Ben Horowitz, Co-Founder, Andreessen Horowitz
Ben Horowitz is one of the most widely recognized names in the world of entrepreneurship. Not only is he the co-founder of the famous venture capital fund, Andreessen Horowitz, but he’s also a respected author and thinker with some of the most innovative ideas when it comes to the way companies are run.
In our conversation with Horowitz, we dive deep into the topic of culture—how to create it, move it, and adhere to it. Horowitz also gives us a glimpse into his book, What You Do Is Who You Are, and shares fascinating stories and case studies from it (such as his learnings from prison gang leader, Shaka Senghor).
This isn’t a podcast episode you want to miss! Whether you’re a fan of Horowitz himself or simply want to learn more about the art of crafting a company culture, you’re sure to gain tons of insights in this interview.
If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via email.
Featured image credit: Beowolf Sheehan
- The problem that Andreessen Horowitz set out to solve for technical founders
- What compelled Horowitz to publish his book, What You Do Is Who You Are
- What it takes to move a culture
- The importance of cohesion between culture and strategy
- Why you don’t need to establish your company culture on Day 1
- What a prison gang leader taught Horowitz about culture and leadership
- The creative way that Andreessen Horowitz enforces their value to be respectful to entrepreneurs at the firm
- Horowitz’s thoughts on the culture of Netflix versus McDonald’s
- The elements that go into creating a high-performance culture
- Differentiating between high performance versus long hours
- Why Horowitz looks for courage in founders
- Bonus: Horowitz shares his favorite rap album from 2019
Full Transcript of Podcast with Ben Horowitz
Ben: That’s a really good question for me. Well, I had built a company, and was a customer of venture capital and kind of going through that process as a technical founder. I just felt like venture capital wasn’t really set up for technical founders becoming CEOs. It was sort of set up to maybe replace the technical founder as CEO, or maybe like let them like sink or swim, but there was nothing that would kind of help you develop into that role.
So my partner Mark and I had this idea that, okay, well maybe we could create that firm that would help with that problem. And so that’s what we did and that’s how I got the job. We started the firm, we were able to raise some money and here I am.
Nathan: Massive fan of your work like your book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is one of my favourite books I’ve read about management and startups. And really resonated with me as a startup founder as well. So you’ve recently written a new book. I’d love to hear like what compelled you to write What You Do Is Who You Are?
Ben: Yeah. It’s a very different book I would say. For a Hard Thing About Hard Things fans, there is like a few Easter eggs in there. But it’s a very different kind of book. And it really was sort of the book about what was difficult for me… the most difficult kind of thing for me as CEO. And it was something that I didn’t quite address in a real way in the first book just because it’s such a complicated topic. It was so hard for me to learn and it’s not a contained thing. It’s a very complex systematic problems.
So it kind of breaks down, what is? You kind of have to start with discretions. What is culture anyway? Like what is it? And it comes in… My favourite definition comes from the Bushido the way the warrior… which is like a culture is not a set of beliefs. It’s a set of actions. So specifically it’s not the value you put on a wall. It’s not what you’re saying on all hands. It’s not what you tweet. It’s not who you believe you are. It’s what you do, that’s who you are.
And then the question organizationally as well, how do you get people to do what you want them to do so that you can be as an organisation who you want to be. And it’s very subtle little things. Like, did somebody return a phone call? Did you show up to a meeting on time? When you do a deal, what do you care about? The price or the partnership? Where do you stay the four seasons or the red ? All these things kind of start to create a culture.
They’re not things that show up in KPIs or OKR or mission statements or that… And then a lot of the techniques that people had developed for kind of dealing with culture don’t work at all. So you can put it in some days performance review. But how do you know they even got the phone call, let alone return to… and these things are kind of lead to this question of, well, how do you move the culture? And I say, move the culture because you don’t really set the culture.
Even if you’re the CEO, you kind of have to influence it and kind of help people modify their behaviours to get to like the outcome you want. For all those things, it’s the thing I started with most of the CEO. I think it’s a thing that I see. The CEOs I work with know how to do least of all. Even though we may all… everybody thinks they know about culture because like of course you do. Everybody lives in a culture, but you really know how to move and change it. And that turns out to be an exceptionally hard problem.
