Marc Andreessen – The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Key Takeaways

  • To be a creative professional, you need to be proactive in trying to get your work out there
    • You can’t rely on the quality of the work alone
    • “Creativity is a collaborative exercise between the creator and the audience”
    • People are BUSY
      • “They’re not sitting around dreaming up new product ideas that they hope someone else builds. You have to invent them and BRING IT TO THEM.”
  • As an artist, aim to get yourself into the scene/mix
    • The scene = the collision space (things HAPPEN when you’re in the scene)
  • You have a much, much better chance of getting a startup funded by a venture capitalist with some sort of warm referral
    • Cold pitches almost never work
  • Instead of following your passion, focus on the area in which you can make a contribution
  • Realize that most of your ideas about how the world works are probably wrong
    • Aim to have strong views, weakly held

Books Mentioned

  • Just Kids by Patti Smith talks about how with artistic movements, there’s often a “scene” around them
    • Brian says the audiobook is great
  • Both Marc and Brian highly recommend Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
    • “It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read” – Marc
    • Book summary – Be so good they can’t ignore you

Intro

What does it mean to be a systems thinker?

  • For background, check out this New Yorker article
  • First, let’s examine the opposite:
    • A non-systems thinker would say something like – “I’m gonna build a really great product and people will love it because it’s a great product”
    • But the systems thinker knows it’s not just about the product 
      • It’s about the marketplace, the customers and their point of view, the competitors, the retailers, the press, the employees etc.
        • In total – all these make up what Marc calls a “complex adapted system”
          • It’s not predictable and doesn’t behave in ways you expect
          • AND – the introduction of the product changes the system and recalibrates it
      • “To launch a tech product and have it succeed, you have to have a keen awareness of all the different elements of the system”

Creativity is a Collaborative Exercise

  • Marc recalls a recent study examining if the success of creative work (art in particular) was caused by quality of the art itself or the social network of the artist
    • Sorry, we couldn’t track this study down
  • “Creativity is a collaborative exercise between the creator and the audience”
    • You can create an excellent work of art (in your mind), but if the audience doesn’t creatively see eye to eye with you, they won’t appreciate it
    • Marc terms it as a “human system”
      • In tech, this is a huge differentiator between a success and failure
      • “The entrepreneur who expects the market to automatically appreciate their product….it’s the classic, ‘If I build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to my door,’ – no they won’t”
        • “The world is BUSY… People don’t wake up in the morning and say, “God, I can’t wait until I find out what this person I’ve never heard of in California has invented. That’s not how the world works. You have to inject yourself into the world.”
        • “There are 7 billion people on planet earth who’s time is already allocated” – You think they’ll naturally gravitate towards your work? Someone has to carry it into the world.
    • The successful people do (or make sure the following) is done:
      • They create
      • AND they push the idea into the world, carry it forward, argue it, evangelize it, and make sure people see it
        • As Steve Jobs said, “they put a ding in the universe”
  • In summary – to be a creative professional, you need to accept and lean into this
    • You need to be proactive in trying to get your work out there – you can’t rely on the quality of the work alone

The Scenius Concept

  • Brian Eno coined this term
  • “It’s an amazing coincidence that when there’s a new artistic movement, there’s a scene around it”
    • Patti Smith talks about this in her book – Just Kids
      • Brian says the audiobook is great
    • Ex. – Most of the best movies get made in L.A.
    • Ex. – Many startups are centered in Silicon Valley
  • As an artist, aim to get yourself into the scene/mix
    • The scene = the collision space
    • Things HAPPEN when you’re in the scene

The Matthew Effect

  • This is an economics concept brought up by Marc derived out of the Bible – it’s a positive feedback loop
    • Recognition begets recognition
    • Success begets success
    • Reputation begets reputation
  • It’s like with twitter:
    • People who are verified and have a large following are able to grow more of a large following
    • But if you’re just starting out, it’s extremely hard to amass an audience
  • As a founder, really look for those positive feedback loops
    • Ex. – Every time someone bought a Mac, it made it more likely someone would build a piece of software for the mac, and every new piece of software built made it more likely someone would buy a Mac
      • This is also known as “the network effect”

Ideas

  • Stop being afraid to tell people your ideas 
    • “If you have a really, really great idea you can shout it to the rafters and still no one’s going to take it seriously”
  • “The idea of the iPhone alone didn’t get Steve Jobs anywhere. It was everything he did to make the idea a reality and actually get it into peoples’ hands.”

