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Is Tech Stingy? The Case for Doing Well *and* Doing Good

December 6, 2019
Written By
December 6, 2019
Episode 10
32:03
Written By

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to The Closed Session. How to Get Paid in SiliconValley with your host, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez:

Welcome to the 10th edition of The Closed Session. My nameis Tom Chavez.

Vivek Vaidya:

I'm Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez:

It's great to have you all with us. Today we want to takeup a topic that is a little bit different, perhaps from ones we've covered sofar. It is the question of doing well and doing good in a startup. So we'regoing to talk broadly about philanthropy and giving back in the context oftech. And so if you are a rock ribbed capitalist who thinks that all of theseSan Francisco weenies with their do good or nonsense have been overtaken by thecommunists in the People's Republic of Berkeley, you might want to skip thisepisode or go do some pushups or water your plants or something. And I guessthe further note would be that, Vivek and I, we have strong opinions on this.Don't we?

Vivek Vaidya:

We do.

Tom Chavez:

We do. And we're going to share them, which runs the riskof making us sound a little shrill or maybe a little moralistic at moments. Andthat's not our intent. Vivek sounds shrill and moralistic frequently. It's aproblem.

Vivek Vaidya:

That's my middle name.

Tom Chavez:

We're working on it. But look, if you disagree, that'sfine. We ain't mad at you and you don't have to be mad at us. So at a time whencivil discourse is arguably crumbling, if you keep listening and you disagree,treat this as an opportunity to practice taking in an opposing view withoutfeeling like you have to buy tiki torches and organize a resistance march.

Vivek Vaidya:

And just to add to that, I think this is not an example ofcancel culture as well. We're going to have a conversation, we're going toshare some thoughts and ideas as on what we feel about this very, veryimportant topic. And this is an invitation from us to invite everyone to comeparticipate in this project. If you want to call it venture, whatever you wantto call it, in this effort with us.

Tom Chavez:

Absolutely. For that case, we were getting together tothink about what the next topic was going to be. You said you wanted it to becontroversial.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. I really wanted to. I came back from an event that Iattended last week, I think it was two weeks ago and I want our last episode ofthe season really, to be controversial.

Tom Chavez:

Let's light it up. So giving you the preamble and thecaveats, let's go to it. Vivek, why don't you kick us off and give us a littlecontext how... What's going on, what's the state of things and how do we gethere?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. So I think it's useful to start with just anobservation. I think you and I have talked about this for quite some timeactually. And the observation is this, why is tech so stingy, right? And well,on the other side, we should examine, is it really? And I think we should talkabout that. We should talk about why... If tech is stingy, is it just like usasking billionaires to give money to causes they care about? Or is there moreto that?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah, look, I think if we broaden our scope a little andlook at different markets and sectors... In the eighties, it was arguably thereign of the consultants. Then it went to the bankers and went to the privateequity folks. Financial professionals have maybe a little more time to haveestablished their footing when it comes to philanthropy. And so you could arguethat tech is just newer, and conversations like the ones you and I are havingright now are finally starting to take root and people are starting to actuallypay attention to these topics. That's the optimist view.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, and I think just another point on that front, usspeaking of the optimist view, is that folks in the finance community come frommore, generally speaking, come from more privileged backgrounds than folks inthe tech community. So I think folks in the finance community have seen thisstuff happen, these kind of things happening as they've grown up, maybe theirparents, their grandparents, what have you, whereas folks in the techcommunity, especially folks from outside of the US, are not as exposed to it asperhaps folks in the finance community as well.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah, interesting hypothesis. I think these things arehard to prove, but it's an interesting idea. And I think there's littlequestion that techies who are creating wealth for themselves and their familiesand their employers and investors are newer to the game, whether it's afamilial thing or just they're young and new, they don't really have aframework. So, that's the optimists view. But I think it's also safe to saythat you and I, let's not be rhetorical, we do think that that tech is, onbalance, pretty stingy.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, I think so. I think... But as you're saying, the truthis hard to discern and we have our hypotheses and whatnot, but on balance, wedo think tech is stingy.