Nathan: Do you think it’s a vital component of a company success? Like Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What’s your take there?
Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting that you can have a great culture, and a product that’s not that compelling and your company’s failing. . It’s very possible for great culture to produce like a mediocre product. Like that’s also true. So like it’s not the most fundamental thing. I think the most fundamental thing is still that you like have some like really compelling products that everybody wants.
But like as you grow and change and so forth, one, it certainly will help you succeed and will help you succeed particularly in times where things aren’t going that well. But I think more importantly, at the end of the day, it’s who you are. Like that’s what it’s like to work at your company. That’s what it’s like to interact with your company. That’s the imprint you’re putting on your world is cultural in nature. So in that sense, it is the most important thing.
And to Peter Drucker’s point he is, I would say a literary genius for a management kind of writer. So culture eats strategy for breakfast is like a marvellous thing. On the other hand, like culture and strategy kind of must cohere. And what I mean by that is like every culture is not for every company. And particularly if you look at Amazon, Amazon’s got this culture that is like frugality is very strong component of that culture.
That makes sense because their strategy is to be the low price leader. So if you go on Amazon, you don’t have to price shop because you know that they’re going to come with a cheap and in order to achieve that, you kind of have to watch every dollar because otherwise like how are you going to kind of have margin and be the low price leader. Apple doesn’t have frugality as a cultural element, and it wouldn’t go with their strategy because they want to build like the premium perfect product.
Steve jobs was kind of thing got fired for like spending too much money on the most exotic components. And then you go to their campus and it costs $5 billion and all that kind of thing. And you go, “Well, why is that okay culturally?” Well, because that’s the culture that enables that strategy. So, culture and strategy go together. I think we need to find a culture you’re not defining like some generic set of beliefs. You’re saying, “Okay, what is the company’s differentiated strategy and how can the culture support that?”
Nathan: I see. And when do you think like startup founders should be thinking about this? Let’s just say you… because in the early days, in the first few years you now have a small team, a handful of people. And you’ve got all these competing priorities like generating more sales, getting more customers, making the product better, working on strategy, customer service team, like-
Ben: Yeah. So look, I actually think, and this is probably controversial mind. So I’m like day one is not necessarily the time to try to establish a culture. First of all, like culture can change, and has to change over time. It’s not your mission statement. It’s like the set of behaviours you want to run with. So feeling like you have to get it all day one, like it’s going to last forever, it’s just the wrong way to think about it.
Secondly, on day one, you don’t necessarily have your strategy worked out. You’ve not been through the idea maze, you don’t have product market fit. Then you don’t know the kinds of things that people are going to do or do that you like, and don’t like, and that you think make it a healthy work environment or not. I think you kind of have to develop a theory of what that is as you then start to, kind of lay out for certain cultural elements.
I’m thinking it’s a day one activity. I do think that it’s very valuable. I wrote the book in such a way that… so that people could understand what culture is, how it moves, what are the things that affect it? What are the things that you say that have side effects on the culture so that you can see it as a leader and you don’t accidentally created. I think that’s the kind of most important thing is to get your kind of cultural understanding and skillset together.
So that if you see something happening and you go, “Oh yeah. That person’s doing that.” But it’s not really that bad a violation and on an individual basis I don’t want to yell at them because I don’t want to hurt their feelings and so forth. But what they’re doing is going to like set the culture down a horrible path, but you don’t even see that part. You only see like what they actually did, so you let it go. Then the culture starts to degenerate and then everybody pays price.
So you want like that awareness very early, but I don’t think you necessarily have to say, “Okay, we’re going to be this and we’re going to be that.” Like day one, I think that’s something that can like…
Nathan: Yeah, because I think it’s sometimes something that’s easily overlooked. You find yourself, let’s just say, your company’s doing okay. You’ve got product market fit. You’re trying to get more customers. You’re trying to hire. And then, a few years down the track, you’re just like, “Oh, okay.” Like what are we going to do about our culture? Where, “Okay, how are we going to strategically structure it in some ways you did this, it could be a cancerous and it could have already spread.
