Reid Hoffman: Build a World-Changing Business
Hey, everybody, how's it going? I'm Chase Jarvis. Welcome to another episode of The Chase Jarvis LIVE Show here on Creative LIVE. You guys know this show. This is the show where I sit down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders with the goal of unpacking their brains and extracting valuable insights to help you live your dreams in career, in hobby, and in life. My guest today you will very quickly recognize him as soon as I say he's the co-founder of LinkedIn. He's a partner at Greylock venture capital, which is one of the top firms in the history of the world. And he's now, well he's so many other things aside from being the oracle of Silicon Valley, which has him touching or basically a core part of being near every social network that's ever been invented. An investor in so many of the top companies, folks like Airbnb, introduced Zuck to his first investor back in, it was like, he's been involved in everything and most importantly, he's got a new podcast o...
ut called Masters of Scale, we're gonna talk about it. My guest today is Mr. Reid Hoffman. Reid?
Awesome to be here. (applause)
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It's a long time in the making. You're a busy guy, but very grateful to have some time with you today.
Awesome, speaking of podcasts, which we're recording right here, let's go right into yours. Congratulations, it's like, I saw, I screencapped the other day, the Chase Jarvis LIVE show and Masters of Scale were both right at the top of the iTunes and the little player there. What was the, give me the story behind it.
So, maybe fourish, five years ago, I realized that what Silicon Valley people tell the world about why Silicon Valley's magical is a radically outdated story. And so, the Valley people, well, first, why is Silicon Valley special? Half of the Nasdaq created here. In fact, there's three million people in the whole area. That's not the people in the tech industry. That's three million people in the area. Roughly half of the $100 billion plus new companies, created here. Why is that?
What is the magic?
What is the magic? So the old story, which is important, but, now no longer the real story, you say well, we have immigrants, entrepreneurs, technologists, technology companies, venture capital, major tech universities. You put them in a soup, you stir it up. You have a culture that allows a kind of, no fear of failure or limited fear of failure to kind of run at these impossible problems and then some of them work, and magic. And that's true, but that now exists in easily 50 places in the world, maybe more than that. So if you say, well that was only the story, then there'd be 50 Silicon Valleys.
And it's so not special then.
Yes, and why is it that Silicon Valley is still amazing? And the answer is, that we actually in fact, have built a playbook around how to go to global scale very quickly that's kind of implicit, shared in the talent network, constantly evolving. I taught a class a couple years ago at Stanford called Blitzscaling.
I'm working with my co-author, Chris Yeh, on a book now on that on blitzscaling, and June Cohen, who is the former executive producer of TED, you know, delightful human being and super talented came to me and said, "Hey, I think this "would make a great podcast, would you do this?" And I was like, "Huh, podcast. "I hadn't really thought about that "and you're super creative. "I know good content. "I know how to ask good questions. "But making something magical, that's your business, yours "both yours and June's so sure I'd be delighted to do that." It's been a blast.
It's so much, it's so dense, the information that you pack into these podcasts. And I try and represent the same thing here to the folks listening and watching at home. But the reality of access, I mean, we've had folks like yourself, Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington, you know, the world's best. And yet, you have a different, I have a different relationship with those folks. I still consider them friends or mentors or advisors to some of the things that I'm doing and wildly inspirational, but you have a peer relationship with these folks and that allows you, I think, to get something special out of it. Now right before we started the cameras rolling, it was like, how is it? And you're like, is it fun, are you having fun? And I'm gonna paraphrase, it was like, I didn't know it was gonna be fun, but now you're having a blast and what is it about what you're doing that's joyful for you?
I think the thing that's joyful is, it's very easy to have a warm, and a uniquely insightful conversation because my friends know that I'm not there trying to get them to spill a secret or to catch, try to get them into saying something that they don't wanna say. That my entire goal is I know there's a bunch of things that they know and think that are super valuable to entrepreneurs around the world to anyone who's interested in this kind of magic of how do you scale companies. And my only goal is to help them express that through a set of different questions. And because I know them, I actually have some partial map to what that is. Now part of the joy is not just the camaraderie, the ease of the conversation, but also part of it is that actually in fact, while some of it I know already, there's also parts of it that I go, "Oh that was really interesting. "I hadn't realized that."
Some gaps, some gaps in the story there.
Like, that was really cool and I learned something. And that's awesome, too.
Yeah, it's the ability to have a heartfelt conversation with someone in an environment. This used to be live. There used to be somewhere between 100 to 200 people and I loved that. Now we've just got a little camera in the corner for those of you who are at home and listening, we are broadcasting this via Facebook Live, but it used to be a big event. And I realized that that creates a lot of, again, noise and joy and all these people are tweeting and doing all this stuff, it's valuable, but the conversation, there was a gap between what I can get in this environment relative to the really highly produced event, so to speak. So, that's why this is mostly a podcast these days. But talk about some of your guests and for the folks at home, you should subscribe. It's Masters of Scale, with Reid Hoffman. And I subscribed. I've heard the Zuck one. Why don't you talk about some of your favorite recent episodes so the folks at home get a flavor.
Well, all of my children are beautiful. (both laughing)
That's right, you can't throw anybody under the bus. I'm just thinking, "If I reversed that question, "like, that's a very tough question." Couple highlights, how about that? Couple of highlights.
Well, so, like for example, one of the ones I was referring to that I had thought that in the history of Facebook, I was aware that early one of their cultural values was move fast and break things. And now it's move fast with scalable infrastructure. And so I had done what most people--
Not nearly as sexy, by the way.
No, not nearly as sexy. And I had actually made that kinda simple, outside view of, oh they learned more traditional business, and they changed the point of view. And so I asked Zuck about this, thinking that the question I was asking was how did you grow and learn in your management structure, 'cause Zuck is an infinite learner. It's one of the things that, it's among the many things that's awesome about him, that's one of the things that's awesome. And so I was expecting to get a little, "Here's what I learned." And he looked at me and said, "What do you mean it changed?" I'm like, "Well, phrase one, phrase two, change." He said, "No, no, no, no, no. "We're always about speed. "We're about speed and execution and effectiveness. "In the early stage, that's move fast and break things. "However, if you're breaking things on the big stage, "fixing them slows you down. "And so it's still optimizing for speed. "It's just, you have to realize that "you have to keep stable infrastructure "to optimize for speed." And I was like, oh, bing, of course. Makes total sense.
Of course. So you had, I think everyone runs to the Zuck episode because you guys have a special relationship because there's a lot of insight, but also, Sheryl Sandberg.
Yep, and Sheryl is a simply world-class leader that I think other world-class leaders learn from. And you know, one of the things that Sheryl really kind of typifies a lot of what we're trying to do in blitzscaling, which is the I know what the shape of things will be such that you set them up now with lightweight work and then you scale much more effectively. And like, one of the powerful examples that she uses, 'cause, what people don't realize is setting up culture in these companies is really important. And that culture of how do we get to scale and preserve our mission, our coherence, our identity, as opposed to oh now it's a big bureaucratic organization. So she has this great anecdote which she learned from her Google days, which was, she starts saying, "Oh, we're warm and personal" so they would celebrate everyone's birthday on the day. Then you get to a group of like 100 people, and you're celebrating a birthday every day. And so then, they move to, okay we're gonna celebrate the June birthdays, the July birthdays, the August birthdays. And of course, what that then does is that sets everyone back and they go, "Oh, now we're a big company."
