Getting Feedback and Listening To It

When you are VC, you live in this protected environment. You sit in your office in a glass conference room with lovely views and entrepreneurs walk in and pitch you and you get to decide who you are going to back and who you are not. People tell you what they think you want to hear. That you are so smart. That you are so successful. They suck up to you. And it goes to your head. You believe it. I am so smart. I am so successful.

You have to get out of that mindset because it is toxic. My number one secret is the Gotham Gal who brings me down to earth every night, makes me do the dishes, walk the dog, and lose to her in backgammon. Actually I have not lost to her in backgammon in over twenty years because she used to beat me so badly that I couldn’t take it anymore.

But blogging is another helpful tool in reminding yourself that you are not all that. Marc Andreessen said as much in his excellent NY Magazine interview which was published yesterday. I loved the whole interview but I particularly loved this bit:

So how do you, Marc Andreessen, make sure that you are hearing honest feedback?

Every morning, I wake up and several dozen people have explained to me in detail how I’m an idiot on Twitter, which is actually fairly helpful.

Do they ever convince you?

They definitely keep me on my toes, and we’ll see if they’re able to convince me. I mean, part of it is, I love arguing.

No, really?

The big thing about Twitter for me is it’s just more people to argue with.

Keeping someone on his or her toes, making them rethink their beliefs, making them argue them, is as Marc says “fairly helpful.” That’s an understatement. It is very very helpful.

That’s the thing I love about the comments here at AVC. I appreciate the folks who call bullshit on me. There are many but Brandon, Andy, and Larry are common naysayers. They may come across as argumentative, but arguing is, as Marc points out, useful.

The comments are also a place where people play the suck up game. It isn’t necessary to do that and I don’t appreciate it. It makes me uneasy.

So I would like to thank the entire AVC community for being a sounding board for my ideas, for pushing back when I am off base, and for resisting the suck up whenever the urge presents itself. I appreciate it very much.

#Uncategorized#VC & Technology#Weblogs

Comments (Archived):

  1. Andrew Kennedy

    Great post

  2. Albert R

    Amazing blog post. It takes such a smart, successful person to think of things like this (teehee).But to be serious, I really value my friends who are never afraid to argue with me, and one thing I value most is that none of us are afraid that we will offend the others by being “politically incorrect”. It’s really nice to be in an environment where anything can be said, and the only merit is whether or not you’ve made a logical, valid point.

    1. fredwilson

      my partners Albert and Brad like to argue with each other in front of the entire USV team. i usually sit back and listen and learn so much.

      1. Brandon Burns

        you need to tape one of these for the rest of us to enjoy#teamalbert πŸ™‚

      2. falicon

        I can imagine those are *very* educational and entertaining…*really* like and respect both of those guys, but they do seem like they would be polar opposites on so many (general) topics (and yet somehow agree on the big picture things and concepts)

        1. fredwilson

          that’s exactly right

  3. Drew Meyers

    I can’t imagine all the mistakes I’d make if I had no one to call bullshit on me. Of course, I make mistakes every now and then even with them doing that πŸ™

  4. dineshn72

    Very true! The ability to seek & chew on potentially unpalatable feedback is key to self-awareness, which in turn is critical in ensuring you don’t go off the rails…

  5. Fernando Gutierrez

    Terrible post, complete bullshit πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      you don’t know what you are talking about πŸ™‚

    2. Brandon Burns

      literally laugh out loud funny!

    3. Kurt Kumar

      You sir…yes you… try writing a post and then we will comment πŸ™‚

    4. JamesHRH


  6. Avi Deitcher

    Personally, I think this is a great post. But I am just waiting for someone to call BS on this post about calling BS, just to prove the point. πŸ™‚

      1. JimHirshfield

        Monty Python will ALWAYS get you the upvote, Avi.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          I missed their final reunion concert in London by one day! :-(Still, I will always look on the bright side of life…

        2. pointsnfigures

          Prefer lumberjacks though

      2. Richard

        I remember having this argument with the Goth, Punk crowd in HS.

    1. fredwilson

      it started. which was obvious

  7. Joe Marchese

    Everybody needs an outsider to tell them what the insiders could have, should have, said but so seldom do

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Insiders have a vested interest in the status quo. I don’t mean that meanly, just looking at real incentives.

  8. LE

    I appreciate the folks who call bullshit on me. There are many but Brandon, Andy, and LarryBy “Larry” of course you mean “LE”.What’s interesting is that I got this in reply to something that I said the other day from Jim Hirshfield:”Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”- Benjamin FranklinWell what is “the wrong thing”? That’s why I hate sayings like that (in general of course!). The wrong thing for Jim or someone in a corporate position at GE is not the wrong thing for LE. Details matter. [1]If I had to do that I would find it terribly confining and would always question my gut. Which as a general rule I don’t want to do. I find that it makes you mentally “stutter” and be self doubting.Besides, that’s part of the fun. And part of the learning experience for me. I learn when making comments and that’s part of the payback for the time involved in doing so.[1] I also recognize that many commenters, including myself, say things that you can’t say because of your notoriety. Glad to be of help!

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i meant you. you are a naysayer at the highest level and i really appreciate that about you

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        that is the best upvote you have ever given to anyone in AVC πŸ™‚

    2. JimHirshfield

      Citing me will usually get you the upvote.

    3. kenberger

      LE- you definitely stir up the pot here.keep up the good work.

      1. LE

        Now youse can’t leave.

  9. LE

    So you’re going to stop riding the citibike, yes?

    1. fredwilson

      hell no. i love it

      1. LE

        When I was a kid I wanted a minibike. You remember those. Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine. My father wouldn’t let me have one though he said it was “to dangerous”. [1]So I bought one and told him it was my friends and that my friend needed to keep it in our garage.One day the friend showed up and took “his minibike”. Bigger kid, nothing I could do. (He’s a bankruptcy attorney now, Armenian guy..)Anyway I’m glad my dad didn’t let me get the minibike. Easy to say now of course. Back then was a big deal. [2][1] Meanwhile he let’s my mom set up a hot water heater vaporizer on a flimsy desk that ends up scalding me (3 days in the hospital). Oh well.[2] That was one of the motivating factors (among many) causing me to want to make my own money and not have to answer to anyone or work for anyone. I could buy any toy I wanted to with my own money and didn’t have to get approval from someone else.

        1. pointsnfigures

          I wanted one too. Got on my friends and promptly T boned his fathers truck. Made me work shit jobs all summer to pay him off.