Tom Chavez:

So let's consider what could explain it. I'm going tostart with what you might call the narcissist explanation. So I have a friendand I've discussed this with this person, and he's a very prominent, activeperson in the venture and tech community, and his view is that, look, wetechies love what we do so much, and we're so engrossed by it, we don't reallyhave time or attention for other things. Other people in other professions,maybe let's pick on the financiers, well, they do it for the money and theydon't really love their work. We love our work, and there's no time orattention left over for anything else. What do you think of that?

Vivek Vaidya:

I think just on that, there is also this belief in techthat the work we're doing is our way of giving back in some sense. Becausecompanies have these missions, these grand missions and ambitions and whatnot.And because of that, do no evil, right? Or we're going to organize the world'sinformation, we're here to connect the world.

Tom Chavez:

It's become a trope that's made fun of on programs likeSilicon Valley, right? And our mission is to make the world a better place.Everybody talks like that. And God bless them, a lot of people trulyauthentically believe it, but it's gotten a little played out.

Vivek Vaidya:

It has, yeah. And then there's also the capitalistexplanation. Historically, the image of a venture capitalist is this starchy oldRepublican caricature, whereas you said, they're all about the money. And Ithink historically, the earlier generations of entrepreneurs also... Even ifthey were doing philanthropy, they were doing it privately. And it was apersonal thing for them. They weren't doing it institutionally, if you will. Ifthat's one way of looking at it, right?

Tom Chavez:

That's right. Well, you know I have a huge man crush onAndy Grove, may he rest in peace. So this is the co-founder, CEO of Intel. AndAndy Grove had a very specific view, and it was the capitalist stance, whichsaid, look, companies exist to make money. You don't talk about philanthropiccompanies, that's like asking, is this a just submarine? Companies shouldn't bephilanthropic. Their mission is to generate returns and wealth. And then inaccordance with free enterprise and free society, people can choose to do withtheir wealth however they choose. So Andy made that argument and it's a good,clear, logical, compelling point of view.

Vivek Vaidya:

And I think just on the other side of it, at leasthistorically, and I learned this recently at this event that I mentionedearlier, Mayfield, one of the premier venture capitalist firms, and one of theoldest, I think, in the valley had, and still has a foundation that they use tofoster philanthropy and giving amongst, especially amongst the entrepreneurcommunity. So it's not like it hasn't been done before. I think there arespecific examples of things that have been done. But generally speaking, Ithink, the hypothesis still stands is that the companies are not an instrumentfor doing philanthropy.

Tom Chavez:

And so in that, I heard you touch on what we mightconsider to be a third hypothesis and something you said where in the oldentimes, the prior generation felt like, look, if I'm going to do any of this,it's going to be quietly on my own terms and I don't want to mix church andstate. So that points for me to sort of a generational explanation which is,"Hey, the old mindset says your life starts with learning, then you earn,then you burn. Maybe at the end you buy some yachts or splurge a little bit, orif you choose to give money away, you do it later." And so that's adifferent approach. I think it's safe to say, and maybe that's a nice segueinto where we're living today, that feels really out of place, doesn't it?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, I think so. And I'll make it personal. My personalinvolvement, I should say, our personal involvement, when I say our I mean meand my wife's, Pallavi's. Our involvement, has more been on the doer side. AndI realized this now that it didn't have to be like that, because earlier,again, not knowing what the landscape looked like, how to get involved andwhatnot, we just felt like getting involved financially was difficult, becauseit required a certain minimum that we never thought we could meet, because wedidn't have the means. Now I've learned that writing a check is the easiestthing that you can do. Right? And it doesn't matter whether you're writing a$50 check or a $50,000 check. People will, organizations will gladly takeyour... So it is definitely a generational thing for me, personally, in myview, has evolved along that dimension.

