What you want to talk about

I get a lot of meeting requests that don’t mention what the person requesting the meeting wants to talk about. In these cases, I used to look up the sender’s profile on LinkedIn to see if they’re interesting. I would then decide whether to meet or not. I’ve discovered that this isn’t a good strategy.

When someone requests a meeting without telling you what it’s about, it almost always ends up being a waste of time. This happens for many reasons. Sometimes the exchange could have simply been resolved over email. At other times the sender knows that they wouldn’t get what they want if they asked over email so they want to make it harder for you to say no by meeting in person. And sometimes the sender has no specific agenda and simply wants to meet you. I don’t understand the motivation behind this but I think it’s because they see you as someone important and meeting you makes them feel good.

In each of these cases, I end up wasting 30 minutes that I could have spent productively. We live in an increasingly connected world where the speed of information sharing allows us to achieve progress at a much faster pace than we could in the past. This makes time an increasingly valuable resource for each of us. We need to respect each others’ time to ensure that we use this resource most effectively.

As a result, I no longer accept any meetings where the person requesting the meeting doesn’t share what they want to talk about. If they don’t mention it in their meeting request, I ask them to do so. I know that this can be perceived as arrogance because the underlying message is that I may or may not agree to meet depending on the agenda. But it’s actually not. By understanding what you want to talk about, I can evaluate whether our meeting has a chance of producing a valuable outcome for both of us. If I know this isn’t possible, declining is a way of respecting your time and mine.

InOne by Insider

Insider, a predictive segmentation and real-time marketing tool for companies where we’re investors, yesterday launched its new marketing technology platform InOne.

In the words of Insider’s CEO Hande Cilingir, “InOne brings together all the technologies marketers need to deliver personalized experiences under a single, highly usable platform.”

And in the words of Insider’s CTO Sinan Toktay, “InOne powers personalized experiences with new and enhanced predictive modeling and segmentation technologies. Segments are only as good as the data behind them. Allowing marketers to act on ready-to-use segments based on the future behaviors of their visitors, we have transformed the way they deliver personalized experiences.”

In addition to bringing Insider’s predictive modeling and segmentation technologies under a single platform, InOne also introduces the Ad Audiences module to bridge the gap between marketing tech and ad tech. Specifically, Ad Audiences lets marketers optimize their advertising spend by pushing their highest value predictive segments into third party ad platforms like Facebook and Google AdWords.

You can watch InOne’s launch video below.

Necessary marination

Most people procrastinate. I’m the reverse. I have a tendency to want to get things done quickly.

However, while excessive procrastination isn’t a good habit, neither is excessively rapid action (unless you’re being chased by a lion).

The reason is that as humans, our minds have a single processor. We can only think of one thing at a time. And the thing that we’re thinking about at that moment in time lets us evaluate just a single fact or perspective. In order to access other facts or perspectives, we need to give our mind the time to work through the first one before moving onto the second and if necessary additional ones. And this takes time.

That’s why it’s useful to let your thoughts marinate in your mind before taking action. Your intuition will tell you when you’ve crossed the line from necessary marination to lazy procrastination.

Teams and markets

“When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.

When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.

When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.”

This quote is by Andy Rachleff, a co-founder of Benchmark Capital in 1995 and Wealthfront in 2008. Basically, Andy takes a contrarian stance to common startup wisdom by claiming that a startup’s market is a more important predictor of success than a startup’s team.

Let’s look at Andy’s claims one by one.

I agree with Andy’s first claim. If you’re not attacking an attractive market in the right way, or trying to create a new market for something that people actually want, it doesn’t matter how good your team is. Even the best team won’t be able to pull it off.

However, while the development of some markets is difficult to predict in advance, most markets are easier to evaluate. Great teams therefore usually find great markets, so this case doesn’t occur that often. But when it does, Andy is right that market wins.

To evaluate the second claim, we need to define what a lousy team is. If we define lousy teams as the bottom third, average teams as the middle third, good teams as in the top third but below the top 10%, and great teams as the top 10% of all teams, I believe that you need to be at least a good team in order to have any chance of success. I’ve seen many good teams perform very well in a great market. However, lousy, or even average teams just don’t cut it. Maybe Andy’s definition of lousy is different but this claim seems a bit too extreme.

The last claim is less debatable. Most people will agree that great teams attacking great markets are necessary to create something special (or win a market) ahead of the less great teams attacking the same market.

Since great teams usually don’t go after lousy markets, and since lousy teams just don’t cut it, I think that Andy’s emphasis on great markets is a bit extreme. However, Andy’s excellent track record at Benchmark and Wealthfront suggests that he didn’t pay attention to the first two claims anyways. He simply looked for great teams going after great markets. Rather than debate about which matters more, why not take both?

