Founder of A16Z: A more structured working method and life

In the venture capital ecosystem, we can always see new changes in technology every once in a while, and new business models bring various new forms of start-up companies. In contrast, the venture capital industry appears to be somewhat “conservative”, but from another perspective, it is also because of the great challenges behind the industry’s breakthrough innovation. If you want to rank the innovation power of the venture capital industry, I believe that A16Z must be among the best. A16Z’s unique concept and style of play have always been the vane of new forms in the industry.

In 2011, A16Z co-founder Marc Andreessen published an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Software is eating the whole world”, which attracted widespread attention. As an investor and a technical expert, he interpreted the general environment of the technology industry and concluded that “software and Internet companies are an excellent opportunity.” In that era, Marc captured Facebook (the biggest risk is not Take any risk|Talk to outstanding Internet companies such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), Groupon, Skype, Twitter, Zynga, etc.

In the past two days, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Coinbase founder Brain Armstrong (Coinbase founder: how companies from 0 to 100 billion dollars make decisions) and Marc Andreessen’s debate on Web 3.0 have become Twitter again The most high-profile topic on the Internet. Before creating A16Z, Marc co-founded Netscape, the originator of the browser. In the era of Internet technology development, Marc Andreessen is undoubtedly one of the most influential and topical super individuals.

The content shared today comes from an in-depth conversation between Marc Andreessen and The Good Time Show principal Sriram Krishna (Sriam is also a partner of A16Z). Marc shared his personal productivity, schedule, reading habits, and learning optimization. Latest thinking. I read this content in the second half of last year. After reading it, I feel that this article will not immediately give you the experience of empowering you, but after slowly experiencing and careful consideration, you will find that the content in the article is the same This kind of rational return of respect for common sense, I suggest that you can collect it first, and then read it regularly.

Earlier this month, I visited an outstanding senior in the investment industry and asked a question-if we are to truly cross the cycle in this work of investment, what is the competitiveness that is worth continuing to build? , The answer that the predecessor gave me is to always maintain a keen sense of front-line business. As Marc mentioned in this conversation, venture capital is a work that is “close to the actual front line”. Investors should not think about getting out of daily affairs. You need to really understand what happened. You must be in close contact with what is happening in the market, understand these technologies, and know what these entrepreneurs are doing. My admiration for Marc lies in the fact that since the founding of Netscape Netscape, Marc has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and commercial development in the past 30 years, and behind this is a set of personal productivity systems that he has built, a large number of high-density The input of information and the belief in technology as a driving force are inseparable.

  • Dialogue directory
  • Personal productivity
  • The value of open time and decentralization
  • Goals and systems
  • Process, results and stakes
  • Books and reading
  • Learning and perspectives
  • Progress and drive

1. About personal productivity

Sriram: More than ten years ago, you published the famous “Pmarca Personal Productivity Guide” on your personal blog. So, what does the 2020 version of “Marc Andreessen Personal Productivity Guide” look like? *(Pmarca is Marc Andreessen’s personal blog)

Marc: I basically made a 180° big adjustment to the guide 13-14 years ago. Many of these adjustments are just because of the establishment of A16Z and the hope that it will continue to grow bigger and stronger. Currently, we have a large number of companies in our portfolio, and a large amount of investment work is in progress at any point in time. The senior partners of A16Z and I need to deal with very high-intensity affairs, so we need a more structured lifestyle. This guide is by far the most organized I have tried.

For me, a typical day is to strictly follow the schedule. I will try my best to complete the “programming calendar” arrangement guidelines.

Sriram: Take me to know your day.

Marc: My schedule is more weekly. The day of the week determines many things. There are very specific timetables for Monday and Friday, because we operate in accordance with the rhythm of venture capital companies. Monday is like an all-day “marathon” because most of the real teamwork takes place on Monday. The schedule on Friday is the same as on Monday. The schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be much more flexible, and it is usually more about going out for meetings, board meetings, entrepreneur consultations, and so on. Working according to this schedule from Monday to Friday, I now finally understand why people have the concept of weekends. I am doing my best to set aside some rest time for Saturday and Sunday.