It's like it took something away.
Yeah, took something away. And so, part of the lesson that Sheryl illustrated to say, "Look, be careful when you're setting up "some of these things," because if you just set it up from the very beginning of, we do August birthdays, that's what we do." And then oh, it's so special and it's still going and it's a scalable mechanism. And it's those little simple things that help keep that sense of we are still the people that we were and the people that we're on path to and that kind of leadership technique, simple, easy, concrete, learnable by everybody is the kind of joys you get from Sheryl.
And the wisdom, I'll borrow a phrase from Tony Robbins, two millimeters, the difference between those two things is like two words, right. We're gonna celebrate everyone's birthday or August birthdays. And it's so narrow, but it's so critical for the long, it's incredible vision. So, I'm not gonna blow anymore secrets from the episodes, but fantastic kudos, lot of great reviews coming in. I love how well it's produced. I think you guys have done a bang up job, so keep going, don't--
That's all June and the team. Original music, all the rest of the stuff. When I listened to it, I was like oh that's really good, is that what you had in mind?
Wildly creative, you know honestly, we pride ourselves on making really powerful content here at Creative LIVE. That was super good stuff. So, good job. I wanna make this personal now. So you and I share something. I don't know if you know this or not. Aside from me being in the Greylock family, which full disclosure, you guys are investors.
Happy, proud investors.
Yeah, thank you, very much. You've been on the platform before. But, we both share a background in philosophy. And I remember the first time I told my folks, or actually, it was not my folks, it was my parents' friend. We were at a dinner party and I was like, "Yeah, I'm majoring in philosophy." And like, what, are you gonna philosophize about being unemployed? And yet, here I am, and this is one of my favorite things about the world we live in is that there's a millions paths to get to anywhere. And yet, philosophy has served me so well and before I share why or how it served me. Your background, you have some background, you got a MA in Philosophy, right, from Oxford?
Yep, Masters Studies, yep.
So, I know you also had some, was it, AR computer systems, or whatever, but little bit of your background education and then the point I'm trying to make here is that you can basically have any kind of background and go to a million different places. But talk to me about philosophy first and your story.
So I've always had a, my primary interest is in human nature and human condition across everything, so when I was an undergraduate Stanford, I was majoring in something called Symbolic Systems, artificial intelligence, cognitive science. And when people asked me what I was doing, I called myself a transcendental anthropologist. Which was a kind of a Kantian view of the--
Yeah, I was gonna say, transcendental meditation,
Yeah, there you go. Sorry, some nerd stuff out there for you guys at home.
Yes, we're philosophy geeking. And then, what I realized at Stanford was that while we had these literally leading-edge world-class inventors in language, mind, artificial intelligence, cognitive science. We as a set of theorists, lacked an understanding what thinking was really, what speaking was. And I went, well okay, maybe it's time to go do professional philosophy, because philosophers have been wrestling with this question probably long before there was, you know, scrolls and manuscripts--
Clergy, back in the day, I get it
Yeah, doing it. And so, I was fortunate enough to win a Marshall, go to Oxford, and what I most valued actually, so I went there with a theory that I was gonna learn a lot about thinking and language, and I think I learned that everyone's pretty confused on these topic, including philosophers, although there's some philosophers who don't think they they're so confused.
Were you studying like Wittgenstein and Chomsky or?
Wittgenstein for sure, you read three papers. It was Wittgenstein, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science, 'cause it was kinda like, what are the three different angles to try to understand this. And what I actually learned much more than, the kind of the subject study, which is what I had started with, was how to think and communicate precisely. Like, one of the things that, I had this kind of delightful first tutorial experience where I, you know, I wrote a paper, it was crap was what it was, and my tutor opened with what is a classic Oxford philosophy line, which he says, "There is both good and original thought "in what you've written. "The original parts are not good, "and the good parts are not original." And that was the most positive thing in the next hour of conversation. And that experience was an enormously honing experience of taking the activity of thinking and writing much more seriously to when you're presenting something to try to be as close to true as possible and try to be precise about it and understand the nuances of it 'cause one of the things that I found about philosophy training was that I got a lot better, not just in thinking and arguing, but also in a question of like theorizing, like what is an accurate theory? So for example, one of the things I do on startup companies I'm on the board of is to say, "Well, what's your theory of winning this game?" And part of the things that underlies the precision of the expression of a theory is actually my philosophy training. It was like, do we understand really what your strategy is, and really what the moving parts are and what your theory is about why you're gonna win this game.
I love the, well, a, I'll share that our interests, I think you can only connect the dots looking backwards, and I'll confess that I went into it just being, I was premed and was being whipped by culture's values of what's successful and then when I started tapping into philosophy, and this is how I'm going to bring it around to the folks who are listening, largely creators and entrepreneurs that are watching and listening to the show, is that the ability to explicate what you mean, and for me, originally it was art, how to position the product that I was creating relative to a million other people, and why it was beneficial or different and that certainly carried on into my life as an entrepreneur, being able to be precise about displaying the vision and mission that you have or that you're going for. Turns out, getting other people to be excited about your stuff is very valuable, and if you can't tell people what you're doing or why or in the case of a creator, trying to get people excited about what you're building, what you're making and selling, you're gonna struggle. So it's, I'll never forget, Leon Rosenstein, this is one of the professors at San Diego, the fine institute, San Diego State. San Diego State where I went, not so fine. I went there on a soccer scholarship. However, he wrote, "It's more important "to have a well-formed, rather than well-filled mind." So I feel like philosophy gave that.
By the way, since art is an interest, let me share with you a funny, fun experience I had a year or two ago. So I'm always very curious to learn about art. I actually don't know very much. I know that a lot of people know more. And so I went to this event at MOMA and I did the kind of that earnest student thing and I sat in the front row because I was like, "I want to learn about this." And so the curator kind of starts up and says, "So, I'm gonna start with some pieces "by my favorite up and coming artist, "or one of my favorite up and coming artists." And it's this professor at the MIT Media Lab, Neri Oxman, who's a friend. I was like, wait, I know something! I know a little. It was awesome, anyway, so it was a kind of those, funny art light thing, 'cause I actually agree with you about that creativity, that invention. Not only is that super important for the human condition, super important for how we express ourselves, we find our identities, how we make something of ourselves in the world, have meaningful lives. But I actually think part of this whole understanding kind of the art world and being able to express it precisely is I think that as we go more into the world of automation, and kind of workforce change, actually in fact, those elements of creativity are gonna be critical for the many of the job industries that are gonna be growing. And so I actually think it's more important than ever that we actually learn that, study it, you know, promote it, enable it within the world, so.
