It’s a Tuesday evening at the Plug and Play Tech Center. There’s excitement in the air, just like every other day here. Outside on the beautiful open patio, there’s a group of diverse entrepreneurs from Plug and Play’s International Acceleration Program1 chatting over beers. Inside, there’s a large group of Bitcoin enthusiasts and curious explorers2, listening carefully to the words of Bitcoin startup recruiter Jason Rumney.
Great things happen every day here, and it’s an absolutely amazing place to work. But this day was particularly special. Vinod Khosla, a man I’ve heard referred to as a “Godfather of Silicon Valley” and a “legendary investor”, was in our press room talking to Peter Day of the BBC.
Sound a bit intimidating? Not at all. Mr. Khosla is a genuine, heartfelt man. He’s shockingly approachable and invites anyone to shoot him an email with their ideas. Definitely not how most people imagine an investor. He’s almost as friendly as our CEO and founder Mr. Saeed Amidi. Almost.
When you run a search for Mr. Khosla, one of the first things that comes up is his attempt to restrict public access to a beach in San Mateo. Many have used this to paint him as an example of Silicon Valley greed. After hearing him speak on a number of topics, I can’t help but strongly disagree. Khosla’s mind is a great one, and one that many won’t be able to understand. What is obvious is that he’s not in it for the money. When asked to choose between cutting costs and improving outcomes, he chooses the latter without hesitation. He says cutting costs should only be the priority if money is the focus, and he constantly underlines that it shouldn’t be.
Like a few other Silicon Valley visionaries we read about, Khosla wants to change the way things are done. At the risk of sounding cliché, he wants to change the world. Elon Musk wants to revolutionize transportation, Peter Thiel wants to reform education, Vinod Khosla wants to repair healthcare. I say repair because according to him, the current healthcare system is “broken”. “It’s not healthcare right now, it’s sickcare”, he says, and he’s right. He usually is. It’s one of the many reasons he has hundreds of extremely intelligent people packed in a hall at pin drop silence, carefully considering his every word. Another reason is those opinions of his that he voices without restraint. They’re radical, they’re revolutionary and they’re unapologetic. Among his shockingly innovative thoughts is his desire to replace doctors with computers. He wrote a guest post on the subject for TechCrunch; I’ve included the link below3.
Throughout his talk, Khosla emphasizes two important qualities of a successful entrepreneur: flexibility and boldness. He wants entrepreneurs to be willing to take risks and break rules, while constantly adapting along the way. He even goes to say that experience can work against an entrepreneur, because they have been working within a certain set of rules for too long. One audience member asks him how an entrepreneur could possibly compete with large institutions, and soon regrets it. His reply draws cheers from the audience, “How can a big institution possibly compete with an entrepreneur? If you’re asking that question, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.” You might think this as the mindset of someone who believes himself to be unbeatable. You would be very wrong. Khosla is someone who has mastered the art of failure. It doesn’t sound like an art most aim to master but Khosla argues, and proves, that if done right, failure can be the key to success. His genius is that he gets more from his worst failures than most do from their greatest successes.
He isn’t all optimism though. An audience member asks Khosla how an entrepreneur can find a balance between his grand vision and building a scalable business. It’s a question that brings out precious words of wisdom from Khosla. Despite his massive success, he remains reasonable and very practical. He says an entrepreneur must, “be optimistic, confident and paranoid at the same time”, shooting for the sky while questioning himself all the while. “Nobody has ever climbed Mount Everest without first getting to case camp”, he wonderfully analogizes. He reminds us that every climber sets out dreaming of reaching the peak, but working and planning to get to the base camp first. It’s a perfect analogy for an entrepreneur pursuing his dream. He also makes sure to point out that “the journey from base camp to the summit is not linear”. As he advises many times, every business plan should be done with repeated iterations.
Khosla’s speech has a magnetizing quality. The crowd is visibly drawn in to his words, becoming more engrossed by the minute. When Khosla took the stage, I was standing behind the rows of chairs placed in the halls. As he walked off to thundering applause, I found myself sitting in the front row.Vinod Khosla is a man of ideals. He keeps his focus away from money, takes every risk, imparts invaluable wisdom, and stays grounded through it all. I, for one, could not help but walk out of that hall inspired, with a new idol to motivate me through my days.
– Article written by Ahraz Arifuddin
1Plug and Play’s International Acceleration Program: http://bit.ly/ItlPnP
2Weekly Bitcoin Meetup: http://bit.ly/SVBtc
3Do We Need Doctors or Algorithms – Vinod Khosla: http://bit.ly/DocPnP
4Stay in the Loop – Calendar of Events at Plug and Play: http://bit.ly/PnPEvt
If you liked what you read, please share it with friends.