          1. LE

            Made me work shit jobs all summerWhat kind of “shit jobs” did you have to do?

          2. pointsnfigures

            I learned what sweat equity was that summer. Painting, mowing cleaning out a plumbing/heating/piping office, washing cars, waxing cars, etc etc etc. I was at his beck and call. Gopher. A penance. He still teases me about it every time he sees me, almost 40 years later.

          3. LE

            Interesting with the exception of “painting” and the addition of some more jobs that you didn’t list I did all of the above. But wasn’t for any reason other than to earn money. Which all went to me. It’s pretty much where I got the money to start my first business and how I learned to cold call (for the car detailing in particular and photography) that came in handy later.Different circumstance for sure (because I got to keep the money and it was not forced on me or penance) but I’m glad I had to do that to make money in retrospect. I learned a lot about pricing and negotiation from doing those things. How to size someone up in particular, how to collect money (for the photography had some deadbeat lawyers as clients who didn’t care I was a young guy). How people liked to get treated. I remember one guy whose car I waxed who lived in “the rich neighborhood”. He said to me “people drive by my house all the time and wonder why I live here and they don’t”. He was a bragger but gave me intros to all his card playing buddies. Was in the insurance business iirc. Living large and having nice things got him business and connections.

  10. LE

    After living a life where my parents, siblings and cousins gave me a hard time and questioned everything I did and said (and never laughed at my jokes) and I had to defend myself constantly (which was great practice) I’m now married to a woman who is the exact opposite. I’d rather her give me a hard time it’s become to easy and not a challenge. And she laughs at most of my jokes as well.

    1. JLM

      .Consider the possibility that you’ve simply become better at telling jokes?JLM.

      1. Andrew Kennedy


      2. LE

        Well I have become better. But my family was pretty much no nonsense no games all of that. Comedy and joking was frowned upon.Here is something that I just sent my sister, I’m sure she will not even respond to it and probably won’t think it’s funny at all.(She is working as an editor at a pharmaceutical communications company. So I am giving her helpful advice to make her more valuable to that company by trying to tell her to raise the issue with her boss and try to solve the problem.)From: LETo: Sister of LESubject: you should tell your boss..That it looks really lame to have a blog with only two entries.They either have to have it with info regularly or not at all.(redacted URL)Definitely tell him that for sure!Say “my brother thinks it’s lame that your blog has only two entries and he thinks I should ghost write some blog posts for you!”(You get the point hopefully..)I mean they are a communications company not (redacted) so you really need some regular info appearing on the blog (or not at all). Otherwise it’s a negative.

        1. JimHirshfield

          No funny family!??? Clearly your parents had a sense of humor if they named her “Sister of LE”. Has a nice ring to it if you say it fast, like an Italian name, Cisterelli.

          1. LE

            That’s a good one actually. 9/10 on that. 1/10th taken off because it should have been “Sisterelli”.My mother laughed the other day when I told her we would let her live for 10 more years when we were discussing life care communities and the yearly and upfront cost. (It’s her money she is paying – point being well you get the point…)

  11. matthughes

    Backgammon is a great game – my wife and I have had some epic contests over the years.

  12. Russell

    Ah shucks, we love you too! (in the least suck-upy way possible).

  13. William Mougayar

    The same could be said for entrepreneurs who start with a pristine idea which is theirs & they start by believing it’s the best idea out there.Then, they go to market, and everybody beats up their idea, and tells them how bad it is, or awfully implemented.Then, they listen, and make their idea better, and they win.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      The market is littered with entrepreneurs who listened to their critics, changed, and should have stayed with their ideas. And it is also littered with entrepreneurs who stubbornly (persistently?) stayed with their ideas when they should have changed.If you can reliably and consistently figure out in advance which ones should do which, I will find a lot of people to invest in your fund!

      1. William Mougayar

        Well, did you read the last article in my weekly email yesterday; re: knowing when to feedback & change.…Part of it is gut & experience too. They guide you to accepting, filtering or rejecting feedback.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          In my list, didn’t get to it. I will open it now to read.I still think that we do the best we can – which is an enormous amount, and experience counts enormously – and then pray for luck.

        2. Twain Twain

          As soon as he wrote “how important it is for startups to have visionary artist DNA in its founding team” and gave the Michelangelo example I nodded along.Being an artist artist is different from being a startup artist, though.Artist artists think in terms of creating that one-off masterpiece that will likely be enjoyed by whoever can afford to buy it (e.g. their patron) whereas startup artists think in terms of that grand-scale system that can be enjoyed by many.

      2. bsoist

        I’ve seen both over the years and I saw something a little different last week. An entrepreneur I’m working with was not happy with the product but rushed into something because he had a contract in hand with a client ( no doubt, an influential one ) who loved the product the way it was.Most people didn’t agree. Lesson learned.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          That too is a tough call. You should be product-driven to build a scale company, not sales-driven, unless you are trying to be a custom shop. But cash in hand is worth a lot, and when is the customer leading a trend vs holding you back?

      3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Great acid test. But settle for a reliable edge. We all roll sixes but very few roll them 20% and that’s a 10% edge.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          How do you know in advance. Crystal Ball Fund III πŸ™‚

      4. ShanaC


    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      I think a true entrepreneur holds that pristine vision. The creeks and one way streets are distractions (usually) but sometimes the river is cutting out a needless oxbow. Be aware of the changes and the path downstream can get easier. But meanwhile a compass with underlying true north has long term merit.Note 3 beers on board – caveat emptor

    3. Twain Twain

      I started with a pristine idea that I thought was the best idea out there: do a reviews system better and smarter than 5-stars, likes and +1.This was after reading a TC article in Sept 2009 on how even YouTube doesn’t think 5-stars has any merits (pls see graphic) — and YouTube would know because they collected millions of data points to prove it, which is why in Jan 2010 they went to thumbs-up-down only.Armed with my little idea, I took it to an incubator. The key incubator mentor didn’t beat up my idea but directed me to do another version of Disqus (I kid you not). Yet another mentor said I should pivot back to my original idea.Long story short…almost a year of development in limbo.Fast fwd and I close out all the noise and just focus on building my system MY WAY.What I discovered during my journey is that there are lots of examples where it really helps to ask the market what it wants and let other people beat up your product — especially if you’re doing another variation on what the market already knows and has experienced before like a mobile photo-sharing app.However, there are also occasional examples when the founder alone has to INVENT and almost no one can mentor them in that unique pursuit of invention.