No, beautiful, and that's a feather in the cap for everyone who's listening and watching. I just gave keynote at The Next Web, the big European tech conference and the title of the keynote was Creativity is the New Literacy, focused specifically on, and right before me was a robot on stage and it's a tech conference, so I got to be the very unpopular person and say, "Alright, future is AI, AR, VI, VR, "all of the acronyms and that only works "if the machines are a layer on our own creativity." And, obviously, somewhat controversial, but I really, and it's great to hear you sort of underscore or punctuate that point, that is one of the things that separates us from some of the other species on the planet and our ability to not just think critically but take two things at one point unlikely to be connected, putting them together to make something new and novel. So there you go. The brain of Silicon Valley is focusing us on creativity, if you're not paying attention, you heard it here first at least first, you're the first, smartest person besides me who said it on the show. Creativity is the new literacy. So, I'm gonna pull on that thread for a second. You know one of the ways that we talk about how fortunate we are to have the investors that we have is that you all see 10,000 deals a year and you have to choose 10.
Zero to two per partner.
to two per partner
To two per partner per year.
Wow. So, very, very, very few. And to me what that underscores is not how lucky we are, but that you have had to become great at curating. And the curation is a taste point of view, and it's based also on all kinds of data, where that data is explicit, means ones you can grab and hold on a piece of paper and look at balance sheets, or implicit, like founder DNA or where the market's going. Do you think of yourself as a curator, and what role does that play in your thesis around investments and how do you see the next big thing?
So that's interesting. I probably don't think of, I definitely think of myself as an editor and an investor. I tend to think of curators as putting a set of things in juxtaposition. Like a museum curator is well, this is how I do the hallway. This is what I put next to each other. This is how I set up the thing. And so, I don't tend to do that across my investments.
Because each investment is like a unique kind of shot on goal, the way I think about it, going back to our philosophy backgrounds is Archimedean levers. Like the company, the technology, the product, the service is a lever by which you move the world. And can you make that lever big and robust enough through kinda go to market strategies, building a product, building a service, et cetera and so each one is actually in fact more unique in part because by the way, you know, part of what you tend to do when you invest in something is you ally with it. And you become a, we're trying to help this work and so you have to be careful that if you have projects that are in the same space, both of those projects are super comfortable with you being involved with both projects. Right, so to some degree, it tends to be and now for something you know, kind of different and now for something different, and now for something different versus curation. Now the thing that you do, though, is that you're looking for some combination of amazing entrepreneurial talent, something that makes a huge difference if it pulls off its risks and works, and that something that the initial plan for getting there, which always changes over time, is something that shows a coherent shot on that market or shot on that goal. And the frequent, the challenge of the curation is is that you meet lots of people, and lots of projects, you'd love for them to work. You know, they're interesting to do. And the challenge you end up with is, zero to two per year.
This is interesting, if you burned at your interesting projects you'd be done on June 8th.
Yes, yes exactly
Or January 8th.
Yes, exactly right. And so part of the discipline comes to is this one of those few? Because if you do just one of those few, then you end up with a, 'cause by the way, the other thing about them is frequently these projects are 10+ year journeys.
Seven years in, who'd have thought, my God!
Yes, and so you really go into it. So that's the kind of thing. And so it has that highly selective, highly thought combination of art and science. There's always some art in the judgment as well as metrics and data and science and learning and expertise. And then when you go, you're in it for awhile.
Yeah, I guess. I feel it, I feel the support from you guys. And I watch you interact with other founders. You guys do a good job of bringing us together. We just had a summit. I find those things incredibly valuable, get to hang out with other people who are all in this together, all having the same problems.
Well, obviously that summit was also on the scale. I think that was called Greyscale and that was one of the things we'd realized was that oh, not only should Reid be writing this book, teaching this class, and doing this podcast, but also, we should actually bring a group of people who are all tackling these problems and have them meet each other. Have them meet a bunch of interesting content on the stage and try to amplify these journeys.
So true, and one of the things, so Joe Gebbia from Airbnb, we'd been in the same circles before, he'd been here to Creative LIVE, we reconnected at the event, and he's been on the show, recorded with Joe not too long ago. So, in the I guess--
I learn things from Joe. Joe's design sense is awesome.
Amazing, right, incredible. And that's one of the things I'm kinda doing is I wanna flip the script on you here and see how you do. So what Joe advocates and I advocate here on Creative LIVE, has been to do unscalable things. And the example of unscalable, and then, you know, you figure out how to scale them, obviously, if they work, but with Joe, and to harken to some of the audience here, who are watching today, one of the biggest game changers in their trajectory was professional photographs of the spaces at Airbnb. And he said at first him and Brian, they went door to door for the top 20 properties in New York, before they were anything, and photographed them, as opposed to dirty dishes in the sink and having the owners of the Airbnb photographs themselves. So they went there, very unscalable, to have the founding team backpacking around New York for five days to take all these photographs. And Joe, touts that as a game changer for like literally when they started doing professional photographs the trajectory of their business changed. So as someone who advocates scale and being a master of it, how does this wildly creative but nonscalable activity, how does that, how do you reconcile those things?
Well so, as you probably know, actually in fact, Joe and Brian Chesky were both at RISD and the title of the episode that featured Brian was Handcrafted, which is first you have to do things that don't scale in order to scale. And so the story about going door to door with pictures, some other things, were all things that were part of that episode. And the normal thing is everyone presumes that you should start doing the scalable things right away. That's one of the mistakes that comes in and it almost never are you actually building the scale the first thing that you're doing with it.
And if you did, just imagine trying to build all those things to scale on day one. You'd never get 90% of them done.
You'd actually just never get anywhere, you'd just die. And so, part of what you do is you say, okay, whether it's product market fit and resonance with customers as well as okay let's, it's the same reason why you prototype. Let's see how this works. Let's see which parts of this are particularly important to do. And so part of what Brian and Joe do is that they have this process they call 10 star design, I don't know if you've heard this from them, but it's like, what's the 10 star experience? And so they said, well, say you're going somewhere, well the 10 star experience is your plane lands and the entire city of San Francisco is lined up in a row to greet you.
To welcome you.
The mayor is there, you know, with flowers and a beverage, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And the premise is like, okay, we can't do 10 stars. What does nine stars look like? And so forth, down to, oh wait, seven stars we can do scalably. And so, let's do that. And so it's a design process, and then it's a prototype and try it and it's actually every level, not just product. It's also frequently organization, frequently questions around kind of like unique strategies and go to market. All of those things have this initial handcrafted phase.
To me that's, I think it's the Eames brothers, there's a quote about, you know, the makers of the chairs and furnitures, the details aren't the details. The details are the thing. And to me, that's one of the things that Airbnb has, and especially in their, you know, in the last five years they've just done such an amazing job on the details.
And by the way, they're doing that now because in November they released this thing called Magical Trips. Which is, we could make any place in the world a tourist destination 'cause we enable the creativity and the entrepreneurship of kind of micro-entrepreneurs to create an experience. So for example, you say, well why would Detroit be a tourist destination? Great art scene. Great urban farming. Like, a bunch of things, and you could have a entrepreneur say, "I am going to make Detroit "a fascinating lens into the modern "American cultural experience." And then a person might wanna go for that. And that's, they're handcrafting it right now.
