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    #129 Marc Andreessen: Interview with an Icon

    Venture capital investment decisions are influenced by different factors at each stage of the business, with emphasis on founders' potential at the seed stage and business analysis at the growth stage. Evaluation of people and ideas remains crucial throughout.

    enJanuary 25, 2022

    About this Episode

    Silicon Valley icon Marc Andreessen explores investing, decision making, and the art of solving unsolvable problems. 
     
    In this discussion, Andreessen reveals why the Internet has become the conduit for some people to disrupt traditional power structures and for others to enforce them, optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for the future of the Internet, assessing judgment, and the book he turns to for insight. 
     
    Andreessen is a co-founder and general partner at the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and has invested in companies such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Skype, among others. He co-created the highly influential Mosaic internet browser and co-founded Netscape, and has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time.
     
    The books recommended by Marc Andreessen in this episode are: 
    --
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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • By studying historical patterns, Marc Andreessen finds comfort and guidance in navigating the present and embracing the rapid changes brought by new technologies.
    • Technological change disrupts established hierarchies, leading to resistance from those in power. This battle represents a shift in how power and influence are attained in society, impacting both technology and social structures.
    • The internet's peer-to-peer architecture has challenged centralized institutions, giving rise to disruptive movements and eliminating the need for permission in sharing ideas. This tension shapes today's political landscape.
    • Open access to information through the internet has revolutionized the way we share and consume knowledge, challenging centralized control and promoting debate and progress.
    • The younger generation, armed with technology and fresh ideas, is challenging oppressive control systems and driving positive change. However, it's important to acknowledge that not all ideas will succeed, and resistance to change will persist.
    • Companies should avoid becoming too defensive and conservative as they grow, as it may hinder innovation and prevent new technologies and competitors from entering the market. Finding a balance between protection and fostering innovation is crucial.
    • While the internet has the power to break down hierarchies, it has yet to prove its ability to create effective systems. Relying solely on past experiences can hinder progress and innovation.
    • Understanding the probabilities and analyzing failures is crucial in the startup world. Rather than striving for perfection, it's important to learn from experiences and focus on finding explanations for results.
    • Founders with prior experience and a track record of success have the potential for future success, regardless of the specific idea they present.
    • Having a solid foundation of knowledge and experience in the problem they are solving, along with a long-standing commitment to their ideas, greatly increases the chances of success for young entrepreneurs.
    • Venture capital investment decisions are influenced by different factors at each stage of the business, with emphasis on founders' potential at the seed stage and business analysis at the growth stage. Evaluation of people and ideas remains crucial throughout.
    • Marc Andreessen's investment firm values active involvement, transparency, and unconventional ideas. Their quick decision-making process and willingness to challenge norms have led to significant success in venture and new technology.
    • Success in venture capitalism does not require making every correct decision, but rather understanding the probability of success and embracing a portfolio approach to maximize overall profitability.
    • The education system is outdated and the only way to bring about meaningful change is through a complete overhaul that aligns with the needs of the modern world.
    • Instead of trying to reform the current education system, it may be more effective to create a new system that addresses its shortcomings and offers alternative options. In order to bring about meaningful change, it is important to evaluate the incentives of those responsible for the system and hold them accountable.
    • Fair competition and market forces are necessary to drive innovation and prevent corruption. However, reforming the current political and business systems is a difficult task due to vested interests and influence.
    • The intertwining of business and government in various sectors creates a challenging environment for startups, leading to limited competition, stifled innovation, and increased government subsidies. Anti-monopoly measures and competitive alternatives are needed to prevent rent-seeking behaviors. Visionary leaders like Elon Musk offer hope for disrupting the existing landscape.
    • Embrace different mental models, like Elon Musk's first principles thinking and Peter Thiel's understanding of human behavior, to challenge assumptions and approach problems from diverse perspectives.
    • Continuously challenging preconceptions, seeking different perspectives, and surrounding oneself with smart individuals ensures constant improvement and effectiveness in all endeavors.
    • Marc Andreessen emphasizes the importance of setting self-imposed standards and recognizing when it is necessary to let go, while also recommending impactful books that have shaped his thinking.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Understanding the Past for a Clearer Future