Tom Chavez:

And as we have this conversation, and again, with a viewtowards avoiding moralism, look, you also touched on the family dimension. Ithink there is certainly an idea that we all have that look as I'm just stayingalive and trying to get my company to survive. Questions of philanthropy areakin to what color will my Lamborghini be? Like, I don't have time or attentionfor that right now because you're just trying to survive. I mean, I was there,I remember in our first company, I'm family adult, I got kids, I got thiscompany and that's pretty much all I can handle.

I do also remember one conversation with one of ourinvestors, maybe about seven to eight years ago, where I started to getinvolved in different things and nonprofit boards. And this person was reallyworried that it was distracting me from the core task at hand. And so thatpoint, again, to this generational thing, I think in the olden times peoplewould wait till they're retired, they're 65, 70, whatever, and then they startto pay attention to it. When I had that conversation with that investor, Isaid, "Look, I'm not waiting till I'm 70." And my sense is that moreand more people are of that mind. You want to get to it sooner.

Vivek Vaidya:

Absolutely. And I think that brings us to where we aretoday.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah. Let's talk about it.

Vivek Vaidya:

Where in the words of the co-CEO and co-founder ofSalesforce, Marc Benioff, the business of business is not business. Thebusiness of business is to improve the state of the world.

Tom Chavez:

Well said.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Whether you agree or not, it's a compelling assertion.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

Right?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yes.

Tom Chavez:

And it is evidence of the new mindset. People don't...Yes, business needs to make money. And there's been this recent adjustment fromthe commerce group, is it the business round table who said, "No, wecompanies must be in the business now, not just generating returns forinvestors, but employees communities broadly." Which whether you like itor not, that is where we're living today.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. I think it fits in well with this whole idea ofbringing your whole authentic self to work. Because people's lives, especiallymillennials and Gen Z's, they view their work lives as not being different fromtheir personal lives. It's all one integrated life as far as they're concerned.

Tom Chavez:

And that's what we're seeing as we hire more and moreyoung people into our companies, we see this perfect kind of integration ofyour professional self, your personal self. Younger people don't see anythingwrong or strange, even in fact, they think we're the crazy ones. Why would youhave a professional self and then not bring your personal priorities to work?That's crazy to them.

Vivek Vaidya:

Work can and should be meaningful, right? So this is, asyou like to say, reality is the safest place to be. There is a new normal. Thisis not a passing fad. It's a durable planetary trend now.

Tom Chavez:

I fully agree. So before we talk about why you should doit and other suggestions we might have for our listeners, somebody was talkingto me about this the other day and they were really irritated that we haven'tdone one of our totally unpaid cookie promotions for a while. And I said,"Don't worry, it's coming."

Vivek Vaidya:

Actually, it's funny, as you have, and I have received alot of feedback about this podcast, and one of the top three pieces of feedbackis we love your unpaid promotions.

Tom Chavez:

Well, I hope people are actually listening to the rest ofit, besides the cookie stuff about Taco Bell and Red Bull. But let's do atotally unpaid promotion of burritos in San Francisco.

Vivek Vaidya:

Okay, fine. We can do burritos in San Francisco. I wasalso actually going to suggest we do a unpaid promotion on Pakwan, one of ourfavorite Indian Pakistani spots, where we go every opportunity we get.

Tom Chavez:

That one is so rich. I'm going to propose we put athumbtack in it. We're going to come back to it. But see, now Pakwan knows it'scoming. They probably will be paying us now. There's going to be showing upwith boatloads of money for us to promote. Let's talk about burritos. Burritos,your favorite. Let's talk about in apps right now, what makes a great... By theway, San Francisco is the birthplace of what they call the Mission Burrito. Whatmakes a good burrito for you?

Vivek Vaidya:

So I'm a vegetarian for the most part.

Tom Chavez:

Okay, hold on, hold on.

Vivek Vaidya:

Okay, here we go.

Tom Chavez:

Our listeners don't know this about Vivek. He says he's avegetarian and he is indeed a vegetarian except on all the days when he is not.