Recalling overarching learnings

Each morning, I wake up thinking about what to write about for this blog. Sometimes it’s a personal learning, sometimes it’s a development at one of our portfolio companies, sometimes it’s a piece relevant to the tech sector globally, and sometimes it’s just some good old fun.

What I’ve come to realize about the personal learnings I share is that, the more you learn, the more important it becomes to recall your existing learnings rather than to continually come up with new learnings.

I don’t think that there’s an end to personal learning. There’s always more that you can learn. And our capacity to learn grows as humans evolve. Future generations of humans will likely have a greater capacity to learn than current ones.

However, there any many overarching learnings that apply across most of the domains of your life. And these don’t change that often, if at all.

Once you’ve discovered these overarching learnings, there’s greater value in recalling the relevant learning at the relevant time than in trying to force the creation of new overarching learnings.

The best person to take on the opportunity

If something is a good idea, someone is going to do it. Someone is going to capture the opportunity.

You might feel uncertain about whether you’re ready for the task. But everyone feels the same way.

Some will back down because of the uncertainty, and others will pursue the opportunity. And among those that pursue the opportunity, in the long run the best person will have the greatest positive impact. Sometimes our lives are too short to see the long run play out, but it does exist.

The question is therefore not whether you’re ready for the task. No one is. Everyone makes it up and learns as they go along.

The question is whether you’d produce better results than others if you were to take on the same opportunity. If so, you have a responsibility to do so, not just for yourself but, more importantly, for the group of humans that the opportunity impacts.

VC and founder recommendations from a 19-year old

Tiffany Zhong is a 19-year old who worked in venture capital at Binary Capital, a fund that includes Snapchat, Instagram, and Tinder among its investments.

In this post, Tiffany shares her learnings and resulting recommendations for VC’s and founders.

Having started investing in startups at age 21, I could relate to the post. The only difference is that I didn’t know nearly as much as Tiffany when I was 19.

In other words, don’t be fooled by Tiffany’s age. Most of the recommendations are spot on.

Carbon’s Android app

Carbon, a digital healthcare system where we’re investors, recently released its Android app. This complements Carbon’s existing iOS app to ensure that the company can serve the vast majority of smartphone users.

Carbon currently serves all of California with its virtual care, and offers in-person care at its 55 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco location.

So if you live in these areas, you can check out Carbon’s Android app to see just how Carbon uses technology to provide you with a significantly better virtual and in-clinic healthcare experience than traditional healthcare systems.


Following its recent expansion to start serving customers in Ankara, Mobilotoservis, our car repair and maintenance service which comes to you, launched its first hardware product.

The product is called MOSX and it’s an adapter which plugs into the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port of your car. The adapter uses Bluetooth to send information about the status of your car to the MOSX smartphone app. For the initial launch of MOSX, this information includes trip logging, driving feedback, fuel consumption and carbon emissions data, and the discovery of problems with your vehicle.

Using MOSX, Mobilotoservis is able to remotely diagnose the repair and maintenance needs of your car so that you don’t have to worry about them. Once it identifies a need, MOSX immediately informs the Mobilotoservis team. Mobilotoservis then gets in touch with you to resolve the issue remotely where possible or, for issues that can’t be addressed remotely, to serve you at the location of your choice.

While MOSX’s primary goal is to help Mobilotoservis better serve its customers in need of car repair and maintenance services, you can also use it as a standalone product for its trip logging, driving feedback, and fuel consumption and carbon emissions data sharing features.

I don’t have a car as I prefer to get around by public transport and taxi, but my wife’s car is currently equipped with MOSX. We’re beta testing the product. If you’d like to learn more about the device and be among its first users, you can visit this link.

The Mobilotoservis team also presented MOSX at the Webrazzi Summit last year. You can watch their full presentation in Turkish below. It runs roughly from minute 38 to 50.

Getting in on the ground floor

After a new venture begins to take off, many people want to get onboard. Competition to join the venture increases.

However, at the same time, since the risks of the venture have decreased, the potential intrinsic and extrinsic rewards it offers also decline. So you’re faced with an environment that’s simultaneously more competitive and has lower prospective returns.

This is why you want to get in on new ventures on the ground floor. That’s when there’s little competition and it’s easiest to get in. It’s also when there’s the prospect of disproportionately high intrinsic and extrinsic returns.

The challenge, of course, is identifying the right new ventures to get into on the ground floor. Fortunately, you can take multiple swings during the course of your life. And with each swing you learn a bit more about the defining characteristics of the right new ventures. So your probability of getting in on the right one improves with time.

And you only need to hit one home run in your life. You only need to get in on the ground floor of the right venture once. The intrinsic and extrinsic returns of doing so are often enough to keep you feeling happy and successful for a lifetime.

But chances are that once you experience this thrill once, you’ll want to experience it again.