    Marc Andreessen is currently obsessed with two main things: the changing technologies and their impact on different industries and society, and understanding the patterns and themes that emerge throughout history when new technologies are introduced. He believes that many of the reactions and concerns surrounding new technologies today are not unique to our era, but have been experienced in the past with previous technological advancements. By looking back and studying the societal reactions to technology in the past, Andreessen finds comfort in realizing that many of the patterns and themes are universal and deeply rooted in humanity. This understanding helps him navigate the present and feel less overwhelmed by the rapid changes in the world.

    The Resistance to Technological Change and the Battle for Power

    Technological change is often met with resistance and opposition from those in power, as it threatens their established hierarchies and status structures. This pattern has been persistent throughout history and can be observed in the three-step process: first, new technologies are ignored and dismissed by experts and authorities; second, rational counterarguments are presented to justify the status quo; and finally, the status quo reacts emotionally and engages in name-calling. The impact of technological changes extends beyond the realm of technology itself, as it leads to societal change and a reordering of power and authority. This battle between top-down institutions and lateral networks represents a fundamental shift in how people attain positions of power and influence in society.

    The Battle between Centralized Power and Disruption in the Internet Age

    The internet has introduced a fundamentally disruptive technology that has sparked a battle between those who want to reinforce top-down power and those who want to disrupt it. The internet's lateral, peer-to-peer architecture has allowed for anyone to plug in, build apps and websites, and share information freely. This has challenged the traditional dominance of centralized institutions and given rise to disruptive movements on both the left and the right. The internet has also eliminated the need for permission, allowing individuals to share their ideas and let others judge them directly, without needing approval from boardrooms or other gatekeepers. This tension between institutions and networks is at the heart of the current political landscape.

    The Evolution of Access to Information and Technology

    Access to information and technology has drastically evolved over time. In the past, building smartphone apps required negotiating with telecom giants and conforming to their rules and controls. Even today, there are limitations set by companies like Apple. However, when it comes to the web, it has always been more open and unrestricted. Building websites and sharing information has never been subject to the same level of control. This shift in access to information is comparable to the underground dissident movement in the Soviet Union, where spreading information required risky measures. With the advent of the internet, open access to information has become more prevalent, making it harder to maintain centralized power and control. The conversation highlights the positive impact of open access information in breaking down barriers and promoting debate and progress.

    Challenging Power Dynamics: The Role of Young Entrepreneurs and Technology in Society

    The power dynamics and control in society are being challenged by the emergence of new technologies and young entrepreneurs. People are becoming more aware of the flaws in existing systems and are no longer willing to tolerate oppressive top-down control. The optimism lies in the fact that the younger generation, growing up with access to the internet and vast knowledge, is entering the scene with fresh ideas and advanced skills. These "kits" are equipped to make significant changes and improve the world through technological advancements. However, it is important to realize that not all ideas will succeed, and incumbents will always face resistance as the cycle of change continues. Even successful companies eventually become the new incumbents, perpetuating the cycle.

    Balancing Protection and Innovation in Growing Companies

    As companies grow and establish themselves as industry leaders, there is a temptation for them to shift from being disruptors to defenders. This shift often leads to a more conservative and protective approach, which can hinder innovation and prevent new technologies and competitors from entering the market. While some argue that this transition is necessary as companies evolve, others worry that it could lead to a suppression of free speech and a top-down control of society through technology. It is important for companies to find a balance between protecting their interests and fostering innovation. The pessimistic scenarios discussed in the conversation include a dystopian future where technology is used for state control, but there are also optimistic perspectives that emphasize the potential for technology to empower and liberate individuals.