Vivek Vaidya:

Okay, you got me there. Fine. But when I'm eatingburritos, I am a vegetarian.

Tom Chavez:

Oh, okay. I'll take your word for it.

Vivek Vaidya:

So my favorite burrito actually is a breakfast burrito.Yeah. I love a good breakfast burrito. And one of the best places to get abreakfast burrito is, and actually all types of burritos, in fact, I think as Ithink you will attest too, is Victor's on Townsend.

Tom Chavez:

Okay, let's have a moment of silence for Victor's and thewonderful lady who owns and runs it.

Vivek Vaidya:

Move it. Move it.

Tom Chavez:

Move it, move it. You walk in. We're so fond of thisplace, Victor's on Townsend. We urge our listeners to go in there. It's a goodburrito. It's a good well made.

Vivek Vaidya:

It's a really good burrito.

Tom Chavez:

But half the experience is just talking to this woman whowhen she sees you says, " [inaudible 00:15:31]", she calls you out,[inaudible 00:15:34] and then I learned that she was calling all of the clients[inaudible 00:15:37].

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. And this offended you.

Tom Chavez:

Well, I didn't feel special, so I told her, "From nowon, you're going to have to refer to me as [inaudible 00:15:44]."

Vivek Vaidya:

There we go.

Tom Chavez:

And she did.

Vivek Vaidya:

She got so mad at me because there was a time after I hadleft Microsoft, there was a period about a year or a year and a half maybe,when I didn't go to that part of town, because I wasn't working in that area.And after we started Crux, we started going back there and she gave me thislecture on why, where was I? And why wasn't I visiting? And did I not like heranymore?

Tom Chavez:

She a good experience. I know she dressed you down, I'msure. Victor's is good. So you like the breakfast burrito there.

Vivek Vaidya:

And even all the other... Their salsas, right? They'reroasted tomato salsa. It's really good.

Tom Chavez:

They do it well. Speaking of good salsa, Papalote, I meanit is now they have it in Whole Foods and other places. I ingest two or threegallons of Papalote per month. Easy. In terms of my favorite burritos and Ithink, I don't want to exaggerate, but I'm kind of fairly certain, I've been toalmost every burrito joint in San Francisco. So broadly in my twenties, I don'treally go to the hate burrito joints anymore. And if you have a favorite hateburrito joint, good for you. But it's a very kind of episodic thing. It'ssomething you do in your twenties when you're broke and you want to eat one ofthese burritos. It's almost like the size of an Australian boa constrictor. Andyou just need the calories because it's heavy on rice. And this is what I like.I don't like burritos that are heavy on rice. Give me some more beans, someveggies. Give me the meat. So I stay away from the hate from my burritos thesedays. I think that we have a lot of concurrence here, V if we suggested thatFarolito.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Is the best. It's good, right? I mean it's reliably good.The one on mission at 24th is insanely good. Further, up the street, we got toget a shout out to [inaudible 00:17:34], which has been doing it and doing itwell for 30 years. At least as long as I've been in San Francisco. So there youhave it. Right on time. Let's get back to it. So why should we do or payattention to philanthropy in the context of company building? What are thereasons?

Vivek Vaidya:

I think, well, there are many reasons, but I think we canstart with the moral reason, right? Is that it's good. It's good for society,it's good for the world, it's good for the community. The moral reason, I thinkis the first one. What do you think?

Tom Chavez:

I certainly agree, but let's also look at it even a littlemore selfishly. I read one of these studies recently where they've done alongitudinal analysis of what drives happiness across different cultures. Itwas a pretty exhaustive study. And one of the dimensions of happiness, inaddition to physical wellness and family and so on, is actually service. Doingthings for others they've discovered actually creates higher levels ofhappiness. So it's good for you too, it's not just good for the planet. It'sgoing to make you happier, whether you know it or not.

Vivek Vaidya:

I think, and just to build on that, I think as we were sayingearlier, the new generation of entrepreneurs, employees, et cetera, it'shardwired into them. It's in built into their DNA, right? So to attract thisnew generation of entrepreneurs, I don't think you have a choice. You have todo it in some way, shape, or form.