      1. JamesHRH

        The market would have wanted a better horse and buggy.Ask the market how they would use what you want to build, not what they want. (in your example, YouTube, not users – YouTube is your market).Don’t ask investors what you should do, ask them how can I get you to invest or listen to them when they say things that involve them taking action or not taking action with their money.Mentors are great for how to get things done personally or operationally. Never ask them strategy questions. Bring in a market strategy genius and give them skin in the game (Stock) if you think you have tough strategy calls to make.Don’t take feedback from position of weakness (help me); get it from a position of strength (I want you to do this, what is stopping you).

    4. awaldstein

      sounds like a fairy tale with a happy ending.

      1. William Mougayar

        Ha. Do not reason away your vision.

        1. awaldstein

          I actually believe in people who listen to the market and ignore everything and everyone else.Mostly that’s what I teach entrepreneurs to do. And to themselves. The rest is just rules of thumb and experienced tempered gut knowledge and process.When I worked in the movie biz, it was interesting getting close to world renowned directors banking hundreds of millions of dollars on an idea. Everyone tells them no, and they just do it. And often they fail and they do it again.Listen to yourself and trust that you have an ear to the magic or the market and that you have skin tough enough to do it when everything just points to no!

    5. ShanaC

      life is interesting that way

  14. JimHirshfield

    Great minds think alike…and that’s me sucking up to myself. Here’s my tweet from y’day on the same favorite passage…

    1. falicon

      well someone’s got to do it right? πŸ˜€

  15. vruz

    Good for you, Fred.As for Marc, he’s really not nearly there if he blocks people for merely disagreeing with him.He’s an Internet hero of mine, but he’s not quite there yet.

    1. fredwilson

      he does that?i am not a fan of blocking people

      1. vruz

        Yeah, he blocked me when I jokingly said that so far the only thing that Yo unbundled was some millions from somebody else’s wallet or purse. (Yo, you know, the app that so far does nothing at all)I don’t mind that personally, it’s his right to do it. But I don’t see that as a sign of openness and a tolerant mindset.I quite like discussing things with Benedict though, even when we’re in radical disagreement.

        1. ShanaC


          1. vruz

            Oh don’t be sad. I don’t take it personal.I probably hit a nerve at the wrong time, that’s all.I just lack the information needed to know if Yo will ever be a good investment.My joke was about Marc’s boastful statement (actually, bullshit) about Yo unbundling 1-bit signalling, like unbundling the ‘poke’ off Facebook, which is complete nonsense.Hope they turn it into a real business one of these days, but it’s clear to me that some people don’t react very rationally when they are called out on their crap.A long, long way from ‘meritocracy’ and ‘openness’ in the Valley.

          2. vruz

            Why so sad? Life goes on, you don’t have to please everybody πŸ™‚

      2. bsoist

        not a fan either. I almost posted something about that yesterday, but it’s too soon to share the story publicly. I have some stories about sucking up too.Sharing any part of your life publicly is complicated in so many ways – for people like you who are Internet famous, but also for the rest of us.

  16. JimHirshfield

    I once met a guy that went to school with you. He said you were just a quiet normal fella. That’s probably not surprising to you…’cause you know…you’re not some loud-mouth know-it-all with a bloated ego. #notjoking

  17. Jayadev Gopalakrishn

    Same goes with startup founders. Co-founders who are able to argue and say anything to each other are the best for the company and investors.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Just need a bunch of Talmudic scholars!

  18. William Mougayar

    You forgot Charlie as part of the core bullshit – calling bunch. He just lectured you yesterday on the difference between coined & introduced.

  19. Brandon Burns

    Happy to help keep you on your toes! Its definitely mutual.For the record, I don’t find naysaying useful when it’s just for the sake of naysaying. But constructive criticism is useful when it leads to constructive debate, and all sides are open to engaging respectfully and learning something new. I read AVC almost everyday, but I certainly don’t comment everyday. If I don’t have something I believe to be useful to add to the discussion, I’d rather not speak at all.

  20. dave_sloan

    The same could be said for founding teams. It’s so important to have multiple people and multiple perspectives to balance out a founding team. This is why solo founders struggle – they are not getting enough feedback, they are simply pushing a fully baked idea that they have. But a good sounding board can be peers or advisors or investors or customers. It’s so important to always been getting feedback. Never sit back and think you’ve heard enough validation or that feedback is just noise. “Healthy conflict” is important. People who are conflict adverse are also in trouble, they are missing out on important counter-points and reality checks. Being open minded and modest is critical. But the hardest part is knowing which advice to ignore and which advice is powerful and life-changing.

  21. Jeff Judge

    Your backgammon comment made me laugh pretty hard. Whenever my family gets together for the holidays it’s endless days of backgammon. It drives my wife and my older brother’s wife nuts, but my mom loves it. I hope the Gotham Gal can take you down a few more times after reading this post!

  22. Barry Nolan

    We are all Gotham Girls now

    1. JimHirshfield


      1. Barry Nolan

        Our ‘job’ – be critical.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Phew, I thought I would have to start angel investing, food & travel blogging, and baking cookies every night. I couldn’t handle that. I’ve met The Gotham Gal, and I’m no Gotham Gal.

          1. Brandon Burns

            No one is the Gotham Gal, except for the Gotham Gal.Though maybe we can be her for Halloween, lol.

          2. JimHirshfield

            You’re scaring me.

          3. Brandon Burns

            Hahahaha. I’m 6’3″. I’m for sure not pulling it off, unless someone takes a club to my knee caps.I could be Fred for Halloween, though. All I need is a nice blue button down and some dad jeans. And maybe a wig. Haha.

          4. pointsnfigures

            I’d have to vote Democratic

  23. pointsnfigures

    I don’t read this because I agree with everything-but for the dialogue. Ironic you and your wife play backgammon. We have played for years and the same thing is happening. BTW both of us are competitive and our apt gets cold after games if you get my drift!When I traded, I got spanked every day. It’s tougher not being around traders because they were so candid. Can’t imagine being a person of your or Marc’s stature.Negative feedback is extremely valuable. Too often people are afraid to give it.

    1. LE

      Too often people are afraid to give it.Giving negative feedback is not an easy task. First you have to know enough to give constructive “negative feedback”. Next you have to be prepared that the entity you are giving the feedback to (business or person) will actually give a shit and thank you. Generally they don’t. The amount of people that thank you for negative feedback is quite small typically people want to hear positive things and want to be patted on the back and told they are right and that “it” doesn’t stink.

