I regularly get asked where my investing philosophy comes from. There isn’t an easy answer, as it comes from a lot of places, numerous people who influence my thinking (publicly and privately), my partners, and lots of reflection and critical thinking around things that have worked and haven’t worked for me over the past 25 years.
However, one public person who has influenced my thinking for a long time is Warren Buffett. I don’t know Buffett, but I’ve been a fan and follower since college. I read his annual report every year. I’ve also read several biographies on him as well as a bunch of stuff on his long-time partner Charlie Munger (who I’ve learned even more from.)
Last weekend, Amy and I watched the documentary Becoming Warren Buffett. I thought it would be a harder sell to her, but I think we needed a break from binge-watching The Expanse, so she was game to go in an entirely different direction for a few hours. She loved it, which was fun. I liked it a lot also, and, while there wasn’t much new information for me, seeing and hearing Buffett reflect on some things was fascinating.
My behavior is not to emulate Buffett. Nor is it to emulate any of the other inputs I have. All of the inputs influence how I think about things, but I view them as inputs rather than fundamental principles to follow. But Buffett has been – over an extended period – a particularly interesting and stimulating input for me.
As a bonus, his view on philanthropy and generational wealth is very consistent with mine and Amy’s.
If you are a Buffett fan, or just interested, Becoming Warren Buffett is definitely worth watching.
They have a new documentary coming out called Adele and Everything After. It is an award-winning documentary about Marty, a woman with an untreatable heart condition that made her pass out every day, and Adele, one of the world’s first cardiac alert service dogs.
Amy and I are financially supporting a new movie about mental health, depression, and suicide called The Weight of Gold. Jeremy Bloom (Olympic skier, pro-football player, CEO of Integrate, and awesome human) introduced me to the creator of the film Brett Rapkin.
While the focus of the storytelling is around Olympic athletes, it highlights a challenge that one in five Americans struggles with. Our goal for supporting films like this is to help eliminate the stigma around mental health and depression. It’s an enormous challenge in our society and one that I think is worth working hard at.
A little over a year ago I wrote a post about a feature film Amy and I were helping fund called For Here or To Go. The movie is about a set of Indian software developers in the US on H1-B visas. The main character wanted to start a company, or join a startup, but couldn’t make either happen in the context of the current H1-B visa constraints.
It felt relevant when we helped fund it. It seems even more relevant today. It’s an excellent movie and my punch line from the blog post a year ago was:
“Now, this wasn’t a dry movie. While I don’t know Indian culture very well, Rishi created a rich set of characters, interwoven storylines, and a powerful content – including the challenge of romantic relationships while having an uncertain future around one’s immigration status – that drew me in to the movie.”
For Here or To Go is now finished and will be out at the end of March. Amy and I committed to match up to $25,000 of a $55,000 fundraising campaign to help get wider distribution for move. If this is something you are willing to participate in, go to the Crowdrise page and give whatever amount you are willing, knowing that Amy and I are matching you dollar for dollar.
Over the weekend, our Monthly Match for the National Immigration Law Center raised over $47,000,. For everyone who contributed, thank you!
In the emails I got, one stood out. It pointed me at an Indiegogo campaign for a documentary done by American Muslim Storytellers. The timing of the email was particularly good as I had just read a Washington Post Story about American Muslims raising money to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery.
I went and took a look at the Indiegogo page and was delighted by the first video.
And educated by the second video.
Amy and I decided to contribute to the campaign to put together the documentary for American Muslim Storytellers at the Executive Producer level. If the videos inspire you as they did me, please help out at whatever level you feel comfortable with.
One of the philanthropic activities that Amy and I have been doing is helping fund documentaries around issues that we care about.
When she told us last summer about her new documentary called Bias, Amy and I jumped on the opportunity to be the executive producers. The sizzle reel is out and was shown at Mark Suster’s Upfront Summit. Take a look (click through to watch on Vimeo.)
One of my core values is diversity of everything.
I’ve been involved deeply in several organizations, such as National Center for Women and Information Technology, that have been focused on increasing gender diversity in computer science and entrepreneurship. More recently, I’ve expanded my lens a lot to include many other dimensions of diversity. The mission of the Techstars Foundation, which is improving diversity in tech entrepreneurship, is an example of that.
