Mitch Kapor

Mitch Kapor

Partner, Kapor Capital

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 09, 2015

Discussion

Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
Hi, I'm Mitch Kapor, long-time software entrepreneur and investor, Partner at Kapor Capital and Board Member of the Level Playing Field Institute. Very happy be here today. Ask me anything about tech, diversity, or investing.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@mkapor Thanks so much for joining us today! During your career to date, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Flip side - what's the worst?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@ems_hodge Until I got to be in my 40's I NEVER followed anyone advice, often to my detriment. I have a lot of sympathy for founders who find it hard to take advice. What I try to do now is to understand where the founder is coming from, so my opinion as an adviser matters less than connecting to the world of the founder as she or he is experiencing it and going from there.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the people who have had the biggest impact on your life? (Stories, please!)
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@katesegrin My partner and wife Freada Kapor Klein. She's been an activist and committed to diversity for decades. In junior high she cut school to picked for the farm workers when Cesar Chavez was organizing them. I came to my activism later and through her inspiring example.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@katesegrin Heroes and Inspriations: Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, The Dalai Lama. Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse). In 1968 he did the mother of all demos with everything we use today. See you tube. Ted Nelson, inventor of hypertext. Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog and many more things.
Cobby Amoah
Cobby Amoah@cobbyamoah · CEO, Peach
@mkapor What are some new opportunities in digital health that you're looking at/interested in?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@cobbyamoah Health delivery still so old school, opportunities to bring info tech are everywhere, but hardest issue is still business model -- how do you get paid. We've seen wide variation in business outcome in our portfolio not based on product/service quality or innovativeness but on whether it's possible to get crazy-ass payment/reimbursement system to support it.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello @mkapor so great to meet you here for this AMA. I was wondering what are the big changes you believe in tech industry we will see in the next 5 years? Other than team what do you look for in an early stage startup?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@neeeharika We look for huge future market opportunities that others don't see yet, like the personal computer in 1978, the Internet in 1993, and Uber in 2009.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@neeeharika More AI and robots for sure, really. Connected smart devices everywhere. How do we leverage these trends to help people be better at what humans are uniquely good at -- being creative, for instance?
Hi @mkapor thanks for doing this, I have two questions for you: 1) what do you think will be the catalyst that leads to growth in education technology? 2) what are your favorite books?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@alfink92 If you haven't read The Lean Startup, you should. My favorite book from my childhood was Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I loved the AI that helps the moon colonists win independence. I didn't love the libertarian part as much.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@alfink92 If you haven't read The Lean Startup, you should. My favorite book from my childhood was Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I loved the AI that helps the moon colonists win independence. I didn't love the libertarian part as much.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
@mkapor Hi! What's your view on online schools/education? What are the elements missing that can make them grow exponentially?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@theo_dimarhos They need to integrate the right amount of human contact: coaching and mentoring (delivered online). % of students who are complete auto-didacts, can teach themselves entirely by themselves is really small.
jhosehp
jhosehp@jhosehprendon · Founder, Huespedcanino
@mkapor what is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@jhosehprendon I didn't do the job I should have in succession at Lotus. the concept of serial entrepreneur wasn't well understood in the 1980's. I build this big huge company ($250 million/ye revenue, 2000+ employees) in just 3 years and felt trapped by its success so I jumped overboard. In hindsight, so many others way to have leveraged that success without my remaining CEO. Look at Sergey Brin for instance.
helengriffinjr
helengriffinjr@helengriffinjr · Founder, @mindful
@mkapor What distribution channels (off the beaten path) you're noticing funded, bootstrap or self-funded founders leveraging?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
I would tell myself to relax, stop being so tough on myself. I'd advise me to make more of a practice of seeing glass and world as half-full not half empty. Also to practice gratitude more.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
I used to be a standup comic. Really. Here's a joke which I wrote in 1978 which I recently uncovered in an old notebook. "We got my mother a hearing aid, but she won't wear it. Says it makes her hear voices,"
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