Yeah, and they're just doing such a good job. I was just on the phone with one of the folks that runs their photography department. It's beautiful to watch them work right now. They're just really hitting a stride, I think it's cool. So, if, we've been talking about small, handcrafted for a little bit. I wanna, you know, go back to scale for a second, and as there's so few folks who are on the other end of these cameras who are ever gonna build something that scales. You know I think, I mean here at Creative LIVE, we've got 10 million students. You know, it's like when you have 50,000 students you want 100,000, 100,000, you want a million. And when we hit five million, I'm like, five million, we're just getting started, I want 10. Now 10 is not interesting. I want 100 million, and yet there are so many lessons that folks who are listening can apply. Help me uncork just a couple of the lessons that for again, if there's 1,000 people who are watching right now who are ever gonna build a company that, and I'm just, if there's 100,000 people watching, maybe 1,000 of them are gonna build a company that has more than 1,000 employees. So, but yet, there has to be so many lessons for the folks at home to take home. Why don't you uncork a couple of those for me.
So, well so we've done the initially don't try to figure out scale first. Try to figure out other things, and then be thinking about scale as you're figuring that out in order to try to reshape it.
Almost with Sheryl's lens on it.
Yes, exactly. Another one is you very much need a strong company culture in order to scale. Because, especially if you're scaling quickly. What I call blitzscaling. Because you can get to a chaotic mass and essentially, you need to have horizontal accountability in a culture where it isn't like, we are this from the CEO, it's we all know we're this, and we're all holding each other accountable including you know, the individual employee holding the CEO accountable to this is our mission. And so intentionally designing a culture. And part of a good culture isn't just we are excellent. That's idiotic. Everyone's seeking to be excellent. A good culture is this is who we are and this is why some A players would work here, and this is where we would take pain and suffering in order to stay true to our culture. And so for example, early at LinkedIn, what we realized was we were gonna make a lot of our revenues from companies, but like our first cultural value is members first, eg, the people who use the site for free are actually, in fact, our top customers. Not our only customers, but our top customers, 'cause businesses naturally orient towards revenue. So it's like, companies are our customers, no, no, no, each individual member and so part of the sacrifice is, yes, we will sacrifice some revenue. We will sacrifice some things that our other valuable customers, companies will want because individuals are our top customer. And that's part of how you define culture in some good way. And then the last one and there's obviously, you know, 10 different episodes in Masters of Scale and there's a book that'll be coming out hopefully next year you know, that I'm writing.
Coming out, got work to do.
But one of the key things is also to understand triage. So I think the episode with Selina Tobaccowala, who is the founder of Gixo, was titled, kind of fun, these are all June titles, Burn Baby Burn, but you have to let fires burn. So part of, and the scaling thing is, there's multiple fires and you focus on the ones that you have to do now, and let the other ones deal with later, which is, you know, it leaves you a little bit of a sunburn, and a bunch of other things, there's definitely scar tissue.
This makes me feel good, just keep telling me this. There's plenty of fires burning right now.
Yes, exactly. And part of the experience that you learn, and part of why, like for example, a network of advisors and support and everything else is, helping with that triage. And so, those are amongst some of the kind of key lessons for figuring out scalability. And what's more, I think the interesting thing is, even if people are not themselves entrepreneurs trying to build these businesses, I think it's useful for large companies to know. I think it's useful for people who are trying to understand well, what are the kinds of, why is it that Silicon Valley is going and having the impact that it is and how do I understand how to participate, navigate, understand that kind of transformation in the world.
And those same principles in some way, shape, or form, apply to small businesses. Like, there's a culture in a small business. And if your culture isn't accountability to the people, to your left and your right and it's just to your boss, it's gonna be a problem. Alright, so for the folks that are building companies, one of the, that's a new thing that we're talking about a lot here. We've got folks like Red Bull and Microsoft and we're helping them educate in creativity and innovation, the hot buzzwords right now. I think one of things that we've done great here is emotional intelligence, how to be a great speaker, presenter, good body language and yet, when, oh let's see, what's the right way of getting at this? I wonder if that's the right way to go. Well, for the folks at home who are never going to scale a big company and for whom these skills are critical, how, what's the lens that these big companies put on that stuff? Do they care about creativity and innovation? Do they care as we think about having to work with them or what does Facebook think about creativity and innovation? What does, how important are these soft skills to the companies, 'cause we're, this is almost a personal ask here, we're, I'd never anticipated building an enterprise out of Creative LIVE and now it's just, all this, it's coming over the transom. Tell me that it's valuable or tell me, you know, to bark up a different tree, and if it's valuable, why?
So, well it's obviously very valuable. It's difficult to teach and help cause learn and it's difficult, it's a little bit like, everyone knows that you need to be innovative in the modern world, and you say what is that? And it's like uh, much more challenging. And so, but I--
It's on the the ends of, maybe wanna go here, and it's a little bit of a squishy topic, but is the culture part. Because we need a culture of creativity and innovation. We need a culture of transformation and helping people, like all the soft skills it used to be nice to have, and now it's obvious that the companies that are masters at that, they promote that. How should people think about learning these skills?
Well so, I think the, people have a natural aversion, actually, people tend to be more risk-averse. So the bulk of humanity tends to be I don't, I wanna avoid error more than I wanna accomplish amazing things. And it's reasonable enough. It's rational, you know, it's part of how we get trained it's like, you know, for example, avoiding being eaten by the lion is more important than getting the banana.
Yes, sure, our two million year old brain is telling us this and it's getting in our way.
So in a rational enough and understood. But the challenge is is that actually in fact, more and more of how we navigate our careers is like playing it safe is actually slow death, right, versus a chance at serious life. And so, part of what you need to do is say, "Okay, I need to figure out how I can be creative." Being creative will always involve some risk. There's always that sense of vertigo in creativity, 'cause it's like, I did this thing, and I think it's amazing, but it's not always amazing.
And I'm scared.
And I'm scared, right. And so, from an individual point of view, you need to navigate that, and you need to learn the skills, and you need to be able to take the risk. And then from a company and culture point of view, you need to be sufficiently encouraging. It doesn't mean, like, actually one of the funniest things I saw from a company once was, "We celebrate failure." and you're like, that's idiotic. Nobody does that, right. Nobody in Silicon Valley celebrates failure. What we celebrate is learning and learning fast, which includes failure and recovery. And so having that in your culture, which is you know, how do we essentially you know kind of build something amazing is really cool. Give an example of modern kind of CEO context, the team that built the Alexa Echo is the same team, more or less, that built the Kindle Fire phone. And you say, okay, Kindle Fire phone, not a big commercial success. The normal--
That was the nicest way it's ever been put, not a big commercial success.
Well oh, you know.
Fair enough, fair enough. Jeff may be on the show someday, we gotta preserve our--
So, but part of Jeff being a great CEO is he didn't do what you would expect like an MBA program and say, well that's the team, and you get rid of. He went no, okay, look, we took our shot. What's our next good shot? Oh building this other device. And so literally, that whole team moved over to that, minus the people who just only wanted to work on phones. I mean, literally the same team. And that's the kind of culture that if you have it, encourages people to continue to take creative shots. And when they look around and see that's how other people are treated, well maybe I can too. Maybe I can actually go take that risk, and so forth, 'cause as long as I'm learning, you know, making a really intelligent play for it and recovering and playing again, then I know that the company has, you know, has my back, has this alliance with me, and that's super valuable.