    The internet's limitations in building effective governance systems and the dangers of relying solely on past experiences.

    While the internet is excellent at tearing down hierarchies, it has not yet demonstrated its ability to build effective governance systems. Peer-to-peer networks can be created, but they may not have the power or functionality to replace traditional institutions like democracies or banks. This lack of capability to build is described as a form of nihilism, where destruction is easier than creation. On the other hand, humans naturally learn from past experiences and develop scar tissue or cautionary lessons over time. This scar tissue can limit exploratory thinking and shrink one's willingness to try new things. However, Marc Andreessen's day job as a venture capitalist has taught him that relying solely on scar tissue is a bad idea, as it can hinder progress and innovation.

    The probabilistic nature of startups and domains

    When it comes to startups and various domains, we need to understand that they are inherently probabilistic. Failure is a common occurrence, but it doesn't mean that the idea or concept will never work. Instead of drawing the wrong lesson and assuming that an idea is doomed to fail, we should extract the right lesson from the experience. This involves analyzing the specific domain and understanding the probabilities involved. In the case of startups, it's important to recognize that about half of them will fail for various reasons, including timing. We cannot expect perfection in the probabilistic realm, and success may only be achieved at a world-class level, which is far from 100%. Therefore, we need to assess our results and find explanations for them, rather than solely focusing on achieving a perfect score.

    The Role of Timing, Execution, and Judgment in Entrepreneurial Success

    Success in entrepreneurship is not solely dependent on the idea, but rather on timing, execution, and the judgment of the founders. Marc Andreessen emphasizes that while some ideas may appear bad at first, all ideas have the potential to succeed with the right person and enough work. Assessing the judgment of founders, especially those with prior experience, provides insights into their ability to navigate challenges, make decisions under pressure, and persevere. For new founders, evaluating their approach to opportunities and learning from their experiences becomes crucial. This conversation highlights the importance of recognizing the value of founders' track records, as their past work can indicate their potential for success in future ventures, regardless of the specific idea presented.

    The importance of a strong background and years of ideation in entrepreneurship and innovation.

    Successful entrepreneurs and innovators often have a deep background in the problem they are trying to solve. It is not uncommon for young founders to have been working on their ideas for many years, even before they officially start their companies. This is especially true in the software industry, where young programmers can gain professional-level experience at a young age. The key is the idea base and the backstory of what they have done in the past. When making investment decisions, venture capitalists like Andreessen Horowitz make bets at different tiers, including seed funding, venture funding, and growth funding. The larger the investment, the more involved they become in the company's operations and the longer the commitment.

    Evaluating Venture Capital Investment Decisions Across Different Business Stages and Approaches

    Venture capital investment decisions are based on different criteria depending on the stage of the business. At the seed stage, the evaluation primarily revolves around the capability and potential of the founders rather than the idea itself. However, at the venture stage, in addition to the people component, there needs to be a strong reason to believe that the business will be the one to succeed in a competitive market. On the other hand, at the growth stage, investment decisions are based on a more in-depth business analysis, including factors such as revenue growth, market size, and profit margins. Regardless of the stage, the evaluation of the people and the idea remains significant. Furthermore, the decision-making process varies among venture capital firms, with some relying on unanimous votes while others have a more top-down approach. In contrast, the single trigger puller model, which delegates budgets, is used by some firms like Andreessen Horowitz.

    Active Involvement, Transparency, and Unconventional Bets: A Winning Formula for Marc Andreessen's Investment Firm

    Marc Andreessen's investment firm places a strong emphasis on active involvement and communication with their investment partners. They encourage partners to thoroughly investigate investment opportunities and make their own decisions within their budget. The firm values transparency and expects partners to openly communicate their plans and engage in conversations with others. While the firm understands that not all investments will be successful, they are concerned about missing out on potential winning opportunities. They also prioritize creativity and are willing to back entrepreneurs with unconventional ideas that challenge existing norms. The firm's structure allows for quick decision-making and avoids the burden of slow processes faced by traditional firms. Their history shows that these unconventional bets can yield significant success in the world of venture and new technology.