  24. JoshGrot

    Perhaps a tad tangential to the “feedback” meme, but hopefully sufficiently similar in intent:One of the biggest eye-opening events for me in my time as a VC was when I “crossed back over” to run a portfolio company we had invested in and on whose Board I had served for several years.Within one week of arriving “company-side” my entire perception of what was working and what wasn’t seemed to shift 180 degrees. All of a sudden, I was seeing the value of certain people and projects in entirely different lights; and the decisions we made reflected the new perspective I had (combined with elements of the Board-only perspective).I’m not sure how much of this was attributable to the Board not probing as thoroughly as it could or should have, or Management not recognizing or not sharing as much as it should have.However, rightfully or wrongfully, it opened my eyes to the array of issues that one could possibly miss when looking in from the sole perspective of the Board. (BTW — this is not to say that this is the “norm” for Boards; but rather that the non-trivial possibility exists for errors of omission of this sort.)I think of this a lot when I sit on Boards today, wondering whether the perspectives we have are sufficiently well-informed so as to help drive the company in the appropriate direction…and if not, how best to obtain them.I also think that more CEO’s could and should reach out to their Boards to make sure that what they’re communicating is being received in the same way they had meant to communicate it. Sometimes a CEO’s “green” is a Board’s “red.”

  25. JLM

    .The conversations in life that are really important are not those that revolve around the different views–fully developed views usually–that people hold but rather the conversations which influence how we all arrive at those views.The tough thing is that you have to make those conversations happen. You have to initiate those conversations before they happen and you have to be wise enough to seek them out and participate both fully and genuinely.Guys like Fred and Andreessen have public personas that they have carefully crafted — nothing wrong with that and no criticism or even a veiled criticism. Just a statement of truth. This falls into the guise of marketing or branding.The real question is what is their genuine and authentic self? Sometimes, they themselves don’t know the answer to that question. We never know ourselves until we are under enough pressure to reveal the character within.When you go to Ranger school they don’t GAS how you make decisions when you’ve gotten a full night’s sleep, they only want to know how you make decisions when you’ve not gotten more than 2-3 hours of sleep for a couple of months. Then the real man–the guy who is going to command troops in combat–emerges.When you begin to know and respect people, you look for their thought process not just their conclusions. Let me embarrass the Sage — Charlie Chrystle. We seemingly don’t agree on many things–he adores Obama and I think he’s totally incompetent, as an example.But the truth is that we are much closer in our thinking on many things–I cannot believe that nobody — NOBODY — went to jail from Wall Street during the recession. Nobody?Therefore, I am always interested in his thinking BEFORE I know his conclusion as I know him to have a sound mind, suspect body and to always have a reason, sometimes even good reasons, for what he thinks.It is in the formation of our ideas that the inputs are so important because they can influence our own thought processes before we have finalized them. There is a reason why a chef tastes the soup BEFORE he announces it is a very good resource for exposing oneself to good minds and well informed minds.JLM.

    1. LE

      he adores ObamaWell in all fairness to Charlie who you seem to be implying is wet behind the ears but keep in mind that he lives out in Lancaster where people are nicer and more accepting and less biased than in the big city. Aren’t they Charlie? Or even in my suburb. Plus he’s a musician at heart. And he was raised by a really nice country doctor (from what I have figured out I don’t know this as fact but let’s go with it). For all I know he practiced in NYC but I don’t think so.I can almost always make a connection between why someone is the way they are (your relationship with your father as another example) by reverse engineering and correlating their behavior that I have observed with something from the past or their surroundings, upbringing, you know all of that. A big mashup. [1][1] Small example: I know a local guy who is a total people pleaser and doesn’t want to ever ruffle feathers. Turns out his father is a local big deal connected attorney. So he is definitely more likely to not be controversial he was raised by a man that had to BOGU and make nice to keep clients happy and be very likeable. (Small example..) My dad otoh was a bull in a china shop. As an immigrant he couldn’t be the same guy as my friend’s father who had an american born dad. He’d get nowhere with that attitude.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        My dad otoh was a bull in a china shop. Or, sacred cows make the best hamburger!

        1. LE

          Your mom (the fine lady you have indicated that she was) would have been saying things like “That man I do declare! He has no class!”When he came to this country, my mom had to teach him to shake hands with people.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Well, it is possible to make progress in one generation? Let’s see:Let’s go back 200 years to 1814. Then let’s note the changes since then. That was a lot of changes. Then call one generation 20 years. So, have to allocate all the changes to just 10 generations. So, at least one of the generations, and likely nearly all of them, had a lot of change.And these changes still happened given the war of 1812, the US Civil war, the Spanish-American war, the typhoid epidemic, WWI, the flu epidemic, the Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War, Viet Nam, the inflation after Viet Nam, the crash of 1987, the crash of 2008, along with various other financial crises, etc.Lesson: Can have a lot of change in one generation even when there are a lot of disasters. In some ways, our civilization is good at change.

    2. Brandon Burns

      teaching someone how to think is always a better lesson than telling them what to do. i think the value of AVC can be wrapped up in that, the fact that Fred free-form lays out thoughts, and isn’t usually tied to a conclusion. readers learn by being exposed to a thought process, instead of a false epiphany.

      1. JamesHRH

        Fred is a cagey cat – he know his instincts are bang on but that his conclusions are not as rock solid. He sparks a conversation and watches where it leads people like you. Win/win.

    3. bsoist

      As someone who disagrees with your conclusions often, but respects your experience and wisdom, I am so glad to have read this comment in full, and this part in particular …interested in his thinking BEFORE I know his conclusionThank you! ( you are so smart and so wise and so successful – sorry, couldn’t resist )

      1. JLM

        .I will be forwarding your comment to my wife who, from time to time, is not as enthusiastic in her appreciation.[Check to follow.]Thanks.JLM.

        1. bsoist

          If I got a check with your signature on it, I might frame it instead of cashing it – but you could try me. πŸ™‚

          1. JLM

            .If only the IRS were such an ardent admirer?JLM.

      2. JamesHRH

        JLM is cagey cat – you learn more from someone’s thought process than from their conclusion or individual points of argument.

    4. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      JIM not always right or wrong but a devoted servant to truth (even in error) – I take that any day over the popular vote _ Charlie _ same school different uniform .Me I just like smart!