Beautifully put. Thank you for bringing my sort of, I wasn't quite sure how to get at it. We'll talk about the alliance in a second, which you just mentioned. Before we do, I think, we're gonna keep pulling on this thread, which is some of the things that the modern company, you know, small, medium, and large, have to focus on because it creates amazing things. The inputs need to change in order to create greater outputs and more impressive outputs and one of those things has become wildly evident is diversity and inclusion and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that. I know that it's on the hearts and minds and lips of a lot of smart folks, but you have, I think, a unique perspective on it. So talk to me about that, if you can.
So Silicon Valley, very justly, gets some criticism about not being sufficiently diverse and inclusive. And you know, like, there's kind of two simplistic points of view on this. One simplistic point of view is to say hey, look, it's ameritocracy and all just works out and these people are all idiots, right, like there are many more talented minorities who are capable of playing this game than are in this game right here. And so full stop, that statement is just categorically wrong.
So simple view number one. Simple view number two is oh it's all because you're sexist, racist, et cetera and the whole industry is corrupt down to the last, usually in this case, white man standing or white Chinese Indian in the Silicon Valley case, and that no one's really trying to work on this and make it happen and so just a bunch, and the truth is, we have a serious problem we need to fix, and it's a hard problem, right, and you actually need to get through it. Part of it goes everything from pipeline issues, which you have to work on, to putting extra energy, it's a little bit like when you know there's a problem, if you think you're a good person, are you putting extra energy every single person to try and solve this?
Yeah, over-indexing on that problem.
Yes, because that's how you say yes, I care about this, yes, I'm doing it. Not, I'm just gonna whitewash, sure I care about diversity. If it so happens to be the right diverse candidate calls me, then hey, I'll hire them. Like, no, no, no, no, you care, you work. You put energy and blood into it. Now, I think one of the things that you're also referring to is a couple weeks back, I wrote a post called The Diversity Pledge, because we have a particular problem in the venture industry in that there's a, the vast majority of venture capitalists are men. That's part of the diversity problem of something that we need to improve, seriously. And you know, Greylock's been working on it and other firms have been working on it. It's, you know, there are firms that are actually really working on this.
And, but, the problem is, there doesn't exist essentially an HR function between VCs and entrepreneurs, and if you roughly say look, say there's 3,000 VCs. I don't know what the number is in Silicon Valley, you know, some percentage of them, 10, five, two, 20, you know, something like that, don't understand that any kind of sexual approach to people from within the positions of entrepreneurs pitching them for money is wrong, the same way that a company manager would say, "Hey, it's just consenting adults." Or a university professor would say, "Hey, it's just consenting adults." No, no, no, no, no, no.
There's a power dynamic there.
There's a power dynamic, it's categorically unacceptable. It makes the other person feel unsafe, makes them feel unwelcome, you know, makes them feel like it's not the right place for them, that people don't care. And so it's bad.
Straight up bad.
Straight up bad. And so, what happened is, Reed Albergotti, the reporter for The Information, wrote this excellent story, very well researched, and there was insufficient protest and outrage about this. And I had been feeling it. And I read through a post from Sarah Lacy on Pando, and I went, "She's exactly right." So I got up early one Friday morning, more to create a kind of shaped here is how we can put a set of voices together on this, which is look, until we establish what the right HR functions, everything else are, which, you know, have to have investigation, and have to look at this with some judicious, now Reed did that. He interviewed a ton of women, got three of them on the record, three other ones reporting similar incidences, not on the record, so you don't have he said/she said as I put in my post, you have a he said/they said, very different category of--
Of argument, response. And we should simply say, "All of us, "will simply not do business with these people." Whether you're an LP, a GP, an entrepreneur, you find this and don't do business with them. And that's a minimum statement. It's in the direction. And then, part of this modern social media world is you create a hashtag for it, you create a movement for it, so the people can set up, and that was decency pledge, and that I think has had some positive implications.
It's again, decency pledge, folks at home. It's really, really strenuously very powerful.
And I think we're now looking at what are the things that we do in order to help cement and make the inertia towards that much better pattern of behavior. Now, one thing I wanna say, because some of the comments around this stuff I thought was, it's just important to mention is, look, there are a bunch of bad jerks, with terrible behavior. And we should disallow that as much as possible. That doesn't mean, that's still a minority. It's only a small percentage of them. And so then people say, Silicon Valley bad, tech industry bad, so it's then no no no no, some jerks, and we should not let the jerks be jerks.
Yeah, hold them accountable.
And hold them accountable and part of the reason, part of the central drive I had for this is the more entrepreneurs, including, most especially, because it's heavily underrepresented, is women entrepreneurs that we have, the more creativity we'll have, the more great companies we'll have, the more talent and--
The data is pretty clear, they actually grow companies, women grow companies faster than men on X axes.
Yeah, it's super important, and so, literally there's a moral principle, but it's also just a self interested principle. We wanna make sure that they all feel like, yes, this is a welcoming community. This is a place that I can play. This is the things I can do. And it's beholden on all of us to make that happen.
I just wanted to applaud you for taking the stand that you did. That was really inspirational. There's a ton of work to do, where at Creative LIVE we are on average 100% higher than Silicon Valley, and/or national averages on women in leadership across every single position from manager to executive team. I'm really proud of that. And I think on the other side of diversity and inclusion is not any sort of quota, but just the richness of the environment, the opportunity for great ideas coming from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines. To me, that's just been so empowering. It's been really fun, and I think that's a message that I wanna make sure that people out there in the world hear. So, I've got a couple of notes here. One of them is about leadership. And I think you have either hired, coached, mentored, or are yourself one of the best leaders in entrepreneurship today. I look at Jeff Weiner as an amazing leader. He's someone who James introduced you to him, and then if I'm not mistaken, you hired him CEO of LinkedIn. Also, his record is impeccable. He's just an amazing leader. But you also get to see leaders, and this is leaders of all company sizes, 'cause there are people that have three employees that walk in to Greylock.
Yeah, sometimes one, employee of one, right? I got an idea and I'm the sole employee. What are some of the most classic mistakes that you see leaders making at any scale or any size?