Ben: Yeah. But you can change culture. Yes, you can do things and it’ll create side effects, but you have to know what you want if you’re going to get it. If you don’t know what you want in a culture and you try and like lay out all these things and pour, whatever concrete around it, it’s not necessarily going to land. I give you an example from the book. One of the things that go through is a prison gang called the Melanics, Shaka Senghor ran.
The kind of basic cultural idea behind that are the most important cultural idea behind the Melanics was loyalty. Loyalty was competitive advantage for them in that, although the other gangs were much larger, if it came down to confrontation in those other gangs, maybe 20% of the guys would actually engage. Whereas for the Melanics, they’d have a hundred percent compliance because they’re super tight kind of loyalty and discipline around it. And so that was the thing they had to preserve.
Now, there was a guy coming into the prison, who was kind an abusive guy, bad guy. He had been beat up women and these kinds of things. And he had actually killed one of the members of the Melanics daughter. Shaka had this situation, which is, because of the way they define loyalty, he had to basically… this guy had to go. They couldn’t like let him come into the prison and be around because the loyalty to his member whose daughter was killed was that important.
But in terms of this guy storming in his prison, he starts attending services at the Nation of Islam. And when you do that, you get protection. The Nation of Islam is a very powerful gang not only in the Michigan State System, but kind of nationally. Now they’ve got like this issue. So Shaka goes to talk to the head of the Nation of Islam. And he says like you’ve got this guy who came in, he killed one of my member’s daughter. I need him.
And the head of the Nation of Islam says, “Okay, but like one of your guys killed one of my member’s cousin. So we need him in exchange.” And that also like giving that guy up would have been a violation of the loyalty principle. So Shaka tried to negotiate. He said, “Look, I’m talking about a member here who was wrong and I’m talking about protecting a member. You’re talking about like this guy’s not even a member of the Nation of Islam. He’s just attending services.
And the Nation of Islam guy was like, “No, we’re not doing that deal.” So they’re like literally at a stalemate with the kind of most dangerous kind of rival gang in the whole system. That stalemate goes for three days, three weeks of negotiations, nothing’s moving. So Shaka finally makes the decision to preserve loyalty and the culture by going and getting this guy. And they get him and the Nation of Islam doesn’t retaliate. So it validates that like the loyalty principle made them very powerful.
But at the end of the story, he says to me, “But you know there was a side effect that I didn’t even know about.” And I was like, “Well, what is that?” He said, “We were fucking savages where we just created a culture of like killers with no redemption, no forgiveness, no nothing in order to preserve this loyalty thing.” That’s like a good lesson and he had something to find that work. He did this thing that like created a much worse side effect.
I go through in the book, he does a number of things to kind of move them off of that violent culture. So like culture can change. It can move. That doesn’t mean… and when you define sincerely, you may not even know what the consequences of those are. When I talk about the complexity of this. Like this is what I’m talking about.
Nathan: Okay. So let’s say you’re at a stage where you’re starting to divine your culture and you want it to spread internationally. Like for me right now, like we just set up an office in New York and I want to make sure that culture spreads, what do people need to be thinking about or they need to do to make sure it spreads?
Ben: There’s many techniques and I go through a lot of them. It’s a broad set of things in the toolbox that you can do to move the culture that ranges from the kind of rules that you set to move behaviour. I’ll give you just like a really simple example. So here at the firm, we have this kind of cultural idea around you should be respectful to entrepreneurs. That’s a pretty simple thing on the surface. It’s like, “Oh yeah, you’re going to have respect for the entrepreneurs you deal with. Great.”
But every venture capital firm believes they do that. Almost none of them do and you go why are they like so disrespectful? And it comes down to the dynamic is between the venture capitalist and entrepreneur. Is like I have the money, you need the money, you to come see me to get the money. That just kind of makes the venture capitalists feel like they’re the important person and the entrepreneur is the less important person. Just that dynamic alone.
