Ron Conway – Startup School 2011

Okay, everyone next step doesn’t really need an introduction. It’s Ron Conway policy introduced as the Michael Jordan of angel investing the skin is still that one. Thank you very, very much. Paul also calls me round co. And I’m gonna start by answering a question that all of you are going to be asking yourselves in 5 minutes. And the question you’re all going to be asking yourself is why in the hell is he. Turning the page every 30 seconds, so want to get that out of the way I stayed down on the pin in silence and Francisco State at the Rose would hotel last night typed up all my notes Senator the concierge please print this and it came out in huge time, so there’s not too much on each page. And I am gonna be talking from my notes, I asked my partner, David try and bring me a copy this smaller but his was too small. So you’ll have to put up with the page turning, so it’s an honor to speak in a room full of entrepreneurs in your heads is the future of innovation and not just in Silicon Valley cuz I think half the room is from outside Silicon Valley and as Mark Zuckerberg noted there are at the center is other than Silicon Valley for innovation and that’s a good thing for innovation huge piece of our portfolio now is in New York City. I thought was interesting, the last year we had MC Hammer as a guest and this year. Aston Kuchar as a speaker. It does show that media and the Internet are finally finally converging we have try Carter here too. Lady Gaga’s manager it was learning about tech so it, it really is happening media and the Internet are converging Aston said that that he works closely with us and I hope you saw there down in LA. There are some really, really smart people were adding value to the Silicon Valley ecosystem. The other thing that I think is is kind of interesting and ironic is that the first screening of why sees next class is on how are we. So I said many times how lucky I am that ought to be nursed share their crystal ball of the future, with investors. And today I’m gonna talk about some of the defining entrepreneurs that I’ve met in the last 20 year errors. I’m gonna talk about some of the traits and lessons that I’ve learned from these defining entrepreneurs. Keep in mind that everyone in this room has the capability to be a defining or the people I’m gonna talk about are examples there are examples of people there that you can identify with but I resonated a lot with Ashton when he talked about Carl Fisher an unsung hero, from the 1800s, but the thing that you should think about while I’m talking, one of the big names is thinking big. Many, many of our companies don’t think big enough and the ones that don’t think big enough. I can’t name them, but there’s some big companies, it could be bigger so as ambitious as you want to be, go for it. So for context, before I talk about the defining out of nor is I’m gonna tell you a little bit about the fact that I’m an entrepreneur myself I have co-founded 3 companies Altos computer. And then a software training. There’s no this and then I co-founded snow capped which Shawn Fanning after the failure of Napster hoping to create this a a solution that would give. All people access to all the content out there. Unfortunately, that didn’t work, either, so I I have learnt from failure as well. Altos was a typical start up, we had no furniture. I sat on the floor for the first meetings I sat next to the copy machine for the first 2 years and till we got fancy offices. Our culture and Altos and culture in a company is very, very important, our culture Altos evolved to work hard and play hard. Some companies have happy hour every Friday. This is an early happy hour at Google look to the far right you see Marisa Mayer to the left you see George Eric Paul high. I’m not sure where he was that day but it Altos we the work hard, play hard said we’re gonna do it different. We had TT IAAF every day and funny enough, it was the sea air flow of the company became everyone’s desk with the car had a cocktail at 5 o’clock and then stayed till about 9 o’clock. So I basically done everything that a founder has done traveling 80% of the time building our own trade show booths because we didn’t want to pay the labor unions and then suffering the consequences. The following year. There we were in Chicago, and in no computers could blow up, but they did. My co-founder, I was in Alabama, one selling and he said they were not it quote just keep driving up and down that state to you sell enough of the product. And we did big scrappy is is something that every out of will learn and we were scrappy like everyone else we sold computers out of the the back of the co-founders VW bus when we went on sales calls and wanted to impress people we drove in my Grand Prix the roof leaked and one night coming back from Monterey and we were both soaking where. And we had sales at that time we said take the stand. Think public day and I’m gonna get rid of mud. The MW bus. My co-founder and I’m gonna get rid of my Grand Prix, and sure enough it happened. We went public. I traded in the flooded car but more importantly. I knew when we went public that we had built a culture in our company, it was work hard, play hard results are everything. The. In our result was in 1982 we were named the fastest growing part a private company in America right before IPL. So now to the important topic what what makes a defining entrepreneur. I can tell a defining out of from a mile away because I’ve been investing since 1994. But some of the traits that I want to give some examples of today defining