我作为投资人和创业者学到的最重要的经验

译文

今天,我想聊一聊这些年作为一个投资人以及创业者学到的最重要的经验。

1.如果你每天不是在被拒绝中度过的,那说明你还没有那么大的雄心壮志。

我最让人刻骨铭心一段经历是我刚进入科技领域的时候。我申请了成千上百个工作,从字面意义来讲一点都不夸张:低级别的VC,创业公司里打工,以及各种各样大的科技公司的职位。我的背景比较特别:我是一名哲学专业的大学本科生,同时是一名“自学成才”的程序员。所有我申请的职位都拒绝了我。

这段经历非常有用,因为它帮助我成为一个对失败不敏感的人。我慢慢意识到,那些这些雇主不是因为我这个人本身或者我的潜力拒绝了我,他们只是不能接受我的简历。当这个过程变得非针对个人的时候,我从策略上就变得更加大胆了。最终,我获得了一份后来导致我进行第一次创业的工作。

找工作最棒的事情之一就是你的回报基本上是一个最大值,而不是平均值。大体上,创业做的那些事情也是这样的:融资,建立团队,招聘,开拓市场等等。

所以,直到今天的每一天,我雄心勃勃地坚持不断尝试新东西,不断地被鄙视。

2.不要走错了方向

我用了很多时间来招募新人到创业公司里工作,我很吃惊地发现,经常有聪明并且雄心勃勃的人陷入一些他们不喜欢的领域当中,只是因为他们感觉自己在一天一天不断地进步。

我想,为了避免落入这种陷阱,在计算机科学中有一个很好的类比:爬山算法。请想象这样一种情况,陆地上有很多高度不同的山,你被随机的放到某个山上,你如何能登上所有这些山中的至高点?

当前这座山对你的诱惑最大。有一种人类本性的趋势会让下一步要往高处走的。人们掉入了一个被行为经济学家反复强调的陷阱:人们总是趋向于深思熟虑的高估短期回报,而低估长期回报。

这种影响貌似在野心更大的人身上表现得更强一些。他们的野心让他们更难放弃踏出的不远的往上走的一步。

从计算机科学中学到:在人生的道路上稍稍走些弯路是有好处的(尤其是早期),把自己随机地丢到一些新的领域,当你发现了最高的那座山的时候,就不要在现在的山上浪费更多的时间了,无论你将踏出的下一步会比现在高出多少。

3.下一个伟大的发明会一开始看起来就像个玩具

大多数十年前的顶尖的互联网公司在今天都不存在了。为什么会这样?这些公司并没有自满——他们都是由一些时刻意识到自己的公司随时可能失去领先地位的聪明的CEO管理着。

之所以那些伟大的新鲜事物都从当前的大公司鼻子底下溜走,是因为这些东西一开始都被当成玩具给鄙视了。这是Clay Christensen的“破坏性技术(disruptive technology)” 理论中的观点,这个理论已经被广泛的研究,但我认为,它很少得到实际应用。因为有悖传统的管理学常理。

破坏性的技术都被当成玩具鄙视的原因是:它们被提出时“没有击中”用户的需求。第一台电话只能传输一两英里的距离。当时的领军人物Western Union并没有去获取电话技术,因为他们没有能够看到这种技术能对他们当时最大的两个客户-商业和铁路-有什么用处。他们没能预见到电话技术和基础设施会得到疯狂的发展。同样的事情也后来也发生了,大型主机商眼睁睁地看着个人电脑发展起来,现代的科技公司见证了Skype。

十年后的前十名的互联网公司会和今天会很不一样。这个名单中出现的新的公司将会在当前的大公司鼻子底下冒出来,因为他们会被这些大公司当中不起眼的小玩意儿。

4.预言互联网的未来其实很简单,任何还没有发生显著改革的领域都是未来的发展方向。

互联网经历了起步和爆发——泡沫产生、破灭,到如今的复兴。专家们预测另一次互联网泡沫的破灭即将到来。无论短期内会发生什么,我们确确实实知道每年我们能看到越来越多的制造业开始屈服于互联网变革的力量。

已经产生变革的领域有:音乐,新闻,广告,电信。正在产生变革的领域有:金融,贸易,电视电影,社会地位,政府。即将发生变革的领域有:卫生保健,教育和能源等等。

美国已经主导了互联网创新,要想保持这个领先地位,美国要做以下几件事情,包括:把硅谷的创业观带到其他的国家;允许有才华的人去往任何能施展他们拳脚的地方——比如通过改变移民政策来达到这个目的。

