After selling LinkedIn to Microsoft, Hoffman has become something of a Silicon Valley mentor.
On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Reid Hoffman came by the studio to talk about how he went from successful entrepreneur to becoming a mentor for Silicon Valley. He co-founded LinkedIn and then sold it to Microsoft, so now he’s a venture partner at Greylock and a founder of WTF, Win the Future, a political action group.
You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Recode radio presents Recode, Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. Today in the red chair is Reid Hoffman. He’s one of my favorite people. I shouldn’t tell him that at the start because he’ll think I’ll go nice on him, but he’s a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock. He was previously an executive vice president at PayPal before founding LinkedIn, where he worked from 2003 to 2016, including five years as its CEO. Reid also served on the boards of companies like Zynga, Kiva and Mozilla corporation. He’s currently on the board of Microsoft and a board observer at Airbnb, and I think it’s probably safe to say one of the more favored mentors in Silicon Valley. Reid, welcome to Recode Decode.
Reid Hoffman: It’s great to be here. And maybe I need to send you a LinkedIn connection.
I don’t think so, I’ll not accept it. I don’t think you need a job, either. There’s so much I want to talk about it. You were just onstage with me and Marc Andreessen — now we got rid of him — at the Code conference. We talked about a wide range of stuff. But I really want to drill down on some of the stuff we talked about there, where it’s going, mostly because Marc lobs in some bomb all the time, just to be Marc Andreessen-esque. Let me talk about what you’re doing right now.
You’ve done so many … You’re sort of a renaissance man of Silicon Valley at this point, and someone who’s a mentor, and I don’t want to call you Bill Campbell, who was sort of the mentor to people, but you’re sort of moving into a role like that in Silicon Valley: Someone people turn to, sensible and reasonable, good advice, high ethics, that kind of stuff. Talk about what you’re doing and what your role is now in all your various jobs, what you spend your time doing.
Unfortunately, that would be the entire hour, because to some degree I’m crazy in the number of things I’m doing.
Yeah, I know. You always seem to show up, you’re like Zelig.
Exactly. Me and the old Woody Allen reference, for anyone who catches it.
So let’s see. I have my day job as a partner at Greylock. We invest in tech companies in early stages, portfolio of things, Airbnb is obviously one of the ones you mentioned. One of the ones that I did relevantly recently, which we talked about at the conference, was Convoy, which is essentially the network of trucks and how do you build a logistics network of trucks and technology solves this key problem.
Another part of it is nonprofits. So there’s a broad swath with entrepreneurship; things like Endeavor and Kiva, high-impact entrepreneurship, micro-entrepreneurship, any place where there’s a real point of leverage. Do Something, which is the team philanthropy network. There’s other places, also in the nonprofit arena. Then there’s a stack of stuff where I’m … Obviously, I had campaigned for the first time ever against Trump.
Right, you were very political.
Well, generally speaking, one of the things I realized in the whole thing is … the reason I’ve generally avoided politics is I look at politics as having a very large, zero-sum component to it, and I try to be non-zero sum myself. I try to be a builder, leverage …
Let’s find compromise.
And also, how do we build so that there’s more for all of us.
So, solution based.
Right. And growth oriented. But obviously, both then and now, I think of Trump as such a train wreck that I actually got in the fray, created a card game, trumpedupcards.com.
Played it with my kids the other day.
Exactly. We did our first expansion pack a couple months ago: Alternative facts. The deck contains between 52 and 1.5 million cards, depending on which facts you’re listening to. And then also, what are the right things to do? Maybe it’s overly simple to drive your one core part of your ethics from Spider-Man, but with power comes responsibility. So when you have more power, what are the things that you should be doing? Whether that power is a form of leadership in the world. And then also in terms of helping entrepreneurs, one of the things that I decided to do is I’m right now in the middle of my own podcast. That’s one of the things I look …
Trying to steal my business, it’s okay.
No, no, I look to learn from you. It’s not disrupting podcasts. It’s called Masters of Scale.
Are you Facebook to my Snapchat? Go ahead, sorry.
Or I’m Snapchat to your Facebook, perhaps.
Oh, okay, sure.
That the modern secrets to Silicon Valley, actually, aren’t the startup culture that we all talk about, but actually …
What’s it called?
Masters of Scale.
Right. Because you’ve written books on these issues.
Well, I’m working on a book called blitzscaling, which is a similar thing.
Oh, we’ll talk about that, okay.
And it’s one of the reasons why the Masters of Scale, which is talking to people like Brian Chesky and Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg …
I’ve heard of them.
… Selina Tobaccowala. And then in the blitzscaling book, which I taught a class on at Stanford about 18 months ago, which was also a set of guests, folks like Reed Hastings and so forth. The basic thing is, is when you listen to people talk about what the secret of Silicon Valley is, they always give you the startup story. Technologists, inventors, tech companies, tech university, put them in a soup, lightning strikes, network emerges. And actually, in fact, that exists in many places in the world now. And why is it still great, amazing things come out of Silicon Valley? And that’s because of, essentially, scale-ups, of building the scale, and — in blitzscale — fast.
So that’s a micro portion of the whole ranch.
Okay, we’re going to get into … So much to unpack. And then you also are on a lot of boards, as an adviser to a lot of companies, and you just joined the Microsoft board, that was your latest.
Because you sold LinkedIn to Microsoft. Well done, by the way, let me just say. Do you know what I said about Jeff when he did it? Because the stock had been sort of teetering, going down. It’s a real hard time to build to the next, speaking of scale, and I said, “If Jeff Weiner was a Russian gymnast, he would’ve scored 10 on the dismount.” I think probably you, too. But we’ll get into that, too.
And then you serve on boards and then you also are really a mentor to a lot of entrepreneurs, and an author, and stuff like that. So let’s unpack it a little bit. Let’s talk first about investing right now, because I do want to get into politics quite a bit. Where are we in the Silicon Valley cycle? You’ve written books on this, and you’ve written several books on entrepreneurship, and where are we? I’ve had different people come on thinking we’re in a fallow period or possibly the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end or that it’s gone global, just like you talked about. Where do you look at where Silicon Valley is as an analog place?
I don’t think we’re fallow, but I do think we’re a little confused as to what the next big hits are going to be. There’s a lot of different contenders. There’s artificial intelligence, there’s virtual reality, augmented reality, there’s synthetic biology, there’s actually, in fact, some interesting renovations going on with individual hardware and kind of hardware renaissance; everything from artificial intelligence hardware to other kinds of things and self design, hardware maker movement. There’s all of this stuff going on.
So what happens is people tend to say, “Oh, we’re not fallow,” when we see the next big breakouts, and people are a little uncertain as to which the next big breakouts are going to be. Then, by the way, you also get some chorus saying, “Well, they’re all done. There aren’t going to be any next big breakouts.” I’m an optimist. I think there will be more, and I think that’s a good thing.
