Always Be Learning

Seven critical lessons learned in angel investing

I had dinner with my good friend and Bazaarvoice co-founder, Brant Barton, on Tuesday at the new Sway in West Lake Hills (yummy) and we talked about lessons learned in angel investing. It was on my mind as I’m doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) webinar with my good friend and often investing colleague, Josh Baer, on Tuesday, Feb. 5 from 4-5pm CT (you can sign up here). During my conversation with Brant, I distilled down to seven lessons learned (in the spirit of Lucky7, of course). Brant is reading Jason Calacanis’s book on angel investing and told me that many of these are in there (maybe all of these, I haven’t read the book), so you may want to turn to that to really dig in as I’m going to do my best to keep this post short. My hope in sharing these with you is that it ignites more angel investing in Austin - it is vital to our startup ecosystem here. We are doing better on that front in Austin than ever before, but I believe we are only scratching the surface here. And I hope these lessons have an impact beyond Austin angels and startups as well.

Kara Swisher is the new Lesley Stahl and the power of podcasts

If you haven't listened to Kara Swisher's Recode Decode interview of Mark Zuckerberg, I highly recommend you do so here.  It has been almost 10 years since Lesley Stahl first interviewed Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes, when he was 23-years old, and wow has a lot happened since then, including this week's disappointing Earnings Report.  Facebook was worth $15 billion back then - today, $506 billion (and that is after this week's 20% haircut).

I won't repeat all of the news here, as I'm sure many of you have been reading along, but what really struck me after listening to Kara's interview of Zuckerberg is just how powerful podcasts have become.  This podcast goes into so much detail as compared to a TV show, including one as great as 60 Minutes.  If you are at all a fan of business and a leader yourself, I view this interview of Zuckerberg as a must-listen.  We are living through an amazing moment in history - with the modern world being socially-networked for the first time, with all of the implications of that (including the recent Russian tampering of our Presidential election).  Facebook was just recently one of the top five most valuable companies in the world by market cap and is certainly one of the most important companies throughout the world; their reach and impact cannot be overestimated.  In my opinion, they'll be back stronger than ever.  And, in my personal opinion as a leader, Mark Zuckerberg does a tremendously great job in this interview.  I don't agree with some of his positions but I can also empathize with how difficult it must be to manage a social network of Facebook's size - and determine who the real arbiter of truth is.  There is a lot to consider as a leader as you listen to this podcast - how would you handle a similar situation?  Or, as Tim Cook says, would you have avoided the situation altogether (also a podcast interview with Kara Swisher, coupled with a new live TV show)?  I think about that as I contemplate if Facebook was a B Corporation, would they have had this situation at all, but that is a topic for another day.  Zuckerberg fired back at Tim Cook on his point, as detailed in this The Ezra Klein Show interview ... also a podcast.  

The collaborating executive

I received a text a little over a week ago from a CEO I coach (I've served on his Advisory Board for years now and have loved seeing his company prosper - and him grow so much personally through a lot of adversity).  It read, "How much collaboration with the rest of leadership would you expect from your [insert executive title here] when it comes to [insert critical for the entire company task]?".  Obviously I'm being careful not to disclose the details to protect confidentiality.

Here we find ourselves on Martin Luther King Jr. Day - a celebration of one of history's ultimate collaborators and change-agents.  Everyone in American schools studies MLK, of course, but I got to go a little deeper on his leadership in my studies at The Aspen Institute as a Henry Crown Fellow.  One of our readings was "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and I couldn't recommend more highly that you read it (you can do so here).  It is one of the most amazing leadership readings I've ever been introduced to.  It is a systematic, gentlemanly takedown of one of the most challenging times in American history - by the ultimate collaborative leader.  Pay close attention in the letter to how MLK challenges his opposition to collaborate with him by looking within themselves and within their own religion.  The religious undertones are reminiscent to what is probably the best speech I've ever read, also introduced to me by The Aspen Institute, by Frederick Douglass.  It is titled "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?".  It is also a systematic takedown with a strong uppercut punch (you can read it here).  I highly recommend you study both of these incredibly historic speeches on this MLK day - the most appropriate day to do so.  At a minimum, all lovers of leadership should bookmark and read these pieces in 2018.

The importance of an Always Be Learning life

Happy New Year's, everyone!  I wish you much prosperity and love in 2018.

As you may have seen me tweet earlier this week, my New Year's Resolution is to write more.  I truly love writing - to write is to serve, to write is to learn, to write is to meditate.  I'm going to take a different tact this year, though - I'm going to write more frequently and hopefully much shorter.  I like writing longer posts but I'm spending over 70 hours per week on data.world and then some time on our startup investments - and of course I very much care about spending time with my wife and children.  So, in short there just isn't much room for more.  As a matter of fact, in 2017 I resigned from two non-profit Boards (Conscious Capitalism and Entrepreneurs Foundation) that I really love just to create more time for data.world.  Both were painful decisions for me but a startup really needs that type of focus, and I'm truly having a blast working alongside an incredible team at data.world on a very important mission.

I've already got a running list of seven more topics (and growing quickly) that I plan to write about as soon as I can but for now - for my first post in a long time - I want to talk about the importance of having an Always Be Learning mindset and practice.