The Tim Ferris Show: Chris Sacca on Shark Tank, Building Your Business, and Startup Mistakes

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  • Tim welcomed listeners to the podcast and explained that it is not a normal deconstruction episode this time.
  • His guest was Chris Sacca, recently on the cover of Forbes.
    • He is an early-stage investor and a venture capitalist (LOWERCASE Capital).
    • This is a Q&A Podcast with Chris about topics ranging from his life to business advice.
    • Tim and Chris found questions from people on Reddit who wanted to reach out to him.
      • They gave him nicknames: The tech set-up makes Chris feel “hip-hop”. Sir Tweets-a-lot, MC140, DJ Term Streets, CowboyShark, SaccaKhan (DJ handle suggestions).

On hiring and finding a good technical co-founder, exporting to mobile-web development, and obtaining equity:

  • If you want to find a technical co-founder, look where the technical co-founders hang out both out virtually and physically.
  • If you are non-technical, you are probably more helpful than you thought you could be.
    • Don’t find the process so daunting – they have coding skills but you have other skills.
  • When people outsource mobile & web development, it lessens the company’s potential because the codebase can’t be expanded or improved.
  • Retain equity in the early days.

On Commencement Speeches:

  • He would say, “Congratulations on graduating in winter, you have a longer spring break.”
  • He gave actual commencement speeches in Minnesota.
    • He was contracted through his agent.
    • He actually had to give the same speech 3 times to different schools.
      • So, he took notes and improved.
    • His best advice is to be authentic, your own weird self.
    • That makes life interesting and for us to want to be around others.

Keys to Having a Successful Disco (Party):

  • Tim & Chris did a podcast that was about to be a disco night.
    • They had a vacation filled with competitive athletics, chess debates, tech talk, drinking, partying, dancing, fun people.
  • For successful parties – if you can bring one thing, bring wigs.
    • Mullet wigs.
    • At an associate’s party with a mix of professionals, party people, athletes, etc. Chris brought mullet wigs. He laid them out on the side of the couch.
      • This allowed people to express themselves and the party kicked up.

Cases when startup companies should not take investor money:

  • Be wary of taking any money unless the investors’ expectations of success align with the venture capitalists’
    • There are different types of businesses, and not all of them have the same success goals.
      • Lifestyle businesses are not about growing, but they rake in enough cash for the founders to live comfily.
        • There are many successful lifestyle businesses which is basically the definition of American success.
        • VC’s look down on them.
      • The expectations of their investors are money-oriented.

If Chris Could Choose an Interview for Tim:

  • Jokingly, to get back at Tim for coercing Chris into purchasing all of the podcast tech, Chris wanted to hear Tim interviewed by God.
    • Then he put on a deep voice and pretended to be God.
  • He says that Tim is an amazing interviewer, learns and translates what he hears, but he is almost never interviewed himself.
    • Chris would like a panel of interviewers from past episodes to ask Tim questions. Hit Chris and Tim up on social media to let him know what you think about the idea.

Challenges for Chris:

  • He categorizes the challenges in his life physical or intellectual.
    • The physical challenges always seem like they can get done. They have concrete and tangible benchmarks, like running a certain distance or for a certain amount of time.
    • With Intellectual pursuits, thought, it feels like there is no finish line and so it is hard for Chris to tell when something is done.
      • It is easier to get distracted during intellectual pursuits.
        • Chris has methods to keep from getting distracted.
          • He first focuses on the physical space. He removes all distractions.
          • He also creates a clear digital space – no notifications (RescueTime). He wears headphones, sometimes with no music, to send a social signal that he does not want to be interrupted.
            • Some music helps you focus, but it is personal. He has used: The Grateful Dead, hiphop, sometimes the same track over and over.
            • To keep track of his goals, he asks himself, “Are you on ‘offense’ or ‘defense’”?
              • Which item on your to-do list did you assign yourself? Which did you do to please someone else?
              • Did you write your own to-do list or did someone else?
              • Being on offense requires more work and more planning.
                • You have to push others aside to prioritize your own work.
                • It is also challenging and important to be healthy with food, nutrition, etc.

Chris and His Family Moves:

  • He moved, even when on paper it didn’t make any sense to.
  • He moved away from San Francisco in 2007.
  • He moved to Truckee, CA, near Lake Tahoe.
    • An amazing place to live.
    • He hadn’t yet made a lot of money.
    • As an aspiring investor, he moved away from Silicon valley.
    • He was on “offense”.
      • He was tired of routine, and so he went on “offense” to focus and learn what he wanted to and to invest in the relationships he wanted to grow.
    • His wife and him also bought a house in L.A. so they can share time between homes.
      • It was done based on a gut feeling.
    • They also moved to Montana.
      • They wanted to experience things.
    • He likes to pick up and move his family.
      • He likes to have adventure.
    • Moving to new places teaches kids flexibility and adaptability.
    • Moving more means you own less stuff.
    • He is most grateful that he has made his moves by choice.
      • Many people have to make moves not by their own choice.
      • He feels fortunate to be able to make lifestyle choices.
    • He wants his kids to meet people from around the world, learn other languages, and having a broad human experience.