    5. LE

      Guys like Fred and Andreessen have public personas that they have carefully craftedOn a scale of 1 to 10 where “1” is an artist who can’t market worth a dime and “10” is Donald Trump I would tend to put Fred at around 3 or 4 actually. I don’t think he really crafts anything although he does spend time on marketing and understands the value of that. I think what you are seeing is just an honest roll out of the way that he is.Anytime I’ve made a comment attesting to what I perceive as a “shrewd” move on his part he has replied with something like “you give me to much credit”. Combined with other things that he says, the way he operates, and so on I take that at face value and as a truthful response.Andreeessen otoh is more of a “sharpie” of the Marc Cuban school. If you observe Cuban on Shark Tank (and when he blogged in the past) you can see someone who is a true “operator” and very planned in how he goes about doing what he does. One of the markers for this is that he hates and rejects certain entrepreneurs on Shark Tank and calls them out on what he thinks is bullshit. (School of “takes one to know one” etc.) Same way I can spot a great PR stunt because I’ve done them.

    6. Donna Brewington White

      I have become smarter at AVC University. And more successful as well.Being able to listen in on the discussions and even arguments that take place has been very instructional.One of the things that first struck me is how people just put it out there and exposed their ideas and opinions. Most of my life I have longed for the sort of courage or confidence or whatever it is that allows a person to do this. And yes sometimes it is because they just don’t any know better. ;)I’d rather be surrounded by smart, thinking people who disagree with me than people who agree with me but haven’t necessarily thought about what they believe or their positions. I’m with you in that vein.On marketing and branding… it all falls apart if you meet the person and they are not consistent with their brand. I know that my exposure to Fred has been limited but he is exactly the same person that I experience online. Fred leaves a bit of a trail in that some of his relationships and the people he is drawn to are visible so it would be more obvious if it was all a created persona.

      1. JLM

        .I do not intend the perception of the word “created persona” to mean an artificial or fake persona but rather the persona that one crafts by careful attention to the desire outcome.If you go to the gym every day and watch what you eat, you create the physical specimen you want to become similarly if you conduct yourself within a prescribed — self-prescribed — set of values, you will become the person you want to be.Your uniquely created persona.In that regard, I intend it as a compliment or favorable observation rather than a criticism.JLM.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I didn’t read it as a criticism… or as a “made up” persona. I probably should have specified that it would be more obvious if it was a “falsely” created persona.

      2. Gustavo

        it all falls apart if you meet the person and they are not consistent with their brand Yeah..this perspective reminds me of the burden an individual faces in having a brand. Trying to maintain appearances tends to make a person hesitant : Do I ask a question or should someone in my position already know the answer ? What even-cleverer question can a person with my recognized brand ask ?The problem is that people need to interact with each other for very practical questions. So spending time maintaining your brand can seriously hamper your life.So be yourself. Make mistakes; loose, if it is your time to loose; but focus on the fundamentals and keep hitting on the nail until it goes down.P.S. I guess this is one of those cases where, as you mention, I throw some teasers out there.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Good points, Gustavo.I am by no stretch an expert on personal brand. But I have given it a lot of thought.There is an extent to which a personal brand can be aspirational — the me I want to be — or better yet, the me I am becoming. But for the most part, it had better be authentic.A few years back, Fred wrote about being transparent and authentic on the social web. That really stuck with me.This may not be the actual post I am thinking of, but the comments/dialogue on this post were really significant for me:…@fakegrimlock guest posted on AVC about minimum viable personality — that too impacted me.…Two highly successful people have told me “Fake it ’til you make it.” I’ve done a bit of that. But I’ve never faked anything that was completely manufactured — i.e., pretending to be something that I truly am not. But maybe I have acted out of a certain place as I was growing into it.I think personal brand is about being truly you. All you, all the time. But that doesn’t mean all of you, all the time. Maturity is knowing what to reveal, where and when.

    7. JamesHRH

      Everyone has a point of view on most topics.Smart people can see more than one point of view on every topic.Wise people have a complete view of a few topics.Who do you want to be – which topics, how deep – is the main question.

    8. Donald E. Foss

      Beyond all of your good points, the last one is the reason I keep coming back. Having good, well read, well informed minds to both banter with and bounce things off of.

    9. Visakan @ ReferralCandy

      Here’s a thought to ponder:”Genuine and authentic self” is a myth, a fiction we invent. We’re all ourselves all of the time. We’re born naked, everything else is drag. Everything is performance. Some people just happen to live in simple, straightforward environments where they can wear pretty much the same hat throughout.I get what you’re saying about the sleep-deprived ranger, but even that “real man” is something invented, something developed, built, constructed. It’s just more robust and socially admirable. Nobody is born a badass.Most telling of all: There’s this story of this guy who lived in the forest for years at a time. And he said something that stuck with me- there were extended periods of time where he completely lost all sense of himself. Without other people to perform an identity for, there was no “self” to conceive of. Who are you when nobody is around, for an extended period of time? The real answer: NOBODY. You cease to exist.The truth is that we’re a complex, fragmented set of desires, wants, needs, interests, etc- and putting all of that together into a consistent, coherent front is identity performance.

      1. JLM

        .I doubt I could disagree more with anyone than I do with your comment.We do, in fact, invent ourselves but it is not a fiction–it is a purposeful reflection of our character.What we think about, we speak of.What we speak of, drives us.What drives us, calls us to action.Our actions, define our character.Our character, creates our identity.The man in the forest when nobody is looking only has his character to define himself. However, he needs nothing else.As Stonewall Jackson said: “You may be whatever you resolve to be.”When you are tested, you will have only your character to define yourself. But you may have developed that character to be the man you want to be.The officers who were so well tested in Ranger school turned out to be the best combat leaders. That is simple truth.JLM.