Well, there's obviously a ton. The list of errors is much longer than the list of successes and tools and techniques. Let's see, let's go for some of the more subtle and important ones. The first is that the game changes. This is a little bit like the Masters of Scale and blitzscaling and all. And frequently what happens is what got you here is not what will get you there. And so, like for example, another of the kind of lessons that we might in the next Masters of Scale season focus an episode is you go from doers to managers and doers where all managers are also doers, to managers of doers, to executives of managers, and the whole nature of the leadership game changes as you go through this sequence. And you have to constantly be asking yourself, "What does the new game look like?" So sure, you might have learned. You might have really done the old game, but it's a new game. And so that's one, and coming up, by the way, the importance of culture, the importance of high integrity, all of those stay the same. But for example, how do you manage communications? Or what are your responsibilities as a leader? Those kind of things change. So that's one. I'd say another is to really actually think about, so again, in the scaling, in that pattern, is people tend a little bit to get to stay too comfortable, and some parts of it are important. So for example, one of the things I learned from Jeff is the importance of the parallels between a leader's, Jeff Weiner, leadership teams and sports teams, which is an efficiency of working together, a shorthand of working together, an ability to make decisions, in effective a shared context and set of those things that really make a high performance team. And that's super important. But you also want to be thinking a lot about when do you make transitions. Actually, another person that I've met through Jeff is a guy named Fred Kofman who is an excellent author of a book called Conscious Business which I think is actually in fact one of the things that when you think, like people say, "Wow you're making transitions "in leadership here, it's 'cause you're hard edged "and you're a making difficult decision "where you shove that person off the boat and so forth." And actually in fact, Fred makes this awesome and very important point in the book, which is if you think of compassion is like for example, take for example doctors working on patients. And you say, "Well this doctor is not doing their job well." Well, when you actually get them out of the building you're actually being hugely compassionate for patients. And so compassion is this aggregate thing. It's your customers. It's your employees. It's this set of things and so you have to have compassion for the whole group, which sometimes can be something difficult for an individual or a small number of individuals, but you're trying to maximize compassion across it. And that's another thing that Jeff Weiner is a great theorist and practitioner and leader in. But you need to think about changes in your team. You need to think about, like, okay, I have a deep loyalty to this person, but how is it, like when you're going through these scales, how is it that we now really need to reconfigure in order to be appropriate for the compassion for our customers, the compassion for our employees and compassion for the whole group of these things, and sometimes that involves difficult changes. Of course that always means that you're as good for the individual as you absolutely can be, and you put energy in. And that's another mistake is to not recognize the needs and desires for the right compassion, the right mission outcome that you need to make changes. And so, and like for example, myself, to apply that all the way, I tend to very strongly go, if I'm doing a job and I think there's someone else who's gettable who would be better at that job, I always trade for them. That's part of the reason I hired Jeff Weiner. It's like, you know, I wanted someone who was world-class and who wakes up on Saturday morning going, "How do I build an awesome organization doing this?" That's one of the things that they do. When I typically think about product problems and business model problems and strategy problems, and I kinda think, "Okay, I'll do the org, "in order to do that," but the org is not how I live, breathe, bleed, et cetera, and I was like, "Oh, John needs someone better. "Jeff's better."
Voila. Well, yeah, I think Jeff is one of the most highly rated CEOs that I've ever seen and very inspirational on the tone of empathy, compassion, compassionate leader. For folks at home, if you're interested in leadership, Jeff is an amazing guy. How about, let's, I wanted to go back to the alliance. I put a pin in that and I wanna circle back. First book was The Start-Up of You. Second book was The Alliance, and I'm gonna give just a brief overview, and ask you a couple of specific questions. For the folks at home, The Alliance is a, it's realizing and recognizing that the relationship between employer and employee is changing. The dynamic used to be 40 years, gold watch, retire, sail off into the sunset, and now it's very different and the hope is that a company can add value to the employee beyond just the paycheck and the way that you do that is by having a relationship and so as an employee, you can come into an organization that believes in this principle, and know that you're gonna grow and develop and that's the thing that we promise here at Creative LIVE and in turn, the company gets people who are dedicated, who are not gonna be mercenaries. And who want to serve a couple tours of duty, learn some things, and the question, now that I've set that background, the question is why did you write that book? Isn't that, doesn't that harm you? You can still operate on those principles, but now everyone's got the secret. Obviously, there's a little tongue-in-cheek here, but share with me.
So, I'll just be biographical narrative. So how the book came about was that, I had written this book, The Start-Up of You, which we did a show on here, a couple of years ago, and part of that book, Start-Up of You, came from the commencement speech that I gave my high school, the Putney school, 'cause I was like what do I say to a bunch of high school students? Like, what does my path have to do with, by the way, it's a very art school, and everyone was like what does my entrepreneurial path have to do with them? Because very few end up being entrepreneurs. They end up being educators, NGOs, bunch of other things, you know broadly I mean obviously there's a whole spectrum. And so what I did was be the entrepreneur of your own life. Learn, like the modern life is you don't have to start companies, but the skill set of entrepreneurs is a skill set that you need for a meaningful, successful, stable, safe, all of those things, modern life. And so I gave that speech, commencement speeches are the only ones I write, so I sent it around. People said, "Oh, you should write the book," I went, "Ah, I'm too busy. "Oh Ben wrote this other really good book, "and maybe Ben will do this with me and we could do that." And so Ben Casnocha and I did that together. And then what happened is after I did all that, I went, "Oh, I'm here at LinkedIn, and yes, "there's a shared philosophy "behind LinkedIn and The Start-Up of You, "but I should send this to all of our corporate clients." And then I went, "If I sent this to our corporate clients, "they'd go, oh you're telling me my employees "should quit and start businesses." Even though it's about being adaptive, creative, entrepreneurial, just not necessarily starting companies, but just being you as how you live and work. And so I went, "Alright, let's write an essay "about why it's so critical to have "these talented creative people, "and how do you hire, manage, and recruit them? "And what are some of the things that people like me "and other people here in Silicon Valley do for that?" And so, I wrote up an essay, sent it off to HBR, 'cause I figured okay, Harvard Business Review would be the place to do this and they said, "Oh, we'd love to publish this essay, "but we'd really like to publish the book." And I was like, oh, book. And so--
And they signed you up for another six months worth of work then didn't they?
Yes, but you know, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh, we all came together and it was actually the simplest book process that at least I've participated in 'cause it was literally just describe what you do and make that available to folks. And you know we got some critiques saying this is only true for high growth industries, this is more true for tech, this is true for when you have a lot of creative talent, and all of which is partially true, but I'd say the whole world's going that way. And so, look, this is the understand the whole world's going that way and there's a particular thing, it doesn't surprise me that you gave me the strong, positive rendition of here's the solution that we do, this is you, but, there's another particular thing that we detailed in the book which was important. To understand, most people say, "Wow that's for "the aspirational or for the stars "versus the whole company." It's like no, it's for the whole company. In the modern work world, we all know that people don't, the general rule is you don't work at one company your whole life. You go work in a number of companies. And then you think, how many times does the manager and the employee have that conversation about that possibility?
Yes, exactly. Then you say, "Okay, what is the implication of that?" 'Cause they both know it. Everybody knows it-
No one's talking about it.
And no one's talking about it. It erodes trust. Because if there's something that's a real issue between us, like oh, well maybe one or both of us is gonna go work other places and we're not talking about it at all, then that means we don't really have a trusted relationship. Oh, you wanna have a company without trusted relationships?
Good luck with that.
Trust and accountability are the core to growing anything.
So have a real conversation, and part of the real conversation is look, we might love you to work here your entire life, but it may not make sense for you. What we'd really love you to do is help transform our company, and then we will make sure that your career is on a transformative path, whether it's with us, or else place. And that's the premise of The Alliance.
It's beautiful, it really is. And I read it as a, I came back to take over CEO a few years ago, and needed to do some rebuilding, and it was so helpful, thoughtful. It's the things that everyone's thinking and no one's saying that to me makes a great business book. So, embedded in there, I think, is a little bit of you, personally. We haven't talked about it, we've talked about your companies, your scale, your show, your firm, leadership principles, very theoretical. I wanna talk about you for a few minutes here. And a question is, is there a part of your schedule, your personal schedule, that you protect from outside influence such that you have room for the big boulders, because real thought, transformative thought, meaningful, those are the big boulders, and as someone who is always working on self improvement and trying to find the right recipe here, what are the big boulders that you put in the pitcher of water first to raise the level of the water such that you can drink it, and all the little boulders, they go around that. So what are your big boulders. How do you protect, create, cultivate the schedule that you want such that you've got room to do these things?
