Venture Stories: What Jd Ross Thinks About Basically Everything

  • Mental models are helpful to me because I am not very smart. Mental models let you make sense of the world. Having patterns to make me smart is helpful. I became interested in them after hearing Charlie Munger give a talk where he expounds on mental models for an hour and a half. It’s an incredible talk. 

  • One mental model is invert, always invert. Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett use it to ask why shouldn’t we invest in this company. Being deliberately contrarian allows you to uncover interesting ideas. Many hard problems are solved when they are addressed backward

  • One of my principles: Bottom-up beats top-down almost every time. 

  • OpenDoor is a real estate technology company that lets people instantly buy and sell homes. You can trade-in your house as you trade in a car. 

  • Founding stories of a nation, city, people, company - stick with it forever.

  • People are building their own businesses on OpenDoor. Here’s an example: After we buy these homes we have to clean them up. There was an unemployed single mother in Phoenix. She started out cleaning homes. As we kept growing we kept giving her more homes to clean. She kept hiring people to help her clean. Now she has 50 employees in 6 different markets across the US. 

  • Cofounder relationships are not supposed to be easy. They are supposed to be productive. When you are picking co-founders, find compliments. People naturally gravitate toward people who are like them. But when picking co-founders find people who have skill sets that you don’t. 

  • A lot of cofounder conflict comes from overlap. Conflict comes from not having clear communication on who owns what. [OpenDoor uses Peter Thiel’s One Thing Management PhilosophyHere is why.]

  • The founding story/myth of OpenDoor: OpenDoor was conceived by Keith Rabois soon after PayPal sold to eBay. He went to Peter Thiel to raise money. Keith pitched an idea that was essentially like Zillow. Peter said that is a terrible idea. Come back with something different. Keith said what if we bought the houses? Peter said that was perfect. We just couldn’t do it at that time [early 2000s] because there wasn’t enough data to value homes accurately.

  • The secret that OpenDoor is founded on is that homes are not different. Most homes are basically the same. OpenDoor focuses on the middle 80% of homes in America.

  • We have a much bigger vision than we started with. We started by buying homes instantly using the internet. Now we are going to let people move with one click. They will always know what their home is worth. They’ll always be able to get money in and out of it. They can get a mortgage at the tap of a button. The mortgage can move with them as they move. 

  • You want to set the biggest, scariest vision you can. People who are great only want to work on things that are great.

  • I think all the value in life comes from the places where you let roots settle into the ground. Deep relationships and deep work. You only get that from focusing on one problem for a long time. That’s where fulfillment comes from

  • There is an opportunity for someone to build a company like Airbnb for homeschooling. A way to make it easy for anyone to turn their home into a micro-school. Somebody is going to do it. People who are homeschooled outperform in nearly every dimension. They outperform on standardized tests, happiness, costs etc. 

  • The single worst thing you could have in your company is snark. Snark happens when people don’t feel empowered to make change so they fall back on sarcasm. It is a symptom of people not knowing what else to do. 

  • Being fit and exercising is vital to everyone. Put on an Apple Watch and do a Barry’s Bootcamp type workout [high-intensity interval training] a few times a week. You’ll see your resting heart rate go down, your VO2 max go up, and you’ll sleep better. 

  • What is your advice to help people surround themselves with great people? Become more intolerant of people who don’t make you better. Stop hanging out with toxic people. Spend time with people you admire. Be rigorous about this. 

  • Book recommendation: The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis by Carroll Quigley.

  • Something I learned from Ben Franklin: It is important to be really good at what you do, but you also have to tell the right stories. Humans are tool builders and story tellers

  • Full podcast here.