  26. Twain Twain

    Steve Jobs said in that ‘Lost Interview’ about the friction of the sharp, rough stones that rub against each other and create the round diamonds or something? And he paid himself $1 to enforce a semblance of humility on himself — instead of $10,000,000 like some of the bankers who didn’t actually invent and create like he did.Of course, George Bernard Shaw said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man” so there’s something to be said about a certain amount of antagonism in the process of developing as a person and for society.Meanwhile, Marcus Aurelius said: “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing” so if anyone expects not to get into some type of fight (intellectual or physical) in their life then they’re being naive.Plus in chemistry we learn that we have to scratch the pristine pretty glass or throw in an impurity to actually create a crystal or a pearl.And baseball / soccer is always won by unpredictable curveballs rather than everyone playing the same.Just this week I’ve gotten into all sorts of jousts with some people in the Deep Learning community — just to shake the tree and make them think beyond the narrowness of Maths and their dogma that our minds are probabilistic and that’s all.Often, in the jousting we shine a light on other sources of knowledge like Daniel Kahneman’s research on our brains not being probabilistic but fooled by probability; we discover our own ignorances and how we can communicate our ideas better; and we change the minds of others and ourselves.Yes, the male PhDs started with “Why are you posting this crap?” and changed to, “I agree with Twain that there is a strong bias in interpreting intelligence too much as functional/behaviour paradigm. We are bind to an approach that brought us very far in machine learning but may be incomplete and too narrow.”We have to be aware that no one has all the right answers and our purpose is simply to question the “Why?”, learn, hear, improve, make the case for whatever it is we believe in and adapt based on new and better information so that we can solve the questions of “Why?”In lots of ways, it’s important for us to be as honest, direct and open-minded in our feedback as we were when we were kids.

    1. JLM

      .Got to love anyone who quotes Marcus Aurelius, the ultimate citizen-soldier.JLM.

      1. Twain Twain

        He was such a brilliant thinker, :*).

    2. sigmaalgebra

      that our minds are probabilistic and that’s all. Be careful here. I’ll give you some of the secret knowledge that is not well known, especially by people who write popular comments about probability!Go into a lab, observe a number, call it X, and then, with assumptions so meager it’s even a strain to dig into such fine details even to state the assumptions, mathematically you have the value of a random variable, essentially the random variable X, and are fully in the world of probability. Where is this view made clear? Not in the elementary treatments!But for at least 70 years this is the view in essentially everything in the most serious work in probability, stochastic processes, and mathematical statistics.Where to find this view? Well, need a good undergraduate major in pure math and then a good grad course in measure theory and functional analysis. Then can dig into any of the famous texts, say, the classic M. Loeve, Probability. Uh, try to stay away from Feller’s two books — there’s some nice stuff in those two books, but the organization is not so good, some of what he talks about are special cases of important, more general things he omits, and, apparently trying to be more accessible he is not so clear on the measure theory.Where to get the advanced stuff? Courant, Princeton, Hopkins, UNC, Chicago, Berkeley, and Stanford, at least.Why is this view useful? Because with the elementary views, we don’t get to call our X a random variable and, thus, miss out on all we might do with that. And with the advanced views, we do away with the silly nonsense, implied in the elementary courses, that random means unpredictable or unknowable in some important sense. Instead, to be more clear, even fully deterministic processes are also the values of random variables. Indeed, we can nearly never say that something is not random. What then? Well, now that each number we collect is the value of some random variable, we can move on to consider independence, conditioning, that is, conditional probability, conditional independence, correlation, some powerful convergence results, and then we may be on our way to saying something about our random variable X. E.g., maybe we also collect number Y and call it a random variable. Then if we think a little about the situation, maybe our two random variables are obviously not independent and are correlated and maybe we can get some more data that will let us estimate the correlation.And, there’s more!

      1. Twain Twain

        Here are the two common sense questions I asked that made the Deep Learning PhDs really THINK.(1.) Why and when was Probability invented?(2.) Do you guys go around thinking and saying, “Oh I love my mother 88% this second and 35% the next and 63% the second after that?”The answer to (1.) is that Probability was invented to model dice, cards and coins by Pascal and de Fermat in a game in 1654.Unlike us and our minds, DICE DON’T THINK, DON’T HAVE LANGUAGE, DON’T HAVE EMOTIONS, DON’T HAVE CULTURE ETC. Ergo, how can they be valid proxies for how our minds work?The answer to (2.) is that we don’t go around thinking about our relationships and why we love something (our mothers, brands, products etc.) according to probability %’s.The 5-star rating system was invented in the 1930s and stayed only because it fit conveniently with 0%, 20%….100%.However, if common sense tells us that our Probability was an invention to model dice then 5-stars was an invention to model Probability rather than quality.Probability (a quantity) is not equivalent to a quality.Now, of course, that common sense gets the PhDs in Deep Learning all perplexed because so many of their theoretical models are based on Hidden Markov which is a variant within Probability theory.Yes and then it throws out their Hibbert Spaces for data point correlations too, LOL.

        1. Twain Twain

          Ah and then there’s Moore’s Law of exponential growth in processing power which has been hijacked as the underpinning of how quantity will lead directly to some type of Cambrian leap into quality.So I ask them to work through this simple Aristotlian logic from first principles.Suppose we have 0 cats and 0 dogs on day 0. On each subsequent day we get 1 cat and 0 dogs. After 365 days, which of these statements is true:(1.) We have 365 cats and 0 dogs.(2.) We have 0 cats and 365 dogs.(3.) We have equal numbers of cats and dogs.(4.) We have 0 cats and 0 dogs.The logical answer is (1.) We can’t have any dogs because we didn’t have one to start with.Yet there are some Deep Learning theorists who insist that somehow if we throw enough quantities of data about cats into the system we’ll emerge with the quality of a dog.Michael I. Jordan of USC Berkeley just spoke about Probability and Big Data on IEEE Spectrum like so:*

