He said a couple of contrarian things that really stuck with me. The first was that he’s skeptical of the Lean Startup movement. Amazingly, he might be the first Silicon Valley type I have heard question the book that everyone quotes and no one has read (including me. I’m sure the book is great, it’s the people quoting it who annoy me.) His point is that great companies are built by people who are obsessed with solving one big problem, and that the Lean Startup movement, which encourages companies to be constantly ready to pivot is anathema to building companies that solve real problems. I couldn’t agree more. Many of the people I respect most have been working a problem for years and the challenge in my mind is figuring out when they are ready to accelerate and what they need to do so, not how to get them to pivot to an adjacent, easier problem.
The second point he made that really stuck with me was that friendships are more important than networks. The Paypal mafia work together again and again because they genuinely like each other, and he suggests that people should seek out opportunities to work with people you genuinely like on problems you believe in because the bonds you form are far more useful than more numerous weak links. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s why I work in impact investing.