最重要的是,美国致力于在银行,法律,咨询行业发展的人太多了。当我去大学校园为创业公司招聘的时候,我一直遭遇到这种偏见。我们需要引导新一代在能直接改善人类生活的领域进行创造和冒险。

因此,我的建议是:
1.不断地尝试,即使不断地被鄙视
2.找准方向
3.创造令人惊奇的小玩具
4.把小玩意儿培养成为给工业界带来巨大改革的东西

原文

Today, I wanted to talk about some of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years from my experiences as an investor and entrepreneur.

1. If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough

My most humbling and educational career experience was when I was starting out in the tech world.  I applied to literally hundreds of jobs:  low-level VC roles, startup jobs, and various positions at big tech companies.  I had an unusual background: I was a philosophy undergrad and a self-taught programmer. I got rejected from every single job I applied to.

The reason this experience was so useful was that it helped me to develop a thick skin.  I came to realize that employers weren’t really rejecting me as a person or on my potential – they were rejecting a resume.  As the process became depersonalized, I became bolder in my tactics. Eventually, I landed a job that led to my first startup getting funded.

One of the great things about looking for a job is that your payoff is almost entirely a max function – the best of all outcomes – not an average. This is also generally true for lots of activities startups do: raising money, creating partnerships, hiring, marketing and so on.

So, every day – to this day – I make it a point of trying something new and ambitious and getting rejected.

2. Don’t climb the wrong hill

I spend a lot of time trying to recruit people to startups, and I’m surprised how often I see smart, ambitious people who get stuck in fields they don’t like because they sense they are making incremental, day-to-day progress.

I think a good analogy for escaping this trap can be found in computer science, in what are known as hill climbing algorithms. Imagine a landscape with hills of varying heights.  You are dropped randomly somewhere on the landscape. How do you find the highest point?

The lure of the current hill is strong.  There is a natural human tendency to make the next step an upward one.  People fall for a common trap highlighted by behavioral economists:  they tend to systematically overvalue near term over long term rewards.

This effect seems to be even stronger in more ambitious people. Their ambition seems to make it hard for them to forgo the nearby upward step.

The lesson from computer science is: meander some in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear.

3. The next big thing will start out looking like a toy

A majority of the top internet companies a decade ago are barely in existence today.  How did this happen?  These companies weren’t complacent – they were run by smart executives who were constantly aware that they could lose their lead.

The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a toy.  This is one of the main insights of Clay Christensen’s “disruptive technology” theory, which has been widely studied but I think is still rarely applied because it is so counter-intuitive to conventional management practices.

Disruptive technologies are dismissed as toys because when they are first launched they “undershoot” their users’ needs. The first telephone could only carry voices a mile or two. The leading incumbent of the time, Western Union, chose not to acquire telephone technology because they didn’t see how it could be useful to businesses and railroads – their best customers. What they failed to anticipate was how rapidly telephone technology and infrastructure would improve. The same was true of how mainframe companies viewed the PC, and how modern telecom companies viewed Skype.

The list of top internet companies in 10 years will look very different than that same list does today. And the new ones on the list will be companies that snuck by the incumbents because people dismissed them as toys.

4. Predicting the future of the Internet is easy: anything it hasn’t yet dramatically transformed, it will.

The Internet has gone through fits and starts – a bubble, a crash, and now a revival.  Pundits are speculating that another crash is coming. Regardless of what happens in the near term, what we do know is that every year we will continue to see more and more industries succumb to the transformational power of the Internet.

Already transformed: music, news, advertising, telecom. Being transformed: finance, commerce, TV & movies, real estate, politics & government. Soon to be transformed: healthcare, education, and energy, among others.

Thus far the US has led Internet innovation. There are things the US can do to keep this lead, including: exporting the entrepreneurial ethos of Silicon Valley to the rest of the country, and allowing talented people to go where their skills are most needed – for example by changing US immigration policies.

Most importantly, we have too many people pursuing careers in banking, law and consulting. I personally encounter this bias all the time when I go to college campuses to recruit for startups. We need to convince the upcoming generation to innovate and take risks in sectors that have a direct impact on the quality of peoples’ lives.

So my advice is:
1) get rejected more
2) climb the right hill
3) create an amazing toy
4) grow that toy into something big that transforms an important industry

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