If it were me, I think that it’s kind of probably a combination of three things. I think one is we’re still in the early innings of the networked age, and so I still look for very networked kind of properties. I look for things that are like Airbnb or LinkedIn or Facebook. And I look for those because I think that those are …
That have network platform properties.
Exactly. And I think those are still coming. Marketplaces are a form of network.
I think the second thing is actually, in fact, the way that network properties and network effects is actually transforming the world. This hits a bunch of different industries. And some of that actually is part of why artificial intelligence is playing out, because the techniques in AI, machine learning, deep neuro networks, other kinds of technological terms, actually come about because of the cloud, because of the depth of computing power and data. That depth of computing power and data in the cloud is actually part of the networked age. So I think there’s a set of different opportunities that are coming around there. And then I actually also thought that one of the things that … Every company is, I think, in the process of becoming a technology company. Because you actually have to use software, data, etc., whether- …
Which has been coming for a while, the concept.
Exactly. And it’s accelerating. And I think we might’ve said it 20 years ago, but it’s more true now than it was 20 years ago and I think it’s accelerating, so we look for opportunities there as well.
So how long have you been doing investing?
Oh, that’s interesting.
Because you’re an entrepreneur and investor.
I guess my very first angel investment outside of PayPal was probably 2002.
So 2002, for a while now. But you started off before that as an operator.
So how do you look at yourself as an investor now? How do you operate? I think what people would be interested to know is, how do you source, how do you find things? Obviously, people come to you. You’ve made so many good bets, are you worried about not making good bets?
Well, I think one of the things that’s important about being a good investor is having a new mind.
Which is hard.
Yes. And so you want to be fresh. Part of the thing … I just articulated some of the ways that I’m looking at the world, but the thing that most excites me is an entrepreneur who has a contrary and unique view that I hadn’t thought of, that has a good plan. That unique idea is the thing that makes the job exciting. It means that you’re learning. So that’s what I try to do.
For me, I have the fortune that lots of people try to come reach me. So, what I put on my LinkedIn profile is get to me through a reference, through someone who knows you and knows me and can recommend you to me. Because otherwise, the number of PowerPoint decks that get mailed to me, cold called, you wouldn’t believe.
I’d believe it.
You could spend the whole day reading them. And then what I do is I sort out based on the references. Like, for example, part of the investment in Convoy was Hadi Partovi, one of my friends. Both he and his brother Ali called me and said, “This is the next thing. It’s really interesting.” And so when that happens, I drop everything and I pay attention. And that’s how an investment happens.
Were you interested in trucks or not?
No, not particularly, no. Although, actually, now I’ve learned a bunch about it, and so now I’m more interested than I was.
Explain to me why you made that decision and what you put into it?
What I started with was, okay, I think this is a network property, I think it’s going to transform … Like when you begin to think about transport as a service. Trucking is a trillion dollar industry, and 82 percent of that is spent in the actual trucking part of it. And it’s complex, which leads to a lot of room for technology; actually adding a tremendous amount of …
It’s very analog.
Yes, yup. And the smartphone revolution is beginning to hit truckers, so they all have a device, so that means that it’s kind of a general-purpose computer that can help match and route and deal with things like taking pictures of incomplete loads and other kinds of things. You have this whole place where the experience can be transformed. And it makes a difference, a very big difference, in the world.
And so I went, “Ohh, okay, I get it, I get why Hadi thinks this is interesting, let me dig into it.” And then part of the thing that’s really important for me and for us at Greylock is partnering with great entrepreneurs. So what I like is people who are really good people who are infinite learners, who love their space and have the capabilities around it, and Dan and Grant were those people. So I think I went from, “Huh, interesting,” to, “Ooh, I’m really interested,” in like seven days.
That’s all it took for you to do that.
But a lot of focus.
Because you just started researching the area. And then why these guys versus … There’s got to be six other versions of this.
Well, one of the things we had to … The investment took a little longer. Because we had Hadi and Ali’s references, which really mattered a lot, but we had friends who had invested in other companies and we’d heard about some others and started a little earlier. And so we went and did our research. So we said, “Okay, which of these ones has the right technological approach, has the right strategy, has the thing that this complex industry, with shippers and truckers and everything else, will actually really be the right fit and the solution?” And even though Convoy was later to market than some of the others, we felt it had exactly the right thing, so we said okay, we’ll take a bet on it. And fortunately, thus far, we’ve turned out to be exactly right.
Right. And where do you imagine that goes? What happens in an investment like this that you’re making now?
So the hope is that essentially, I’ll go into geek speak a little bit, but you essentially have transport as a service, which completely transforms the way that shippers work.
Transport as a Service.
Right. And that everyone gets a much better part of the game from it. So, for example, actually can’t really plan. They don’t know if the truck’s running late or where is it, is it running into problems? Truckers want to be able to say, “Look, I showed up and the load wasn’t as it was described,” and, “How do I resolve that?” And all this. And by moving that all into a network cloud, all of a sudden that gets a lot more efficient. And what’s more, as opposed to truckers — because a huge amount of the trucking industry is these fragmented five truck or less companies. Well, the time that they spent scheduling and using corkboards and calling people and everything else is all time that they’re not working.
Why hadn’t that been touched? Because the internet has been around for a while and everything’s going to be transformed, here’s something that’s very … And we’re going to go into later what happens when it becomes self-driving, with jobs and things like that, but is it just that you could apply this to any industry that has corkboards and weird schedules and easily … I remember, maybe it was you or it was someone who said everything that can be digitized, will be digitized. Like, everything that is possible.
I think a number of us have said that.
Yeah. Are you just suddenly getting to each of them and you just move through them?
Broadly, yes. It’s the wave that’s going through it; it’s the digital transformation of business. But in this particular case, I think the thing that made it go from “Oh, that will happen at some point,” to, “That’s happening now,” is that more of the truckers have smartphones.
Right, so smartphones.
And then once you have that smartphone connectivity, then you can begin to close the loop and build the features. And you have to have enough critical mass of that, because you have to have an active network. So enough truckers with smartphones, enough shippers going, “Oh, these features are very handy for me to make my business much more efficient.”
So that’s taking industries that exist and changing them. Is pure technology investing done? When you’re saying, “Is it at the end?” Because a lot of your other investments … obviously, you took resumes and put them online at LinkedIn. PayPal you’re taking bill paying and putting it online. Where is pure technology? What do you think about when you’re looking at investments?
So part of what I look at is I look at, personally, does it create a large-scale human ecosystem? So I tend to be in the touchpoint of where it’s millions to billions of people and it’s communicating, working, interacting, etc.
Yes, whatever that human ecosystem tends to be. So I tend to be closer to the loops of things that really matter to people. Some of them could be invented. Now that being said, there’s a bunch of good work going on in machine learning artificial intelligence. That’s being applied to a number of areas, anything from drug discovery to …
Mark Zuckerberg bringing back community.
Yes, exactly. But it’s literally everything. And then there’s a bunch of specific deep tech investments within, for example, machine learning. There’s other areas where there’s, like I think every device is being, to some degree, is ultimately going to be a connected part of the cloud.