    Embracing the Probabilistic Nature of Venture Capitalism

    Success in venture capitalism is not dependent on making every decision correctly, but rather on embracing the probabilistic nature of the domain. It is important to realize that missing out on great deals is a common occurrence even for the most successful venture capitalists. The good news is that one doesn't need to achieve a perfect score in order to succeed. By viewing investments as part of a portfolio and evaluating success at the aggregate level, rather than the individual level, one can take more risks and capitalize on the potential for "flukes." This allows for the pursuit of high-risk, high-reward opportunities, knowing that even if some investments don't perform well, the overall portfolio can still yield significant profits.

    The Flawed Education System: A Call for Complete Redesign

    The education system is fundamentally flawed and cannot be fixed through reform. The system was built in a time and place that no longer aligns with the world we live in today. It was designed as a mass education system modeled after mass manufacturing, with the goal of training children for the industrial economy. However, this approach no longer serves the needs of students and society. The system has been on autopilot for the past 100 years and has been taken over by individuals who benefit from maintaining the status quo. Therefore, meaningful change and improvement in education will require a complete reimagining and redesign of the system to better align with the needs of the modern world.

    Reforming the Education System: Building a New Path for Change

    The current education system is difficult to reform due to deep-rooted issues and vested interests. The conversation highlights that despite good intentions, attempts to bring about change within the system have proven futile. The conversation suggests that instead of trying to reform the existing system, it may be more effective to build a new one from scratch. This new system would have to address the shortcomings of the current system and provide alternative options such as homeschooling networks and micro-schools. The conversation emphasizes the importance of considering incentives and acknowledging that blaming individuals for the system's failures is not productive. To effect meaningful change, it is necessary to examine and evaluate the incentives created by those responsible for the system and hold them accountable.

    Corruption, Oligopolies, and Regulatory Capture: The Challenges of Political and Business Systems

    There are inherent issues within the current political and business systems that breed corruption and hinder innovation. These legacy systems are deeply intertwined with politics, leading to a cycle of dysfunction and corruption. The conversation highlights the concept of pro business versus pro market, with pro business often resulting in oligopolies dominating industries and stifling competition. These oligopolies then have the power to influence and control politics, creating a concept of regulatory capture. The conversation suggests that true market discipline and innovation can only be achieved when businesses face fair competition and are subject to market forces. Reforming these systems and changing the incentives within them seems nearly impossible given the level of interest and influence involved.

    The Complex Interplay of Business and Government Hinders Innovation and Competition

    There is a complex intertwining of business and government in various sectors, including finance and education, which creates a challenging environment for startups and new entrants. This hybrid mutants system combines elements of both free market economy and top-down control, resulting in oligopolistic cartels and limited competition. As a result, innovation is stifled, prices skyrocket, and government subsidies increase over time. The conversation also highlights the need for anti-monopoly measures, anti-regulatory capture, and a focus on competitive alternatives to prevent rent-seeking behaviors. This sentiment is expressed across different political spectrums, with both right-wing populist and left-wing critics acknowledging the flaws in the current system. Despite these challenges, the conversation ends with the mention of Elon Musk as a mental model, suggesting the potential for visionary leaders to navigate and disrupt the existing landscape.

    Broaden Your Perspectives and Enhance Problem-Solving Abilities

    Successful individuals like investors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and artists each have their own unique frameworks and worldviews that contribute to their success. It is important to recognize that these frameworks are not necessarily compatible with each other, making it impossible to synthesize all of them into a single model. However, we can offset our own narrow thinking by adopting a mental model of how someone else, such as Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, would approach a situation. By doing so, we can broaden our perspectives and challenge our own assumptions. For example, Elon Musk emphasizes first principles thinking, encouraging us to question and strip down assumptions to their foundations. On the other hand, Peter Thiel focuses on the dynamics of human behavior and rivalry, providing a useful framework for understanding social dynamics. Adopting these mental models can catalyze our thinking and enhance our problem-solving abilities.

