The Wisdom of Eric Ries

I was delighted to chat with Eric Ries, world famous author of The Lean Startup, a month ago in front of some of our founders at Village Global. Eric dropped an insane amount of wisdom on the business of starting a startup, pivoting, minimal viable products, and more. Video embedded below and also available as a podcast episode on the Venture Stories podcast.

Show notes pasted here:

Over the nearly 75-minute session, Eric gave a masterclass in Lean Startup techniques, addressed questions from founders on some of the finer details of the framework, and shared what he has learned from his entrepreneurial journey in the early 2000s as well as more recently as founder of the Long Term Stock Exchange.

Eric and Ben start out by talking about uncertainty as the core of a startup and the stark contrast between planning in an early-stage company versus in a large enterprise. Eric points out that those in the startup world take for granted certain startup best practices that “would get you fired in any big company.” He talks about the need for structure around entrepreneurial exploration, including making one’s hypotheses explicit and rigorously testing them.

Eric discusses the difference between customer discovery and customer validation. He tells the story of a founder who interviewed prospective customers and was told that the product was great and that they would use it, but that when he asked those same customers to put their name to a letter recommending their bosses purchase the product, not one would do so.

“The ideas that sound big are usually not the things that end up big.”

They move on to a discussion of pivots and why Eric says that in virtually all cases, after having pivoted, founders say they wish they had done so sooner. He explains why every six weeks is an ideal cadence for a “pivot or persevere” meeting.

MVP (minimum viable product) has become household term that was popularized by Eric. He discusses how founders can get over their fear of shipping something they perceive as incomplete and why he says the ideal MVP has “way fewer features than you think it needs.” He fields questions from Village founders on MVPs and talks about how small companies should think about their MVP when targeting large companies as customers.

“Engineers always think that more features will solve any problem.”

Eric explains what he means when he says that “entrepreneurship is a process of self-discovery” and why managing yourself and your own emotions as a founder can be equally as important as managing those of your team. He also addresses some of the criticisms of the Lean Startup methodology and common misunderstandings of the framework.

“I truly believe that entrepreneurship is a process of self-discovery. I think that two people working on the exact same company, encountering the exact same evidence, and deciding on a pivot, would probably choose two different pivots if they had different values. You discover something about what you really care about.”

Along the way, they discuss some of the seminal works in entrepreneurship, like The Four Steps To The Epiphany by Steve Blank and Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.

The Wisdom of Eric Schmidt and Tyler Cowen

We are honored to have former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as one of our luminary LPs at Village Global. He recently participated in an event with our founders and Network Leaders in San Francisco. It was a delight to have my old friend Tyler Cowen, interviewer extraordinaire, conduct the chat with Eric. They had a wonderfully stimulating conversation about a range of topics. Perhaps my favorite part was near the end, when Eric and Tyler have a back-and-forth about GDP growth.

Here’s a video of their conversation. Here’s the post on the Village blog about the event. The audio of the conversation will also be published on Tyler’s must-listen podcast, Conversations with Tyler.

The Wisdom of Bob Iger

We’re honored to have Disney CEO Bob Iger as one of our LPs at Village Global. We recently hosted an event with Bob and about 100 of our portfolio companies, Network Leaders, and other friends of the firm at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel.

Bob was in fine form on stage, and was terrific with a small group of our founders afterwards in a smaller session. As one of the world’s most successful CEOs, and one of the most important people in the entertainment industry, we were thrilled to be able to hear from him up close and personal.

Here are the photos from the event.

One of the more memorable things Bob said at the event was that he’s not “paranoid” about the future. He acknowledged the Andy Grove quip that “only the paranoid survive” but said that this particular framing (paranoia) doesn’t resonate with him. He’s more curious than he is paranoid. He’s relentless about trying to transform an iconic company into a new era. But it’s curiosity and optimism that drives him to do so. It was a refreshing, different sort of view than the common Silicon Valley line. It was a reminder that there are many ways to frame the challenge of disruption and innovation. And there are many ways to be an exceptional leader.

Lessons from Village Global Luminaries

We’re honored to be hosting events with several of our LP luminaries at Village Global this fall. A few updates:

  • Video series of short clips featuring exclusive footage from events with Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and others. See the embed below for an example of Reid on Village.
  • We recently hosted Fidelity CEO, Abby Johnson, in an intimate lunch conversation with our Network Leaders about fintech and other trends.
  • Next week, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will be in conversation with economist Tyler Cowen in San Francisco. You can request an invitation here.

Lessons on Confidence, Criticism, and How to Thrive as an Underestimated Founder from Sara Blakely

We were honored to have one of our LPs, Spanx founder/CEO Sara Blakely, in Palo Alto for the Village Global event called Underestimated. Sara was joined by dozens of other remarkable female founders and VCs in Silicon Valley.