That’s not just code for internet things, but as you get to everything as a network device, then it becomes a platform of interesting things on top of that. So we had invested in a software platform called Smart Things, which Samsung had wired. So there’s a stack of those things, which are pretty deep tech as well.
Right, which are enabling.
When you look around Silicon Valley, how do you see … Since you were doing the 2000s, you weren’t there for the very early days. From your perspective, how has it changed? Have venture capitalists gotten better or is it still done in the same kind of way?
That’s interesting. So I do think it’s growing substantially in its industry.
Because there’s lots of money, like where are you going to put it? I just saw that Dan Loeb invested in Nestle. I said, “It’s over.” He’s invested in chocolate at this point. Here’s a guy who was on the cutting edge of a lot of new ideas.
But I think that there is actually in fact still a bunch of interesting ideas. Now, with a much larger venture community, with a bunch more money, you both get slop, right, so you get Juicero and other kinds of stuff, kind of classic …
So you were not in Juicero?
No, absolutely not.
Did you see it?
I got pinged about it, but I didn’t really get it so I didn’t do a meeting.
Like, I didn’t understand.
And then you’ve got real serious things as well. So I think part of what’s happening is I do think there is, in addition to obviously some goofy stuff happening, which happens when it gets much larger, there’s also an increasing professionalization. There’s an understanding of what tech platforms need to be created? There’s more VCs who — for example, this the profile we hire at Greylock — who have themselves been founders or operators …
Of companies, right.
And how to build them and how to build them to scale. And we think that that is actually where that’s going on within venture, because I think those folks then know how to go to market, know how to build scalable companies, and so forth. So I think you’re seeing more of that too, which is good.
And how do you assess the amount of money that’s coming in? There’s just tons; it just doesn’t stop, right?
Well, the classic pipe dream that I hear about from several VCs is, “Oh, well maybe we’ll have a point where that money will stop coming in.” Because, obviously …
We can pause and reflect.
Well, it’s not just pause and reflect, but if you have less money, then you have a better gap between the pricing you can offer and then what you can make. With a ton of money, it’s like an overflow of supply, all the pricing goes up, and if the equivalent’s not happening in the public market, you have a trickier job for how you essentially make money as an investor. And I do think that’s a challenge for a contemporary VC because the issue is you have to be really good at picking, you have to really pick the ones that are going to get to a very high scale because, it’s just a fact, the pricing and the amounts of capital going on these have gone up.
And how do you IPO? Because nothing has, right?
Yeah. Well, with the Windows change … Look, there’s a whole pattern now that’s kind of interesting, which is a lot of the companies building for a long time before they get public.
Right, and/or selling, and we’ll talk about this. We’re here with Reid Hoffman. He’s a venture capitalist entrepreneur, operator, what else do you do? Do you make juice? No. Not a juicer. When we get back, we’ll talk more about where investing is going in Silicon Valley.
We’re here with Reid Hoffman. I don’t even have to introduce him, he’s a well-known venture capitalist and entrepreneur, he founded something called LinkedIn, he’s been involved with PayPal, he’s been involved with lots of companies, and he’s a very well-respected mentor in Silicon Valley. We’re talking about where investment goes. Now one of the things is how you sell these things. These valuations are enormous. Even Uber under trouble is in the 60, 70 billion dollar range. Airbnb, what are they? They’re one of your investments.
They are one of my investments. I don’t know if we’ve confirmed any pricing.
Well, it’s high.
It’s enormously high. So what happens to companies like this? I consider Airbnb not … They’re in a pretty good place. They’ve got a CEO who’s quite well respected, no trouble on the horizon. They’ve got issues around regulation, which they’ve continued to fight and work on and try to figure out. But in general, sort of headed on the path. In the old days, that would’ve been an IPO pretty quickly, it would’ve moved forward. When you invest in these things that’s probably going to be one of your hits, how do you think about where they go?
So I think … Part of the strategy that I give to all my entrepreneurs is the IPO is not like a success milestone, it’s a tool within the chest of how you’re building a world-transforming company. And sometimes you need to go earlier because you need the marketing or you need the capital or it’s the right time, and sometimes you go later because you want to work out a bunch of the things, right?
So for example, in the Airbnb case, we have a great way of potentially transforming every city, not just so that, for example, every family can be a host if they want to, but we can also launch things like magical trips and we can say, okay, every city can be a tourist destination. That’s part of what we can bring to the city and why they should work with us. Because, consider Detroit. They have a burgeoning art scene. Well, you can do an art tour within magical trips.
Right, what you get are these experiences.
Exactly. And so those experiences I think are part of what can then transform a city and transform a community. And part of Airbnb, it’s a marketplace in economics, but it’s actually a community of experiences and belonging as part of its spiritual identity. So taking the time to build all that out is actually in fact really important.
Right. And you will see it’s also a transformative company in that I go half and half between hotels and Airbnb now, which is really interesting.
I was thinking about that the other day with Amazon, too. I ordered something at one o’clock, it was there at six.
And that was $100 I didn’t spend in local stores. It has just changed, utterly changed behaviors. So what happens to companies like this when they don’t go public? LinkedIn got bought. It went public and then it got bought. Can you walk me through what do you do when you’re a company like these companies where you’re kind of on your way to bigness, but you’re not quite there?
Well, I think Airbnb is big now.
Yes, it is.
But I think part of their thing is to say, “Look, we’ve got a lot of different countries …” They’re doing a lot of work in China and a bunch of other things.
Right, Cuba, which could be troublesome now.
Yes, exactly. But for example, bringing Cuba into the global community is actually good for everybody, including the Cubans, but everybody, including us, Americans. And so I think that part of their thing is to say, look, let’s build out a bunch of this and we don’t need an IPO now. The capital markets are available …
Are available, why bother.
Our people are happy and working, they don’t need the liquidity in the stock in terms of employees or investors, let’s just keep building. There will be a point at which they decide that this is the right time to do it because it helps the world understand us the right way. Maybe that’s around magical trips, maybe it’s around something else. And so I think it’s a company-by-company choice.
Mm-hmm. And you just divide them differently. So why then, for example, sell LinkedIn? Could you explain that for me now that you’re here?
Well, I can try. So part of the thought … the companies I most like to be involved in are fundamentally mission driven; that we’re all essentially service to the mission, right?
So part of the mission for LinkedIn is how do you enable every individual to maximize their own economic opportunity and the control over their own path? Whether that’s investing in skills, finding jobs, opportunities, being entrepreneurs, the whole thing. So for us, it has always been, from the very first time that we started doing whiteboarding, was how do we get down to daily benefit to users? How do we make sure that they say, “You can use your network to help navigate your professional life in a daily fashion.” And, you know, we couldn’t start there.