You have to reprogram that if you want it to kind of spread through out the organisation. You can’t just like say it as a value. Like I’m going to come yell at you and put your performance review. If you’re not like… that doesn’t do anything. You don’t even know if they’re being respectful. So what we did at the firm is we created a role, which is very surprising to people who kind of enter the firm. Which is like, if you’re late for a meeting with an entrepreneur, then you must pay a fine and that fine is $10 a minute. Oh, you had to go to the bathroom, that’s $50 that you owe because you have to go to the bathroom.
You had an important phone call because that’s a hundred dollars. People say, “Well, why am I paying to work here? Like this is not fair.” My response is always look, because you’ve got to plan your day such that you respect that entrepreneur’s time. So you need to plan when you go to the bathroom. You need to plan when you have that important call so that you’re on time for that because building a company is extremely hard.
Just having to hear that story and know every time when an entrepreneur comes in and they have to go to that meeting, that they have to plan their day like that. That reinforces that concept that no, we really value entrepreneur’s time and we’re not messing around on that. That’s something that, as a mechanic that can inform a daily behaviour as opposed to some speech at an all hands or some thing that you aspire to that you’re not committed to. That’s one that’s like whatever a few dozen things that I talk about in terms of, “Okay, how do you get the behaviours you want?”
Nathan: Yeah. So when it comes to kind of these rules obviously you have your values and then you have your rules, you just build upon it and eventually build out like, what are your thoughts on like the Netflix Culture deck?
Ben: Yeah, no. I think that’s like a great deck. In a lot of that, it’s also a culture deck in some ways and more of a philosophy. Yeah. Like this is our operational philosophy. Now you have to do things like the amazing thing about the Netflix Culture deck is that kind of people in Netflix say that they live up to it. So those are like the principles are there now they do put in mechanics. Like, okay, you’re going to say, “Be like people, but we’re going to fire them fast and we’re going to give them a lot of money.”
Like, that’s a pretty big statement that you’re going to pay whatever way over market severance. Like that’s putting your money where your mouth is. That’s the kind of thing that moves to culture because people go, “Okay, like these are gigantic packages that people are actually happy to when they’re fired.” That’s another kind of thing which is like they could say, everybody says whatever we fire fast and like somebody is not a fit and so forth, but almost nobody does it, they do it. But the way they get to it is with this other thing, which is they write these gigantic checks to people who leave.
Nathan: Yeah. So it’s a set of rules and principles. And you really your own personal beliefs around the way you see the world or the kind of company you want to build.
Ben: No, that’s right. And not every culture is for every company and not every cultural element is for every company. Different people have different ideas of how they want it to be. I think that it does start with that. What’s your point of view on the right way to do business at your company. And then, how can you support your strategy now? Like if Netflix is a different type of company where they weren’t looking for these very special unique people to work there, where they needed whatever an army of workers.
Like McDonald’s has a great culture around hiring people, but they’re looking for a totally different kind of employee, right? They’re trying to take a kid who needs money and trying to train them how to become part of a workforce. And so they do an amazing job of training people with no skills. Netflix would never take those people. And if they did, they fire them right away because that’s not what they’re looking to build. Netflix they’re looking for like the highest, most whatever people who already come with this elite skill set.
Whereas McDonald’s is saying, “I’m going to take anybody and I’m going to teach them how to work and be friendly.” And so that’s a very different business philosophy, which leads to different culture, which leads to different set of principles around hiring and kind of maintaining people.
Nathan: Yeah. That makes sense. So one thing that I’ve often think about myself and my own journey is creating a high performance culture at our company. What advice do you have around that?
Ben: Well, I mean, and it depends what you mean by high-performance, but a lot of it like there’s like these simple questions, which is some people think of high performance just like hard work. So do people go home at five or they go home at eight. When they come to work and how hard did they work when they’re there? What are all the things that put that motion in place? A lot of that. There’s many things that go into that.