Tom Chavez:

That's right. I think the new generation is not just theemployees, we'll get to them in a minute, but the entrepreneurs who arefounding and leading companies care much more deeply, I find, than anybody did20 years ago.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah.

Tom Chavez:

Let's talk about investors. So this whole concept of ESGis a thing. The idea of investing in companies tied to their civic andenvironmental and governmental implications is something that rock, ribs,starchy, private equity and hedgies pay attention to now.

Vivek Vaidya:

But you have a term for it, right? It's called impactinvesting, I think.

Tom Chavez:

Impact and ESG, is the shorthand for it. I'm reading thisbook by Thomas Friedman called The Lexus and the Olive Tree. And he does agreat job of explaining these broader trends and how they've unfolded. Butparticularly when it comes to finance in the old world, just a few bankers heldthe sovereign debts of a lot of countries. And then we move to a world where alot of bankers held the sovereign debts of a lot of countries and companies.And now finally, we're in a world where individuals through pension funds andmutual funds participate financially. So I find that relevant here because asthe planet tilts in this direction, more and more regular citizens are going tomake their presence felt, and they're going to have their priorities expressedby the investments they make. So capitalism works free, enterprise works. Ifyou care about staying in alignment with those end investors, you're going tostart to care more and more about this here.

Vivek Vaidya:

And that's the other point about entrepreneurs, is thatthey will seek investors who are doing well by doing good. And so maybe notnow, maybe not in two years, but I'm certain in five, seven years,entrepreneurs will choose investors who are mission based as opposed to theones that are not. And so if you just purely from the capitalist make moremoney perspective, you want to attract more and more entrepreneurs who are goodat what they do, and they will be choosing investors who are mission based.

Tom Chavez:

And we touched on it before, but the final most, arguablymost important reason to take this seriously is employees. You want to be ableto attract talent. I conjecture that there are going to be plenty of companiesout there who don't authentically care about this. And that's possibly, okay. Ibet you they're going to end up doing the right thing still, even if it's forthe wrong reason. Right? So if you care about getting access to talent, again,the new generation deeply cares about this. It's so much better for us thinkand for the companies we know who take this seriously. If you're not justmaking a show of it, if it's not just a pageant and it actually matters. But yeah,that's the talent game in a context with 3.7% unemployment, we're all doingwhatever it takes to get access to the biggest brains. And so this is noregrets.

Vivek Vaidya:

And I think just as we get into now what could be done,one thing to just observe is that it's not a zero sum game, actually. Itdoesn't all have to be philanthropy. You can do what we touched on earlier,impact investing. And so you could double your bottom line if you do it thatway.

Tom Chavez:

Right. Well, that's a good segue to, let's talk about whatare we doing and what are some suggestions we have for helping people get thisright? So let's make it a little personal. We are starting companies now atsuper{set}.

Vivek Vaidya:

That's right.

Tom Chavez:

That are purely focused on creating wealth for ouremployees and our investors. And we hope doing some level of good at the sametime.

Vivek Vaidya:

Correct.

Tom Chavez:

We want both. And we don't think that the intersectionbetween those two Venn bubbles is zero.

Vivek Vaidya:

Exactly. And I think if there's one thing you kind of takeaway from this podcast is that you can actually create companies, and thencreate wealth using those companies for your investors, employees, communities,et cetera, and drive social change as well. So one of the companies, Tom is, isEscalera, where you are CEO and soon to be...

Tom Chavez:

The outgoing CEO.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, you're the outgoing ceo.

Tom Chavez:

Yes. So, Escalera is a company that is committed tosystematizing inclusion through software. It is ultimately in the game ofincreasing a company's ability to harness the talent of its employees. But jobone is to remove obstacles. And so to that end Escalera is in market now withthe solution that helps companies systematize again, their approach toinclusion. It's been a little too tribal, a little too qualitative. We believethere's a way to make it more rigorous and data driven. Well, holding onto thehuman dimension and helping companies catalyze more of the right conversationsthat they want to have with employees about diversity.

