Keith Rabois

Keith Rabois

Entrepreneur, Investor and Partner at Khosla Ventures

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 21, 2015

Discussion

Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
Hi. I’m Keith Rabois. I’m an entrepreneur and investor. I'm a general partner at Khosla Ventures. I also co-founded Opendoor, an online marketplace to help people instantly buy and sell their homes. I’ve worked at PayPal, LinkedIn, Slide and Square, and I’ve invested in Teespring, Stripe, Palantir, AirBnB, YouTube and Yammer, among many others. I spend most of my time advising entrepreneurs on how to build businesses and have strong opinions about Stanford football. I started out as a lawyer but don’t recommend it. Ask me anything!
Chris Olson
Chris Olson@topherolson · Replicated
Hey Keith! I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the future of Artificial Intelligence. In a sense all companies tech will probably be leveraging A.I. in some fashion, but any interesting things you are seeing in the space? Thanks!
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@topherolson I am a bit skeptical of AI for now. At least for a VC to invest.
Phil Nguyen
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Thanks for taking the time, @rabois. Love following you on Twitter and the fresh views you provide. What would you say is the most controversial tech-related belief you have right now that many people would disagree with?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@p_ngu a) companies should IPO as soon as possible (less controversial now); b) machine learning startups are almost always a bad idea, c) the funding market for series A and Series B is radically different than even 6 months ago.
Phil Nguyen
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
@rabois Great answers, thank you. Would love some additional thoughts on the machine learning comment if you have some time!
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@rabois Thanks for doing this ama Keith! What are the most clever, but less talked about growth hypotheses you've seen? LinkedIn did viral growth really well through email invites, PayPal had that bot that asked to pay on eBay through PayPal and created a high demand, and reddit seeded the community and then grew through the community. Curious to see what else you've seen done well, especially ones that don't have obvious network effects
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@sydney_liu_sl I gave a full presentation on growth strategies at a Growth Conference Keynote in 2013. As a general matter, companies need to create a growth strategy that is innate to their value proposition, not copy another one from a successful company. (FYI SEO can be solid too for some companies, worked for yelp, LinkedIn). If the presentation is challenging to locate, I could repost it.
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@rabois @sydney_liu_sl Thanks Keith!! Can't find the video, but here's the notes: http://www.hacking-growth.com/gr... super insightful. Thanks for sharing
Daniel.
Daniel.@danielrakh · Product Designer | iOS Developer
You've said numerous times that your unique skill is finding people who are not known but have the potential to be really great at their job. What's the best way those people can stand out to be noticed by people like you?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@danielrakh Tweet. I have offered jobs to people solely based upon the caliber of their tweets. But fundamentally the key skill to succeed is not tweeting.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
1) There's a big obsession/bias with being a founder as opposed to an employee. Is that warranted? What frameworks should people use when deciding between the two, and is there a certain archetype that should be a founder vs early employee / founding team member? 2) How's your 3 point shot?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@eriktorenberg Companies are built by a team, not a single person. We use the expression "the team you build is the company you build." People often over-value founders and under-value the key leaders in a company. A football coach is a solid metaphor. He adds a ton of value, but the players make the plays.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What one piece of advice would you give the 16/18/25 year old self?
Brian Shultz
Brian Shultz@brianlshultz
What uncommon traits or habits do you think are most important for jr level VCs?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@brianlshultz either a differentiated network, which is rare, or differentiated insight, which is extraordinarily rare.
Kasperi Apell
Kasperi Apell@kasperiapell
Hello, Keith! Thanks for taking the time to do this. Do you have any systems or strategies to minimize office politics in a company?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@kasperiapell radical transparency works best. provide everyone access to (virtually) all information. send meeting notes from every single meeting to the whole company, use Slack instead of email, full dashboards, share the entire Board deck with the entire company, etc.
Anthony Cafaro
Anthony Cafaro@anthonycafaro · Designer, NYC
@rabois Who do you got in the Cowboys-Giants game this weekend? ;P
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@anthonycafaro well, if Tony were playing this would be easy. Without him and Dez, I am nervous.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@rabois was switching careers that is moving from lawyer to tech world difficult for you? How do you recommend people from different industry make that jump into tech world?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@neeeharika Fortunately, my first tech manager, Geoff Donaker was able to teach me a massive amount very quickly, with the exception of building elegant spreadsheets. But the biggest challenge is lawyers are trained, literally, to spot risks whereas entrepreneurs and investors need a wholly different mentality. I used to hate it when people could guess I was an ex-lawyer in meetings. But at some point, I shifted from conservative to risk-embracing and people became shocked to learn that I had practiced law. When I visit Judicata, they challenge me with Bar Review questions, fortunately, I am still a perfect 9-9.