You start with a narrow focus. We started with, okay, the job switches and career management. But as you begin to get down to your workflow, we said, “Okay, how do we do that?” Well, the timing came around where Microsoft said, “Look, there’s a bunch of stuff where you guys are doing network as a platform that would be really helpful to our mission, which is how do we transform organizations and then make them more productive.”
Which they’ve been buying around that area, especially under Satya Nadella.
Yes, exactly. But that’s really important to us, and you could have a really important part of that. And we said, “Well, actually, in fact, you could be a really important part about how we transform individuals.” And this is one of those places where the two missions actually in fact really align; they’re friends with each other. So we had a lengthy conversation where we said, “Look, do we look at the world the same way?” Do we care about — for example, one of the things that’s really important in LinkedIn is every individual member, most especially the people who don’t pay us, are actually in fact our top customers. We pay a lot of attention to serving them well, does that work within the Microsoft framework? And Satya was like, “Not only does this work, it would be really helpful for what we bring to the world and it’s actually an important component of what we add in.”
And to give you a sense of how great a leader Satya has been on this, post-deal, when we did integration, he said … Normally what happens, this may be too business-y for the broad audience …
That’s all right.
Normally you pick an executive at Microsoft and you make them do the integration, because you bring them in the Microsoft culture. Part of making these two missions friends and getting the best from both, Satya turned to Jeff and said, “Will you lead the integration?” Which is the first I’ve ever heard of, I think ever.
Well, he’s a very capable executive.
It was very smart on both sides.
So he’s doing that. I just pinged him last night, he’s not going to become CEO of Uber, just so you know. No, no, no.
I think that would be capital no, but yes.
Yeah, he knows where he is. Actually, he’d be a very good candidate, if he were working less.
Oh, he’s capable.
Absolutely. So when you’re thinking about that, what to do, could LinkedIn not make it on its own? Or was it just sort of …
No, the question is …
You don’t sell unless you … Just because it works better, it would get you where faster?
Well, just to take the next statement to the next level, how do we scale the mission? How do we accomplish the things we …
And it was better with Microsoft, or whoever, you were also talking to Salesforce and others.
Yes. So we had a set of ideas and plans about what we could do and then we lined up our set of plans, risks discounted, amount of work, what we’d get there, versus what we could do with Microsoft. And we could get there much stronger with Microsoft. Now we had to make sure we were good for all constituents; good for shareholders, good for employees. It isn’t just … You know, mission is super important, but there’s a bunch of constituencies you need to be good for, so we made sure all that worked.
So when you’re thinking about stuff like that, because I think a lot … I have a feeling that a lot of these companies are going to sell to bigger companies in the next couple of years. I’m actually working on a story about Uber, who could buy them. Microsoft is obviously on that list, although I think there’s others that are more obvious buyers. But I had never really thought I would think of it this much.
I think about Airbnb, who could buy them? Who could buy Spotify? There’s a list as long as you can see that I think, LinkedIn, to me, was a harbinger of things that can happen. How do you look at that? Because the idea of Silicon Valley is to build the Apples, the Facebooks, the future. Is that changed from your perspective?
Nope, not at all. Matter of fact, whenever we agree …
Facebook flirted with selling, too. They all did, Google did for sure.
Let me put it this way. So all the top-tier venture firms, Greylock included, all invest with the hope to create a world-transforming independent company.
Right, yes, they like to say that.
Right, but it’s true in the case of that’s what you’re shooting for. Obviously, you only get there in a small percentage of the cases because other things, when you look at, well, a company can’t make it on its own or does better somewhere else. And you do the right thing by the company, by the shareholders, by the employees, by the customers, all of these things actually in fact really matter. And so I don’t think it’s changed at all that that’s the goal. I do think that you have this … It’s a good thing that you now have a much bigger palette. It’s a good thing that people say, “Well, there are —” pick your number — “five great big U.S. tech companies.” And they say, “That’s a problem.” Well, actually, no, it’s growing in number, and that’s a good thing.
Right, so what would you list them as? Who would you list them as? The great big tech companies.
Google, Microsoft, Amazon, now I’m blocking on …
Apple. Why am I blocking out Apple? Anyway.
They don’t buy a lot, that’s why.
Well, one of the things I think … most of the companies large and small really benefit from being part of the Silicon Valley network. Apple is somewhat eschewed from it. They don’t actually really invest in being connected to Silicon Valley, which, you know, they say, “Look, we’re adventurers, we take pride in that.” And all of that’s true. It’s just kind of funny because it’s an iconic Silicon Valley company that’s not one of the ones that’s typically embedded within Silicon Valley.
No, they’re by themselves. They hang by themselves. They’re a little older, they’re more mature. I just had an event that they were at and I have to say, “Oh, God, adults.” You know what I mean? Like, “Oh, I’ve got to have an adult conversation about something.”
When you think about where it’s going, then, you have this idea of blitzscale, which is your new book coming out, and then in the next section I want to talk about politics and Silicon Valley’s responsibility, because I think a lot about jobs. And we’ll get to that in the next section
What does blitzscale mean? Is it just that you can’t do it anywhere else? That you can’t … Although blitz, you know, is a loaded word, but go ahead. As in “krieg.”
No, well, I had to think about it a lot.
And I could try to be a little coy and say, well, it’s like blitz in sports, right? Because there’s blitz in sports. But actually, in fact, the intellectual parallels that blitz created were too close, which is the innovation of moving super fast in order to accomplish something that’s decisive within a war, which is the blitzkrieg context.
And here, it’s decisive within a market, decisive within a space. And part of the innovation that has been developed over years, decades, at Silicon Valley, is how do you use the Silicon Valley network to decision on some set of ideas. Could be Airbnb, could be Uber, Pinterest, Dropbox, etc., LinkedIn, Facebook, and you say, “Let’s see that these things are working. Let’s see that they have kind of an interesting business model, and then let’s assemble a bunch of resources; everything from capital to talent to knowledge, to help them get to global market very fast.”
Hence the blitz.
Hence the blitz. And that’s part of the reason why, in a populous region, and the tech subsection is tiny. There’s four, four and a half million people in Silicon Valley, and yet the majority of the $100 billion-plus tech companies within the English world are made here.
That’s astonishing. And this is the reason why. That’s the reason why I started doing the book, that’s the reason I was doing the podcast, Masters of Scale, is to show that. And also to show how it’s done, because I think the world’s better off …
So give me a some tips, how is it done? Then you can do it and replicate it other places. It’s that easy to do.
It’s not that easy to do.
It’s almost impossible, actually.
Well, it’s not impossible.
Israel? Russia? China?
Well, there’s Russia. It’s not 100 percent. Spotify, that’s Sweden.
Well, but look, I’m saying it’s much harder other places, but not impossible. So part of the thought within the book, the Stanford Class Podcast, all of those things, are to say here is how to get some of that information on what we do. We benefit intensely from having an intense talent network, a bunch of companies, people who are trading information back and forth about how to develop things, how to go to market. Not confidential information, but the practicum of how do you blitzscale in a really spectacular way. But, that’s part of the reason why we do these podcasts.
