Ben Horowitz is a Silicon Valley tech investor who views the current fight for women as morally akin to the 19th century movement to end slavery in the United States. He’s donating the proceeds from his new book The Hard Thing about Hard Things to the American Jewish World Service to support their efforts to help women fight for their basic rights throughout the world.
Recap: A Discussion with Nas and Ben Horowitz at SXSW Interactive 2014
Hip Hop legend and entrepernuer Nas interviews friend, business partner, and Venture Capitalists Ben Horowitz for a deep discussion on the correlation of hip hop and entrepreneurship for SXSW interactive.
SXSW kicked off last week in Austin, Tx with a host of events, performances, and trade shows, celebrating the areas of music, film, and interactive technology. Among the scheduled events was Sunday’s discussion panel with iconic rapper Nas and top investor Ben Horowitz. Horowitz, who recently released a book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, has been working with Marc Andreessen for over 19 years, and together the two have molded their Venture Capitalist firm into a one of the most successful investment firms of our time. Nas, who has collaborated with Horowitz recently on a number of projects including Tristan Walker’s Bevel by Walker & Company, interviewed the Silicone Valley CEO on a number of topics including history, music, entrepreneurship and the parallels of language and ethics of hip hop and business. The two discuss their respective careers, their chance meeting and the development of their friendship and joint business ventures. Nas and Horowitz broke down the elements of success in starting your own business and succeeding on your own terms. The lively discussion, was filled with hip hop quotables and sound advice for those in the audience looking to invest in their dreams.
In today’s world, product teams have access to an unprecedented set of data on the products that they’ve built. Left to themselves, they will optimize the product around the data they have. But what of the data they don’t have? What about the products and features that need to be built that the customers can’t imagine? Who will make that a priority? The CEO.
But how do you do that and only that if you have been involved in the product at a much deeper level the whole way? How do you back off gracefully in general without backing off at all in some areas? At some point, you must formally structure your product involvement. You must transition from your intimately involved motion to a process that enables you to make your contribution without disempowering your team or driving them bananas. The exact process depends on you, your strengths, your work style and your personality, but will usually benefit from these elements:
Write it; don’t say it. If there is something that you want in the products, then write it out completely. Not as a quick email, but as a formal document. This will maximize clarity while serving to limit your involvement to those things that you have thought all the way through.
Formalize and attend product reviews. If teams know that they should expect a regular review where you will check the consistency with the vision, the quality of the design, the progress against their integration goals, etc., it will feel much less disempowering than if you change their direction in the hallway.
Don’t communicate direction outside of your formal mechanisms. It’s fine and necessary to continue to talk to individual engineers and product managers in an ad hoc fashion, because you need to continually update your understanding of what’s going on. But resist the attempt to jump in and give direction in these scenarios. Only give direction via a formal communication channel like the ones described above.
Another way to characterize this: don’t continue to act like a product manager does with a team of four developers when you are running a company of 40 or 400.
Being an entrepreneur, being a CEO, being around other CEO’s and having worked with other CEO’s I find this to be an important blog post from Ben Horowitz
“By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of CEOs all with the same experience. Nonetheless, very few people talk about it, and I have never read anything on the topic. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown.
At risk of violating the sacred rule, I will attempt to describe the condition and prescribe some techniques that helped me. In the end, this is the most personal and important battle that any CEO will face.”
Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes. They are hard because your emotions are at odds with your logic. They are hard because you don’t know the answer and you cannot ask for help without showing weakness.
This episode features Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a $300 million venture fund aimed at investing in new entrepreneurs, products, and companies in the technology industry. Presented by UC Berkeleys College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
The Gaslight Anthem are currently working on songs for a new album, which is expected to be released in 2014. According to a post on the band’s Tumblr, vocalist Brian Fallon has began writing music inspired by the 60s and 70s, such as notable artists Bob Dylan and Led Zepplin. You can check out the full post below.