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
Hi Keith, thanks for doing this. You once said that "if you go to Google, you are going to waste your brain" by being on the sidelines. What advice would you give a young professional interested in the innovation space? How do you balance between an environment structured enough to nurture growth and one flexible enough to provide hands-on experience?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@njcreegan Read Stefan Cohen's post on that topic. I recommend choosing based upon the quality of your manager. I posted a longer explanation on Quora a few years ago. Definitely select a high growth company.
Tima
Tima@itstima
Hi Keith, what has been the biggest challenge with OpenDoor?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@itstima prioritization. the team has so many excellent ideas and there are so many parts of the buying and selling process of homes that need improvement. And we have an infinite thirst for more data scientists.
Yezin Al-Qaysi
Yezin Al-Qaysi@yalqaysi · CEO at Urban Hygienics
@rabois we're already seeing startups changing the way we live in cities (Uber, MakeSpace, ClassPass and Breather) - what are the biggest ideas you think will impact the way we live in our future cities?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@yalqaysi driverless cars will have massive impact, but everyone already knows this by now.
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
What types of expertise do you think are essential for non-technical founders?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@njcreegan Design. Then customer acquisition is the most valuable, albeit rare,
mike lin
mike lin@mikelinsf · Founder & CEO, influencersTV
@rabois What's the best investment you've ever made? Oh, and we overlapped at LinkedIn!
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@mikelinsf best (in terms of most rewarding) were the ones where I was basically the first one to really love what the company was doing, namely YouTube, Airbnb, Wish, udemy.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi @rabois thanks so much for joining us today. I would love to hear, you have worked at titans like Paypal, Linkedin, Twitter and Slide so what are the commonalities of these incredible companies you have been involved with and where did you feel most engaged and love your work? P.S. Always welcome on @twentyminutevc would love to delve deeper!
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@harrystebbings each of these companies was quite distinct. the only common denominator was the caliber of the founder(s). each startup is almost as distinctive as a human being, with their own custom brew of culture, cult and strategy.
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@rabois what's the most common mistake entrepreneurs make when they're just starting out?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@russfrushtick reading blogs. read books instead. understand customer acquisition asap, don't delegate it.
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
@rabois What books or movies would you recommend?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@njcreegan @russfrushtick see my post on Medium for reading. I should probably create a movie one too. Love Devil Wears Prada. People find it really easy to work with me after that movie frames it.
Geoffrey Weg
Geoffrey Weg@geoffreyweg · Betaworks, TechStars, White House
@rabois @russfrushtick Thanks for sharing your favorites on Medium. Which are your top 2-5?
John Reynolds
John Reynolds@reynolds_wrap · director
Hello Keith.. For new biz/startup, what is the minimum level of traction needed in order to take a meeting? If there's a private beta 100s of user or would you want to see public product & customers first before we have a sit down?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@reynolds_wrap there is no minimum level. varies by caliber of team, quality of insight in the deck. often take meetings for products before launch.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@rabois Hey - what is the craziest thing you've seen in a pitch?
Teresa Hammerl
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
@rabois Hi Keith, what are your favorite Twitter accounts?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@colazionearoma @writeintrump is hysterical. I only follow around 300 people so I can read all of their tweets. I love @pmarca's tweets. I would follow Rebekah Cox and Sean Rose for unique insights as well.
Suresh Kalass
Suresh Kalass@sur04sep · Co-founder @Bushlark
Keith, as you invested in Quora so would like to ask you about your opinion for "low level" real time crowdsouced local Q&A. Its like real time quora(but simple day 2 day live questions) on map. We are building it so asking. Thanks
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@sur04sep this could be interesting. the question is what motivates the users to provide the content. if you nail that psychology, it can work.