Human Societys Adaptation to Technological Advancement:

  • Colonization of other planets is not a concern to him.
    • Space travel doesn’t seem like it will come up in this lifetime.
  • The impact of technology & societal adaption is approached with a universal embrace of progress.
    • The market is focused on engineering. That is the central focus on what progress is.
      • With devices we see more resolution, virtual reality, etc.
        • These are technical achievements, but Chris says the improvements in displays are outpacing biological adaptation.
          • He had a Sony PSP. He played Grand Theft Auto.
            • After playing the game, he got to the airport, got in his car, and he realized he was driving very aggressively all of a sudden.
              • He said the fiction of the game and the reality of driving confused his brain.
                • He is not arguing for game censorship, he was just saying that the brain doesn’t always know what is going on because the virtual reality is so similar to actual reality.
              • The technological and biological investments are different.
                • He doesn’t think it is bad, he says he is an optimist.
                • As technology improves, so does the digital divide between the haves and have-nots.
                  • This is also happening in other fields: education, healthcare, nutrition, criminal justice, etc.
                    • Technology isn’t any different, nor is it improving those situations.
                      • For example, he worked on a Walmart wireless project. He wanted to build a cell tower on top of each store. While thinking about the project, he commented that partnering with Walmart would be a dark day for him, but the people he was working with said that Walmart was efficient and changed the surrounding economy.
                        • Chris saw his downtown being replaced by Walmart when he grew up.
                          • He saw a lot of people losing jobs, their identities, and control over their lives.
                        • There are completely different perspective on the company based on what success means.
                      • Chris thinks that in the future, way fewer people will have it good and way more will have to struggle.
                        • There is a trend line pointing in that direction.
                        • It can be hard to think that over because we like to think we worked to get where we are now.
                        • He knows that even if the system changed, he would work to hack it.
                          • How would he perceive the fear of a system collapse if he truly believes he will always succeed no matter the circumstances?
                            • That mentality is present in Silicon Valley, in the people who easily rose to success after taking risks.
                              • This has excluded many voices from society, but Chris says this is near-sighted.
                            • The lack of personal empathy will lead to more social and political unrest.


  • As a builder, you need to define things and decide pricing – to be successful, you need to think about others.
    • Build for an audience that you know.
  • Empathy is missing in the system.
    • This is why there is so much political discord.
    • You used to not have to look far to understand where something came from.
      • Now, small business have gone away. People have lost their farms and houses. They lost the opportunity to work hard for their own future.
    • Lives, products, societies, families, and services will be better if there is empathy.

Modern Education:

  • Schools shouldn’t just train kids to be “successful”.
    • The traditional philosophy is that if you do well in school, you can get into college, then a good grad school, and eventually a get hired at a good job.
  • He challenges the listener to imagine if that weren’t the case.
    • He thinks the goal of a school should be to have happy kids. They should be taught to be balanced, thoughtful, compassionate, and doers. Their resume wouldn’t matter.
      • That is how he and his wife have approached raising their daughters.
    • Chris grew up near kids in boarding schools and private schools, but he went to public school.
      • Their life experiences were different, but spending time with them got him to see that despite the other students’ wealthy lifestyles, their world views were narrow.
    • He doesn’t know how he would run a school, but he thinks about education a lot.

Lessons he learned from the Ironman competitions:

  • He did two competitions, five weeks apart.
    • The first one was a training session and he didn’t even plan to do the whole thing, but ended up completing it.
    • Then, he did the full one.
      • It was tough, but he had a mantra to keep him going through the pain.
        • “Tonight, I will be in my bed.” He kept repeating this to remind him that his pain was temporary.
      • In 2009, he rode his bike for 35 days, almost 100 miles a day, with no prior training. He used the same mantra at that time, too.

New Founds vs. Seasoned Professionals:

  • Expertise can be a contra-indicator.
    • Look at Uber.
      • None of those founders ever drove cabs or limos.
    • Not having experience helps you notice the new things.
      • If you have done work in the past, you may lose the fire in the belly.
      • Decisions may become based on previous findings rather than new circumstances, falling into a pattern instead of thinking on your feet.

Venture Capitalists and Diversity:

  • Diversity in people needs to expand for women, minority races, and the LGBT community.
    • He thinks greed will fix it.
      • Underrepresented talents represent huge areas of the economic market that have been ignored.
        • For example, Melody Hair is run by a black women.
        • The startup Inventure is underestimated. It is run by a short, Indian woman.
          • Her pitch was amazing.
          • He became a partner in her business.
          • She is often judged by her external appearance despite her skill, confidence, and savviness.
          • It is a fun, ethnically diverse company.
            • Only hanging out with white guys is not as fun.
          • He encourages diversity, implementing programs, and to keep talking about it.

His Shirts:

They can be found at Vintage Western Ware. The brand is called “Sully”.

Learning & Improving in a Startup Environment:

  • Go to as many meetings as you can and figure out how to be helpful.
    • Take notes.
      • Read notes.
    • Gain a generalist knowledge.
    • Make yourself useful and helpful.

His Future Plans:

  • He is not bored with venture capitalism.
    • Solving problems and competing to make things better is this job.
  • It can be a frustrating job because a lot of time, energy, money, and identity becomes wrapped up in a company you don’t actually run.
    • Also, companies get bigger, more money can happen, but also bigger egos and more politics are there.
      • He had lost sleep, gained weight, and had increased anxiety.
    • He took on a partner.
      • His partner, Matt Aznio, helped him to relax and taught him a lot.
      • Matt now runs the funds, so Chris has stepped back.
    • Now, Chris focuses on strengthening his family.
      • He has a wife and three kids and is close to his brother and parents.
    • He focuses on his health and some small projects with his wife.
      • He is looking for a nutrition regime.

Shark Tank:

  • He will be on the show for a few episodes.
    • It brought him back to what made him passionate about startups in the first place.
      • He can focus on a few founders with great ideas that have early traction and need help.
        • He likes that he gets to be helpful.
      • SharkTank is raw and edgy.
        • He likes it because it is small, personal, and reminds him of angel investing.
  • He said he loves the internet people.
    • He highly complimented Tim Ferris’s fans.
      • Tim’s fans are savvy, curious, and pragmatic.

Chriss Social Media:


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