entrepreneurs are that a defining entrepreneur is usually a product visionary. In the product visionary that who is also the founder owns the mind of their customers. If it’s a social media product that customer is consumers. If it’s an enterprise product then it’s the large corporations but owning the mind of your customer is your is your value add think about marred Zuckerberg. He has the mind of college students. Embedded in his mind. The first 2 years of Facebook. He knew how they thought and he kept building products that they wanted, think about Shawn Fanning he knew the mind of the music lover and that all they wanted to do is share files and and solve a practical problem think of Brian ski of air India Y C Company. He has the mind of the sharing economy and collaborative consumption he owns that Jack Dorsey owns the mind of the Twitter user knows how they think knows how that, how they get motivated by the product and therefore satisfies their needs going forward. Think of Dennis Crowley, he’s been thinking about location-based services at Foursquare before there is GPS. So some of the characteristics that stand out for me, then I look for in and have looked far over the last 10 years are things like decisiveness. It’s better to make a decision and move forward then to procrastinate if if you snooze you lose having a clear vision and making sure that the entire team shares and knows about, that vision. Being a good listener but also being strong-willed moving fast swept the logistics 24-7 work ethic I have never invested in an entrepreneur that while they’re talking to me they mention that they’re also an angel investor being an German entrepreneur and starting a company is 24-7. Over communicate inside your company and over communicate outside your company. Be relentless. The ruthless be scrappy. But always keep a boot strap mentality. Please boot strap before you get funded entrepreneurs asked me all the time when should I get funded, and I say never. If you can boot strap yourself for ever and the founders own the company. That’s the greatest company ever. The well-known example I give is Michael Arrington and TechCrunch he owned the vast majority of their company when he sold it. So boot strapping is possible lead by example. If you’re going to leave the office at 5 o’clock. Why should anybody else stay. It’s tough to start a company. So you’ve got to be tough to execution is everything make mistakes but learned from them, trust your gut and make decisions. I tell our 2 runners at least 3 times a week. When they call me with a dilemma. I make a recommendation. But then I ended with trust your gut. Now the. The most important less and there are one relay is is about reputation Rep Pete your reputation is your biggest asset. And whatever you do don’t compromise your reputation as you build your business because you can never reclaim your reputation. So now we’re gonna move on. And talk about who are some of these defining entrepreneurs. One of right up here is name is Paul Graham started his own company and is now teaching others to start their own company, but we all know who the co-founder is Ben Paul wouldn’t be Paul without Jessica and the Y C team. But the fact that Paul has started his own company and is a defining entrepreneur is why why carbonate or is the Harvard of start-ups or maybe today Stanford. So I’m gonna move on now and chat about some defining entrepreneurs tell some stories. I like to talk about how I met Larry and Sergey I was at a holiday party in 1998 in after Atherton and one of our investors in the age of funds David Sheraton is a Stanford professor was there. We were both in black tie, neither one of us like black tie. But I said to him. Hey, what’s happening at Stanford and he said hey, there’s a company called back rub, and that was the code name for Google in the early days. And I said you know what, what do they do. And he said well they they searched by relevance and page rank and then he described what page rank was you know if if if one link links. It is a lot of links go to one page. That means that must be a good page relevance in page right very simple concept but nobody had executed on that yet. I had just taken as chief public the summer before so I knew enough about the search market that Google had to be a great company. So I stopped David Sheraton for 5 months. And finally in in May of 1999 he and I went out to lunch. He described Google set up the meeting with Larry answered gay that lunch I still have the re-C after he left the table. I wrote down this is history. Google will be one of the biggest companies ever I I knew that for 3 years. People thought I was crazy but Google was solving a a huge, huge problem with search relevance. The interesting thing about Larry and Sergey is there they were absolute sponge is in learning about how to start a company and there was not a white carbonate or 12 years ago and Google started but we had CEO summits once a month for our portfolio companies and Larry and Sergey were as inquisitive is anyone in this room and were the first to the summits and the last to leave its summits like this where you where you learn so much and they got. Once entrepreneur always an entrepreneur, I actually believe that that entrepreneurship is genetic. The people in this room, were born to be entrepreneurs. That’s why there are so many serial entrepreneurs. There is nothing more interesting. So now sell an interesting story back in the in the early days of Google in 1999 we had a a fund-raiser in my yard. There were 600 people there. Warren Buffett was there, Dana. He was