Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Success Videos: Marc Andreessen at Startup School

As I was writing my last post about Marc Andreessen's take on Charlie Munger, I came across a great video of Andreessen speaking at Startup School . I strongly recommend watching the entire video, but here are a few important points outlined by this successful and seasoned entrepreneur:

1. If you are concentrating on anything besides your core competency before you really have a core competency, you are kidding yourself. The core competency is the best ticket to all the other entrepreneurial functions (hiring great people, getting backers, etc).

2. That core must be first and foremost generated by you and your inner group. It's much easier to hire an echelon of employees to administrate your breakthrough than to have them help create your breakthrough.

3. "A" people hire "a" people and "b" people hire "c" people. Corollary: the level of a work group (engineers, vice presidents, etc) defaults to the level of the lowest-quality member of that category. To avoid this error: attempt to raise the average performance level with each new hire. Without constant and ruthless attention, employee quality will drop.

4. Luck is a timing phenomenon. Good ideas abound and repeat (Friendster, Facebook). Timing is the difference between success and failure and is often random. Don't confuse a function of randomness (i.e. timing) with genius. The implication , as Ben Stein says, is , you must develop your capabilities and then hang in there: "stay at the table" till you win.

5. Finally, pay attention to commitments. In the context of his talk, he was referring to financial commitments. In this respect he reflects the teachings of banking wizards Sandy Weill and Jamie Dimon both of whom support the concept of a "fortress balance sheet"...a strong preponderance of assets over liabilities.

As I listened to Andreessen I was also struck by his skill at conceptualizing. Beyond being a brilliant engineer, he takes a conceptual view of his Brian Tracy might say "What am I trying to do, and how am I trying to do it?". His respect for the random nature of reality, as well as his quick humor are hallmarks of his ability to think beyond the task-focus of the moment...and yet he reminds us over and over, if you don't hit that core task with all you've got, you're just kidding yourself.

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