Venture Stories What Justin Kan Thinks About Basically Everything


Justin Kan was interviewed on this episode of Venture Stories.

  • I used to think a lot about how other people would describe me. I wanted to optimize for how other people thought about me, and my Wikipedia page. I don’t really care anymore. What you think about me today won’t really matter in 10 years. Or in 50 years. It all just fades away. You probably won’t remember me at all. That’s just life.

  • I started a bunch of companies most of them failed:, Exec. One of them worked [Twitch] and we sold that to Amazon. 

  • I sold a company for a billion dollars but I’ve got to tell you none of that affected my baseline happiness in a lasting way. No amount of success has delivered that to me. You think it will. But that never works. I wish someone would have told me that 10 years ago. [The book, A Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, talks about the difference between natural and unnatural desires. Natural desires, like thirst for water, can be satisfied. Unnatural desires, like luxury items, can not. Seneca uses the example of a friend that becomes wealthy. His house has marble floors and gold. His clothes are royal purple. This fails to make him happy. He just craves more luxury. The desire for luxury is an unnatural desire.]

  • I started a company called Atrium which is a full stack, tech enabled, law firm for startups. It has been stressful. Ups and downs. Often times it feels like more downs than ups. I thought surely I’ve mastered the game of startups by now. But there is always more to learn. The stress is just as bad as any of the other startups. 

  • I was looking for a way to deal with all this stress. It felt like I was floating in the ocean after a shipwreck. I was looking for a piece of wood to hold onto. I needed a set of practices that would enable me to add a little more calm in my life. Things like meditation. Removing my attachment to outcomes. I now do this regularly and it has been working. [Justin published his Feeling Good program. You can read it here.]

  • You don’t need to work anymore. Why start another company? I think humans are wired to want to build stuff. To have creative outlets. 

  • A company can be your vehicle for continuous learning. Not just the first few years, but 10 or 20 years in the future. That is the stage I’d like to get to. If you get the chance to run a company for such a long time that is a huge blessing. There are so many things you can learn from that experience. [I think this is the Holy Grail for entrepreneurs.]

  • Atrium decided to charge subscription pricing because that incentivizes us to figure out how to lower costs. It incentivizes us to improve over time. Compare that to a traditional law firm which uses an hourly billing model. They aren’t incentivized to improve over time. I want to change the incentives for legal work.

  • There are startups that fail because of bad management. There are startups that succeed and still have bad management. Management is a skill that you learn by doing. Very few people are just naturally good managers. 

  • What Justin looks for in coworkers: people that take ownership and responsibility, low ego, willing to do whatever it takes. 

  • The content marketing strategy for Atrium was taken directly from YC’s playbook. If you are helpful to the entrepreneurship community and share information that is helpful to people, then they will like you. 

  • I used to think there was one way to start a company: Two guys in a room talking to customers and programming something. But there are many different ways to do it. Look at Beats by Dre. Who would have guessed that a rapper and a producer could start a $3 billion company when they entirely outsourced their product? That’s completely the opposite of the YC way. But there are many ways to skin a cat. 

  • The best people are always learning. They have a growth mindset. They are learning about what is the next thing coming. I’m always impressed by the dedication to learning. 

  • When you found a company you will experience struggle, pain. and problems. Some people hit those things and they give up. Other people hit them and get stronger.