So, I need to do that better. That's not one of the things that I do particularly well. Part of it is that I have a few too many day jobs at the moment, so there's LinkedIn at Microsoft. There's Greylock, there's portfolio companies. There's working on books, podcasts. There's trying to avoid what I think of as the Trumpocalypse in terms of us. And so a whole stack of things, and so that means that I'm actually enormously reactive across a large set of things. Now, in theory more than in practice, but I work towards--
I appreciate your vulnerability here, I want you to know.
I work towards the practice. What I find is that in order to be seriously creative, I need to essentially clear my mind, usually the night before. So I need to not be red-lining getting stuff done, up til whatever hour, but also like stressing. Like, the evening before needs to be, it doesn't have to be sedate, but it has to be the kind of calming end of day, good night's sleep, and then the very first thing, get up and don't accept any other interruptions. And is it a half day, three days, whatever the thing is, then immerse yourself in that, minimum two to three hours to really get going. And sometimes what I'll do is I'll try to do that if I'm really working is I'll try to repetitively do calm four hours, other stuff for the rest of the day, calm, four hours, calm, four hours, as a way to do that 'cause I also find that, or even spaced out, like not, like one day a week, 'cause that kind of thing, 'cause what I find is the background processes of I'm working on it, I tackled it, and then I put it back on the shelf, and then I pull it off the shelf is very helpful for coming up with the right ideas.
Yeah, and common in that answer. I've had so many great thinkers and friends and peers and leaders like yourself here on the show and that is a theme. Just real blocks of time where it's quiet. And those of us, you, lead chaotic lives. You're always traveling, and there's a lot of interesting things, and we're like crows. We see shiny objects and we get passionate about that. It's, there's, no one's ever said, "I do my best work in the throes of problems." You can be your best because you can rise to the occasion, but your best, biggest, freest thinking no one's ever said that it happens when stuff's going haywire. So a, it's refreshing, b, I find it interesting. Would you consider yourself a morning person? Because you wanna get up and be active? Or is that just on the back end of a quiet evening, followed by seven or eight hours of sleep and is it the quiet before that is cultivating that opportunity?
I find that my creativity goes down the more different projects and different emergencies that I've responded to. So it isn't so much necessarily a morning person as much as to have maximally distanced myself from a triaged fire fighting that is most of my life. And so that's the calming of the evening, and then the sleep, and you're not being interrupted. And so that is when I'm at my most creative. That's when I'm at my most kind of blank page. That's when I prefer to read. Like I prefer if I'm gonna try to read. You know, whether it's anything from Sapiens to, you know, The Seventh Sense or any of these super interesting books of the last few years. What I try to do is I try to say, "I want the clar-, to be able to read it "and have it stimulate my own thinking, "stimulate my creativity." But that means I need to not be going, "Oh, I need to do that, I need to get that done. "Oh, wait, wait, this problem needs to be solved. "This might solve it." Because that's what the normal pace is. And if I, if that's already been activated, it's hard for me to calm down from it. I can, but it's much better to just have it all quiet when I'm focused.
Yeah, and a, thanks again for being vulnerable, saying you're not as good at that as you want to be.
I am, this.
But that's something that the folks at home and I'm trying to get good. I've been a terrible sleeper my whole life. I'm focusing on sleeping. Ariana's been bashing me about that of course.
And you know there's these dimmers on the computers and things.
Oh yeah, you got my phone damn near turns orange at like, 10 o'clock. I remember I did this so it was easier on my eyes. And I'm very much wanna turn this up so I can see this, but I resist. As a result, I've become really protective of my mornings and so it's lovely to hear a little bit about your routine. On similar tip, is there a belief. I'm trying to get people to sort of continually examine their belief. Is there a belief that you once held, that you feel like you have reversed course on?
There's probably a number of those.
In the most, in you know, recent?
Let's see, I'm trying to think of which one would be most interesting--
And I hate these questions as an interviewee because you're like, do I have to pick the perfect answer right now? What three albums are your favorite? You're like, seriously, right now, my three favorite albums, like oh my God, I don't wanna say the wrong ones. But just, it can be something small and again the under, the point behind the scenes here is that we're all always evolving.
And if you're actually, one of my favorite questions of people is what would you tell yourself, if you were to call, like for example, if you were to call yourself at the beginning, I'm not saying you should answer the question, but the beginning of-
Yes he is.
Creative LIVE, no, but at the beginning of Creative LIVE, what would you tell yourself to do differently? Because if you actually hadn't evolved your approach, your skill set, it's not perfect knowledge of the future, you're not learning. Changing your mind
Oh my gosh, I would change so many things.
Is correlated with learning. And beliefs, by the way, you should learn your beliefs, too. Beliefs are not kind of--
Handed down and fixed forever. I'd say that the,
Even that is a thing, right? Just that your beliefs, if they're not always changing, then that's actually probably a sign of you not learning?
Maybe that's the meta, that's the meta.
Well you should definitely be thinking, and that's the reason I'm kinda indexing through this set of things. I guess what I would probably say is that in interesting ways, I've both become more optimistic and pessimistic about human nature. So it isn't, like I've just become more optimistic, or it isn't, it's like a changing shape. And what I--
Are there certain axes under which, is that how you are, where you're doing both at the same time?
Yeah, well, like for example, on one hand, I think that when I look at a lot of people's behaviors in groups, we have a real possibility of not just having kind of wisdom of the crowd, but madness of the masses. And so, like I was obviously, you know, seriously dismayed with many Americans' choice of Trump as president, I thought that was, I thought, if you look at the tweets, if you look at the things he says, if you look at you know kind of the question of everything from implying, like all Mexican are rapists or they're sending their rapists here, which is like, like just an evil statement. And anti-American. Not the America that many of the people that I know and love bleed for, right. And so that makes you more pessimistic, 'cause you're like, look I can get at saying look we believe, as I do not, that oh, Trump's a successful business person, help us return to business, but it's like, you cannot defend that position, you can't defend Trump without at least talking about how evil these things are. There's no such thing as alternative facts. Science is important. I mean, you just go down and down, reading is important. Knowledge is important. Compassion is important. Acknowledging error, he's never done that. You know, that kind of thing is super important. And so, increasing pessimism, 'cause you see that happen. And then on the other hand, you know, part of what is kind of delight as I get older, is I think I used to have a kind of a simple model of heroism where heroes were the people like, you know, the 300 Spartans who protected Greece from the Persians, you know, like this. (growls) And I think I've been delighted to see more everyday heroism. And part of why I'm remembering that, and this was when you kind of asked me, it was kind of like, in a sense, what was the most recent stuff was, last week, I was at the MIT Media Lab because Joi Ito and a crew of folks there and I have helped create this thing called the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Prize, and the event was called Defiance. And it was when do you take personal risk for social good? And we had the whistleblowers for the Flint water crisis were up there. We had two of the elders from the Standing Rock movement. We had a climatologist who had been arguing climate's changing against a lot of pressure from very early. And we had these two women teachers, professors, who had created Freedom University in Georgia, because Georgia had made it illegal in universities to teach undocumented people and they said, "Look, education is how we progress. "Education is how we become who we are. "It's almost like a human right. "So we're gonna go create Freedom University." And like, sitting on stage with these people, having given them these awards and everything else, was a reminder of despite the fact that I have these intense unhappiness, a pessimism of kind of madness of the masses and some of the things going on, that we have these everyday heroes as well. So that's the complicated weave.