Founder of A16Z: A more structured working method and life

Sriram: In your previous post, you talked about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s open agenda, and also talked about the benefits of having unstructured time in the day and the flexibility it brings to you.

Marc: I think Arnold was in “entrepreneur mode” when he was interviewed. At that time, he participated in many entrepreneurial projects and opened up many new businesses. I think if you are an entrepreneur in a heavily innovative mode, flexible time is definitely beneficial.

When I was doing programming in the early years, I was as busy as him. Basically, I only do one thing until I’m exhausted. Then get up the next morning and continue. I never had a real schedule plan. I only know what I am doing. In a sense, this is the same as not having a timetable. But if you have to deal with things that involve organizational operations or customer service, you will face challenges. It depends on how we view our work. If part of your job is dealing with a large number of calls or emails, you need to respond in time and don’t make people wait too long. Maybe some people can reply immediately, but I don’t know how to do it.

Sriram: At any time did you decide to change your old system? Was it when you started the company?

Marc: Yes, to be honest, we started right away when we started the company in 2009. The founding of the company is just an opportunity to cause change. One of our company’s values ​​is to respect the people we work with, and this includes-we will never lose the chain. We ensure that the response is immediate, and we have established a service level agreement (SLA) to be able to respond within a specific period of time. To use the old saying of JPMorgan Chase, “do first-class business in a first-class way.” If you contact us, you will definitely get a reply. We will do what we promise to do. It is necessary for us to establish a system for this.

In my opinion, venture capital is a very “close to the front line” work. Investors should not think about getting out of daily affairs. You need to really understand what happened. You must be in close contact with what is happening in the market, understand these technologies, and know what these entrepreneurs are doing. And you have to communicate with many people all the time, so a more structured working method is necessary.

Sriram: What do you think when you wake up on Monday morning or Sunday night to see your schedule?

Marc: I was thinking “God, I am organized! I have a plan!”. Without this, I would panic the first moment I woke up.

Basically everything is recorded on the schedule. Sleep is also on the schedule, and free time is also on the schedule. Free time is very important, it is like a valve to relieve pressure. As long as you know that you have enough time to rest, you can work hard for a long time. But I find that if you don’t arrange enough free time, you will be dissatisfied with your schedule. When I was young, I really didn’t have the concept of “shutdown”. However, as you grow older, your body will resist. And obviously, if you still have a family, a work-only system is by no means a good choice.

2. On the value of open time and decentralization

Sriram: I think the interesting thing about your schedule is that you allocate a lot of open time. We often talk about some of the most interesting and influential people in the world who have a lot of opening hours. This is the exact opposite of the 30-minute timetable arranged by business executives from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Marc: We have all worked with executives whose schedules are filled with N things. For such executives, you will often find these three points.

. They never had time to really think. And it turns out that thinking is a very important thing.

2.  It is difficult for them to adapt to changes in the environment. In the venture capital industry, you will encounter many problems and need to deal with many emergencies. Just like those classic movie scenes, when encountering a huge crisis, someone shouted to their secretary, “Cancel my schedule!”. Well, if you have some flexibility in your schedule, maybe you don’t need to do this.

 3.  You may have discovered that managers who are “controlled” by this schedule may end up as micro managers. You may have seen some of these people overwhelmed by work. The good news is that they know everything in the organization. The bad news is that they have become a bottleneck at work. The extreme form of this situation is that there are always long lines outside their offices. I have worked with a few such people. The waiting line stretched along the corridor, and people were waiting to go in and meet him. They are also the bottleneck of the organization. Working in such an organization is very demoralizing, which is basically the opposite of decentralization.