    The importance of maintaining high standards in personal growth and success.

    Maintaining a high bar for oneself and one's work is essential for continued growth and success. By seeking different perspectives and engaging in first principles thinking, individuals can challenge their own preconceptions and identify blind spots. Surrounding oneself with smart and strong-willed individuals, such as a board of directors, provides a forcing function to fully think things through and defend one's ideas. Success should not lead to complacency, but rather, it should be a driving force to constantly raise the bar. This accountability to oneself and those who rely on our decisions is crucial to avoid laziness and ensure effectiveness in all endeavors.

    Setting standards and recognizing when to stop: Marc Andreessen's philosophy on personal and professional growth.

    Marc Andreessen believes in setting self-imposed standards in order to be fair to oneself and others. He emphasizes the importance of individuals either having a reason to adhere to these standards or recognizing when it is necessary to stop pursuing certain endeavors. Furthermore, Andreessen recommends several notable books that have had a significant impact on his thinking. These include "The Weirdest People in the World" by Joseph Henrich, "The Mackay Alliance" by James Bernham, "The Revolt of the Public" by Martin Gurry, and "The Ancient City" by a prominent French author from the 1860s. Andreessen praises the latter book for its profound insights into the creation of civilization and cults, and how they have shaped human society throughout history.

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    Newsletter - I share timeless insights and ideas you can use at work and home. Join over 600k others every Sunday and subscribe to Brain Food. Try it: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

    My Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

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    #189 Chris Davis: Three Generations of Wealth

    #189 Chris Davis: Three Generations of Wealth

    Most families who obtain immense wealth squander it by the third generation. But Chris Davis comes from a family whose grandfather and father all became independently wealthy of each other, and Davis has done the same. How does that keep happening? In this conversation, we find out.

    Shane and Chris discuss life and investment lessons he learned from his father and grandfather, why writing is more important to clarify one's thinking no matter who's reading it, and the surprising benefit of reading physical newspapers and wearing ties to work. Davis also shares his value-investing philosophy, what he learned from working with and meeting Charlie Munger, and what parents can do to raise kids who aren't entitled. Davis talks about his alcohol drink tracker and why it's important to him, why he never puts himself in situations where envy can grow, and Warren Buffett's letter about why investment managers underperform.

    Chris Davis has been a Director of The Coca-Cola Company since April 2018. Davis is Chairman of Davis Selected Advisers-NY, Inc., an independent investment management firm founded in 1969. Davis joined Davis Selected Advisers-NY, Inc. in 1989 as a financial analyst and in 1995, he became a portfolio manager of the firm’s flagship funds. Prior to joining Davis Selected Advisers-NY, Inc., he served as a research analyst at Tanaka Capital Management and as an accountant at State Street Bank and Trust Co.

    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

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    (00:00) Intro

    (03:20) Life lessons Davis learned from his grandfather and father

    (26:24) The importance of writing things no one reads

    (36:55) Davis' experiences through financial crises

    (52:31) Why Davis loves managing a mutual fund

    (55:49) Why Berkshire Hathaway operates with margin

    (01:01:05) What is risk?

    (01:04:02) On low interest rates and their future impact

    (01:14:46) The mismatched timelines between CEOs, companies, investors, and policy

    (01:22:19) How Davis and Munger met

    (01:30:20) Lessons learned from Munger

    (01:41:29) Why avoiding weaknesses is the ultimate recipe for success

    (01:55:46) How to raise non-entitled kids and avoid lifestyle creep

    (01:16:10) On happiness

    (02:27:00) Good vs. bad board meetings

    (02:31:34) Three generations of wealth

    (02:37:15) On success

    #188: Bryan Johnson: Five Habits for Longer Living

    #188: Bryan Johnson: Five Habits for Longer Living
    What can you do (or avoid) tomorrow to guarantee you can live longer?

