What Daniel Gross Thinks About Basically Everything

  • The thesis of Pioneer: I think the world is bottlenecked on the amount of extraordinarily productive people we have. Researchers, musicians, founders, artists, etc. We can fairly cheaply 10X the amount of these extraordinary people by giving them money and motivation at an internet-level scale.

  • A lot of work is done manually. It needs to be software: Look at the Ivy League. You have thousands of applications being read by a dozen people. There’s got to be a better way to screen and identify talent. Pioneer is built almost entirely on software. The selection process is almost entirely software.

  • Pioneer is built using game mechanics: Pioneer is like a video game. Every month we reset the game. Every month you have the opportunity to compete on a global leaderboard of progress. The people that made the most progress [based on points] at the end of the month get funding, and are brought out to Silicon Valley.

  • Pioneer in a nutshell: Pioneer is a digital Ivy League campus. We are trying to scale the benefits of the Ivy League to the millions of lost Einstein’s around the world.

  • Games are an incredibly underrated concept: They engender human competition and cooperation. They are unbelievably motivating. If you are playing online games you are solving resource allocation problems [the same thing a McKinsey analyst does]. And you have opted into doing this for long periods of time. Could you bring this same level of productivity into other realms?

  • Pioneer is emotionally motivating: My previous company was a search engine. We built a product and got acquired by Apple. Previously I was rationally motivated. Pioneer is different. I have never worked on something that has the level of emotional attachment that pioneer has engendered in the world. You get these emails from people and they tell you that you have changed their life in a meaningful way. This is incredibly motivating.

  • How Daniel thinks about the alumni network of Pioneer: A futuristic, massive X Mansion from X Men. We have all these people with incredible superpowers who don’t mind working together and helping each other.

  • The internet enables less sameness: One of the interesting things you get from the internet is a lot of different people trying different things and that leads to greatness. There is less homogenized centralization. 

  • Great quote: When a project is in an embryonic stage you don’t want to value it on a daily basis. Maybe not even try to figure out its value on a monthly basis.

  • How Daniel thinks about growth: Progress is a byproduct of getting stuck in a positive feedback loop. Rapidly iterating in the positive feedback loop. Making a lot of progress. Reaching a point when that positive feedback loop doesn’t work. Plateauing. And then hopefully repeating that process over and over again. ♲

  • How to know when to stop working on a business: You need to create something of value for other people. I learned to stop working on a thing if I mercilessly and ruthlessly tried to grow revenue or usage, and was unable to over the course of six months. Then I would switch to something else.

  • Great quote: I don’t think a perfect founder can defeat a bad market.

  • Daniel’s contrarian take on drugs and CRISPR: I’d be hesitant to do drugs or CRISPR because we just don’t understand the computer. So why edit the source code?

  • Second acts are quite common with Founders: The first project isn’t usually the massive success. Examples: Patrick Collison founder of Stripe, Howie Liu founder of Airtable, Eric Wu founder of Opendoor. They all had smaller, less successful projects first. Pioneer wants to find these types of people early in life. People that are relentlessly productive.

  • Full podcast here.