Sriram: A related topic is decentralization. For many of these people, letting go is difficult. Decentralization is often a cliché. easy to say, hard to do. So, if you want to get some open time on your schedule, what would you do? How would you actually say, “I don’t plan to do this”, “I will say no”, or “I plan to let someone else do this”?

Marc: The way I manage is that I don’t directly manage anyone.

Sriram: For me, you are an unusual conversation partner because you are not the traditional CEO who manages a large organization.

Marc: Exactly. So this is bound to be different, at least to some extent. I do not have the pressure of a traditional CEO to handle various matters one-on-one, nor do I assume all management responsibilities. I have participated in a lot of management work of the company, but these are the content we discussed in internal meetings. Then we select excellent talents to manage these teams. At some point, all we need to do is figure out what is not to be done and can be delegated to others.

Sriram: Now we are just going to talk about the screenshot you sent me. Every executive must have his own check-in system. Your time is limited, and there are a bunch of projects that you need to pay attention to. What kind of system are you using?

(Note: “check-in system” is a well-known term in company management. It is easier to understand by keeping the English expression; according to the original text, “check-in system” can be understood as “project progress check-in system”.)

Founder of A16Z: A more structured working method and life

Marc: So, in a nutshell, there are two types of project situations. Apple has a concept called directly responsible individual (DRI; directly responsible individual). For any project, I will try to determine the DRI, who is responsible for the project delivery. If it were me, it would appear on my schedule after the project was completed. If it does not appear on the calendar, it means it has not been completed. The weekly check-in is for all projects that other people are responsible for. For example, you might have a company that is raising funds or making a big deal. I don’t have to ask entrepreneurs or CEOs every day, but at least I have to keep abreast of the latest situation. I don’t want me to be ignorant of developments.

3. About goals and systems

Sriram: I want to step out of the discussion again. Talk about a longer schedule, such as years. Is there a week when you meditate on the top of the mountain and say “Well, I need to spend more time with the founder this year”, or “I need to spend more time reading scientific papers this year” or similar projects. A related question is, how do you connect your goals and company goals to the way you spend your time and energy? Is there such a mountain top?

Marc: There is no damn mountaintop! Keep me away from the top of the mountain, away from mosquitoes. No, none of these. So the thing is like this. First, every six months or so, I feel overwhelmed and feel that everything is out of my control. So about every six months, I will sit down and come from the province. That is to say to yourself “Well, you have a great system, but it is overloaded”, or “You say’yes’ to too many things, you are involved in too many things”.

You have to improve yourself and figure out what is important. I usually spend an hour reviewing what I have been doing, basically determining the “yes” and “no” thresholds, and I try to make changes once a year. In addition, I will reformulate my personal plan every year. Write from the beginning what I really want to do and my goals, and then arrange the related activities. Regarding time allocation, I would like to make a point or two. First, it is not spreadsheet driven. The executives/CEOs you read about are doing this very complicated thing. They use spreadsheets for time management…

Sriram: Steve Ballmer (Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft) is an example of time management using spreadsheets.

Marc: Yes, indeed. So they have these detailed analyses, pie charts, reports, etc. If you run a Fortune 500 company, I might understand it. At that time you were like a head of state. You need to meet different voters in different time periods and do many different things, and you need to super-optimize every 10 minutes. I really sympathize with people facing this kind of challenge. From my point of view, I don’t want to be so strict.

I’m trying to find some kind of intuition about what happened and how to rebalance. This company was established to achieve what I wanted to achieve. My role is to achieve this goal in the context of the company. So the answer is always the same. Just like, how do we optimize the company? How can I optimize my own work for projects that the company participates in? Therefore, for 11 consecutive years, the answer to this question has been the same every year, and it will not change in the short term. In my opinion, rather than rethinking goals, it is more about adjusting to a single goal. 

