Keith Rabois on How He Invests, Forming a Founding Team, and Funding “Ridiculous” Ideas


What is your advice for founders who don’t have an idea yet: I don’t like that kind of founder. As a general matter, I like people who have a very specific idea that they want to pursue. An idea that keeps them up at night. An idea they can’t stop proselytizing etc. [2:18]

The general filter I use [for startups] is the more ambitious the better. [4:56]

I want half of my VC friends to laugh at the investments I make. If half do not laugh it means I am not taking enough risk. [5:38]

As your value proposition becomes more succinct and more powerful sales velocity increases. Long sales cycles are a function of a poor value proposition. [12:46]

I am not the “sober analysis founder” type. I am more of the “the world should be different and I am going to will it into existence” type. I don’t like X. I am going to go fix X. [17:23]

To me, a startup is a movie. You write the script. You cast the actors. You produce [finance] it. Then you make the trailer. That is how you market it. And then you sell tickets. [20:13]

Ultimately —with very few exceptions — there is one real founder who is the driving CEO [even if there are other cofounders]. Someone needs to assume the mantle of responsibility. [27:39]

Peter Thiel on the idea for OpenDoor: The idea had to be differentiated enough that it would immediately cut through the clutter. It shouldn’t be boring. It should be so different that you have a shot at making it work. [33:10]

I have been trying to find companies to fund in homeschooling. Homeschooling has been under the radar for the last 30 years. Roughly 10% of Americans are homeschooled these days. The evidence of their performance —both academically and socially—is much better than anything else they can do. But it is real friction for the parents. So we can build products that make things easier. No one has done it yet. [44:55]

People who are experts tend to know what you can’t do very well. They have mastered the rules. They typically don’t ask enough “why” questions. Why can’t this be done this way? So I like people who kind of don’t know what they are tackling but are fast learners. [Henry Ford had a similar thought. This is a quote from Henry Ford’s biography: “That is the way with wise people--they are so wise and practical that they always know to a dot just why something cannot be done; they always know the limitations. That is why I never employ an expert in full bloom. If ever I wanted to kill opposition by unfair means I would endow the opposition with experts. They would have so much good advice that I could be sure they would do little work.”] [48:13]

If you find an extraordinary founder, with a big market opportunity, don’t ask any questions because you will make a mistake. Give them a term sheet. [52:00]

The fundamental book about how to build a company is The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh. [1:19:00]

Full podcast here: Keith Rabois on How He Invests, Forming a Founding Team, and Funding “Ridiculous” Ideas

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