there. We had a charity auction and Larry and Sergey were their wish and John Parker was also there and and Shawn Fanning back in 99 Napster had 40 million users up from you almost zero a year prior. Fanning had been on the cover of every magazine in the country and Larry and Sergey came over to me and said they were you were you introduce us to this fanning character because we want to meet him. Cuz we’re never going to be famous, like him. And I said, don’t be so sure but they met and Larry and Sergey because they could monetize their solution have have done great great things. So Shawn Fanning immediately had a brand name and a good reputation, but he had to start 2 more companies before becoming successful but persistence pays you once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. Another great example are they founder. Is Dennis Crowley of Foursquare, as I said before he understand a stood the value of location-based services before GPS was there and back a few years ago when just started that and the idea of checking and this was becoming popular, we were very compelled by square and even though the companies in New York. I jumped on a plane with one of our partners and went back and had dinner with Dennis Crowley and I said: tell me how this check in can be relevant and this is in the early days of Foursquare, but they had enough users in the restaurant, we were in. We checked in and within a minute he had messages from his friends saying here’s the best things on the menu in the restaurant, you’re in, because we were there yesterday and that, that’s when the light pole went on in my mind how massive the opportunity was gonna be in real time data and many of you know I’m quite determined one side decided Dennis Crowley was a defining our I wanna do invest. But somebody was there ahead of us and for the first time ever, we actually submitted a competing term she as an angel investor, we got our allocation, we’ve added value we caused a lot of ship, but guess what. In hindsight, Dennis said it wasn’t too bad cause we jacked up the valuation for the entrepreneur. One thing that Dennis Crowley gets that is the the new wave of intellectual property is design and user experience are the new intellectual property back when Larry and Sergey started Google the word algorithm became popular. But the algorithm in the IP going forward, especially in consumer products is all about design and user interface and Dennis Crowley represents one of the entrepreneurs who gets that, but, but don’t forget how import does important design is the godfather of design, I think is is none other than Jack Dorsey Jack is somebody who carries the mind of the user in his head. He has started to companies. I was lucky enough to be the first person he ever demo the square device too. He’s still laughs about it because I check my American Express bill and he has told me to this day that he charged me $500 for the demo. But it was deaf definitely worth it. In the square demo Jack had left Twitter and in the square demo. I said to myself. You know, Twitter is being round of the product genius who owns the mind of the Twitter user and lucky for all of us. Jack Dorsey is back running product at Twitter and and as an investor, I am very, very proud of Jack Dorsey because he is one of the pioneers, talking about how important design is and and has created 2 huge, huge companies. Let’s talk a little bit about Mr. Zuckerberg, who was here earlier I met Sean Parker and Zach when they can move down about 2 months after they arrived in California and Sean Parker. I was working with Sean at Napster then was the first investor and plaques so Sean called me up when he became the president of Facebook and said, you got to meet this company we met at university cafe and this is at about the time that the the Don Graham an XL funding was happening. And as I got to know Sean in stark I could tell then that they were defining entrepreneurs because they said. Guess what, you know you gotta go, help us close Apple and this was a company Facebook that had you know 10 people in it, I said why ample and they said because Apple is the biggest brand on. And we are going to be the biggest brand on first, so for sake. We will get our first order from Apple and they did. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. In my first meeting was said how many users are you gonna have 300 million. He was wrong. It’s 700 million and counting. So I think taking an example from Mark Zuckerberg is one of the best things that you could do and think about the hack culture that has made Facebook great over the years I’ve talked to a lot of Facebook engineers and say how do you do it. And it’s a 4-letter word back. So you so building and maintaining a hat culture, it is very, very valuable. I have a funny even yet in November of 2005. On a very rainy night in San Francisco. I jumped in my car. My wife who rarely travels is here. She’s playing Scrabble. Said what the hell you don’t get in the car on a rainy night and I said this this is another one of these defining companies drove to downtown San Francisco. Park the car and walked into the 2 million user Facebook party. There were 25 people there. And I walked in and I said, hey, there’s a strange there’s like 5 people here, I don’t know. And at that time I knew everybody in the company. So went up to the 5 people that I didn’t know what I said who. Who the hell are you where, where do you come from. Arms ex-roommate cheeses that’s funny as the roommates, they work. Walter. So you’re another guy, I don’t know where you arms ex-roommate. I after 