4. Regarding the process, results and stakes

Sriram: This is a very interesting topic because, as you know, there are two schools of thought about how to set goals, whether on the individual level or on the organizational level. One is to use the OKR target management model and various indicators to objectively measure the results by looking at some quantifiable objects. The other one focuses only on input and process, rather than the actual result itself. And your job is unique because it has a long-term feedback loop over many years, rather than a business unit with only quarterly results.

Marc: Yes, we basically only focus on input. It’s basically the relationship between process and result. And this is exactly the reason you said. Venture capital takes a long time to see results. In our first five years, we really didn’t know whether it would succeed. So just, what did I learn? For example, in the first three years, it has made no progress. What will I learn? Because sometimes these companies struggle for a while, and then they really succeed. Sometimes it’s the opposite. They succeeded very quickly, but then ran into serious problems.

It’s hard to find a suitable analogy, but it’s more like playing poker. Being a good poker player is really, really, really hard. If you blame yourself for a bad luck, you will develop this bad habit. You just need a system that allows you to think about the whole process…

Sriram: “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke is one of the best books in this area.

Marc: Yes, exactly. Michael Mauboussin (Columbia Business School professor Michael Mauboussin) also wrote a lot about this profession in his book. Investment is a process of separating process and result. Our world is almost always trying to optimize the process. The results will appear after 5, 6, 8, or 10 years. At this point, I very much doubt whether it is useful to review the causal relationship between the work you do and the results you get. Because this approach is not certain and unreliable.

Sriram: Causality is really hard to deduce.

Marc: Yes, so we won’t spend a lot of time on this. What we are concerned about is-what is the best way to run the process? What is the best way to run a company? What is the best way to help entrepreneurs? By the way, providing too much help is not the best way to help. The best way is to ensure that we understand what is happening in the industry, what is the best way to help our network, and what is the best way to help team management. These are all processes.

To be honest, this is a bit in line with my psychology. In fact, I don’t have the gene for gambling. I don’t get any pleasure from the bets and results. I sat down and gambled, nothing happened. My heartbeat will not speed up because of this. And the math part of the brain is like, well, the expected return of this one is negative, so what exactly am I doing? So in less than 10 seconds, I lose interest and walk away. Our company does not overly celebrate success, nor does it become passionate just because of actual benefits. We care about building very competitive, but return is not the point.

Sriram: This is an interesting point of view, because the layman often compares venture capitalists to gamblers, while the insiders have completely different views.

Marc: I will never be a professional gambler, but you will find that professional gamblers have a characteristic. They may gamble at night and go out to play together during the day to make additional bets for large sums of money. This is actually an extra bet, sitting in a restaurant betting whether there are more red cars passing by than blue cars. They are “honing” their own psychology so that they can bet without any emotion from the perspective of pure mathematics. They try to keep themselves quiet. On the contrary, at the gaming table, they hope that the opposite is an extremely emotional person. Because quiet people know best to “slaughter” emotional people.

The strange thing is that gambling is supposed to make people feel a strong change in emotions, but real professionals are indifferent to it. They don’t care, because it is a probabilistic result. This is only part of the game, they will come back to continue the game, and the result may be better the next day.

5. About books and reading

Sriram: I want to change the topic a little bit. Regarding this interview, I asked a lot of people we all know. One of the most common questions is: How did you read so many books?

Marc: I have been reading since I was very young. Reading is a lifelong matter. It can be said that reading can fill in all the huge differences. There is a very good term called “Yihui”. It means to figure out what happened and why? The world is very complex and changeable, and trying to figure out it is a life’s work.

What I have been trying for the past few years is “barbell” reading. What I read is either the latest or the classic.

Sriram: From the perspective of Lindy [effect], there is nothing wrong with doing this. (Lindy effect: For things that will die out naturally, each additional day of life will shorten their life expectancy. For things that will not die naturally, each additional day of life may mean a longer remaining life expectancy. Time is the tester of life’s resilience)

Marc: Exactly. I want to remove everything in the middle. Because I found that there are only a handful of people who can write something in the middle ground that can explain what happened last week, last month, last year, or even the past ten years, and who can objectively interpret the situation and who are worthy of my trust. There are a few, but not many. For example, our current situation, what is actually happening now [under the new crown epidemic], I pay attention to the content of the new crown virus in the fields of science and economics every day, because these are very important. And I will avoid all comments and explanations. 