    In this episode, Bryan Johnson reveals the five simple disciplines you can start doing to live healthier and longer. Johnson shares what his daily routine looks like, the ins and outs of his experimentation process, and why he gave his father plasma.

    Johnson also opens up about the constant hate he receives from people online, how he deals with it all, and what he wishes he'd known when he sold his company.

    Bryan Johnson is the world's most measured human. Johnson sold his company to PayPal in 2013. Through Project Blueprint, Johnson has achieved metabolic health equal to the top 1.5% of 18 year olds, inflammation 66% lower than the average 10 year old, and reduced his speed of aging by the equivalent of 31 years.

    Johnson is also the founder of Kernel, creator of the world’s first mainstream non-invasive neuroimaging system; and OS Fund, where he invested in the predictable engineering of atoms, molecules, and organisms.

    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

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    Timecodes:

    (00:00:00) Intro

    (00:03:45) On biographies

    (00:08:03) On depression and coping mechanisms

    (00:14:18) Self-destructive behavior and how to pitch Blueprint to someone

    (00:26:50) What a day looks like on Blueprint (exercise and what to eat)

    (00:42:06) How to turn Blueprint protocols into habits

    (00:45:17) Embracing the hate

    (00:49:07) The downsides and lessons of making money

    (00:59:22) The five habits

    (01:05:09) Why does posture matter?

    (01:07:48) Relationship between biological health and sexual health

    (01:09:50) Hair-loss prevention

    (01:15:46) Sunscreen, plastics, and other miscellaneous impacts on aging

    (01:18:30) How will AI help us?

    (01:22:10) On success

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy shares the skills you need but didn't get taught on regulating emotions, setting boundaries, and the best sentence you can say when a partner tells you something difficult.

    While there is an obvious focus on parenting, the most surprising thing about this episode was how much of what we discussed applies to EVERY relationship in your life.

    Learn how to parent more effectively with less stress, repair after a disagreement, regulate emotions, and unlock the next level in all of your relationships. Listen and Learn

    Dubbed the “The Millennial Parenting Whisperer” by TIME Magazine, Dr. Kennedy is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. She also hosts “Good Inside with Dr Becky,” the top kids and family show on Apple Podcasts.

    ---

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    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner, CEO of Markel Group, reveals the lessons he’s learned from Charlie Munger and Berkshire Hathaway, how he invests, and the specific way he thinks about opportunity cost.

    Gayner shares the difference between good debt and bad debt, where he disagrees with Munger, and why he focuses on the basics.

    This intimate conversation offers a level of insight and honesty that Tom hasn’t offered anywhere else.

    Gayner is currently the CEO of Markel Group and the Director of The Coca‑Cola Company. He also serves as chairman of the Davis Series Mutual Funds board and on the boards of Graham Holdings and Markel.

    Listen and Learn.

    --

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    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone

    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone
    Blake Eastman has dedicated his entire life to psychology and nonverbal behavior.
     
    In 2009 he founded The Nonverbal Group, a  behavioral research and education company in New York City which conducts large scale studies on human behavior and uses a wide range of technologies to systematically deconstruct and improve human communication.
     
    Eastman dives deep into a number of subjects revolving around how we communicate with one another, including the ability to read nonverbal cues, his thoughts on big talkers vs. silent types, how we can communicate with our partners without complaining, the value of watching ourselves communicate on video, understanding the power structures and social dynamics at work, and so much more.
     
    Eastman has also served as an adjunct psychology professor at the City University of New York for six years where he taught General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Group Dynamics. He is also a former professional poker player and the founder of School of Cards, the first brick-and-mortar poker school in New York City.
     
    Listen and Learn

    --

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