Vivek Vaidya:

And we chose the name intentionally, right? Escalera meansladder, I think in Spanish?

Tom Chavez:

Means ladder in Spanish. Don't spell it with a K. But theword stands and we want to send the ladder down. We want to promote all ofthese concepts. And by the way, it's all evidence based. It's not just dogooders run a muck. It's the neuroscience, the cognitive science supports thekinds of techniques that we're implementing at Escalera. So that went... By theway, we have an investor who when he first heard about it, said, "I seethat you're doing a lifestyle." And it was interesting for me to explain,look, I understand that you might perceive this as a lifestyle company, butguess what? And to your earlier point about the planetary trend we see today,this... Yes, it's, it is important work, but you as an investor are going... Ibelieve you're going to have a lot of wealth and see a lot of returns from thiscompany as well.

Vivek Vaidya:

And the other one is Spectrum. The Spectrum is working onbuilding AI for detecting toxicity, hate speech, et cetera in user generatedcontent on the internet.

Tom Chavez:

And it really actually works. When we first started withSpectrum, you remember I was maybe a little skeptical. "Can we actuallytune the algos to detect", and by the way, this isn't keyword detection.

Vivek Vaidya:

That's right.

Tom Chavez:

You're not just looking for bad words, you're actuallyputting the machines to work to sense the tone and nuance of live feeds ofsentences and streams to detect, as you pointed out. And it's a funny companybecause it sort of dwells in the underbelly of human nature. The models formisogyny, racism, sexual harassment, terrorist grooming. I mean a lot of... Soit's super, super cool. It's super consequential and it's necessary. So you canbuild a company that attacks both of these kinds of... Sits at the intersectionof those two Venn bubbles that we talked about. We're starting something nowcalled Superset Gives, that's a provisional name for it.

Vivek Vaidya:

So as we said, you can start company, you can do bothphilanthropy and investing. We talked about investing in starting companiesearlier with Escalera and Spectrum. And now on the philanthropy side, we'relaunching this initiative within Superset called Superset Gives, tentativename, but we're pledging a portion of our equity at founding into this donoradvised fund. And we're inviting employees across all of our companies toparticipate in it with us if they choose to.

Tom Chavez:

That's right. And so it's important there to that lastqualifier you added, if they choose to, they have the option, but not theobligation to pledge some shares. And so we certainly want to stake meaningfulchunks of the equity of these companies to this end. And we know it's possible.I have had another conversation actually, with somebody saying, "As an LP,I'm not sure how I feel about that." Listen to the podcast. Let's have theconversation. But I guess one of the messages we should probably convey toother founders who are thinking about this is investors, lawyers. Lots ofpeople are going to come up and give you all the reasons why you can't.

Vivek Vaidya:

And we're here to tell you that you can, because guess what?We've gone through some shenanigans with lawyers and investors, et cetera, andwe're telling you that you can, because we've done it, we've been able to doit, and you can too.

Tom Chavez:

It's not that complicated. These are decisions and momentswhen founders can really sort of flare their hood, show up and put a stake inthe ground. This is important. We're doing it. I want it. Now, the footnote weshould probably add here is that it's so much easier and better if you do it atformation. You can still do it later. But once that cap table is emerging fromthe soup and on the cusp of actually being a thing, that is the most beautifulmoment to make this kind of decision.

Vivek Vaidya:

And you just by doing it at formation, you get yourinvestors used to that line item in your cap table from the get go. It's notsomething that you throw in after you've raised a couple of rounds and theysuddenly say, "Oh, why do you want to do this now? Why is it good? And howis it going to work?" Doing it at formation is much, much easier.

Tom Chavez:

That's right. When you're doing it and just to completethat thought, if you do it later, you still can do it. But all of thoseinvestors are going to feel potentially with reason that those are their sharesor that they're getting diluted somehow by your choosing to do it at thatlatter moment.