Another, as you said, there are a large number of classic books that have indeed been proven correct over time. You can only read classic works in your life, and many smart people do this.

Sriram: So how do you go from zero to one in a new field? Where do you start? Is it breadth or depth first?

Marc: As a company, we meet and talk to many people. So, indeed, many of them are face-to-face conversations. Usually, the way to know something is because someone told you about it. Therefore, you must first pay attention to every conversation. Then someone will tell you some important things or new areas. I call them “things from the future”. Something is happening in the world, and it only happens in one place. But… Wow, it will probably happen anywhere in the end. I often ask people I know who I can talk to or what books I can read.

Every once in a while, something good will happen. When I asked what I could read, they would say, “Well, there really is nothing.” And this is the best case, because it means that we may be the first to find out. If it is about technology, business or finance, we basically handle it within the company. I will not personally leave the company for a two-week in-depth study, we will let others in the company complete the work. Because this is not only part of their own development and responsibilities, but also an opportunity for us to understand the current situation.

Sriram: In a recent podcast, Naval Ravikant (a well-known investor in Silicon Valley) talked about why he didn’t finish reading the book. He got rid of the guilt of needing to read the entire book. Tyler Cowen (American economist) also said something similar. Will you finish reading every book?

Marc: Yeah, I’m really struggling. I have a lot of books that I haven’t finished reading, and I should really throw them away. Patrick Collison (the founder of Stripe) also talked about this. Having to read every book will not only cause you to spend time on books you shouldn’t read, but it will also cause you to procrastinate in reading. If I don’t finish reading this book, I can’t start reading the next book, but I don’t want to read this book. I might as well watch TV. Before you know it, you haven’t studied for a month, and you will ask yourself “What have I done?!” I think this is part of the reason. This kind of “don’t do that” moral threat affects people so successfully. Another technique is to read more than a dozen books at the same time.

Sriram: How is this done? Do you always have a stack of books by your side? Or would you use the Kindle on your phone to read?

Marc: I have both paper books and e-books, and I read them at the same time. When you sit down and read, you only read the most interesting of them. This is equivalent to reading this pile of books. One month later, you theoretically read a pile of books, some books you read only to Chapter 3 and never look back to continue reading, just like a shirt in the closet that you haven’t worn for a year, this is a Lose its signal.

6. About learning and changing perspectives

Sriram: Michael Nielsen (quantum scientist and computer scientist) and Andy Matuschak (full stack engineer) talked about the power of “spaced repetition”. Some people reread a book to better absorb it. Do you like rereading?

Marc: I aspire to be the one who does that, but I failed. I can remember the outline, but I can’t remember the specific content. I can remember ideas, concepts, and explanations clearly, but I can’t remember the details. I downplayed people, downplayed the specific time, and downplayed the specific content of the conversation.

I made a lot of notes, although I would never go through these notes afterwards. I am reading a good book on memory. Taking notes is actually a double reinforcement of memory. Another reading skill comes from Chris Dixon (A16Z partner). He thinks the chapters in the book are like blog posts. When he sat down and read it, seeing the table of contents was like seeing a group of blog posts, oh, these two already seemed very interesting, and then you said, ok, I can throw away the rest. I don’t read every article on the blog, right? I am only interested in it.

Sriram: In a previous interview, you talked about how happy you are when you are proven wrong. So how do you seek different opinions?

