Andreessen and Koppelman

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Brian Koppelman spoke with Marc Andreessen and Marc Andreessen spoke with Brian Koppelman in a pair of episodes. They covered a fair bit of Koppelman’s career, which we’ll skip here and instead point readers to -> Koppelman’s Career Capital.

Visiting Silicon Valley, Koppelman said that the highest compliment is to be called a system’s thinker. Yep, agreed Andreessen. “If you’re not a systems thinker you say, ‘I’m going to build a really great product.’ But the systems thinking mode is that a great product is just the first step.”

Every product gets released into a certain system which is why we note that timing and conditions matter so much. Sometimes we get lucky, like Danny Meyer wrote, “I would also have the good fortune of entering the restaurant industry during its fertile period of revolutionary change.”

Sometimes we recognize the system and act responsively. In the world of venture-backed startups and television shows, that means mastering the sizzle and the steak. “It’s the responsibility of the artist to do things that get the work in front of people,” said Andreessen.

The sizzle is important because founders need to sell investors on their idea, sell employees on the company, and sell customers on the product. Ideally, one person can do this, but if they can’t they need to hire for their weaknesses. Rich Barton said to “marry a marketer…because you’re going to need to be super clever about how to get your product in front of people.”

And that’s harder than ever. The world will not beat a path to your door, said Andreessen, “People are busy. There are 7 billion people on planet earth and their time is fully allocated. The work has to speak for itself and somebody has to pick up the flag and carry it into the world.”

But the work has to be good. “None of this is an excuse for the work not being good.” Andreessen praises Steve Martin’s book, Born Standing Up. It was Martin’s advice, be so good they can’t ignore you that Cal Newport used as a title and both those ideas are part of the post on Koppelman’s Career Capital. Adam Carolla has touched on this too:

Koppelman gave leadership and communication advice from running the television show Billions. Careers are like trees, adding rings each year, and Koppelman learned from John Dahl – on Rounders – to give people limits. That means hiring well and getting out of people’s way. Ken Kocienda said Steve Jobs did this, acting as an editor.

Then, when it’s time to give feedback you communicate well. “It’s important to make people feel heard when they are giving notes about the show, make them know you are actually listening. But then it’s important that we only take the notes that will make the show better.”

At Zillow, for example, they have a color-coded system for communication.

Former CEO Spencer Rascoff said, “Red means be brief, be bright, and be gone. That’s how I want to be communicated with.”

Visual cues help communication, especially in sports. Mike Zarren of the Boston Celtics said, “The communication of the information is as important, if not more important, than the actual quantitative work that you do.” The Pauls noted that not getting investment ideas into a portfolio is the same as not having any good ideas.

Finally, Koppelman and Andreessen geeked out about partnerships. Koppelman has worked with David Levien and Andreessen with Ben Horowitz.

“The key is to regard the other person as incredibly smart and regard their motive as a way to make it work better.” – Koppelman

“It has to be more important than the other one gets to make the decision than for you to prove yourself right.” – Andreessen

In our post on restaurants, we saw partnering well is crucial. As Charlie Munger reflected, “Two talented people working well together, of course, that works.”


Thanks for reading.

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