That’s part of the reason why we say, “Okay, here are some of the things.” So some of it is, for example, one thing that Silicon Valley was getting a bunch of grief on, especially the first internet boom, was a willingness to invest a bunch of capital before you proved your business model, before you proved you could make profits.
Right, no profits.
You said, that’s totally crazy. Well, and actually, what we learned was it is totally crazy, unless you have a good theory in your business model. You don’t have to have proven it, but you have to at least have thought about it.
Yes. You have to have thought …
Exact example of that, right?
Exactly. So it’s like, no, we’ve got a business model, but by the way, we’re going to invest a billion dollars, hundreds of millions, billions, in order to get there, and that’s actually okay.
Well, in Amazon’s case it’s interesting because they always compare Uber to that, although opposite argument that Amazon took that wasted money or whatever and they built moats around it; moat after moat after moat, technology moats, warehouse moats, expertise moats, relationship moats. That’s not something others do very well. I’m not calling Uber out particularly, but there’s no moat, there’s not as many moats.
Well actually, part of what becomes part of when do you blitzscale is when you think you have network effects and how do you build those network effects? You build in reputation systems into it, where if the reputation system catches, then that becomes part of the network of it.
Or something else that sets you apart and stuff like that. So give them the skills that you need to blitzscale. You need money, obviously.
A ton of money.
You need to learn very fast. You need to not only learn from what you’re accomplishing by bringing your product to market, presumably fast. There’s a minimum viable product, a quote that I’m really associated with, you’re not embarrassed by your first product release you released too late, etc. Then you need to be …
So fast, tons of money.
Tons of money. And then you need to have an approach where you’re always recruiting, you’re bringing in talent, and you’re also scaling your organization, reorganizing it. So you’re not trying to design your perfect organization from the beginning as much as you’re always recruiting great talent in. And part of recruiting that great talent in is you’re going to be shifting the talent around. The people who made you successful when you were 50 people won’t be the exact same people at the executive level or the top management level who are making you successful at 250 people. That will actually change.
That’s hard for people to do.
And it’s hard for people to do, and that’s why you have advisers, you pick investors who know how to help you with this, and that all becomes part of the playbook.
There’s also an ability to hire above yourself, like hire smarter people, which I think doesn’t happen in a lot of companies. The CEO tends to try to collect information themselves, keep it to themselves, and others … The more successful ones I’ve noticed are like Zuckerberg where he brought in a lot of people who were more capable than he was. He’s obviously capable …
Oh, he’s super capable.
Yeah, but the people he brought in were no shrinking violets. There’s no shrinking violets among them.
And you can track that even though everyone he brought in was strong …
He replaced people.
He replaced people as he figured, “Oh, this is what I need to be at this level of scale. This is what I need in order to … This is what raising the bar at this level of the game is.” And Zuck is a classic example of an infinite learner.
He is, on everything. What problems can you run into? In the next section we’ll talk about politics, but what is the end responsibility? What are the problems you run into? We had the guy, Eric Weiner, from “Geography of Genius.” Things can fall apart. Cultures ultimately die. There was Rome, there was Greece, there was this, and this will eventually pass. Hopefully, we’ll be dead, Reid, but it’s fine. What’s the problem that you would see?
The problems are eventually it all gets inward focused. What happens is political systems, I’m going to go to politics, get hardened for the encumbrance against challenges. I think one of the things that keeps Silicon Valley special is we allow a constant set of challenge. We don’t allow the encumbrance to try to lock out challenge and we support new challengers. I think as long as we have the freshness of that, that will give us a much longer arc. Maybe not infinite, but a much longer arc. You know, I think if we get … If I think maybe there’s no new technology then or we get lazy or perhaps we get too self-important and we’re not always learning.
Because that never happens.
Yeah, that never happens. You have to bring a new mind to this. You have to always be learning. In my first book “The Start-Up of You,” I called it permanent beta, which is always be thinking, “How am I learning? How am I improving what I’m doing?” And you think about that as an individual, but also the organization.
How do you keep an organization like that when they have untold wealth and untold … You know, people licking them up and down all day. You ultimately lose your edge.
I guess I think you try to keep the culture and the focus alive as long as possible and you try to make sure that the progressive leadership really focuses on that. I don’t think anything is ever forever but, for example, sometimes new stars rise and the new stars may help catalyze the old ones. I’m fundamentally, not utopian, but optimistic, so I don’t think that it’s a game that you just ultimately always lose. It’s like life, you keep fighting.
Well, I think a little bit sometimes, and it sound crazy, like the Democratic party or some of the parties, they sometimes lose their ways because the people engaging them are just, it’s an age. It’s not age, it’s too long a round and not open to fresh ideas and they don’t see it coming.
But the hope is, you leave the paths by which challengers, entrepreneurs, young people, etc., can formulate a new great thing, then those new great things are born and that’s what carries us along.
Or fear. Are they scared enough of China, for example. Are they scared enough of …
Well, fear can be a motivator as well. Hopefully you translate that into positive things. Not everyone does.
Well, so for example, you say, “I’m fearful that I can’t pay the bills,” so therefore I go and invent a company and then create a bunch of jobs and everything else. That’s a positive thing. Fear insofar as you attack something or you engage in xenophobia or something else, that’s not so positive.
When you think about that, are you … When you look at somewhere like, is there some part of the world where you go, “We better get cracking like they are”? Is it China? I would assume it’s China.
I think China, it’s super impressive. They brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. I think it’s a good thing in humanity, in the world. And I think there’s a bunch of things that they are actually in fact practically investing in; everything from infrastructure, to technology, to government, that we should also be doing as a society. There’s things we should be learning from how China invests.
Look, if it’s a friendly competition for who builds the next interesting set of technologies or tech companies or helps define a sense of what does stability in the world look like, that’s a perfectly good thing. But I tend to say … one of the things I think is most important is that we build good bridges with Europe and good bridges with China, and actually that creates a stable world order for creativity and for growth. So yes, you may be racing against your friends, but you want to be building bridges there versus walls.
All right, perfect. We are going to talk about building walls and the regime of Donald Trump next with Reid Hoffman.
We’re here with Reid Hoffman, a well-known venture capitalist, investor and political activist, I think. You’re pretty much the person everyone wants to be the Koch brothers of the Left. I know you don’t want me to say that, but so many people have said it to me about you that it’s hard not to say it. Talk about your political activism. You talked a little bit at the beginning, but you’ve gotten more … What prompted you? Because, by the way, for people who don’t know, you’re very good friends with Peter Thiel.
Right, which is like …
I still am.
That should be a reality show, the two of you locked in a room essentially, discussing things.
Well, in 1996, and I have the DVDs of it, but I haven’t decided what to do with them, I gave them to Peter as well, Peter and I did a public access cable show.
Oh, hello. Hand them over to Kara Swisher, that’s what you do.
So I have to re-watch them. They’re our much younger selves.
On what access? Like in Cupertino?
