi, Josh. Q: Were you aware of Twitter's intention to purchase Periscope (or, of Periscope's existence) while you were working on a deal with Meerkat? If not, would you do anything differently? If so, I commend you on your decision to continue to invest.
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@ryannegri yup - I was fully aware of both. As an investor and employee at startups, you can't live in a world where you never make an early bet on something because a huge successful company may enter the market. You have to believe it's possible for the startup to find a unique path and create large independent value. The space of live video, especially live from phones is so new and so exciting, and the Meerkat team is very strong. So I felt that even with Twitter, and now Facebook entering the space there was still plenty of potential for Ben and the Meerkat team to build something unique. I've been only impressed since the investment on how fast the product has changed and evolved as they have learned.
Nicki Friis
Nicki Friis@nickifriisw · Entrepreneur. Former Partner @ Ideanote.
What do you see as the next trend for big businesses to implement in their business .. Pretotyping, Virtual Reality etc..
Sal
Sal@ovosal
@joshelman How do you see things differently between being a VC and being a part of a team in a product/engineering role?
@joshelman Hi Josh and thanks for taking the time. When you are working on a contrarian product, what are the main drivers that keep you believing in the idea that you are transforming into a product? How can you be fully convinced it is not a stupid idea instead of a contrarian and great idea?
Badri
Badri@wormlocks · Co-Founder, Gathr
Hi @joshelman! Really nice to have you here. I recently came across a piece where you explained that you felt that existing social networking platforms have a tendency to isolate and distance people, instead of bringing together. In the same article, you were quoted as saying that you felt that Meerkat and Snapchat represented one way ahead in terms of creating a "live" internet, where users could share moments simultaneously - as opposed to (presumably) traces of moments (i.e. photos, posts, etc). In the recent past it's appeared that SNS have improved the "breadth" of your social relationships, without necessarily improving their depth. One way they seem to be tackling this is getting in more types of content - for instance, video, VR. But what about offline interactions, outside of dating? (it's easier to find someone to sleep with for a night than it is to jam with/walk your dog/play a game of ultimate frisbee..) Considering your deep experience with building social networking platforms, how do you think about the scope for new players in this industry? What are the key challenges in trying to solve for IRL interactions - while keeping the agency/control/spontaneity of the "virtual" world and the vulnerable serendipity of the offline world?
Ravi Vadrevu
Ravi Vadrevu@raviformative · Autonomous Hiring Intelligence
@joshelman - How do VCs identify unicorns early on?
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@joshelman Hi Josh, big fan! =) Curious about your thoughts on the future of Twitter. Do you agree with Semil that FB or GOOG should buy TWTR? Should TWTR be bought at all? How would it fit inside FB or GOOG; would that compromise its experience or identity? etc.
Josh Elman
Josh Elman@joshelman · Partner, Greylock
@alexcartaz i think twitter has huge potential to be a long lasting independent company. It's such an important product for the world and should be used by more and more people every day. That said, financially, there's always a price which makes sense for shareholders of Twitter to consider selling, and for shareholders of Google or Facebook to consider investing more in Twitter's potential. Both Google and Facebook have done amazingly well incorporating large properties like YouTube or Instagram and helping them become even stronger. So who knows.
Anthony Garibay
Anthony Garibay@ajundftd · AJUNDFTD
@joshelman was curious on your take on social media advertising
Sameer Ahmed Khan
Sameer Ahmed Khan@sameerpeace · Cofounder & CEO - Social Champ
@joshelman If a startup plans to target on "growth model" on an app, how many years of time investment should they expect to have some traction? Also how many downloads or users matter?
Mathias Grønnebæk
Mathias Grønnebæk@matgroennebaek · Foounder & CEO - EMAX
Hello @joshelman, will you be investing in startups in the emerging block chain space over the next few months? And if yes, where do you see the industry heading in the long term?
Anselme
Anselme@anselmetrochu · Co-founder of Ruzzit
@joshelman As a guy who invested in the top sucess of the internet industry, do you think it's still possible to succeed with your startup without so much network and without living in the sillicon valley ? When you look at the startup world, statiscally the best tools to succeed (incubators , VC, networks) are located in the valley or in the states, therefore, even if there some success outside, those are very rare. What advices would you give to entrepreneurs who are living in Europe to reach the key influencers of the startup world, to help them to develop their products ?
SMO Nawed
SMO Nawed@smnawed · Your investment can help me reach a goal
Which diversification looks more impressive - Real Player or Jet Audio?
Marin Perez
Marin Perez@marinperez · Content Marketing Manager, MileIQ
How do you advise people on work/life balance, especially at startups?