@mkapor What are some unconventional industries or problems you are exploring?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@kingsongchen Hello everyone. Sorry about the delay. I am doing this chat from a high school which has blocked Twitter so I couldn't authenticate to Product Hunt. To answer your question -- reducing the high cost of phone calls from prison to help the incacerated and their families stay connected - Pigeonly.
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@mkapor @kingsongchen everything relevant I know today comes from Twitter, curious why a high school would block Twitter?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@nivo0o0 @kingsongchen I'd have to guess that they're trying to keep the students from being distracted. Not sure how well it actually works.
Mike Street
Mike Street@mrmikestreet · Thinker
Thanks for being here. How has the passing of Hank Williams affect the tech community? And what is the Kapor Center doing to keep his legacy alive.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mrmikestreet Hank was the founder of Platform, like aTED conference for black and brown people. His sudden death a huge loss. We will be working with other Platform supporters and sponsors to keep the event and the movement behind it going.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Hey! What are your 3 favourite things and 3 worst things about working in investing?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@bentossell A difficult thing is having to say no over and over again. We get about 2000 pitches per year and fund about 20 companies. A great thing is the opportunity to work with innovative and brilliant founders and help them achieve their dreams.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What makes a great startup advisor?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@bentossell Having been there before yourself. Empathy for founder plus highly relevant expertise and experience.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
What was one of the most pivotal moments in your career?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@katesegrin When I had the courage to quit my job and start my own company. I had never started anything. This was before Lotus, a very long time ago. I just thought my employer had his head backwards about where the market was going and I needed to summon the courage to go out on my own even though I had no idea what I was doing.
Felix Do
Felix Do@felixwdo · Graphic Designer, Apttus
@mkapor , Thank you for doing this. I am currently working on a web app involving Non-profits/Charities and athletes (whether that be professional or amateur). It has been difficult to reach out and get a response from decision makers of non-profits (only few have responded to my LinkedIn messages), do you have an idea of how and which form of contact is appropriate? Thanks in advance.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@felixwdo Busy people of any stripe rarely have time or interest in replying on LinkedIn. I'd suggest not using it for that purpose. Getting a warm intro from someone who knows someone works better (for better and for worse). Developing a social media following as an expert on a topic can open doors but there's no shortcut to building a network and working it.
Felix Do
Felix Do@felixwdo · Graphic Designer, Apttus
@mkapor That is a wonderful response — Would you happen to know of any off the top of your head that I should reach out to? I am in contact with @pilarwish (Patricia Suflita Wilson) of Make a Wish Foundation and waiting for a response from her. Thank you!
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@jakecrump I'm still on the 10-12 hours day, six or seven days a week, but that's because I am in love with what I'm doing. Need a couple of hours to deal with important email every day. Lots of time meeting people, trying to be inspiring and helping groups steer their projects. always could use more think time, never seems to be enough.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What are your favourite books? :)
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@bentossell I just love books. Hard to pick favorites. I just finished reading a big history of comedy by Kliph Nesteroff, which I am a fan of; also latest John Grishman legal thriller; the Making of the Atomic Bomb, richard Rhodes; a book called Spooky Action at a Distance about quantum paradoxes in the real world.
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What's the worst thing someone can do when pitching their idea?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@russfrushtick It's a long list. Being incoherent, going on and on without actually saying anything. Being overconfident without the substance to back it up. Trying to impress me. What works is to be clear, concise, straight-forward.
Bridget McGraw
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Thingfully thing = physical + digital
Good morning @mkapor. Thank you in advance for answering! The TED Radio Hour has re-aired a podcast called "Just a Little Nicer" about compassion. Do you have any tips for ensuring a compassionate workplace.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mcgrawbridget You have to build it in from day one. It's an essential ingredient not an add-on. You have to be as committed to building a fair, inclusive, compassionate workplace as you are to the product.
Arpit Gupta
Arpit Gupta@arpitgupta · Product Manager
@mkapor What are some of your favorite events/conferences that you like to attend?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