Marc: This is like an important way of self-improvement. Generally speaking, most people around you hate to be told that they are wrong most of the time, and they absolutely hate it. As for why, this is indeed an interesting question. The best explanation I can think of is that people treat their thoughts like their children. I have an idea, just like I have a child. If you say that my idea is stupid, it is like saying that my child is stupid. Then the conversation stopped abruptly. I have been trying to reduce the time spent arguing with others. Because people really don’t want to change their minds. So I try not to argue with people. 

However, there is a group of people who like to change their minds. What’s interesting is that no one likes this kind of people. Hedge fund managers are such people. Really good hedge fund managers seem to have this characteristic: if you have a heated argument with them, they will actually listen to what you are saying. They don’t always change their minds, but sometimes they will say “Oh, this is such a good idea.” Then they will say, “Oh, thank you”, which is really weird because it is usually not the result of an argument. They thank you because they will return to the office the next morning to reverse the transaction.

Sriram: To some extent, changing your mind is actually one of their job responsibilities. For example, arbitrage may require changing your mind at any time to make money. In most typical leadership roles, identity may be closely linked to strategy. For example, you are working on a strategy involving 1,000 employees. So, prove that a certain executive is wrong, although it is the best for the organization Thing, but it may not be a good thing for that executive.

Marc: Yes. People in hedge funds are the best example, because they do change their transactions every day. They can go long one company on Tuesday and go short again towards the end of the week. They like to abandon old ideas, because of what you said, doing so can make them money. Sometimes I want to have this mentality, but it’s too difficult. 

Also, if you want others to tell you how wrong you are, you can try it on social media.

7. About progress and driving force

Sriram: To change the topic, Tyler Cowen (American economist) has such an analogy. He asked what is equivalent to pianist practice or Steph Curry training for knowledge workers. For you, especially considering the long-term feedback loop, how do you improve yourself every day?

Marc: You need to keep trying to understand what is happening. For example, what actually happened.

To give a typical example, if you ask an entrepreneur how the company is, they will always say “very good.” But it may not be the case. You may be facing a hurricane, because this is the norm at work. So, what happened inside the company? What did the customer actually buy? What strategy was actually adopted? How is the actual development of this technology? What has actually become of market competition? If we go back to the broader issues today, what has happened to the new coronavirus? The actual death rate of the new coronavirus is still a big unresolved issue, and new studies appear every day. Despite this, many people are still stubborn. You want to ask—”No, no, what actually happened?” We are in an era of rapid scientific development. This is what I mean by being close to the front line of reality, and it is also what I mean by people who are willing to change. Own point of view.

Founder of A16Z: A more structured working method and life

I often talk about the concept of “strong opinions, weak persistence” (when expressing strong opinions, I am also open to different opinions from the outside world). I think in any business, you want to promise, want to take action, and want to be biased towards action. Obviously, as you know, the situation of venture capitalists and hedge fund managers is exactly the opposite, and venture capitalists have to wait 10 years to know the results. And we will indeed promise more in this matter in the end.

Sriram: You have always been invested and focused on the future, some of which are based on your job requirements, but I believe that even if you don’t do this job, you will stick to it every day. What drives you to read a new topic about technology every day?

Marc: The innovation brought about by technology is the most interesting thing in the world.

I am convinced that through years of studying economic and cultural history, technology is the real driving force. After thousands of years of subsistence agriculture, there was a sudden vertical take-off hundreds of years ago. The quality of life has exploded in all parts of the world. But it did not develop at the same time, but began to expand from Europe. Basically, it is because of technological progress, such as printing presses, the Internet, and so on. Then you see this incredible development trajectory. In the next century or the next few centuries, we have the potential to make tremendous progress and make everyone’s life better. Technology is a lever for effective use of natural resources and can create a better future.    

So reading new topics about technology is the most interesting, useful, and beneficial thing I can think of.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/founder-of-a16z-a-more-structured-working-method-and-life/
Coinyuppie is an open information publishing platform, all information provided is not related to the views and positions of coinyuppie, and does not constitute any investment and financial advice. Users are expected to carefully screen and prevent risks.

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