How you make decisions? How you recognise the work? How do you even know like who’s putting in the effort and who’s not? All these kinds of things and what’s the standard of performance. I think like Netflix on that, one of the things that they do for standard of performance is they say, “You have to be at a high standard or you have to go. Just to make it very easy for managers to have you go, this is what we do.” That’s kind of one approach to do it.
I mean, and that’s like the extreme stiff. Like you’re fired. There’s other things which is like, “How do people get recognised for their work?” And I’m not talking about annual performance review. Like that is way too infrequent to set a culture. I mean, like on like a very frequent basis, how does recognition work in the system? And how broadly does it go and how systematic. How do promotions work on the basis of who has the best relationship with the manager, or do they work on like pure meritocracy and performance.
Like how frequently does that get lucked out and so forth? So, a lot of it has to do with, how do you think about an individual? And they’re kind of incentives to do anything on any given day, versus the context of a team or a group or these kinds of things and how those play together. So, it’s really a systems design question to get to high performance, but you have to commit to it. It’s work to do that. Although it is the gift that keeps on giving because once the people who are rewarded and have the kind of best.
It feel like if the people who are rewarded to have the best position for the ones who everybody respects and the best performers, then that’s a culture you get. If it’s the person who took credit for the other person’s work and is the best schmoozer, that’s the behaviour you’ll get. And I think that a lot of times people want to make somebody happy and they’re very friendly with them. They dig into who actually did the work and all that kind of stuff. That’s when you get corruption in the high performance culture.
Nathan: And does that mean on the premise of your book, What You Do Is Who You Are, that’s a very kind of loaded title. We talk about high performance culture. What are your thoughts? Like does the founder have to be the hardest working person in the company?
Ben: Yeah. So look, there’s high performance and then there’s long hours. Those are two different things. So there’s no question that the founder, particularly the chief executive is going to… whatever they do, is going to have an impact on the culture. So like, for example, if you go, “Okay, we really care about feedback here and giving feedback to everybody. And we want everybody to know where they stand and how their performance is going because we think that that like feedback will help everybody get better.
But then the chief executives never writes any performance review or never gets any feedback then like that’s not really going to be a cultural element that sticks. In particular, I would say the sad thing about it for people who are CEOs is like your good behaviour won’t necessarily be pervasive, but your bad behaviour probably will be. If you want a high performance culture and you have a low performing leader, that’s going to be very difficult to do.
The hours that the CEO works definitely have an effect on the organisation in that like the CEO is there, nine o’clock at night. Then that’s going to incent people to be there with them. And in fact, my friend Dick Costolo, when he took over at Twitter, like one of the things was everybody went home at 4:30. It was like my friend Bill Campbell said you could have said a bomb Twitter at five o’clock in the afternoon and the only people who would have died would have been the cleaning people. That’s how it was.
And one of the things he did is he just said, “Okay, well, like I’ll take a meeting with anybody, but it’s going to be at like seven at night. I’m going to go to dinner and then go back to work.” And like, “I’m going to work seven to 10.” I’m like, “You want one decision made, you need anything done, just come see me.” But I’m like, “If you want a meeting with me during the day, like that’s going to be a lot harder.” That really kind of changed the hours dynamic.
Now there’s always this question of, if you get them there longer hours, does that really mean they’re working harder or are they doing something else? And you have to decide like what that means in your culture and your context. If you’ve got like an engineering culture and you’re building products and you’re going for feature velocity, oftentimes like hours do matter. And kind of having people there late and so forth. You look at something like a venture capital firm, more important than performance for us is like, how responsive are we like during the day is a big thing.
Because that’s usually when the requests come in and can we turn them around instantly and with maximum attentive and helpfulness or we just kind of sluggish. Is it hard to get the organisation to move and so forth? And so for a lot of what we do that technique, it’s just not might as well as relevant we’re not writing any software late at night.
Nathan: Yeah, no. Okay. That makes sense. Because the reason I ask that question for context is like I’m getting a little selfish with some of these questions is I think about this stuff for myself. We’ve got about 40 people and we’ve been pushing really hard and I want to lead by example and I’m working like crazy, but I love it. And I just think to myself, I’d love to ask Ben like what is his take? Like should the founder be the hardest working person in the company? If you want to create? Yeah.