It was somewhere … Pacifica, I think?
Right. And what did you do? Just argue with each other? Because you’re a left, you’re leftish.
I prefer the term “progressive.”
But I believe in a greater society, I think we should work towards it, I think we should invest in it. So Peter and I basically would invite in a guest and then we’d argue with each other over the guest. It’s a very simple format.
We had a set of different folks. I think it was the current editor, back then, of The American Spectator.
I’m trying to remember his name.
So you would have intellectual discussions.
How did you get to be friends with him? You worked on the company together, right?
No, no, we’ve known each other for a long time. We had I think both heard about each other when we were undergraduates, freshmen at Stanford. He had heard that there was this Pinko commie, that was me. I had heard of this guy who was right wing of Attila the Hun, that was him. And we both heard about each other and we were curious because it was like, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”
Yeah, that guy. And so then we were in a class together sophomore year called Philosophy 80 Mind, Matter, and Meaning.
And we went, “Oh, wait, I think I’ve heard of you.” And so we chatted a bit. And then we met on the next Sunday and then we argued for eight hours. And the kind of argument we did … There’s this kind of argument called reductio ad absurdum, which is you try to show that someone’s premises are false by the fact that they lead to absurd conclusions.
So we were doing this argument against each other, it was like, “I got you now because then you must believe this absurd conclusion.” And both of us would say, “Of course I believe that.” “Oh, you can’t believe that.” And then you spend the eight hours arguing it. And I think one of the things that Peter and I most share in a very strong way is the belief in reason, the belief in argumentation, the belief in discussion.
The belief in talking about these theories and so forth. For example, one of the things I think Peter holds as a challenge to the left, which I think is both true for the left and the right, they both have this problem, is you can’t really engage in discussion unless you can build the argument on the other side. Unless you can articulate the argument on the other side, you’re not really having a discussion, you’re not really reasoning. And that’s one of the things that Peter frequently feels that the lefty progressives don’t do right by …
They’re not making their argument.
Yeah. And understanding what the other side’s argument is and responding to that as opposed to just saying, “Oh, you’re a racist.” It’s like, “No, that’s not …” There are racists who voted for Trump.
And he’s said a number of things.
Yeah, and he’s said a number of things that are fucking — sorry — terrible.
That’s okay, go right ahead. You can say fucking terrible.
Yes. Absolutely unconscionable, and should never be said by anyone who’s seeking political office.
But he says them anyway.
But he says them anyway.
Can I ask you, is he doing that just to be an asshole? Just to cause discussion?
I don’t know. I’ve never met him.
No, no, Peter.
Oh, Peter. Well, he doesn’t say them. I wasn’t talking about Peter, I was talking about Trump.
Trump, yes, unconscionable.
I don’t think Peter says those kinds of things.
Some of the things he’s said have been unconscionable.
Give me an example.
Stuff around the women and the date rapes, it’s just like …
Oh, I’ve never heard those.
He’s said a bunch of stuff that you’re sort of like, “Really?”
You’re going to need to …
You can argue with him, but here you are, you want to argue with someone in an intellectual way, even if you disagree with them.
So that’s the premise, the concept, which is a great premise, by the way.
And by the way, do give me those things because I will go fix those with Peter.
Oh no, this is when he was in college. I dealt with a lot of these right wingers. At Georgetown we had the Young Americans for Freedom and they just sometimes liked to just poke at left-wing people who then overreact badly.
So one thing that happens frequently with Peter is that Peter states things very precisely.
Yes, he is.
And sometimes mistake his precision in how he’s doing it.
So for example, I went after him in a private conversation about the, “Oh, people are taking Trump literally and not seriously and they should be taking him seriously, not literally.”
Oh yes, I made fun of him.
I was like, “This is unconscionable, you can’t say that.” And he said, “Oh, I wasn’t defending it, I was simply describing what people were doing.”
Oh, okay, yeah, I know.
I was like, “Oh, okay, that’s a bit of precision.” And so you get those kinds of things. Now I think what motivates Peter is that Peter worries that actually in fact there’s a bunch of sloppy thinking motivated by political interests that tend to enforce a kind of a political correctness and thought that he really wants to break because he wants to make sure that we actually in fact get to the right conclusions and so forth. And that sometimes gets him to be a little fiercer than your average bear. But also sometimes in his precision and language, which I challenge …
Well, I think the arguments for political correctness don’t take into account that there’s some things that you just can’t say anymore, like you shouldn’t be able to say. And I get freedom of speech, I know the Silicon Valley meme of Libertarianism and he and I had a big discussion about gay rights at one point. Of course, he’s never had children, he doesn’t understand. You know what I mean? And I was like, “Why don’t you have a kid and then we’ll have another discussion about that.” But getting away from him, you got politicized early. So you were politicized early. But you weren’t very politically active, as I recall, until recently.
No, like I said earlier, I realized that part of my resistance to being involved in politics is that I prefer non-zero subjects. I prefer to build things and I prefer to change the world for everyone by what you’re building.
So you make a company and that’s how you officiate change.
Yes. And try to make it so that the pie is just much larger, like we’re making progress.
Well, companies have more impact socially than people realize, too.
Yes, exactly. And it’s not just companies, it’s also nonprofits, technologies, a bunch of things, but companies too. And so that’s the reason why historically I kind of feel like I need to be lightly … I decided once I made some money and everything else, I basically said look, I need to contribute, I need to do my part, but I don’t need to be very deeply involved in politics. I got involved last year because I basically think, on a variety of fronts, Trump’s a disaster. The way I refer to this amongst my friends is the Trumpocalypse.
Yes you do, I’ve heard it.
Yes, exactly. And then one of the things now, with some of my friends, is OTT, which is Other Than Trumpocalypse, how are you doing? And people say, “Well, what do you mean?” I say well, for example, good relations with China are part of what create a stable, healthy world. It’s part of what minimizes the risks of dangerous state actors like North Korea and so forth is when you have those bridges. And I think, as I would’ve predicted in 2016, I think what I see in 2017 is basically destroying those bridges.
Yes, anything, not just … Everything. Our courts, our legal system, or FBI. Where does that come from, from your perspective? And it’s something your friend Peter Thiel supports, seemingly.
Well, he and I argue a bunch about that. I think that it comes from the fact that — personal speculation, I have no information — I think Trump ran because he thought it was an easy way of marketing his brand, just like “The Apprentice.” He thought he wanted to create Trump TV and build the Trump brand and then was kind of surprised that he won. That’s what it seems like from the outside.
Because you would expect someone who’s actually running for president to actually have policies.
Have a thought.
Actually have a set of things as a plan for what I’m trying to do, as opposed to, “It’s tremendous” and “Of course I’m not going tell you about it because that would reveal it.” And you’re like, well, you can reveal the health care plan, if you have one.
Right, which he doesn’t.
Which he doesn’t, and so forth. I think that’s part of the thing is I think he’s just … It’s like somebody closing their eyes, possibly drinking a bottle of vodka, and then driving down the highway at high speed. I think that’s essentially what you’re seeing.