Suresh Kalass
Suresh Kalass@sur04sep · Co-founder @Bushlark
@rabois @sur04sep Our beta users are loving it as they are becoming local experts(foursquarish stuff). But we strictly want that primary driving force should be Karma as they might too need help in future. Currently focusing on context and locations. Will see how after launch it work for masses
Joel Lewenstein
Joel Lewenstein@joellewenstein · Product Designer, Quora
You may be the most prominent David Shaw hater on the internet. What are your chief criticisms of his coaching? Have you seen any improvement in the last few years? How long do you think he'll be coaching at Stanford?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@joellewenstein I was warned before he was hired that he lacks judgment and feel for the game, and that this would cost Stanford 1-2 unnecessary losses per season, which has proven to be prescient. By his own admission, he doesn't use math or statistics. Until recently, his approach was to run a system and play call based upon generally what we wanted to do instead of exploit opponent weaknesses. The last month has been refreshing but let's see if he can sustain it. I fear we lose another 1-2 games due to his weaknesses.
John Reynolds
John Reynolds@reynolds_wrap · director
Hey Keith , I always enjoy when your on Bloomberg West, gr8 interivew..... At "seed stage, how many features/ how functional does the prototype need to be ie the have 2 haves when seeking funding from early stage investors? If not critical, what are the bear mins to field your interest?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@reynolds_wrap the key is a) delight users and b) cut through the clutter in the world. Simplify everything to the core that allows you to achieve both prongs.
Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan@soakinsoap
What timeline of events would materialize a bursting bubble? (Considering that stakes are illiquid, the consequences on existing vs. prospective portfolio COs/LPs).
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@soakinsoap if several high burn rate companies all need IPO capital at the same time, the world would collapse. Each public market investor can only allocate a fraction of their portfolio to tech investments so each of the 132 unicorns is actually competing with each other in a zero sum sense if they all need capital in a compressed time frame.
Daniel.
Daniel.@danielrakh · Product Designer | iOS Developer
Not a question but you put me on, and I bet a lot of people, to Sapiens. I found this related talk insightful, so I'm putting you on now: https://soundcloud.com/intellige...
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@danielrakh thanks.
Ashish Walia
Ashish Walia@ashishw203 · Co-founder, LawTrades #500Strong
You spent a lot of time in big law and I'm surprised you haven't made many investments in the legal tech space- curious as to why & do you see the big law model getting disrupted at some point ?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@ashish__walia We invested in Judicata. Don't see too many talented entrepreneurs innovating here yet. Investors are mostly derivative to what entrepreneurs decide to build.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE Thanks to @rabois for taking the time to chat with us today!
Avery Haskell
Avery Haskell@averyhaskell · Stanford Computer Science
Favorite VR headset?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@averyhaskell I don't use any.
Chandra Kalle
Chandra Kalle@chandrakalle · Maker @orangecaffeine.com
A lot of folks here in the valley buy investment properties (single family homes, condos, etc.) in places like Texas, Arizona, etc. It can be great (+ve cash flow monthly, building up assets) but a hassle to find one, fix it, rent it out. Does opendoor see that as an opportunity? Possible to create an experience where I find, select, buy, rent out with just a few clicks (and reasonable data models w.r.t cash flow and appreciation)?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@chandrakalle for now, we are obsessively focusing on primary residential real estate.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Piggybacking off of @harrystebbings Q, what are 2-3 of the most treasured lessons you've personally learned from being in close proximity to the rest of the beloved "PayPal Mafia" crew?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@melissajoykong 1) Critical density of talent is the most important driver of startup success; 2) When you are new, you need to be able to identify and mentor undiscovered talent because you can't compete with everyone who everyone else wants; 3) Avoid general management; 4) Transparency even for an IPO; 5) Customer acquisition is equally as important (at least) as product.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Few people end up having careers as successful as yours has been so far. Many other successful business people attribute their success to factors like "hard work" and "luck." But, it seems like there's more to it than that. To what do you attribute your success? Are there any specific moments that stick out as having been defining, career-propelling turning points?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@melissajoykong a) Aim to become not the best at what you do but "the only one" who does what you do, and figure out how to define that; B) Work harder than everyone you compete with, even if you are smarter/talented. C) Strong bonds trump weaker, many bonds in a network.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@rabois thanks so much for joining us today! What are you most proud of out of all your achievements across your career?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@ems_hodge the people i have been able to help grow.
Sam Parr
Sam Parr@thesamparr · Roommates
Hey, I heard you're a Glen Park resident. I am too. I think it's the most underrated hood in San Francisco. Do you agree? Awesome tennis courts, a big park, and great grocery stores. Yuppie heaven.
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@thesamparr Indeed, Glen Park is awesome. Great weather too and the best access to 280 so you avoid most traffic.