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Did see and read the Jordan piece yesterday and did draw a little from it in the tutorial I posted for you above.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          I’m sorry, this is all confused.You are correct about dice, etc. way back there — I will avoid looking up Pascal, etc., or, okay, I’ll take your 1654.But as ofA. N. Kolmogorov, Foundations of the Theory of Probability, Second English Edition, Chelsea Publishing Company, New York, 1956. English translation of the original German Grundbegriffe der Wahrscheinlichkeitrechnung, where the original was in 1933, probability has been a really, nice, mathematically clear, clean, solid, and useful part of pure/applied math. There is just no question about just what the heck it is. M. Loeve, Probability makes the subject totally clear. While Loeve is a little tough to read (he wrote English like it was French), his students J. Neveu and L. Breiman wrote very clearly. Neveu is elegant, and Breiman is just a total joy to read, can take it with a couple of beers and a bowl of popcorn. Neveu was long in Paris, and his book has some astounding material from the Tulceas (note Saul Bellow), and Breiman was long at Berkeley, and his book has martingale theory, diffusions, regular conditional probabilities, and more. NICE book.So for your (1.), what Pascal did with dice is no longer a very good description of probability. For (2.), just find an old sink that still has one of those grinders in the bottom, toss in (2.), flip the switch for 30 seconds, and otherwise just f’get about it.For artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, as respectable mathematics, mostly just f’get about them.For intelligence, we don’t have anything like a description; we don’t have a problem statement, we don’t have even as much as a weak little hollow hint of a tiny clue about what it is, for a human, kitty cat, hawk, cat fish, …, lobster, house fly, etc. Maybe for a really simple worm with just two neurons we could model part of it.For machine learning, I watched some of Ng’s lectures at Stanford, and what I saw was classic maximum likelihood estimation from statistics done badly, with poor explanation, essentially nothing in hypotheses, theorems, proofs, or conclusions, and the subject treated as essentially just some computational heuristic that might appear to work occasionally.For big data, yesterday I read a good description: Take some people and, as in traditional relational database, have a table with one row for each person. Then in that table have a lot of columns, say, age, income, weight, years in school, …, for a 100 or so. Now, want to predict one of the columns from the others.Then have 2^99 possible collections of independent variables to use to predict the one column as the dependent variable. So, with that many collections of variables, may get a fit, but then can’t be very sure have something instead of just an accident.So, that’s one reason we take the data, divide it in half, do the fit with the first half ( training data ) and test the fit with the second half as test data or whatever term that field uses. But, really the same argument holds: The second half fit might be good just by accident.Yes there are some relevant theorems here.Yes, if there really is a good model, than that dragnet may find it.Still, it’s model fitting without much to go on. E.g., we’re not using Maxwell’s equations to say what we can and can’t do in, say, radio astronomy.Instead of debating the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, or big data, an easier and more solid approach is just to take one practical problem at a time and see if some good results have been obtained.The fields are junk, but if some application works well, and one might, then good for that one application.Here’s one problem: Doing much with data, statistics, etc. needs computing. So, far too many people in computing conclude that all such applications of computing are properly part of computer science; this conclusion is very badly wrong. Bluntly the computer science community, students to professors to full professors to chaired professors and editors in chief of the best journals, are far too often missing the one most important prerequisite — a good undergraduate major in pure mathematics. Sorry ’bout that. The computer guys no more know about statistics or applied mathematics than a Kansas wheat farmer knows how to make a Viennese Sacher Torte or even a loaf of French bread — maybe some such Kansas farmer does.E.g., the last paper I submitted for publication, a paper that clearly should be considered as in computer science, was a real choke in the throat of much of the best of the US computer science community. One chaired professor of computer science at one of the world’s best research universities and editor in chief of one of the best computer science journals wrote me, “Neither I nor anyone on on my board of editors is able to read the mathematics in your paper.” A second such person sent me much the same. For a third such person, I wrote tutorials for two months before they gave up. At another journal, it was clear that the editor with the paper couldn’t handle it, so the editor in chief, a prof of high end EE, stepped in; apparently he walked the paper around his campus, to the math department to get the math checked and to the computer science department to check the relevance for computer science, accepted the paper without revision, and invited me to present at a conference. The paper was published, but I didn’t bother to go to the conference.Bluntly, if computer science is going to get involved in mathematics or mathematical statistics and do more than just make a mess, then they will have to go back and get a good undergraduate major in pure mathematics and much of a Master’s in pure and applied math. Sorry ’bout that.The math is readily available in the best math departments in likely over half of the 50 states. To paraphrase T. E. Lawrence, the math is right there; it’s just a matter of going. Unlike us and our minds, DICE DON’T THINK, HAVE LANGUAGE, HAVE EMOTIONS, HAVE CULTURE ETC. Ergo, how can they be valid proxies for how our minds work? Dice are not valid proxies for how our minds work, and no competent research would claim that they were valid proxies.I will try to help: First, a little background in the foundations and applications of probability, as short as I can make it while being at least respectable. And then two remarks on your issue of using probability with the human mind. Background Walk into a lab and observe a number. Call the number X. Then that X is a random variable, and the number is its value.It’s value is one of possibly many different values that might have been observed.Might have been observed where, when? We don’t really say. Here we are still in, say, some Kolmogorov Russian mathematics. Bare with me — it’s okay.When we walked into that lab, that was one experimental trial. Now what if we do ten such trials? Do we get 10 values for our random variable X? Possibly surprisingly, no! Instead we get values of 10 random variables that maybe we will name X_0, X_1, X_2, X_3, X_4, X_5, X_6, X_7, X_8, X_9, borrowing TeX notation for a subscript.Note: From an earlier post, learned my lesson: Disqus permits a little of HTML but not <sub> and <sup>.Now, sure, maybe we can assume that the X_0, X_1, X_2, X_3, X_4, X_5, X_6, X_7, X_8, X_9 have the same distribution and are independent, or are samples, but that’s jumping ahead.So far, just be comfortable with just our first random variable X. So, we got our X from one trial. Curiously, in all the universe, we see only one trial! So, for the concept of trials we can f’get about those. I know; I know; the old, elementary stuff, and still a lot in social science, still talks about trials, but grown ups mostly don’t. For grown ups, for 10 trials, we get just our X_0, X_1, X_2, X_3, X_4, X_5, X_6, X_7, X_8, X_9. Then, maybe we have reason to assume that these 10 random variables are independent with the same distribution — now the social science people who talk about trials are happy again.Maybe we also measure random variable Y. Well, gee, now X + Y is another random variable! So, we can do arithmetic on random variables. Indeed, with really mild assumptions all such random variables do form a Hilbert space — but that might be jumping ahead.Q. Really, a Hilbert space? But that has completeness. You mean the random variables satisfy completeness?A. Yup, wondrous stuff! The set up is long, but the proof is short.There is more, based on measure theory, which is really what makes probability theory mathematics, but I’ll omit that here. In practice, the measure theory foundation shows, pleasantly, that the resulting probability theory is so darned general that in practice we can nearly always forget about the measure theory foundations. Indeed, thinking of something that is not a random variable takes quite a lot of cleverness and pure math background.However the measure theory foundations do sometimes get involved, e.g., in the fundamental and powerful Radon-Nikodym theorem, and its application to, say, sufficient statistics, martingales, Markov processes, and more, the astounding Skorokhod representation theorem, the beyond belief martingale convergence theorem, the unbelievable ergodic theorem, etc. A good grad course in probability can be a total blast. Long way past dice throwing! Human Mind I Go back into that lab, wire up a male volunteer subject with an electroencephalogram (EEG), show them a picture of, say, Jennifer Lawrence, say, just a head and shoulders shot, for time X milliseconds, and notice something, say, random variable Y from the EEG.Or, now that we have the equipment set up, do this, say, on that one volunteer and get data, that we arrange as pairs, (X_0, Y_0), (X_1, Y_1), (X_2, Y_2), (X_3, Y_3), (X_4, Y_4), (X_5, Y_5), (X_6, Y_6), (X_7, Y_7), (X_8, Y_8), (X_9, Y_9), Now, go drag out all the old Stats 101 stuff, right, Pearson R correlation coefficient, X-Y regression analysis, etc. and do some brain science. So, now have successfully used probability on the human brain!This does not mean that we claim that the test subject had a head full of dice.Besides, made the volunteer happy!Ah, be good and offer him a six pack to calm him down!Ms. Lawrence has one of the prettiest faces I ever saw since the girlfriend I had in high school (and should have married)! If I’d read Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys, then I would have married her, easily, and been deliriously happy. I would have stayed at FedEx, gotten the stock, maybe the $500,000 Fred Smith promised me, and be worth $50 million to $500 million, have had several litters of children (that’s what she wanted, and wanted to get started a bit too soon for prudence). Deliriously happy. Natural blond hair; perfect skin, figure; drop dead gorgeous, sweet, darling, adorable, precious, needing to be cared for, not much interested in the Radon-Nikodym theorem. Such is life. Where can I apply for a redo? Human Mind II Get a bunch of computer science students and have them build a deep learning neural network model of the male human brain based on the data (X_0, Y_0), (X_1, Y_1), (X_2, Y_2), (X_3, Y_3), (X_4, Y_4), (X_5, Y_5), (X_6, Y_6), (X_7, Y_7), (X_8, Y_8), (X_9, Y_9), And then have them say that they have their computer intelligent. Total shovel full of a very busy horse barn that went two months without a shovel.Their model has no promise at all of having anything at all to do with anything at all significant about anything at all important in a human, or any other natural, brain. Nothing. Nichts, nil, nada, zip, zilch, zero. Total shovel full.But maybe they can give a paper at a conference on machine learning. Total shovel full.Hope this clears things up.I’ve got some code to revise; back to work.