Right. And so what do you … You move quickly to organize, but Silicon Valley didn’t move that quickly. They sort of dragged their feet to Hillary. And I’m like, the alternative is pretty bad, you might just want to sign on to the Hillary campaign. They dragged their feet, they were very non-political this year. They had embraced Obama, which you had too, you had been involved. But not as involved as others. You were involved.
I was not involved in the first four years of Obama. So for me, I got involved with Obama because, like I said, I was avoiding politics generally, but he and his lieutenants were reaching out to me saying, “Look, we’re trying to figure out how to build good things in the U.S., can you help us?”
Sure, that appeals to you.
I was like, “Oh great, I want to build stuff. That sounds great, I’m willing to help with that. Let’s think through some of these issues and technologies and jobs and other kinds of things.” And then similarly, Hillary reached out and I was like, “Great, I’m happy to help.” And obviously, the alternative is …
OTT. And part of the reason I’m staying active is I still think we have this kind of place where, like for example, tweeting about coal miner jobs. You don’t want coal miner jobs, you want the jobs of the future. And you want them for people in Kentucky and Virginia and so forth. That’s what you want to have happen. And you don’t make empty promises, you make real things happen. And I think from Silicon Valley perspective is that Silicon Valley tends to be also we want to build the future and so they’re like, “Look, we can stay out of politics, we’d love to, so we can go do that.” I think that’s changing because we’re having …
Well, they stayed out of this political election until it was over and then looked like they were sucking up to him again.
Well, I think, look, on the charitable read, I think the answer is to say, “Hey, let us just go build things that will really make a big difference for people.” Right?
Right. Which has been Silicon Valley’s thing. I recall Gates like that, or, “I don’t need these political people,” until they sued him almost out of existence.
So I think in light of … in defense of the technology industry, I think the moment you start seeing things like these kind of crazy and appalling racist bans, like the Muslim travel ban and so forth. Those things I think the technology industry got off its ass pretty quickly and said, “We stand against this.”
“This is unacceptable.” And so I think their first part was kind of a bit of naivete of, “Hey …”
“We’ll just build our things over here in the left.”
“We’ll just build our things.”
“With our next Instagram or blank …”
And not realizing that when you have this kind of careening car blowing other cars off the highway going down there, it’s going to affect you too and you actually need to be in it.
Shouldn’t Silicon Valley be better? That’s how I feel. Everyone’s sort of like … I don’t really consider Wall Street’s going to step up. They’re just not. They’re going to do whatever. But I think I’ve surrounded myself with people who all day tell me how great they are and then they’re not so great. So I find that a little disappointing.
So I think we should all be a little disappointed and then we should work on it.
So what do they do? What does Silicon Valley do now? They didn’t support Hillary that heavily, they’re still inching towards politicization, and I wanted to finish up talking about that idea that it’s unavoidable now. Not just because of Trump, because of the things they’re developing for the future: AI, self-driving cars. They have a major impact on society in a way that Instagram never will.
So I think they’re becoming a more and more strong force in the world. The power of the tech industry is growing, not just economics, but the way they transform the world with technologies. And so I think the important thing is to grow up some, to realize that you have the responsibilities of that power. That doesn’t mean to not still do the, “Let’s go build things as fast we can,” but let’s also engage in dialogue, hear people’s concerns, not just presume that because we can build it, we should know exactly how it should be built, but making sure that we’re paying attention to constituencies, like constituencies of people who want to be part of the future and diversity and inclusion and all of that stuff. And so I think that’s part of what I think we’re seeing happening now. This may be my optimistic self, but I think we can make it happen, is we’re seeing the technology industry grow up.
So how so? Give me an example. You’re doing WTF, which I think is the worst name ever, as you know.
You don’t think it’s the best name ever?
No, because it’s like a little juvenile man-joke. So What The Fuck, thank you very much, but it’s We, something, the Forward, right?
Win The Future.
Okay, whatever. It’s a guy joke, it’s such a guy joke, come on.
Well, okay, we can pull it. The idea was to appeal to millennials.
Yes, I get that.
And a little bit of tongue in cheek is one of the things that millennials like.
But I think millennials are smarter than we get them credit for.
There not as juvenile. What you’re trying to do is create a political party? Is that correct? What are you doing with that?
So I think the idea is to help create a movement that says, “Look, this is what we care about in the future.” And it’s both essentially pro-society, like we care about things like tolerance and inclusion and everything else.
We care about business, we care about climate, we want all of these things. We don’t want this to be like, oh, these issues are on this side of the divide, these issues are on this side. We want to reinvent the, “Here is how we build towards a future that we want.” And then create a social network that focuses on that.
So that’s what the goal of that particular project is. Other projects are also to kind of sense, like for example, one of the things that Jeff and I and a few people are talking about is what does the future of work look like? How do I make sure that’s sufficiently inclusive? Obviously there’s an angle of how do we use LinkedIn as a platform to help that. Obviously LinkedIn right now tends to be the more aspirational, higher-paid professional jobs, but how do we make that much broader? And then how do we help everyone figure out how that work is created and how they find that work?
Do you think Silicon Valley has a responsibility for job loss and job change? Because when we create self-driving cars, it has an impact. It doesn’t have a little … Like talk about truck driving, it ends truck driving as we know it.
I think there’s a responsibility to think about it to try to have the best possible impacts. So, for example, truck driving. You have autonomous trucks. In that pattern …
Millions of jobs.
Truck driving as a job goes away. Now, maybe it also transforms space. Maybe new suburbs are created and there’s a whole bunch of space that’s created around that. Maybe there’s new forms of productivity by which you can participate in things while you’re in, essentially, autonomous vehicles and doing things. That’s part of the reason you have to be pro entrepreneurship. And so what I would say is Silicon … People frequently take the question you said and say, “Well, does Silicon Valley have a responsibility not to create an autonomous vehicle?” I think that’s …
No, that’s not going to … You, me and Marc talked about that. But Marc’s attitude was like, “Oh, the blacksmiths, oh well.” But I was thinking, what happened to those blacksmiths? There was pain associated, and political pain and societal tumult and everything else. And I think you and I were like, “Well, there’s a little bit of pain in that.” And he’s like, “That doesn’t matter.”
And so I think the responsibility is to say how do we help in those intervening cases too? This is one of the reasons why Jeff and I have been working on how does LinkedIn help people find other kinds of work or to be entrepreneurial themselves. This is actually one of the things I like about Airbnb’s magical trips; if you can allow these essentially micro-entrepreneurs to create experiences, that’s another way they can say, “Well, I can’t truck drive anymore, but I can do a tour of the micro-breweries in Detroit.”
Right. But can we get people to be entrepreneurial? Because I think about that. The way we educate people is not to be entrepreneurial, not at all. Some people are … I look at that in journalism. I think I’m entrepreneurial and others just aren’t. How do you make people … This is the solution, obviously, but how do you get people to there?
