Podcast Notes: a16z (May 2017)

For Your Ears Only – May 17, 2017


“The fundamental job of intelligence is to reduce the uncertainty that the President is operating in.” -Michael Morell, former CIA director


“One of the things that a good [intelligence] analyst does is say, ‘Ok, I think I just made 5 assumptions. Let me question each one of those.’ … One of the ones that’s on my mind right now is this issue of can we count on China to squeeze the North Koreans and change North Korean behavior. There’s an assumption there, which is that if the Chinese did squeeze them, the North Koreans would change their behavior. That’s a huge assumption and it’s an assumption that has to be discussed and challenged and talked about because if the Chinese can’t effectively squeeze them, then we shouldn’t be asking the Chinese to do so. So these assumptions are embedded in every conversation we have and every decision you make and the more you examine them, the better off you are.” Michael Morell, former CIA director


“The cyberthreat is so serious that for our most sensitive stuff we don’t store it digitally.” -Michael Morell, former CIA director


On using cyber attacks: “We don’t want to do something to another country that sets a precedent that would send a signal for people to do it to us. Because guess what, we live in a glass house. We live in the biggest glass house. We are the most vulnerable.” -Michael Morell, former CIA director


“The key to good analysis is asking the right question.” -Michael Morell, former CIA director


“My experience is that oral briefings for senior policy makers are much more insightful for them than our written product. And the reason that’s the case is because in the written product, we’re asking the question. In the case of an oral briefing, it’s the senior policy maker who is asking the question.” -Michael Morell, former CIA director

Technology, Mobility, and the American Dream – March 1, 2017

” ‘One of the most fascinating things is that the group that is not complacent about the status quo, anti-vaxxers, is more organized, more coordinated…’ Well they care more. That’s the problem. That’s the asymmetry. It doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong.  It matters who cares more. If anything, that’s the heuristic for who’s going to win an election.’ ” (17:58)

What Startups Should Know about Analyst Relations – February 1, 2017

“The most useful and important stuff you can get out of an analyst comes over the phone or in person, never on paper. 10% of what an analyst knows finds its way into the reports.’ ” (5:12)

New Year, New Horizons — Pluto! – January 1, 2017

[This episode is more about engineering than investing or business, so I have skipped it for now. I’m leaving the timestamps in to remind me to go back to it later.]

“” (12:56)

“” (22:19)

“” (23:08)

“” (28:12)

“” (48:04)

The Movement of Money – December 30, 2016

” ‘Never attribute to malice, that which can be attributed to stupidity.’ ” (17:12)

The battle between every startup and incumbent is whether the startup gets the distribution before the incumbent gets the innovation. Normally the incumbent wins.” -Alex Rampell (17:15)

Startups and Pendulum Swings Through Ideas, Time, Fame, and Money – May 30, 2016

We invest in strength, not in lack of weakness.” -Marc Andreessen (4:00)

If everything about your startup is just “good” and nothing is “spectacular,” where is this going to go? How will you differentiate yourselves from your competitors? (4:16)

“The strongest startups aren’t strong at everything, they’re strong at something.” (4:34)

“They often have serious team issues. Many successful startups have a founder divorce at some point, like, the founders go to war. And you would think that would be a very bad indicator, but sometimes it’s a really good indicator because it means that things are really starting to work and it’s time to get serious and one founder wants to get serious and another one doesn’t.” (4:45)

The default state of every company is just dying in obscurity. So much of it is: how do you punch through? How do you punch through in the minds of the people you recruit? How do you punch through in the minds of the investors? How do you punch through in the minds of the customers? How do you punch through in the press?” -Marc Andreessen (5:15)

Truth, Humanity, and Leadership – March 30, 2016

“So it becomes this very skewed, weird, picture of yourself that’s like, ‘I’m really strong when it comes to the military stuff. Don’t even think about it. But, on this other stuff, sure, you’re the boss, whatever it is.’ That will just not put you in the position that you need to be and can be as a human being and who you are because you’re so much more than that. So I would have the natural confidence of: ‘I fucking know leadership. I’m interested in this industry and this is why, and I’ve done my research and this is what I know about you, and this is what I know about the industry.’ ” (18:38)

I always just go to truth, and I’m amazed by what truth does even though it’s hard. … Where it hurts the most, I just go there. It’s like we’ve trained ourselves to stay the fuck away from that place. I go straight to where it hurts the most and I talk about that. … and they’re like, ‘I see you and I raise you.’ That’s just what happens when people go after humanity. It’s just what happens. So it’s so damn rewarding, but it never gets easy.” (23:48)


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