I’m in San Antonio, in a rush to go participate in the Global Accelerator Network monthly call, where I’m talking with Richard Florida (the brilliant creator of the concept of the creative class) about Startup Communities, followed by a full day at TechStars Cloud and – well – I need a shower because I got to my hotel room at 12:30pm and I smell kind of like Huck from Scandal.
So – today you get a short eight minute interview of me and Amy with Sandy Grason where we talk about Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. It’s a really wonderful interview – Amy told me this was the first time she’s done something like this and I thought she was awesome.
I meet a lot of people. I hear a lot of people introduce themselves. I interview a lot of people. Sometimes I want to hear their story; most of the time I don’t.
I’ve realized recently that I’m tired of hearing histories. And I’m tired of telling mine. It’s easy to find out most by a simple search on the web. Or a scan through LinkedIn. Or listening to one of the video interviews I’ve done where someone has said “tell me your story.”
I was thinking about this especially in the context of any interview. I don’t care where you went to school (I never have). I don’t care what your first job was. I don’t care what happened 15 years ago. I care what you did yesterday, and last month, and last quarter, and last year. That’s probably as deep as I want to go in the first five minutes of our interview. Sure – I’ll go back further in specific examples, but I don’t need to spend the first fifteen minutes hearing your story from beginning to today. It lulls me into a false sense of complacency, making me feel like I know you better because I now know your version of your history, when in fact I don’t know you at all.
I’ve learned a lot about interviewing people over the years. I used to be terrible at it. Now I’m pretty good. I don’t enjoy it very much, so I force myself to do a good job. I only interview senior execs and I separate clearly between evaluating people for the role and evaluating them for culture fit with the company. But in both cases I feel like I have to grind through the process. Some of it is my introverted nature; some of it is just not enjoying the interviewing a person thing.
I’ve realized that spending half of an interview listening to someone tell me their story is a total cop out on my part. It lets me shift out of evaluate mode and be passive during the interview process. And, while a lot of people love to listen to themselves tell their story, it’s not doing them any good either since my goal is to make a recommendation as to whether or not they fit in the role and the organization they are interviewing for. I should be more focused on what they have learned over their career and how they apply it today, not the path they took to get to this point, which I can read on a resume or on LinkedIn.
I’m no longer interested in telling my own story. Each time I do it, I realize I am wasting another 15 minutes of my life. By starting with the now, and not worrying about going backward, I can get to the meat of whatever I’m communicating, or want to communicate. I’ll more quickly engage whomever I’m talking to – making the conversation immediately active instead of passive. When I need to reach into the past for a story to support an example, I will.
I’ve decided that going forward I’m telling my history in reverse chronological order whenever asked. I’ll start with what I am doing now. I’ll go backwards as relevant to the particular context. I’ll skip stuff that doesn’t matter, and I’ll stop when it’s time to go on. I expect my introductions will be a lot shorter going forward. And I’ll be less bored with myself. And that is a good thing, at least for me.
A month or so ago I did an interview with Moe Abdou of 33voices. I do a lot of interviews, but this one stood out to me as Moe did a great job of moving the conversation around and pulling some great stuff out of me.
If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, Moe compiled some of the maxims and one-liners into a nice slide deck.
I love talking to, meeting with, and teaching college students. A few weeks ago I sat down to do a 30 minute interview with a young woman from CU Boulder who is an engineering student. She did a great job of capturing my essence, and that of Foundry Group, in our interview. I particularly loved her conclusion, which I asked if I could repost (she said yes). It follows – I hope it’s as inspiring to you (about the next generation) as it was to me.
For Any Young Entrepreneur: My interview with Brad Feld was encouraging to me as an engineer with a passion for innovation. Brad described how he is intrigued by the array of problems that he is faced with everyday. This is especially relatable to me because I fear spending the rest of my life bored by monotony when there are so many problems to be solved. It was enlightening to hear Brad discuss how to conduct a business. I expected to hear trade secrets or how to be the next great thinker, but it really came down to focus, determination, clarity, and inspiration. Feld is another who really believes that the way to survive, as an entrepreneur, is to be open minded to new experiences instead of just being “lucky”. I appreciated seeing the business method that less is more. Yes it is the dream of many to be the most world renown business with 100% return on investment, but it can be just as rewarding to be the successful yet small venture with no need to own a market. Observing the office reminded that an entrepreneur could have a business, enjoy art, and even find time to exercise, instead of engrossing oneself in work at all times. The entrepreneurial lifestyle actually seems like a sustainable one. This opportunity has helped me realize that the life of an entrepreneur can be accomplished simply by merging the things you love with what you are good at.