To some degree, look, I don’t know if I’m successful yet, but I’m taking multiple shots at this goal. LinkedIn is actually in a sense a tool to be entrepreneurial in your career, however you’re doing it. “The Start-Up of You,” here’s entrepreneurial advice focused on the individual. Masters of Scale, here’s building these great companies and tips and so forth on doing that. So I think you can shift, add to the skillset.
It doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to be perfectly entrepreneurial, but you can add the skillset. Then the second thing, I think, in addition to getting people to be entrepreneurial, you need to get platforms to make it easier. That’s part of the reason why LinkedIn, that’s part of the reason why Airbnb and magical trips, that’s part of … How do we build those platforms that enable that?
They can access into, too. And Kiva, which you are also involved in.
Do you want to become sort of a political kingmaker? I’m not going to use the Koch brothers, but the idea. Why don’t you assemble $500 million and start killing, you know what I mean? Like killing from the left. You’d be the one, I’m sorry to tell you, but there’s no brother with you either, just you.
So my very strong preference, it’s build to a better future for all of us.
I got it.
I’d rather spend $500 million doing that any day of the week. That being said, if you have people that are essentially being active agents of destruction, right? So for example, gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is a travesty in democracy. It really needs to be fixed. It’s actually part of what leads to the extremity and the polarization. In an outside perspective, you say, “Look, why don’t we get together to plan the future? Why don’t we agree on what the right thing is versus just attacking each other?” So, for example, the Obama administration would love to do infrastructure bills, but oh no, if we’re a Republican Congress, we’re not going to allow that because we don’t want there to be a political win.
Well, that’s what’s happened. Same thing around health care, no one is … I don’t think the Democrats should go along with this, but not going along with it means we’re not going to get anything good.
Well, I think the Democratic complaint was correct, it’s like, do it in public.
Right, I agree.
Talk to us.
Beside the point. They’re not cooperating.
Like nobody. Why should we cooperate with them? And I agree, why should we?
But I think we’re better off when we actually are collaborating. That’s the universal target.
Yes, that’s going to be my last question, how do we get there. But why don’t you start building up your war chest so their war chest doesn’t mutate everybody?
Well, so, what I would say is I am looking for … The way that I look at what I do in Silicon Valley is I build Archimedean levers. So you build a lever that changes the world.
Yes, lift the world. You’re so good. I just want to, I wished I had taken that job at Google early on so I’d have $600 billion to kill them. That would be my goal.
And part of Archimedean levers is efficiency of technology, efficiency of business models. Part of blitzscaling is business model and technology together, and those are the kinds of solutions I’m looking for. So I’m kind of less inclined reflexively, although I might get there, to just go, “Here, I’m here as a big war chest of just donating.” But I am inclined to try to build tech platforms, like Win The Future — names you hate —in order to make a very big difference.
I don’t hate it. So would you ever run for office?
No. Well, actually, my precise answer is an asteroid hitting the Earth is more likely.
All right, okay. Do you imagine one of these tech people running?
I think a number of the tech people will run over time.
I don’t think I can say.
Okay. Do you think Mark Zuckerberg is going to run?
I think not.
I don’t either, but, I think he just likes to pet livestock. He’s a curious individual.
Well, actually in fact, I think he … I don’t think the way he would ever put it is petting livestock. I think his thing is saying look, we have a community property, I need to understand the community, and clearly we have community dysfunction within the U.S., how do I understand this? Going and talking to people is a good way of doing that.
Yeah, absolutely. Do you think tech people would make good politicians?
Probably a few.
Yeah, for a few. And my last question: Do you worry about the future under Trump? You’re saying it’s Trumpocalypse, you have a game …
Yup, Trumped-Up Cards.
You’ve literally been the most, except for maybe Reed Hastings, been the most clearly vocal, going out on a limb. Is that a risk to you? And are you going to continue the aggressive stances you’ve had, comparatively?
I almost certainly will be. I’m not continuing the aggressive stances because I just want to do the aggressive stances. The question is what is the right thing for the country? What is the right thing for us? And part of what was happening last fall — Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote a column about this in the Times — which is precisely when you fear fear is the time to stand up. So if you feel fear, fear of oppression or something else, that’s a good signal to you to say, “Now, actually, I should speak louder. And I should do things.” Because a lot of people were fearful about being oppressed by Trump or fearful about how he likes to describe how he’s going to crush people and sue them and everything else.
And he tried to do that from the office, too; it’s not his fault, it’s Obama’s fault, the Russians are Obama’s fault. It’s like oh, as if. Get a clue. And so I will speak up, and I think it’ll happen, when those times are that I think it’s the right thing for us to do. For example, I actually think Trump isn’t very pro-entrepreneurship, I don’t think he’s pro-technology, I don’t thinks he’s pro-future on these things.
And actually in fact, for example, you want to create the right middle-class jobs? We need to use technology to do that. It’s not roll back the clock, it’s roll forward the clock in a way that we’re helping. Like the big swath of Americans who fear that they’re being left behind, and we do have a responsibility to try to help.
Are you worried about the future? I’ve been watching “A Handmaid’s Tale” too long, so.
So I think the future is not written, right?
Thank you, I think that’s “Planet of the Apes.”
“Terminator,” I think.
Oh, that’s right, “the future is not written.” How could I not know that? It’s my favorite movie.
And precisely, I am an optimist, this is a game we can win, but we have to dig into it, we have to work at it.
Is there a candidate you’re looking at right now on the scene?
Well, unfortunately, I think the 2020 Democratic candidate field is going to make the 2016 Republican field look sparse.
So I’m trying to figure out what to do, but there’s a bunch of good people. I don’t think any of them want to be named.
Yeah, all right. Well I don’t know, I agree with you. I’m like, ah. You sort of sit there like you hope that you should be able to win with this group against you, it’s a bunch of clowns, and then you’re like … And to me they don’t have answers, which is interesting.
What I think is important is we all live in this boat together, we live in this society together.
They’re pushing us out of the boat, actively.
But I actually think it’s you push back in. I think the responsibility thing is how do I contribute to making a better society? And I think one of the things is people are frequently too apolitical. They’re like, “That’s politics and I’m just doing business.” It’s like no, no, which values do you stand for and are you contributing?
Well that’s not my problem, and yours either. Very last question: What tip would you give an entrepreneur right now? What would be the most important thing right now, Reid Hoffman, summer of 2017?
Okay, so many entrepreneurs feel that what they do, their moment of genius is their ideas, they keep it secret. Actually build the strongest possible network around you to give you feedback on it to refine the idea, because it’s the fact you’re in motion on this idea and the best possible network you can build around you magnifies your success.
Great. We didn’t even get to gender issues or Uber or anything, but that’s all right, that’s another discussion. Thank you so much, Reid, thank you for coming. As usual, incredibly thoughtful, and I really appreciate your presence in Silicon Valley.
Awesome to be here.
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