Vinod Khosla fireside chat my notes

Short but well managed event, Ravi Gururaj did a great job in keeping away recent controversies and popular queries, leaving Vinod Khosla be his usual candid spontaneous self.

Vinod took pulse on the audience and their role with technology to begin with.

On entrepreneurship…
After food, shelter and kids education, having everything else as optional for every entrepreneur.
Have a clear goal for the company, and having an obstinate vision but flexible tactics. Vinod noted this being a common mistake across ventures.

Responding to how to find first users he suggested Eric Ries
The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses

Even while he did not agree on everything there, like going into the wild and starting experiments.

Talking about failure even while Ravi pressed on most disappointing, dramatic, Vinod really took his time to recall the Tablet experiment back in 1990 that failed with company being technology focused rather than user focused. ‘Point is the the pen’ whereas it should have been mobility or an email machine.
Went on to note how Blackberry 5 years later and subsequently Steve Jobs fixed the right interface.

Being so open about failure and the emotional response to failure and considering hard problems as opportunities and being personally indulgent in those and of course working for 80 hrs a week for 30 years surely will be a record and his achievements show.

He noted Noam Wasserman
The Founder’s Dilemmas – Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (The Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

IoT is not even a market yet, and while stating this he took a jibe on consultants who needs to just write our talk and made sure the McKinsey and Bain folks were not in the room as their core role is just promulgate and not really ‘do’ anything.
On the same vein he set aside any bubble predictions esp in financial market.
His point was while in 2000,when bubble burst, internet traffic was and still is only growing.

On impact…
While responding to many questions on impact investments. Noting the world having 500 to 700 million energy rich, while 10 times more people need the same with the same limited resources. Evaluate scale of innovation or size of opportunity before deciding tech or the paths. Also quoted the famous
20% doctor included for the next part as well.

Tech Zen…
The almost Zen level part came late in the session when he noted,
Technology as a belief system, and went on a personal reflection about him not having any other religion.
And in response to the strong AI aka full machine learning + intelligence he made the following statement “I don’t yet know whether to believe or not.”
From his perspective even a belief is a discovery or knowing process rather than blind or without reason.

On my question…
Finally outside I did ask him the question that I couldn’t ask during the session
What’s the litmus test to identify entrepreneur, adviser, investor to bet on?
He said he does not have one but he will check if the entrepreneur was ‘self aware’. And for investors he said it is easy to find and nothing of note on ‘advisers’, obvious I guess.

PS: It was great to see erstwhile MindTree UID team and Derick, Krishnan from Flutura (see pic below)


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