Let's talk about some of the traps that techies fall intoand how to maybe stay out of them. So we've seen this right around SiliconValley. There have been a number of, which you might call vanity projects,where a wealthy founder wants to go and do a thing. And I will confess that Iworry sometimes when I see those that, well, are they doing it because theywant their name in lights? Or are they doing it just because is the right thingto do? So by whatever means, we said a minute ago, you can do the right thingfor the wrong reason. God bless you still. Keep on keeping on. But thechallenge here is we have to find a way to enroll other people and not show upwith some of that hubris that techies are prone to.

Vivek Vaidya:

And I think techies are known as you're saying, techiesare known to just believe, really believe that technology will solve allproblems. It doesn't work like that. You have to enroll, you have to partner withpeople who know how things are done in the domain or the world that you'retrying to make an impact on. And by neglecting or ignoring them and saying,"I act", just use this technology that's going to solve all yourproblems. You're ignoring the human dimension, which is super important inthese projects.

Tom Chavez:

You and I have a project that we'll talk about in a futurepodcast where we're still kind of re potting and in stealth mode there. But ithas been important, I think, for both of us to recognize. Look, we can add somedistinctive value when it comes to the technology dimension, but we need topartner, as you say with policy makers, activists, advocates, people who dwellin this space and know some things. And I think that's showing up with somelevel of, we hope, humility that it brings those people to the table, treatsthem as principles. I think we can get to something better and stay out of thattrap we're talking about where techies know best.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. And I think just to kind of wrap this up, we'vetalked about a lot of things. The one big thing, the one big takeaway for allof you really is if you want to do it, just do it. There are ways, there's noreason why you can't. Just do it.

Tom Chavez:

Don't plan it, don't talk about it. Don't architect it.Just get off the couch and do it.

Vivek Vaidya:

Nike was right.

Tom Chavez:

I'm with you. Well, this was a good conversation, V. I'mglad we had it.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, I enjoyed it. Hopefully we've created somecontroversy.

Tom Chavez:

But...

Vivek Vaidya:

In boardrooms and whatnot.

Tom Chavez:

I don't think you're going to be taking hostage oranything.

Vivek Vaidya:

I Know.

Tom Chavez:

Okay. We're good.

Vivek Vaidya:

[inaudible 00:31:42] from the right thing.

Tom Chavez:

That concludes this Closed Session. Thanks for being withus.

Vivek Vaidya:

Thank you all.

 

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Introduction

In the first episode of The Closed Session, meet Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya, serial entrepreneurs and podcast hosts.

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Starting From Scratch

In the second episode of The Closed Session, Tom and Vivek discuss the framework for starting your own company from scratch, and the three dimensions that should be taken into account.

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The Business Plan

You’ve decided to launch a business, but before you hurtle blindly into the breach, you need a bulletproof plan and a perfect pitch deck to persuade your co-founders, investors, partners, and employees to follow you into the unknown.

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Early-Stage Funding Do’s and Dont’s

In this episode of The Closed Session, Tom and Vivek talk about dilution, methods, mindset, benchmarks and best practices for raising investment capital for a new tech startup.

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Early Team Formation

Now that you've written the business plan and raised money, it's time to recruit your early team. In this episode, Tom and Vivek cover the do's and dont's of building a high-output team - who to hire, how to build chemistry and throughput, how to think about talent when your company is a toddler versus when it's an adolescent.

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Creating a Winning Culture: Must-Haves, Memes, and Tips

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Building a Kickass Product & Technology Engine

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Women in Tech

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How to Interview for a Startup

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Is Tech Stingy? The Case for Doing Well *and* Doing Good

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And, we’re live at super{set}!

Welcome to Season 2 of The Closed Session! In this first episode of 2020, Tom and Vivek talk about the five companies super{set} launched in 2019 and the lessons they’re learning as they go.