5 people. I said you know what this is bullshit. I actually gathered them all up, so this is at a party with drinking took each one of just stay here for 5 minutes I gathered that out then I went and got Zach I said somebody is bullshit Nasir his they all say you’re their roommate and I know you only got 3 and says you dumb ass. It’s a 2 bedroom suite 3 beds per room. Their 6-round. So, Facebook has created a hat culture. I think there are great great example of how to build a great company. The next company, want to talk about is our next speaker drew Houston. I think Drew is an example of perseverance pays and a focus on recruiting Andrew and I have been friends for a while, even though we weren’t an investor till recently I used to say to do, how do I help you, you know you’re going to be a defining company Andrew kept saying I need a VP of engineering and I had a meeting with Brett Taylor, a few weeks after and Brett says the best infrastructure engineer I know is this guy, and so I quickly met with that guy, and I didn’t play fair drew. I did try and get him to go to other companies in the portfolio, but then I said wait a minute, I know the match. It’s a drop box and and off they went. The the next defining our but nor is air B&B another see graduating class I sat with the founders, of their B&B little over a year ago. And they said, hey, tell us about the funding process and I said what I need to tell you about that you you already funded and they don’t know our will be going for another round of funding. One day toll on these stories of the findings of of Google and Facebook and lo and behold on the New York last May and air B&B had received a lot of unsolicited offers and you could tell financing was gonna happen very quickly. I was with Brian chess key things came ahead in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, I was in a hotel but just keep broke his role and came to the hotel and and the lesson the lesson that did Brian learn that night in selecting who is going to lead his round is cuz he had offers that were much bigger than the offer the that they ended up taking but it was about. I want an investor, who’s going to add value. And Brian Chesley in the air, B and B team are delighted that they chose Andreessen Horowitz and have received massive amounts of value add. So, please, please don’t take the higher offer. Take the value added to offer in any funding cycle that you’re in. So the the last 2 company I’m gonna talk about are the last defining entrepreneurs and a new company that they have just started is Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. I met shot and Sean when they were 18 years old like a month after they moved to California starting Napster. And since then. Each of these entrepreneurs have started multiple companies Parker you know Napster plaques of Facebook Fanning Napster snow capped rupture and path and now as you can see, they’ve come together and their co-founding a company called air time, which I think is great karma cuz these 2 are 2 burners, have a lot of respect for each other. I’ve been privileged to invest in all 8 of these companies, but these are examples of very very persistent entrepreneurs who have done it time and time again and and succeeded and not all not always succeeding but in the long run, have been successful. Great fanning story is that back in 99 when Napster who went to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco. After the court ruling which we lost every count we were defeated there are literally a hundred press reporters out in front of the courthouse and Sean was waiting to be interviewed. He did not want to be interviewed, but he he was told he had to be interviewed. So up eyes today this is disappointing, he said. It’s not disappointing, I knew this was gonna happen once it gets into the courts, you were kind a doomed so worried are you are right he goes. Yeah. Alright goes check me out, I got the suit on a guy got everything on so I looked down at his pincer like dragging on the on the street, I go where the to get the pants. Here’s what they called me last night said to wear a suit because this is my uncle suit and I think it’s it’s pretty good. So I think with their time. The 2 have recognized. That the the video-sharing service market is going to be a huge, huge space services like chat rule that showed them that there is a very interesting human dynamic about video and they have taken the good parts of of of bringing people together we live shared video in this new product air time that’s that’s not released yet but I I think it’s exciting that that these 2 entrepreneurs have come back together. As I said in the beginning. You can tell a defining entrepreneur a mile away. Once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur and if you look at this collage here, so not just the art of I’ve talked about. It’s all the entrepreneurs the include here and anyone in this room can be part of this collage you you are the next candidates entrepreneurs. As you can see from this come in all shapes and sizes. It’s all about thinking big and executing never forget that your reputation is your biggest asset. And I think that entrepreneurs are the Armel unsung heroes of innovation and I get irritated. Every time I see publicity about an investor, when in fact it is only about the entrepreneur. You are the ones that build things. So think big and become a defining entrepreneur. In closing, I want to dedicate this talk to the most defining entrepreneur or whoever was among us Steve Jobs.

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