Meeker for Millennials

Terry Kawaja is brilliant. I give you three minutes of his amazingness.

That is all.

Unscramble Your Biases

As I noticed quotes from the Code Conference dominate my Twitter feed yesterday, I saw a few from the Jeff Bezos interview that made me say out loud “Jeff Bezos is amazing.” I love his use of the phrase “cultural norms” (it’s one of my favorite phrases) and I particularly thought his comments on Donald Trump and the Peter Thiel / Gawker situation were right on the money.

The interview prompted me to think about how biases affect my thinking. I’ve been struggling with the Peter Thiel / Gawker stuff and have asked a few friends closer to the situation and the people involved to give me their perspectives as I’ve tried to determine whether my biases are overwhelming my perspective on it. As a result, I haven’t discussed it publicly, and instead have thought harder about it at a meta-level, which is actually more interesting to me.

I don’t know Jeff Bezos and have never met him, so my strong positive reaction to the interview reinforced this notion around unscrambling my biases as part of better critical thinking. If we use Amazon as an example, my relationship with the company, and my corresponding experiences over the years, have created a set of biases that I map to my impression of Bezos. And, as you read though the list below of my experiences / viewpoints, you’ll quickly see how the biases can create a chaotic mind-mess.

Following are the quick thoughts that come to mind when I think about Amazon.

  • Love it as a customer
  • Frustrated with how they have handled relationships with companies I’m an investor in
  • Delighted with how they have handled relationships with companies I’m an investor in
  • Moments of misery with interactions around difficult things
  • Brilliance and clarity of thought from Bezos
  • Wasted money on Amazon products that sucked
  • Amazing delight with Amazon products that I use every day, including my Kindle
  • Sucky experience as an author
  • Distribution that otherwise wouldn’t exist for me as an author
  • Many friends at Amazon
  • Sympathy for the stupid way Colorado has dealt with them around affiliates and sales tax

I could probably come up with another 50 bullet points like this. Given that Bezos is the CEO and public face of Amazon, I map my view of the company to him. I know that is only one dimension of him – and his experience as a human – but it’s the one that I engage with.

Then I remember we are all human. Shit is hard. We make lots of mistakes. And, when I sit and listen to Bezos talk to Walt Mossberg, I have an entirely new level of amazement, appreciation, and intellectual affection for him, and – by association – Amazon.

I know that many different kinds of biases get in my way every day. I’ve learned the names for some of them, how they work, and how to overcome them through various work of mine over the year. But at the root of it, I realize that a continuous effort to unscramble them when confronted with something that has created dissonance in my brain is probably the most effective way to confront and resolve the biases.

For those of you in the world who tolerate me saying “what do you think of thing X” and then give me a thoughtful response, thank you, especially when you know I’m wrestling with trying to understand what I think about X. Now you know that part of what I’m asking you to help me with it to unscramble my biases around the particular person or situation that is represented by thing X.

Homer, Alaska and the Super Bowl

I was at a Nima board meeting today and was asked by a new friend on the team about my link to Homer, Alaska. After a brief explanation, I said “McDonald’s made Homer famous around some Super Bowl by making a completely inappropriate TV ad there.” I couldn’t remember the year – I thought it was in the 1980s somewhere.

It was 1990. Google found it immediately. It’s hilarious, and completely inappropriate. This is where Amy and I live, some of the time.

And then after the game.

San Francisco destroyed Denver 55-10. Don’t ask me why I knew that.

Writing, Running, and Reading

Snoopy in SummertimeIt’s summertime and Snoopy is happy.

I’m happy also. Summer is my favorite season. I’ve always been at my most creative in the summer and some of the profound life experiences that influenced me happened during the summer.

When I was a pre-teen, summer meant tennis. Endless tennis. Eight+ hours a day in the Texas heat except for the three weeks I went to Camp Champions.  It was awesome. I remember one summer with over 30 days of temperatures over 100 degrees. A break for lunch inside at the North Dallas Racquet Club felt really decadent. It was always a challenge to get back outside at 1pm, but we did it. And kept playing tennis.

I spent the summer between 11th grade and 12th grade living in Knightsbridge, just outside of London, and working for Centronics at their office in South Kensington. I wrote software on an Apple ][ to design the character sets for Centronics printers, ran a lot, learned how to drink beer, got into the drama of the Falklands War, and endured a Tube strike.

In college, summer meant going back home to Dallas. I worked for PetCom for several summers, putting in 80 – 100 hours per week writing software. Then one summer I rented a house at 2430 Denmark in Garland, Texas from my mom where Feld Technologies really got its start. I drove my mom’s Mercedes 240D around that summer – it went from 0 to 60 in about two minutes.

You get the idea. Every summer is a different adventure for me. Several years ago I wrote Startup Communities and Startup Life over the summer. This summer I’m finishing up the 3rd Edition of Venture Deals and writing the first draft of my newest book #GiveFirst. I’m gearing up to be in marathon shape with the goal of running the Portland Marathon in October. And I plan to make a healthy dent in my infinite pile of books.

This summer is going to be about writing, running, and reading. While the rest of the US is playing politics, I’m going to side step that since I expect the amount of negative energy around it will be legendary this cycle. I’m in a great rhythm around our portfolio and investing so I know what that tempo will be like. And, while I’ll travel a little, Amy and I planning on spending the summer in Boulder.

I’ll see you around town, if you are here. And now, I’m off for a two hour run.

Venture Deals 3rd Edition Teaching Materials

We are starting to work on the teaching materials for the 3rd edition of Venture Deals, which is coming out in the fall of 2016.

If you have either taught or taken a class using Venture Deals and are willing to talk to our publisher at Wiley about what kind of teaching materials would make the book even more useful, please send me an email.

As part of this, we are doing a refresh of the Ask the VC website so if you have suggestions for that, just toss them in the comments.