That's life, right? It's never linear. It's never, and to me, I think the way you framed it is super appropriate and I think the lens on which everyday people, that's another really important thing that I wanna put a pin in this episode is that because we're talking about scale and building big companies and what I've always loved about you as a leader, I consider you a friend, advisor, that it's always at the human level, the one to one and your background, I don't know if it's a background, but how you see technology and humanity interacting. I know you talked about yourself as an anthropologist at your core, that's about people. And so I guess as I wanna transition here. I wanna get to your philanthropy in just a second, but talk to me about the lens, what I think is a very unique lens from someone in your position that you put on the individual. Like, you end up betting on not just ideas in the venture world, but you bet oh humans. You, even just the examples you've given just now of everyday heroes. So what role does the individual play in Reid Hoffman's landscape?
Well so, in Start-Up of You, I had, it's both I and we both matter. And again, false dichotomies. Some people go oh we is all that matters, and I is all that matter, it's like no, no, no. Both. It's individuals in a tribe, in a group, and so forth. And so individuals in my view, and sometimes, like Eastern philosophers may think this is an overly Western perspective, you know, going back to the philosophy background. Individuals, I think, are fundamentally, it's the accountability, the onus that all of us have are the instruments of change. The decision to make a difference. The decision to do something. Decision to take a risk, that's part of the reason leadership is so important. And so, like, roughly speaking, for example, as an investor, I almost never invest in somebody unless I think that they are, what I call infinite learners, which is capable of learning the things at speed in order to make this game go, because the entrepreneurship game changes constantly. And so I am a huge believer in the importance and centrality of individuals. And individual choices and individual responsibility and the individual power in order to make stuff happen, leadership. On the other hand, people you know, frequently calling themselves Libertarians and those think, oh all there is is individuals. And I actually think, no, no, we're individuals in alliance. We're individuals in a group. We're individuals in a shared mission, in spirit, on a team, et cetera, right? And so I think that the thing is where you say, "I'm the I that's also part of the we, "and that both matter." And so for example, again, in good leaders in entrepreneurship, when you have an entrepreneur who says it's all about me, they're almost always gonna be terrible leaders. And they're almost always gonna construct companies that aren't gonna scale. You really want people who go, "How do I get as many amazing people, "people who are you know, more amazing than me, "to help with this mission?" And those are the kinds of leaders that usually go a very long way.
Awesome. Embedded in there was a little bit of a hint towards your work as a philanthropist. And Tim Ferriss, good friend of mine, 10 year friend. We've both been on his show before. And there's a lot of crossover between our audiences and you talked on one of the podcasts that you did with Tim about some of the nonprofit work that you're excited about and you know, there's been so many names dropped. We've talked a lot about books, people are taking notes, we'll have this in the show notes, of course. But, rather than just say how do you support Reid Hoffman, in Reid's life as a business person, let's talk about Reid as a philanthropist and what are some things you're doing. I know you're involved in Change and Kiva, and there's all kinds of stuff. What are some ways that people who love your message can support you? Go ahead and talk to me about some of your nonprofit stuff.
So, there's many good missions, great missions in the world. And for me, part of what I do, is I say, "Okay which ones do I have a unique tool set?" Archimedean levers, to make a really big impact? Occasionally I'll also do something just to support friends or because it has my own personal resonance or something, but by and large, the bulk of it is the very big changes. And so there's one swath that is, how do we create the right kinds of consumer internet technologies that make a huge difference? So Change.org enabled people to aggregate their voices, to power, to companies, to governments, and say, "Change your point of view. "Change your policy. "Change what you're doing here to make it more human. "To make it more compassionate."
Yes, exactly. So there's a whole stack around that. Individual empowerment, going back to individuals. Kind of Kiva, how do you enable individuals as micro-entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurship broadly, 'cause part of how we make progress is we create these new industries, new jobs, so also Endeavor, which is high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. You know, I can keep going through various things, I mean, the most recent was, but like this is again, where you look at where you can be, for me, when I can kind of be uniquely creative. And Joe and I were sitting around, and I was like, "Look, I have this theory "that universities could have a much bigger impact "on the world by using prizes." And we talked about it some, and we talked about what the Media Lab's mission is, which is building things to solve things, and we came up with, essentially, the Disobedience Prize.
I love it.
And part of it is to again highlight the people who take personal risk for social good. And it isn't just political, like obviously, amongst the amazing heroes of our kind of you know, well last century America, you know, Martin Luther King, et cetera, it doesn't always have to be political. Sometimes it's art. Sometimes it's science. Sometimes it's, you know, Galileo. And so, you know like, okay, well, that's a unique idea. It isn't necessarily technology. It isn't necessarily you know entrepreneurship, but that kind of thing could actually have a big chance. I know the entrepreneur, the group to do it. The Media Lab, its award committee, Joi and so forth, and so there's a just, there's a stack of things, and actually, for people who are curious, almost everything that I do that involves, kind of serious philanthropy, I write about at some point, just so that people are aware of it. You know, so for example, oh, and then the other thing I think is important also to think about in philanthropy is multiple scales so yes, I do think about world impact mostly. But like local here to San Francisco, you know, I've helped the Exploratorium a bunch, 'cause science museums and children and exploration, creativity. And then Second Harvest food bank, down on the Peninsula. Because, by the way, if you don't feed people--
Just hope and that's pretty important.
Yeah, human potential. It's the raw squandering of human potential and sometimes you say, "Look, if they can just "get on their feet and get fed healthy food, "they have a chance at doing something amazing." And obviously, one of the other things, I think one of the things that I most try to shift America culture in the direction of is the Spiderman line, which is with power comes responsibility. One of the things I fear comes too easily with kind of a individualist Libertarian bent is to say, "Well it's my money and everything else." Well no, it's the money that you've gained by being part of this society. You have responsibility. And so we here in Silicon Valley, look there's a bunch of people here who are suffering and in trouble. We should help them. Doesn't mean you have to do everything. Doesn't mean you have to drop everything we're doing. But it's again that, what are you doing to instantiate the fact that you're a good person, that you are responsible, and that you're doing something? And so this year for me, it's Second Harvest food bank.
Huge, cool, I was just with Tony Robbins in New York last week, gonna feed 100 million people this year. The thought of just these fundamental things that you know Scott Harrison's been on the show, Charity:Water, it's an amazing job. I've always loved your, you seem to fight fires at so many different levels. You were just talking about massive global scale and then the food bank down the street. So much for us to learn from you. I wanna say thank you so much for being on the show. We'll make sure to capture all, this is a very dense show and we'll try and, we covered a lot of ground. I'll try and capture all the show notes. I wanna say a, again thank you, thanks to Greylock for the support that you guys have given us at Creative LIVE, specifically you, you've transformed a lot of lives and I feel like you've got a lot left to give, so thank you very much. Appreciate it for being on the show. If you're at home watching this, listening, wherever you are, with your ears, your eyes. Stay tuned, they're probably be another episode out tomorrow.