Mindfulness meditation is worth looking into.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mkapor @arpitgupta Oops. obviously meant this for a different question.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mkapor @arpitgupta Platform Summit, TED, for EdTech GSV Summit at Arizona State, I used to love SXSW but it's too big (though I love Austin). O'Reilly Next Economy Summit.
Fredrik Olovsson
Fredrik Olovsson@mrolovsson · Developer, loving #tech4good
@mkapor Thanks so much for being here! What's your view on overhead and salaries in charities? I feel like nonprofits should be measured by impact rather than overhead and why should people who want to work on a good cause be expected to work for less than someone who works on, say, the Yo app.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mrolovsson Yes, measure by impact. If you are having huge impact in a non-profit, no reason in principle salaries should not be closer to market, but world is not always fair.
Fredrik Olovsson
Fredrik Olovsson@mrolovsson · Developer, loving #tech4good
@mkapor agreed, it's often not fair, but good to hear you agree on the principles. Might help when discussing the matter with others ;-) Follow-up question, what's your view on Effective Altruism? Do we have a responsibility to maximize the good (as measured in lives or years of life saved) we do with our giving? Thanks again!
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Welcome, Mitch. 😊 Which of your portfolio companies are you most surprised to have invested in?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@rrhoover Honestly, no one thought Uber was going to take over the world when it started.
Mikhail Koryakovtsev
Mikhail Koryakovtsev@admiralpudge · Founder, PsyMatch
@mkapor Hello, thanks for for being with us. Can you tell me what do you think are the most important key features in a new startup?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@admiralpudge Build and deploy a minimum viable product and learn as quickly as possible what works with real users. that's the heart of what oyu do in the seed stage, where we focus. In other words, build it, test it, learn from it, get real as quickly as possible.
Dashell Laryea
Dashell Laryea@dashlaryea · Designer
It has been a pleasure to meet @MrStartup and others from your team. How do you differentiate between diversity as an investment thesis and diversity as a philanthropic cause?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@dashlaryea Entrepreneurs scratch their own itch, it's said. When you look at a more diverse set of entrepreneurs, the problems they have faced, and hence the solutions they have come up with are more likely to be competitively differentiated and therefore will offer unique investment opportunities, e.g., preK12 Plaza as an online Ed for English language learners, founded by a woman who is an immigrant from Domincan Republic. Took calculus at 15 in the DR, came to U.S. and was put in bilingual 4th grade math. Her experience ultimately led to a unique new solution for ELL.
Bridget McGraw
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Thingfully thing = physical + digital
Maybe it is a nature thing (physiologically, with more traffic on the corpus callosum) or nurture thing, but it seems that focus can be more difficult for women. My 15-year-old son could be an exception. Any suggestions for improving focus that you have heard or witnessed. It does not seem to be an issue for you, but who knows?!
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mcgrawbridget Mindfulness meditation is worth looking into.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@mkapor During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
Most challenging. I spent 5 years and $15M on a non-profit open source alternative to Outlook. We took on too much, had to shut it down. See the book "Dreaming in Code". I picked myself up, did whatever I could to see people got jobs, and have applied many lessons, about proceeding modestly, incrementally, in a focused way.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
Most surprising was as a rookie founder we launched Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet (pre-Excel) and got $1M in orders at our first trade show. Blew us away totally. Did $53 million in sales that first year 1983.
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@mkapor Proudest: current work on diversifying tech ecosystem and gap-closing social impact investing in/from Oakland
Liran Amrany
Liran Amrany@liranamrany · Founder, Debitize
Hi @mkapor, how much capital are you looking to deploy in 2016, and do you have any specific theses that you are focusing your investments in? Thanks!
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@liranamrany About 20 new companies at about $150K each. look at kaporcapital.com web site for our criteria and exosting portfolio. People Ops Tech -- new sector of companies trying to mitigate workplace bias and identify and reward talent at scale is very important for us.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What apps are currently on your home page? What one have you buried but is a guilty pleasure ;)?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@ems_hodge Kindle, Yahoo Weather, Google Maps, Tesla, Pandora, Parkmobile. I look at this list and go -- I'm kinda boring. I loved Stumble Upon as a guilty pleasure and am looking forward to the new mix.com, its successor.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@mkapor best advice for a first time entrepreneur?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
@neeeharika take risks. learn as much as possible. your first time isn't your last. I say, go for it.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What would you say to yourself 10, 20 years ago?
Mitch Kapor
Mitch Kapor@mkapor · Partner, Kapor Capital
OK, thanks all very much. Fun chatting with you.