On Being Both a Creator and a Salesman of the Work

  • “The role of sales is not to sell something to someone that they don’t need, it’s to help someone buy what they actually do need”
  • The top end sales people have very abstract systems of how they work with people
    • If you’re technical-minded, just think about sales like an engineering problem
      • “You can figure this stuff out…but you have to want to”

BUT – The Work Has to Still Has to Speak for Itself

  • Both Marc and Brian highly recommend Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
    • “It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read” – Marc
    • Book summary – Be so good they can’t ignore you

Let’s Sum Up

  • Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish (with the best product) in a big pond?
    • Get yourself into the scene with an AWESOME product and promote the shit out of it

“The Test” – All You Need is ONE Introduction

  • Brian won’t read any scripts sent to him randomly online 
    • Especially without any sort of introduction 
    • BUT if there’s a warm referral – Brian will jump on it
  • Marc mentions that at one of the top venture firms in the industry (he doesn’t say which), in the entire history of the venture firm, they’ve funded exactly ONE pitch that came in cold….over 50 years
    • Marc took this idea, and now calls it “The Test” 
      • “The Test to get to us, to get to any venture capitalist, is can you get ONE warm introduction…just ONE”
        • JUST ONE introduction from someone Marc thinks highly of
      • “If you can’t pass ‘The Test’ to get a warm inbound referral to a venture firm, what that indicates is you are going to have a HELL of a time as an entrepreneur”
        • The true pain of entrepreneurship lies in trying to get people to say yes to you – to your product, to work for you etc.
        • “If you can’t get a warm inbound to us, how are you possibly going to function in the environment in which you’ll now be operating in when you have to get all these other people to do stuff for you?”
      • Marc says he personally has never funded a cold pitch

More About Marc and Mosaic

  • Marc chose his major in college (electrical engineering) based solely on the high expected starting salary
    • And then choose where to attend college (University of Illinois) based on their excellent electrical engineering program
  • While still at the University of Illinois, Marc got a job at a software lab in their physics department
    • This led to an internship at IBM and then a job at NCSA where all the work was done on Mosaic (while Marc was still in school)
      • Brian asks Marc if he had the notion in his head around this time that he’d change the world – “No, of course not”
      • Marc says his team working on Mosaic got a positive feedback cycle going quickly:
        • “The more people who had browsers then, the more people who would put up web pages. The more people who would put up web pages, the more people would want to have browsers.”

Living in Two Different Worlds

  • AKA – The way things are now and the way things will be
    • “The best entrepreneurs really do live in the future” – So in a sense, they’re living in two realities at the same time
  • “The difference between a vision an hallucination is that other people can see the vision”

On Following Your Passion

  • Check out this commencement speech from Ben Horowitz
  • “The follow your passion thing is an incredibly destructive meme that flows out of the hippie movement of the 60s”
    • Passion = “I have an internalized view of myself and what I am on planet earth to do”
      • In a sense, it’s a self-centered view
        • “This is what MY calling is. This is what will make ME happy.”
      • If the world doesn’t appreciate your passion, it just leads to bitterness and resentment/anger
    • Instead of following your passion, focus on the area in which you can make a contribution
      • It’s not about you, it’s about other people

The Customers Don’t Know What They Want

  • “Nobody ever asked for a Macintosh” – Steve Jobs
    • Nobody asked for cars…
    • Nobody asked for the internet…
  • This goes back to the fact that people are BUSY
    • “They’re not sitting around dreaming up new product ideas that they hope someone else builds. You have to invent them and BRING IT TO THEM.”

The Brutality of Tech Startups

  • Running a tech startup is BRUTALLY DIFFICULT
    • You’re trying to get employees to join you who have many other options, and most are telling you no
    • You’re trying to get customers to try/buy your product – they’re busy, and most tell you no
    • You’re trying to raise money – most VCs tell you no
  • “There has to be a feeling of basically, ‘Screw them. I know I’m right and they’re wrong.'”
  • “And at some point, you realize the ‘No’s” aren’t killing you and you get comfortable with rejection”

Most of Your Ideas are Wrong

  • “People treat their ideas like their children”
    • Why? – Marc thinks it’s an evolutionary thing
      • Our genetics haven’t changed all that much in the last 50,000 years
      • “50,000 years ago, there weren’t really ideas, there were just children”
        • People protected their children by all means
        • Now this has sort of shifted to ideas (as well as children)
          • Anytime someone challenges our idea, we get the threat response that someone is challenging our kid
  • “Most of your ideas ARE WRONG” – Especially in the VC world
    • Way back, many smart VCs turned down Google because the idea seemed very wrong at the time
      • People thought it wouldn’t work as the internet was too messy and hard to organize, and even if it did work…there’d be no way to make money (AdWords had not yet been invented)
    • Apply this today to all your theories and how you evaluate businesses ….
      • “How much can you actually know?….I would take it so far as to say I don’t know that there actually are VCs who can predict if any given thing is going to succeed or fail, period, full stop, including us. I’m not sure that’s even part of the value we provide. That might literally be zero part of our contribution to the entire process.”
        • “Maybe we’re actually in the people business, as opposed to the idea business”
          • Arthur Rock, a legendary VC in the ’60s-’90s who funded Intel and Apple wrote a paper at the end of his venture career analyzing his results
            • Arthur concluded that he would have had better results if he never read a single business plan and only funded people based on their resumes
        • “Part of the payoff of betting on the best people, as opposed to the best businesses, is that they WILL get you to the promise land”
    • Examine eBay
      • It seemed absolutely ludicrous at the time – so many people thought it was nuts

Strong Views, Weakly Held

  • But realizing that most of your ideas are probably wrong, you can’t just have no point of view
    • Aim to have strong views, weakly held
      • Your strong point of view guides your search and tells you what to focus on, but be VERY open to the disconfirming evidence

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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