Chamath and Vinod Khosla chat with Waterloo Engineering in their episode Hack the North Keynote.

I enjoyed listening to both of them detail their thoughts about the world, VC, social media and more.

The connection between them before was very interesting. When Chamath was a lot younger, he wrote to the VC firm Kleiner Parkins asking to be an intern/employee (we all have done this at some point or the other!) and Vinod was the only that replied to him. While he didn’t offer him the job he left a deep impression on Chamath who looked up to him. It’s also seen in Chamath’s latest tweet.

Vinod was the only one in a venture firm that replied to Chamath when he was first starting out and that left a deep impression on him.

A lot of the talk is about their visions of the future but there is a lot of advice and mechanics that they mention which really is the most interesting thing to me.

Here’s some takeaways.

  • If you’re in a position of power or are successful and someone writes to you, you can change their life with an encouraging word or tone
  • Curiosity goes a long way. Vinod bought books and just read them throughout the flight whenever he had time to learn more.
  • There are 2 types of people - Those that focus on why it cant be done and those that ask how can it be done?
  • Vinod has failed more times than anyone else but he tries many more times than most people do in their life.
  • Never give up. Vinod was rejected first by Stanford admissions stating he had no experience, so he worked two full time jobs in one year (40 hour weeks x 2) then applied the next year. They put him on the waiting list because he was so annoying. He started his Carnegie Mellon MBA program already but he was desperate to get into Stanford and kept calling the admissions officer. Finally he was put on the waiting list because he was so persistent. And he launched a campaign where he became friends with everyone on the admission staff and kept track of all candidates on a daily basis. When there was finally a student that dropped out and he was on the waiting list he called the admissions office and said I am taking the position and showed up the next day without a place to live or money to fund his education. But only with a will to be there.
  • In failure you learn something especially when you have nothing to lose.
  • Don’t have high expectations. Stay grounded keep grinding. Pursuit of knowledge is more interesting than the accolades in life.
  • What do you believe in vs what your parents and others believe in is important for you to learn and recognise.
  • Your failures aren’t failures if they are manageable. Success everyone remembers but failures are the more important learning experiences
  • You hire everyone good so that you get to talk to them. That’s Vinod’s hiring tip.
  • The Paypal mafia is great but the Sun mafia is quite large as well they have a lot of luminaries that Vinod got on board primarily to learn from.
  • Where your born and to whom can be an advantage but the rate of change of your environment is important. It’s why college is great but in education today you should allow young kids to meander some more.
  • Wikipedia teaches you a lot.
  • Learning from others is very valuable and is the best way to learn (Guru vs Guides)
  • Silicon Valley isn’t going anywhere, people are talking about where they’ll zoom in from to Silicon Valley engineers so that whole movement thing is a joke. (However, Chamath later said in a tweet that the Miami building hype is real.)
  • Vinod recommends a lot of top reading but one particular writer he likes is Naseem Taleb and his writings.
  • People are limited to what they think they can do but not what they can actually do
  • Very large companies are static remnants of innovation. They get complacent and rife with bureaucracy
  • Most interesting things happen at the edge of the system, seek out the edges that’ll accelerate your career.
  • Entrepreneurs drive large change. Being one is hard but better to be around one if you can.
  • Learn across disciplines, focus on rate of learning, what are you learning and how quick you are learning
  • Exploration learning and getting things done all require a balance. Its not a license to be lazy

The conversation ends with this question that is asked,

What do you wish people asked you more? The role of role models is very important. Before we had only football and basketball models to look like. Having these heroes who emulate the story you have.

I wrote my own abridged version of Mentors here.