Ben: Well, like another huge thing that affects that is kind of first week on the job. I give you an example from the book. I give you another prison example. I don’t know why I’m on prison examples today. But Shaka’s first day in jail, like he gets to jail. They have a quarantine area, but they let them out of quarantine. And he, and the other six guys that come out of quarantine are in the rec room. And you know what prisoner walks up to another prisoner, stabs him in the neck. The guy dies and the prisoner throws the shank of the trashcan and goes to the cafeteria and has a sandwich.
Shaka says to me, he goes, “When I saw that I had to ask myself, could I do that?” And I said, “Well, what are you talking about? Like you’re actually in prison for murder. Didn’t you do that?” And he said, “No. What I did was I was a drug dealer. Like guys came to see me. One guy I knew, the other guy didn’t. The guy who I didn’t know was supposed to stay in the car. He jumped out of the car and came up to me very aggressive. I had that gun in my pocket and I shot him.” Like it was a reaction. This guy spent weeks fastening a two litre bottle into a weapon, then had to decide how he was going to stab him in the stomach or stabbed in the neck. Wound him or kill them.
And then kills the guy, throws the shank in the trash and keeps it moving to the chow hall and has the sandwich. I couldn’t do that.But I had to ask myself, should I do that? Because that’s what it took to survive in this place. In an instant, he’s like oriented into a very violent culture of sort of lions and lambs. That has a way stronger impression and motivation than to his subsequent behaviour than any kind of like rules or training or anything. It’s like the ultimate object lesson. I think it’s people walk into companies they look at, that first week is a super strong impression.
People look at the behaviours. Oh, he just took credit for her work and he’s like the most important guy here. Okay. That’s how you move. Can I do that? That’s what they’re asking. Can I work hard? Can I be a high performer? Can I do that? Can I kind of elbow my way to the kind of centre of attention? You really have to think when you bring people on board. What is their experience like because that’s going to be the thing… You can have a cultural value that says we’re high performance. Nobody gives a fuck about that value. They care about what does it take to win there?
And you have to understand that from that perspective. Which is why how people come into the company is so important. I always tell my CEO’s like new employee orientation, onboarding training. What does the experience look like? What does that move like is really critical because that determines so much of your… because once you decide how you’re going to behave, you don’t change that that often once you start going to work. You get into your habits and that’s what they are.
Nathan: Yeah. So that first week of onboarding is so key and being really structured with it and strategic.
Ben: Yeah. And then kind of building into kind of that philosophy into your managers. That, okay, these are our expectations. Like when you come to work here as an engineer, this is how we do things here. I don’t care what you did at your last company. Like when did I have that conversation? Like is that the performance review? Because that’s not going to do anything. It’s got to be like day one, day two this is how it goes. And then everybody… when you teach it, you learn it. And look for it and you say, “Okay, how does this work?” So these things they’re easy to neglect, but the longterm consequences are severe.
Nathan: Yeah. No, I love that. Thank you. Another question around culture, a lot of the time people say, or think that it’s around the benefits. It’s around the office. It’s around the Googles of the world. We’re going through a process right now, setting up an office in Melbourne. I want to make it look awesome. I’m thinking about having a chef come in on Fridays to make lunches for everyone. Do you think that stuff matters? What should people be thinking about like when it comes to defining the culture around the space and people work in? Do you care about that kind of stuff when you speak to like when you’re mentoring your CO’s or?
Ben: Yes. I mean, I do think that those things all have an impact and a lot of it’s kind of… those things are subtle and it’s like, “What is it feel like to work here?” And so the space is meaningful, but then like how you use the space kind of to your earlier point. Like, okay, if all that stuff is there and then like the people don’t come to the office or they work from home or so forth. And it’s Coronavirus and what does that feel like as opposed to everybody’s there and they’re engaged and it’s a good conversation space and the acoustics work well.
