The Kevin Rose Show #10 Bill Maris, Founder of Google Ventures

  • Bill met the founders of Google before it was Google: He shared an office with Anne Wojcicki. Google started in Anne’s sister’s garage. [3:51]

  • Why did you want to start a corporate fund? I was bored. I had sold a web hosting company and the next opportunity just had to be less boring than [doing nothing] [4:45]

  • The job [at Google] did not fall into my lap : I had 23 interviews. It seemed like it could be interesting. The interview process started and I just kept showing up. [5:06]

  • How did you learn about investing? I just started reading, asking to meet with people who knew more than I did. I learned that focus was simple: build a fund that was meant to generate returns. Anything that corrupted that had the potential to destroy it from within. [6:37]

  • The focus was simple: Let’s not lose money. In the venture business if you break even you are in the 75th percentile. So let’s find something that will have a high chance of producing a return. So we get in a habit of succeeding. That way you don’t start off losing. [10:23]

  • How he thought about starting the business: It is like if you and I stood on the edge of a lake and thought how would we get to the other side? We could spend all day talking about what stroke to use or how tired we will get halfway through. Or you could just jump in and start paddling. Ultimately you’ll get there. You couldn’t plan every stroke. We just started doing the work. [11:21] 

  • I was completely unqualified for that job: I have been unqualified for every job I’ve held. That made life exciting and interesting and scary. [13:47]

  • When hiring, rely less on references: I want to make my own judgments. Everyone has a knock-on someone else. You can always find someone to say nasty things about someone else. Sometimes those can be excuses not to bring someone on. [15:39] 

  • Don’t give advice if it’s not asked for: What is more unwelcome than unasked for advice? That’s hard for some people to resist that sometimes. [20:31]

  • Great quote: Life is hard enough without making it hard for other people. [30:57] 

  • A good heuristic to tell if the team is too large: Do you know every person’s spouse name? [Bill is introverted (very) and doesn’t inspire to run a large team] [35:48]

  • A lesson from building startups: The only thing that lasts is relationships. [36:21] 

  • Advice bill got from a friend when deciding what the right time was to leave Google Ventures: If you stay you are betting the best things you’ve done are behind you. If you feel you’ve got more to do then you are ready to leave and try something new. Maybe it won’t work but do you want to bet on yourself again? [38:22]

  • More good life advice: When you are the CEO/founder lots of people want to be your friend. But you don’t know who wants to be your friend and who wants to be the friend of the CEO. And when you leave you are given a gift. And then you know who really wants to be your friend. [39:21]

  • His new business: I wanted to start over. I want a small team. 10 people max. I’m looking for highly scalable software companies…It’s scary to reprove yourself. It would have been easier to stay in your role. [41:58]

  • Full podcast here.