Product Hunt hosted an AMA with Ben Horowitz this morning. Here are a few questions/answers that I thought were especially interesting.
Q: From what you’ve noticed, what are the 20% of techniques, mindsets, skills, etc. new/first-time entrepreneurs have that result in 80% (or a large part) of their success?
BH: The big thing is to focus all of your energy on product/market fit. I.e., get to a product that people are adopting very quickly or that you can reliably sell repeatedly. To some extent, everything else culture, management, etc is secondary. Don’t take your eyes off the prize.
Q: What advice would you give to founders that most investors or founders would think initially disagree with you on or think is crazy?
BH: Nobody who ever built a great company wasn’t ridiculed along the way. If you are driven by social signals, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. That’s not say that you shouldn’t ever listen to input, but you have to decide for yourself.
Q: What do you believe is the best way to get into VC as a young professional?
BH: Start a company or join a start up and learn what the process of building a company feels like. It’s almost impossible to learn any other way.
Q: What are your top 3 rap albums of all time? Really need to know.
BH: Illmatic, Paid in Full, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Q: Some people say there’s a new bubble, especially in the Valley, created by VC going to companies that still, after a few years, don’t have any revenue. What are your thoughts on that? Are we headed down a path similar to the one back in 2001? How can we tell/do anything about it?
BH: Having been CEO in 2001, I don’t think that we’re anywhere near where we were then. Valuations have gotten high in certain tech sectors in the private markets only, but they have actually corrected themselves pretty quickly. For example, enterprise software started to get over valued privately, but after several companies went public at lower valuations than their last private rounds, the private markets corrected as well. I don’t see a massive crash on the horizon like 2001. In 2001, Nasdaq lost 80% of its value. I’ll bet any bubble believer everything that I have that Nasdaq won’t drop 80% in the next 5 years.
Q: At what stage should the CEO step away from “product owner” and broaden their focus to the rest of the business? Is there a optimal time to bring on or assign a Head of Product? Thanks!
BH: I wrote a post on that called Why Product Founders Fail or something like that. I don’t think that you step away from the product, but as soon as you get in market, you have to start paying a lot of attention to the rest of the company.
Q: If you could go back in time and tell your 20-year-old-self something that you know now, that you wish you knew then, what would it be?
BH: This rap career is not going to work out.
Q: Can creating a friendly company culture (e.g being loved by your employees) and a culture of productivity coexist? Reading your book and p.graham’s essays on culture, founders’ personality & how being nice pays off .. theres definitely a contrast on how you did/do business.
BH: I don’t think there’s really a contrast between Paul and me on this. The culture can and should be friendly, but the expectations, standards and accountability need to be high.
Q: Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?
BH: To be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to be completely vulnerable and think entirely for yourself. I imagine those can be learned, but I am not sure.
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