One on One with A and Z #2 | a16z Live with Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz

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Key Takeaways

  • When you lay someone off, you break their trust because you break your promises
    • You even lose the trust of the employees who stay
      • The ones who are laid off are usually closer to other employees than they are to you
    • “Trust is the essential ingredient of any culture, of any organization” Ben Horowitz
  • Work from home is a real thing that we’ll never get away from
  • Success is your worst enemy
    • “As soon as you start to think that you’re successful because of you, as opposed to the exact things you did, then you totally ruin yourself” Ben Horowitz
  • Great Co-founder relationships
    • Challenging each other is the only way you can mutually learn
    • The partnership must be more important to you than being right
    • Founders who’ve known each other for longer are better at avoiding issues
    • You probably won’t know if the partnership is solid until it goes through serious stress
  • Looking at his Calendar, Ben asks himself “Why am I excited about this meeting?”
    • If he finds he’s not excited, he’ll cancel it
  • “The most important thing in college, by far, is learning how to think” Ben Horowitz

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) and Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz) are the co-founders and general partners at the venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz
  • In this chat, part of their new Clubhouse show, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz talk about building trust, cofounder relationships, personal productivity, and much more

Layoffs, COVID and Trust

  • There’s a quote by Ben saying “Layoffs break trust”
  • When you hire someone, you make a lot of promises
    • “You’ll advance your career”, “You’ll have fun” etc…
    • When you lay someone off, you break their trust because you break your promises
  • You even lose the trust of the employees who stay
    • The ones who are laid off are usually closer to other employees than they are to you
  • “Trust is the essential ingredient of any culture, of any organization” Ben Horowitz
  • Trust is deeply related to communication
    • If I trust you entirely, you barely have to talk to me
      • I know that everything you do is in the best interests of the organization
    • The day you start layoffs, you have to immediately start to re-build the trust
  • Since COVID started, and many companies had to lay people off, it became harder to rebuild trust
    • “Face-to-face is a natural, free trust-builder” Ben Horowitz
    • Any leader today should be thinking about how to create and maintain trust, especially remotely

Thoughts on Remote Work

  • As a CEO you have to embrace the future
    • If people are demanding to work from home, you have to consider that
    • You have to understand it and see if and how it can bring you a competitive advantage
      • How is career development different?
      • How should we improve onboarding?
  • Work from home is a real thing that we’ll never get away from
    • Many young women working at a16z said that working remotely was the first time they felt they could be good at their career while being a mother

What First-Time Founders Miss

  • As a first-time founder, you’re often hiring for roles you don’t even understand
    • At the same time, as the CEO you’re supposed to know how to do the jobs you’re hiring for
    • This tension slows down your learning curve
      • You won’t ask enough questions because you have to appear as you know
    • The solution is to get some real help from people who’ve been in that role before
  • Relationship with cofounders
    • Founders spend a lot of time thinking about board members and investors
      • But they rarely worry about the relationships between cofounders
    • Large shocks in a company are often due to cofounders disagreements 
    • Starting a company creates lots of pressures and forces you to understand your cofounders at a different level
      • Founders who’ve known each other for longer are better at avoiding issues
    • Ben and Marc suggest founders to re-vest their stock as often as they can
      • If not a cofounder might leave the company very early while keeping a huge share of the stocks

What Makes Great Cofounders Relationships

  • The ability to argue, even hurt each other’s feelings, without it affecting the relationship
    • Challenging each other is the only way you can mutually learn
    • No one else will challenge one of the cofounders
  • The partnership must be more important to you than being right
    • Letting your cofounder make important decisions even if you think they’re right builds trust
      • You allow them to make the right decision, and increase your trust toward them
      • They’ll trust you more in the times when you really want to make the decision
      • Annie Duke’s book Thinking in Bets talks about judging decisions by the process, not the outcome
    • Mutual respect is absolutely necessary for this to work
  • You probably won’t know if the partnership is solid until it goes through serious stress

Traits and Skills of Most Successful Founders

  • Unlimited determination and extreme courage
    • You have to walk away from a lot of money many times
    • You have to be willing to endure enormous pain
  • The ability to calibrate “direct control” vs. the scalability of the company
    • You have to accept things being broken, as you let them out of your control
    • You also have to be urgent about getting those things fixed as soon as possible

Personal Productivity Practices

  • Looking at his Calendar, Ben asks himself “Why am I excited about this meeting?”
    • If he finds he’s not excited, he’ll cancel it
  • In 2007 Marc wrote a blog post about not having a Calendar
    • You keep your day wide open and can work on whatever is most important
    • This is similar to what Warren Buffet does
  • Today, instead he turned schedules everything
    • If done wrong, too much structure can be overwhelming
      • You feel like you have so many things to do and no time for yourself
    • Marc has a different approach to it
      • Schedule all the things you like first (family, fun etc..)
      • Then you schedule the things you have to do
      • Finally, prioritize and try to keep a balance among the two
    • In this way, total structure can help avoid burn out

The Power and Dangers of “Gut Instinct”

  • Your brain continuously synthesizes large amounts of information
    • The result of this information synthesis may come to you as a gut feeling
      • Sometimes you can’t articulate the reasons behind a decision, but you feel it in your body, as gut instinct
    • Ben remembers feeling physically ill when there was something wrong with his company
  • Gut instinct can be useful when you spent huge amounts of time consuming information
  • Successful people may start to trust their gut instinct so much they stop researching information 
    • That’s when continuing to follow your gut instinct can be destructive
  • Success is your worst enemy
    • “As soon as you start to think that you’re successful because of you, as opposed to the exact things you did, then you totally ruin yourself” Ben Horowitz

Advice to Those Going to College

  • “The most important thing in college, by far, is learning how to think” Ben Horowitz
    • Understanding more ideas, learning different perspective from a variety of people
    • The only way to future-proof yourself is to take the ability to learn with you after college
  • Learn tools and skills that can be applied in many fields
    • Mathematics and Computer Science are great examples

The Comeback of Oral Culture

  • Before the introduction of writing, humanity was mostly an oral culture
    • Oral cultures are very social in nature
      • Focus on relationships, on the tribe
  • With time, we developed a literary culture
    • Marked by rationality, abstract concepts
    • But even then, oral culture didn’t die
      • Music and poetry are examples of its continuation
      • Before writing, they were the tools to transfer wisdom to future generations
  • Socrates was anti-writing
    • He thought relying on writing worsen your memory
    • No matter how often you read something, you won’t get anything different
    • If instead, you talk to someone, you’ll get different responses over time
      • You can actually improve your knowledge
  • With podcasts, Youtube, and Clubhouse we are moving back towards an oral culture
A16z Podcast :
Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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