Notes from the PandoMonthly with Mark Suster

For the past few weeks, I have been burning through PandoMonthly fireside chats and keeping notes on them. Since the talks are so long, I hope the notes will be useful in helping you determine if you want to watch the full interview.


Today I’ll be writing on the PandoMonthly with Mark Suster, a prior entrepreneur, a VC at Upfront Ventures, and a blogger at Both Sides of the Table. The interview is a bit under 2.5 hours, and has a ton of great advice in it.

Here are some paraphrased notes of my favorites points during the interview.

  • CEO as chief psychologist: You have sales working with marketing working with engineers, and they have different viewpoints. Everyone ends up fighting with everyone else. CEO’s job is to handle this. If the CEO wants everyone to love them, you can’t make the right decisions, and handle these problems correctly.
  • Deflationary economics: Almost every great success story on Internet is built on massively deflationary prices. Drive costs down, drive margins down, create large overall market doing so, and it is impossible for the big incumbents to beat you.
  • Finds it a shame he sold company: There were many currently successful companies built on the ideas that his company was working on. He was tired, employees were tired, etc. They ended up selling the company, and didn’t see it through, but could have had a great future.
  • Why big VC blogs in NY, Boulder, LA:  Necessity of mother of all invention. Fred Wilson (NYC), Brad Felt (Boulder), and Mark Suster (LA) weren’t plugged into Silicon Valley ecosystem. They needed to work harder to get out there. It ended up being a great investment.
  • Commercializing academic work is tough. Very difficult, especially in California. The UC system has a unified policy is they want 2% royalties on sales. That makes most of their startups untenable. If a professor is involved, it makes it worse. The tip is to not touch university resources or professors. Universities should embrace equity like Stanford.
  • Internet of everything.  Mark isn’t a big fan of wearable. He is a big fan of things talking to each other: objects all talking to each other, broadcasting, and communicating. This will be powerful for logistics, manufacturing, transportation, etc..
  • Consumer vs. enterprise. Marc Andreeson recently said that Andreeson-Horowitz generally wants to do enterprise A round, and consumer B round. Consumer is hard. Enterprise and unsexy stuff has less competition, you know users, and monetization more clear. In enterprise, you can listen to consumers. With consumer, you can’t because its always angry consumer that is loudest.
  • Keep communication simple about startup and vision. Be more like George Bush, less like Al Gore. Al Gore speaks too intelligently. Keep message simple so that everyone will easily understand it.

If you’ve got the time, check out the full interview here:

P.S. This is post number #71 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

Notes from the PandoMonthly with Jason Calicanis

I’m quickly becoming a fan of the PandoMonthly fireside chat series. I love how the interviews mix useful information with casual conversation. It gives the viewer a good feeling for the personality and past experiences of each interviewee.

(Photo credit: Rebecca Aranda for PandoDaily)

(Photo credit: Rebecca Aranda for PandoDaily)

Last week I watched the PandoMonthly with Jason Calicanis, angel investor and founder of Weblogs (sold to AOL),, and an upcoming venture at The interview is almost 2.5 hours, and has lots of great nuggets of advice in it.

Here were a few of my favorites (partially in his words and partially in mine).

  • On his past: Many great entrepreneurs have a complex relationship w/ their parents in their past. Jason saw his dad lose his business, and it changed him as a child, giving him a tremendous drive on succeed.
  • Entrepreneurship now: It has never been this easy to start a startup off of the ground, and it has never been easier to get angel funding. Finishing is much harder.
  • Focus on skills: If you can’t get traction, you don’t have your stuff together yet. Focus on building your skills and honing your craft. It has never been easier to et traction, but you have to know what you are doing. It’s not about tricks and tactics. It is about having a true vision, and knowing how to get users that truly believe in it.
  • Talking to investors: Be succinct when talking to investors. When you are at a restaurant, the chef doesn’t tell you everything about making the food. The chef only gives you the food, and lets you enjoy it. Do the same: create a simple and elegant product which solves a real problem. When you get things down, simply show your simple product and make it succinct.
  • Don’t diss unicorns. Entrepreneurs often put down existing big companies. Don’t do it! These companies are unicorns: they are one of the few that have made it big and provided big value to the world. Don’t diss the unicorn — respect them and then go out and find your own.
  • Only person stopping you is yourself. Many people don’t understand this. Don’t worry about everyone else. Shut up, believe in yourself, and get your skill level up.
  • Everyone is optimizing for wasting the user’s time. So many websites are optimizing their headlines and websites for user clicks. This cannot end well. It will result in a public that is diseased and diabetic from their information diet.

In particular, I love the last point and agree with it 100%. I wrote a blog post on how headlines are shitty these days. There has to be a better way to get information to the general public without resorting to these tactics. The current solution cannot be the long term solution.

P.S. This is post number #65 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.