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Equity and Inclusion

Tom and Vivek talk about inclusion and reflect on their personal experiences as brown guys in tech. Inclusion feels like a moral imperative, but does it really make for stronger, better companies? Are there unintended consequences of acting on good intentions to 'fix' an inclusion problem at a company? Why is tech so lacking in diversity, and what can we do to get it right?

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super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

read more

From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

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Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Thick Skin, Tech and Black History Month

This post was written by Ketch Data Privacy & Compliance Specialist, Jocelyn Brunson, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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The Studio Model

What’s a startup studio? Is it just “venture capital” with another name?

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

read more

Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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New Venture Ideation

Where do the ideas come from? How do we build companies from scratch at super{set}?

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Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

read more

Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

read more

The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

read more

VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

read more

Lessons of Grit from my Immigrant Parents

This post was written by Ketch Solutions Engineer, Sahiti Surapaneni, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

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People, First

What does it mean to be a super{set} co-founder and who do we look for? Why is the Head of Product the first co-founder we bring on board?

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Navigating Juneteenth

Considered by some to be “America’s Second Independence Day,” Juneteenth has only recently entered the national zeitgeist. Celebrated on the third Saturday in June, it became a federal holiday just last year under President Joe Biden. Many companies are left wondering how to acknowledge the holiday. We sat down with Eskalera’s co-founder Dr. Tolonda Tolbert to get her take.

read more

The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

read more

Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

read more

Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

read more

Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

read more

The Product Heist

Tom and Vivek describe how building the best product is like planning the perfect heist: just like Danny Ocean, spend the time upfront to blueprint and stage, get into the casino with the insertion product, then drill into the safe and make your escape with the perfect product roadmap.

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Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

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Early Stage Customers

Tom and Vivek discuss what the very first customers of a startup must look and act like, the staging and sequencing of setting up a sales operation with a feedback loop to product, and end with special guest Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu and former Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Krux, for his advice on effective entrepreneurial selling.

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Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

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How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

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Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

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The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

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The super{set} CEO

Tom and Vivek describe what the ideal CEO looks like in the early stage, why great product people aren’t necessarily going to make great CEOs, and what the division of labor looks like between the CEO and the rest of the early team. They then bring on special guest Dane E. Holmes from super{set} company Eskalera to hear about his decision to join a super{set} company and his lessons for early-stage leadership.

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How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

read more

When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

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Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

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Calling BULLSHIT

Tom and Vivek jump on the pod for a special bonus episode to call BULLSHIT on VCs, CEOs, the “categorical shit,” and more. So strap yourselves in because the takes are HOT.

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

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Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

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When and Why to Bring on VCs

Tom and Vivek describe the lessons learned from fundraising at Rapt in 1999 - the height of the first internet bubble - through their experience at Krux - amid the most recent tech bubble. After sharing war stories, they describe how super{set} melds funding with hands-on entrepreneurship to set the soil conditions for long-term success.

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Startup Boards 101

Tom and Vivek have come full circle: in this episode they’re talking about closed session board meetings in The {Closed} Session. They discuss their experience in board meetings - even some tense ones - as serial founders and how they approach board meetings today as both co-founders and seed investors of the companies coming out of the super{set} startup studio.

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Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

read more

super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

read more

Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

read more

Lessons of Grit from my Immigrant Parents

This post was written by Ketch Solutions Engineer, Sahiti Surapaneni, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

read more

Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

read more

VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

read more

How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

read more

The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

read more

Thick Skin, Tech and Black History Month

This post was written by Ketch Data Privacy & Compliance Specialist, Jocelyn Brunson, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

read more

Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

read more

Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

read more

The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

read more

Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

read more

How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

read more

Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

read more

Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

read more

Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

read more

Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

read more

Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

read more

Navigating Juneteenth

Considered by some to be “America’s Second Independence Day,” Juneteenth has only recently entered the national zeitgeist. Celebrated on the third Saturday in June, it became a federal holiday just last year under President Joe Biden. Many companies are left wondering how to acknowledge the holiday. We sat down with Eskalera’s co-founder Dr. Tolonda Tolbert to get her take.

read more

When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

read more

Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

read more

Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

read more

Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

read more