One thing that I learned from my work with NCWIT is the power of examples. So, Amy and I have been supporting independent filmmakers for a few years. The first film we helped fund was CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap. Then, following the leadership of Joanne Wilson, we helped fund Dream, Girl which you can watch for free on their website until November 14th.
Recently, a group of us have been helping a young filmmaker, Ashley Maria, who is on her own personal journey to find out why careers are much more complicated and difficult when a woman tries to have one.
Pioneers in Skirts focuses on cultural and personal setbacks women still face in our society when they pursue a career. The film focuses on hot social topics that women encounter – like the mommy penalty and unconscious biases we find in our culture, the need for mentorship, sponsors, and men to advocate for their female co-workers, and how to nip the problem in the bud during adolescence.
Pioneers in Skirts is currently in post-production aiming for an early 2017 premiere in festivals and then VOD, Streaming and Television. Ashley and team need a little more funding to get things done so if you are inclined to support an ambitious young female filmmaker working on what Amy and I think is an important film, go to her support page and make a donation to the effort.
Last night Amy and I watched the movie Something Ventured: Risk, Reward, and the Original Venture Capitalists. This was my reward (I got to choose) since she watched both football games yesterday (and today). We have a 15 minute and 30 minute rule on any movie – after 15 minutes the chooser asks “still into this movie?” If the answer is no, we stop. This question gets asked by the chooser again after 30 minutes. If the answer is yes, we go for the duration, even if someone falls asleep. For example, after 15 minutes the other day, Amy said “still in” on my choice of The Hebrew Hammer. After 30 minutes, we were both “no’s” and that was the end of that.
I figured Amy would veto Something Ventured after 15 minutes. I’d heard from a number of VC friends that it was really good, but the idea of watching a documentary on the history of the creation of the venture capital industry doesn’t sound like an awesome Saturday night movie choice. But after about ten minutes, Amy said, “Wow – this is great!”
As I’m deep into writing book three of the Startup Revolution series (titled Startup Boards: Reinventing the Board of Directors to Better Support the Entrepreneur) I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a great board of directors, and what characteristics of different VCs contribute to this. It ended up being super helpful to see direct interviews with a number of legendary VCs, including Arthur Rock, Tom Perkins, Don Valentine, Dick Kramlich, Reid Dennis, Bill Draper, Pitch Johnson, Bill Bowes, Bill Edwards, and Jim Gaither. They covered a wide range of experiences, but were all there at the beginning of the VC industry and shaped many of the fundamental structures of venture capitalists, VC firms, how they interact with entrepreneurs, how the companies (and investments) are structured, and how boards work.
The entrepreneurs who were in the documentary were equally awesome. They included Gordon Moore (co-founder of Intel), Jimmy Treybig (founder of Tandem), Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari), Dr. Herbert Boyer (co-founder of Genentech), Mike Markkula (president/CEO/chairman of Apple for many years), Sandy Lerner (co-founder of Cisco), John Morgridge (early CEO of Cisco), and Robert Campbell (founder of Forethought). The interplay between VC and entrepreneur as the story of the founding and funding of their companies was told was very powerful.
After 30 minutes, when asked if she was still in, Amy emphatically said “yeah – definitely.” While I thought I knew all of the history, I learned a few things I’d never heard before, but more importantly I got the nuance of the stories directly from the participants. And all of it was rolling around in the back of my head this afternoon as I spent three solid hours on Startup Boards.
If you are a VC, or aspire to be a VC, do yourself a favor and watch Something Ventured right now. And, if you are an entrepreneur who is interested in how the VC industry got started, I think you’ll also find this fascinating. The film ended with all of the VCs echoing the powerful reminder that without the entrepreneurs, there would be no VCs. It made me happy that it ended on that note.
On September 13th the Bloomberg TV Show TechStars launches.
TechStars will be having launch parties in Boulder, New York, Boston, and Seattle. If you are an entrepreneur, or part of the entrepreneurial community in any of these cities, sign up now to participate.
I’ll be in Boulder and am really looking forward to an evening celebrating entrepreneurship and hanging out with a bunch of my favorite people.