On This Week In TechStars #6, David Cohen interviews Jason Mendelson on the making of our
hard hitting documentary on VCs music video “I’m A VC.” The interview happens in Jason’s basement music studio where much of I’m A VC was written, composed, sung, recorded, and – well – whatever you do in a music studio.
If you haven’t yet watched I’m A VC, what are you waiting for? And, if you have a connection to Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart, give me a shout as we’d love to help them educate the world about venture capitalists, along with helping promote our book “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.” Mendelson on the Colbert Report – doesn’t that sound cool?
Last spring Brad Bernthal and Jill Van Matre turned the tables on me and interviewed me for CU’s Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. Normally I’m the interviewer (with one of Bernthal or Jill) – this time I was the interviewee. We went on for about 90 minutes at which point Bernthal asked me if I’d come back for a part 2 in the fall to cover a bunch of stuff he wanted to get to that we hadn’t yet talked about.
Part 2 is happening on Monday night at CU in ATLAS Room 100 from 6:30 – 7:30 pm (or maybe longer if they can’t get me to shut up.) Admission is free but please register if you are going to attend.
I was able to dig up two of the segments on from part 1 that Larry Nelson of w3w3.com recorded. I also found a nice summary of the interview. I know Bernthal and Jill will have plenty of new, juicy questions for me so come join us if you are around and interested.
Next up in the StockTwits.TV Do More Faster Interview series is Ben Huh, the founder/CEO of Pet Holdings, better known as the guys who do ICanHasCheezburger, Fail Blog, and about 50 other crazy and hilarious sites.
I was introduced to Ben several years ago by my friend Micah Baldwin (Graphic.ly CEO, TechStars Mentor, contributor to Do More Faster, and hilarious dude in his own right.) I care deeply about community and have learned a lot about it from both Micah and Ben. Ben was pretty serious sounding in this interview, so if you need a good end of the work week office laugh, one follows. But – listen to the interview with Ben – you’ll learn something.
see more Monday Through Friday
Our friend Howard Lindzon (StockTwits CEO, TechStars Mentor and Investor) did an interview series with a number of the contributors to our book Do More Faster. I’ll post one each day or so over the next week. They are all short (15 minutes or so). Howard starts the series with an interview with me and David Cohen (TechStars CEO and co-author with me of Do More Faster.)
This interview happens via Skype when David and I were at my house in Keystone (where we came up with the idea for the book) during the recent TechStars Managing Director retreat. In NY starting tomorrow is the annual TechStars Alumni Retreat (gang – sorry I’ll miss y’all) followed by TechStars for a Day for folks that have applied to the New York program.
If you are an entrepreneur I hope this stuff inspires and informs you. Or, in the worst case, occasionally amuses you (if you listen carefully around minute 9, you’ll learn about my “fuck me once” rule along with why I think work-life balance is important.) Enjoy.
David Cohen and I were interviewed on KRON Channel 4 in San Francisco for Do More Faster. It was our first TV interview around the book and was fun.
It’s a good example of giving more than you get and letting the universe do its thing. Gary DiGrazia, the CEO of Mindjamz, emailed me with some questions about his startup. I didn’t know Gary but as is my habit I gave him some quick feedback. We went back and forth a few times and then he told me that he helps produce the KRON 4 Weekend Morning News show and asked if I wanted to do an interview about Do More Faster on it. Um – duh – yeah! Two weeks later we tape an interview which just aired.
On Monday, 10/11/10 from 6:15pm to 7:30pm I’ll be interviewing Greg Maffei (CEO of Liberty Media) and Michael Zeisser (SVP of Liberty Media) as part of the Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurs Unplugged series. Over the past few years I’ve become good friends with Michael as he’s been a dedicated mentor to TechStars Boulder and contributed a chapter to Do More Faster. I’ve also gotten know Greg as he’s been active in and provided leadership to the broad Colorado technology landscape, as well as being CEO of one of the most significant and important technology companies in Colorado.
Tomorrow, I’ll be at the Liberty NetLeaders Forum ’10, an invite only event for 200 software / Internet executives that Liberty hosts once a year. I’ll be introducing my friends and colleagues Mark Pincus (Zynga CEO) and Bing Gordon (KPCB partner and Zynga board member) who are going to talk about “Building Zynga”. I’m sure the conference will give me plenty of interesting things to bring up at our Entrepreneurs Unplugged session on Monday.
Please join us on Monday at the Wolf Law Building (2450 Kittredge Loop) at the CU Law School. I really enjoy being the interviewer for these sessions and the feedback on our events continues to be great. I think Greg and Michael will be particularly interesting guest.