Sam Parr
Sam Parr@thesamparr · Roommates
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@rabois Thanks for joining us here. I have two questions 1) While investing in an early stage startup what are few of the feature that jump out to you? 2) What would you advice an entrepreneur getting a product to market for user acquisition?
Usman Khalid
Usman Khalid @usman__khalid · Founder @WPJIT
@robois Well we all believe in that a good team is the key factor to launch a successful startup and vision of the founder . Would you please let me know how to hunt the right team member for the startup , Like I am good in technical but I am still unable to find the right business guy for my team . I would be greatful if you enlighten me the right way forward to this ?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@usman__khalid it varies by market/strategy. Identify the key risks to *your* business and hire someone qualified to tackle each of those asap.
Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee@dleesta · Product Manager
@rabois I loved your talk in the how to start a startup series about operators. in your experience, what skills do the strongest operators have? what makes them so great?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@dleesta four key ingredients: a) hire/attract/evaluating*amazing* talent; b) time allocation skills/hacks; c) thinking strategically (holding the success equation in one's brain), articulating/communicating it and being able to focus others; d) range of insight (being able to quickly go fro 1,000 ft perspective to 40k feet).
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
@rabois, which product(s) in Khosla's portfolio do you wish everyone on Product Hunt knew about?
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Also, McCaffrey for Heisman?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@andrewmettinger Guardant Health is amazing, Impossible Foods (meat less, burgers), ThoughtSpot (business intelligence that works for every employee without training) and Relcy (soon the best mobile search)
Vinay Mimani
Vinay Mimani@wiredmau5 · Founder : trbble
@rabois Hi Keith! I have been advised many times not to include a slide which lays out an "Exit Strategy" in the pitch deck. Is this slide seen by investors as something which makes the entrepreneur look desperate? Or is it something that might indicate that a product was made only to fit a specific mould to get acquired? Thanks for your time!
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@wiredmau5 It depends on who you are pitching. We intend to fund entrepreneurs who are building sustainable companies, not those who will sell their companies. Every entrepreneur who I have ever seen include an Exit scenario slides sells every time they are presented with real $.
Lukas Fittl
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@rabois Thanks for taking the time for a LIVE Chat! Is there any particular pivotal moment that you can describe, from either your own businesses, or one you invested in, that turned the company from a slow-growth trajectory to a fast growing one?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@lukasfittl oh yes, most didn't just explode. PayPal needs to discover the eBay listings. Yelp needed to wholly revamp its model from email to SEO and community not friends. LinkedIn needed Outlook Uploader, reminders for invitations, SEO later and finally identifying how to communicate the mainstream value prop. At Square, when I joined it was not all obvious how to acquire customers/SMBs in a cost-efficient manner.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@rabois hey Keith! You've been a huge supporter of YC, do you see the Continuity Fund potentially competing with the investments that Khosla Ventures is looking at? (congrats to you and the firm on the upcoming Square IPO btw)
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@nivo0o0 I love YC. Fortunately, we focus on seed, series A and series B investments which I define as venture capital. We rarely pursue "growth" capital investments. If I were a growth investor, I would be terrified as YC Growth and Ali are going to dominate.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Are there any up coming 'barrels' in VC (per your metaphor) that you'd like to highlight? :) (analysts, associates, etc.)
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@nivo0o0 well, the three best ones just got promoted over the last 6-9 months so...
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@rabois @nivo0o0 who??? :D
kalpesh patel
kalpesh patel@kpatelwork · Sr engineering manager, Egnyte
@rabios Thanks for the AMA. Dropbox/Box/... all are facing intense competition from the giants like Google, Microsoft, .... Where do you think the Cloud storage space is heading?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@kpatelwork i would avoid this space.
Amrith Shanbhag
Amrith Shanbhag@amrith · Community at Product Hunt & Feathrd
@rabois Would you invest in young entrepreneurs? like 16 and below? Considering the potential in their ideas...
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@ambonium probably 18 would be the lower limit.
Anup Gosavi
Anup Gosavi@_anupg · Building Spext.co
@rabois Any thoughts on how the mobile browser will evolve? Or will developers always have to go through Apple/ Google to approve their native apps?
Keith Rabois
Keith Rabois@rabois · Partner, Khosla Ventures
@_anupg i believe in apps.
Eddie Wharton
Eddie Wharton@eawharton · Data Scientist, Dinner Lab
What books or twitter accounts would recommend on customer acquisition strategy?