Here’s a writeup on some of the insights shared by the speakers.

Here are a bunch of photos from the event.

The energy in the room was electric. More to come!

Lessons from Ben Silbermann, Founder of Pinterest

Ben Silbermann is co-founder and CEO of Pinterest, one of the world’s most successful consumer internet companies.

Ben is also a Village Global luminary — a group of tech industry founders and executives who are backing the next generation of amazing entrepreneurs.

At a dinner recently with a small group of Village Global’s Network Leaders, Ben shared stories and lessons from the Pinterest journey. Here’s a writeup of some of my favorite nuggets that Ben shared. And below is a video with some of the highlights…

 

Hiring a Head of Content

In September 2017, we announced Village Global, a new type of venture capital fund that is networked at its core. From who we have as financial backers, to how we invest, everything we do is about empowering and connecting people.

So far we’ve been heads down, focused on generating outcomes worth writing about. We’re finally ready to start telling some of the stories of the Village network, and, as such, we’re hiring a Head of Content and Marketing.

The Role

You’ll spread ideas and insights that matter to the tech community. You’ll pull out the best gems from our events, podcasts, and other media and repurpose them across different social media channels.

You’ll interview Village Global luminaries, network leaders, and founders — some of the most talented people across fields, disciplines, and companies — and create original, compelling content based on their stories.

You’ll join the ground floor of a new kind of venture firm and build our content and marketing strategy with us from the ground up.

You’ll go from 0 to 100,000’s of monthly readers/followers/subscribers, and aim to become one of the most recognizable brands in venture capital.

You’ll join a small team where you’ll learn about all aspects of venture capital. We want this to transform your career.

Interested? Here’s what we’re looking for:

You’re a writer, editor, and curator at heart. Maybe you run content for a startup or do marketing for a big company. Maybe you’ve been a founder who loves to write on the side. Maybe you’re starting off your journalism career but want to explore a different way of applying your skill set. You understand storytelling, narrative hooks, and you know a catchy idea when you hear it.

You understand online marketing and want to get better. You already have experience and good instincts when it comes to social media, VC and entrepreneurship Twitter feeds, email marketing, and running experiments to build brands. You geek out on audience building and engagement and use metrics to keep score.

You’ve always wanted to build something from the ground up. We’re looking for someone who can help architect a high level content strategy but who can also execute on it from start to finish on their own. Over time, you might even build a team around you to help fulfill our potential as a firm.

Venture capital and Silicon Valley fascinate you. You don’t necessarily need deep knowledge of all things technology and VC, but you should be wanting to learn fast to become a domain expert.

We’re based in San Francisco, but we’ll accept remote.

To be clear, this role is not:

  • General PR — If your dream job is pitching the New York Times and spinning out press releases, this isn’t that.
  • General marketing — This is not about designing corporate schwag, booths at conferences, etc.
  • Event management/production — We’re already covered there.

Does this role at Village Global sound like something you’d be terrific at?

If so, we want to talk to you. Email us and include a link to your LinkedIn profile: [email protected]

Do you know someone who’d be great for this job? If you refer the person we hire, we’ll pay you, the referrer, $5,000 as a thank you!

Do You Love Making Connections and Thinking About Networks?

I recently co-founded Village Global, a new early stage venture firm. We’re hiring!

Here’s one position we’re actively recruiting for. It’s a unique role. Please email [email protected] if you’re interested. And if you refer a candidate we hire, we’ll pay you $3,000!

Title: GM of Network

We are looking for someone to help us build our network-driven platform strategy.

This will include helping design the events, programs, and systems by which we help portfolio companies with hiring, distribution, fund-raising, advice, key introductions, and other network needs. You will help figure out the best possible introductions to make across our vast network.

You should possess a deep passion for connecting people and also sweat the details. You should love connecting people and love thinking about the systems for how to make those connections more efficient and effective.

Ideal background, experience, and personality

  • Demonstrated ability to connect with everyone from LPs, VCs, and portfolio founders. Knowledgable about VC industry.
  • Experience creating value-add initiatives or events for entrepreneurs or investors
  • Experience working in a venture capital firm, incubator, accelerator or small startup tech company
  • Comfortable with uncertainty and fast-changing conditions
  • Self-starter and self-motivator — able to work independently and with little oversight
  • Experience using a CRM system or eagerness to become totally fluent in one
  • Preferably located in the Bay Area, though open to Los Angeles or New York if willing to travel
  • Comfortable interfacing with professionals from different countries and planning events outside the U.S. (You would not need to physically staff events outside the U.S.)
  • Able to attend at least a couple events per month in the Bay Area
  • Service-oriented, knows how to add value — wants to focus adding value to companies rather than investing.
  • Think big and execute small; detail-oriented but can also do strategy. Willing to do whatever it takes — no task too low or high