You can hear who you’re talking about. You can feel the energy in the room and that kind of thing. So, these are settled. So I think you really kind of have to think about what you’re trying to achieve with those ideas, and then combine them with whatever else kind of your expectation is around the people. Because it’s the people’s kind of behaviour and interaction in the context of the space that matters. Or if you may just want to be making a statement that says we’re a big important company, or we’re a little scrappy startup or we’re venture capital firm that can guarantee your success or whatever you’re trying to convey with that.
It’s a little bit also how you dress is also… has a very high impact on that. One of the things I talked about in the book it’s kind of the CAA strategy of kind of just their dress code set the culture and the impression they made on the market. Everybody was wearing suits, whereas like all the competition was wearing tight shirts and jeans and so forth and trying to see all like the talent. Whereas CAA was trying to feel like the ultimate set of professionals that the talent would want to work with.
That made a very strong cultural statement in the industry. I think spaces like that. So a lot of it is the statement of what our intention about what kind of places.
Nathan: Yeah, no. That makes sense. Look, we have to work towards wrapping up. Super mindful of your time. Couple more questions. One was just about courage. I’ve heard you talk about it before, and it’s something that you think is really important that you look for in founders. Why?
Ben: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of a big basis of leadership. I think like Aristotle called it the first virtue, because the other virtue don’t actually go into effect unless you have it. There’s a great line in the hybrid curry, which basically says like, matters of cowardice and integrity and these kinds of things in ordinary times they don’t matter, but when something happens, all is revealed. And true courage is like that in that everybody has integrity until it’s going to cost you something.
Like if you just think of like a simple thing, you know? Yeah. Everybody’s honest but then if they have to whatever, tell their spouse about like something that they did that they weren’t supposed to and they feel like it’s going to cost them their marriage. That’s when like that honesty goes away real quick. Similarly we’re super high integrity, but now we need to make the quarter. Like are we going to stretch the truth a little bit about the product to kind of get that quarter done?
Every single thing, and building these companies that you know is a very high pressure situation, and you have these things that test you all the time. Well, another one, like a very simple one is, “Hey, I want to be liked.” And do I have the courage to think about the people who are not in the room when I make a decision. So somebody comes to me, I really like them. They’re my buddy, they’re my kind of brother. The struggle to build this company and they come and they need a raise because they’ve got a situation and so forth.
Am I thinking about all the other people who didn’t come and ask me for that raise when I have that conversation? Or am I only thinking about how I want to feel when that person pisses me on the cheap because I gave him the money. That’s what I’m talking about with courage. It’s a thing that you don’t ever get any of the out there elements if you don’t have it. It’s not something that’s an absolute thing. It’s something that develops over time and nobody’s courageous on everything and nobody knows what the right thing is in all situations.
But doing what’s easy or kind of feels good at the time is often the thing that’s not courageous. That’s how I would say 95% of the people in this world are. Is they’re going to do what makes the person they’re talking to happy. That’s a very dangerous quality in a leader.
Nathan: Yeah, no. I love it. Thank you. All right. Two last questions we wrap. I know you don’t want to talk about personal stuff, but favourite rapper of 2019?
Ben: Well, the album that I think I may have liked the best is Drake’s album and so much fun. I thought that was really good. I like Drake as the main man and he continues to put out great stuff. So it’s not like a hierarchy ranking. I really liked that album but there’s a few guys doing good things if… I didn’t want to go into these guys .
Nathan: Yeah, no. Good. And then, where’s the best place people can find out more about the book, What You do Is Who You Are?
Ben: Yeah, so we have a website actually. Yeah. If you go to the a16z website, there is a big old like book promotion thing. If you click on that, it describes a lot about the book.
Kim: Yeah. It’s a16z.com/book/whatyoudo, but if you go to a16z.com, it’s easy to click there.
Nathan: Okay. Awesome. All right, fantastic. Well, look, thank you so much for your time Ben and Kim for facilitating this. I really appreciate all of your work and yeah. Thank you again. I hope you have a great day.
Ben: Thanks so much. It was fun.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Ben Horowitz
- Visit the Andreessen Horowitz website
- Get a copy of Ben Horowitz’s book ‘What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture‘