          1. Twain Twain

            We’re actually saying the same thing: the way the machines are modeling our intelligence etc is what you call “total shovel full”.The Pascal triangle equations from 1654 are here in this Cambridge paper:*…It makes no difference whether it’s X_0…X_n (so the number of variable outcomes can be greater than the 6 variable outcomes of dice and the variables can also encompass qualitative terms like we see in syntactic structures of Natural Language — pls see graphic) or whether it’s matrix pairs of(X_0, Y_0), (X_1, Y_1), (X_2, Y_2), (X_3, Y_3), (X_4, Y_4), (X_5, Y_5), (X_6, Y_6), (X_7, Y_7), (X_8, Y_8), (X_9, Y_9)Probability is still NOT the panacea tools for modeling the mind and intelligence. Sure, arguments can be made about Probability being proven and applied in the calculations of cells splitting into two, four, eight etc and that the probability the child cell is randomly related to the parent cell and that the information in the child cell is randomly related to the information in the parent cell is mathematically derivable and can be integrated under some type of Guassian curve or modelled in a Hilbert space.A use case example would be, “How can we prove that a set of words (say “Gmail’s bad today”) that appears on Facebook is the direct parent of a set of words that get posted onto a technology blog (say “Is Google evil?”).Just as there are conditions (for example, biochemical, quantum waves, time) that affect our neurons, dendrites, synapses that go well beyond just that probabilistic randomness happens in symbolic variables popping into our minds, so there are conditions other than probabilistic which affect the dynamic mutation of words and sentiments as they traverse the Web.It’s well known in Machine Intelligence (NN, Deep Learning, “Big Data” et al) that understanding Natural Language and our meanings is the hardest problem which has yet been unsolved.Google even posted a video this weak to say this:*…Well, here’s a paradox: in language structure which word is the mean around which we can then calculate the standard deviations and probability of relations?Is the mean derived simply as “the word that appears most frequently in the sentence”? If we do that and have a sentence like “The cat sat on the mat” then the mean word would be “the”.Is Hidden Markov really going to crack the code to language?I make the point about dice not thinking, not having language, not having emotions, not having culture etc. for a reason. Look at the syntactic structures and Hidden Markov currently applied to Natural Language (this is so at Stanford, MIT, IBM Watson, Google, FB, Twitter et al).Is there any emotion, culture, valency orientation (as biochemicals have) in Probability theory and can it be addendumed into it?If not, well…..we’ll have to develop a theory and build a system for a precedent tool (which may not even be mathematical) that takes priority above Probability in our models of neural cells, natural intelligence, language and machine intelligence.We can refer to one of the fathers of computing, John Von Neumann: “When we talk mathematics, we may be discussing a secondary language built on the primary language of the nervous system.”If mathematics is a secondary language then so too is Probability.It really is not about whether Kolmogorov proved that Probability is “mathematically clear, clean, solid, and useful part of pure/applied math”. It really is not about probability being just about dice. There is hypergeometric distribution as per calculating lottery odds and a whole realm of probability and latent theory as applied to complex derivatives like oil derivatives.This specifically is about Probability’s relevance to the modeling our our minds rather than to any object that’s incapable of subjectivity (so, probability applied to dice, oil contracts, lottery tickets, weather is all fine — we’re not challenging the tenets of probability in those use cases).We can, though, challenge its applicability to modeling the mind.It’s about whether Probability can calculate all the biochemical, quantum, time, spatial, objective-subjective differentiations, mutations and integrations that happen inside our minds to generate random thoughts and words.Considerations which haven’t been modeled within Deep Learning community because the existing frameworks and tools — which are expedient for Probability — are regarded as “good enough” so few of the researchers are inclined to venture beyond and actually INNOVATE.So we can all look forward to another few decades of “total shovel full” because these frameworks have been around since the 1950s.And the computer guys have not looked over to Neuroscience or Quantum Physics or Mathematics or Economics or Biochemistry to try and code anything other than the syntactic structures, Hidden Markov and probabilistic cellular automata they have for a lot of how they see and model “intelligence”.

  27. John Lowery

    Great post Fred. I’ve had several experiences where VC’s gave me the same type of empty feedback (and then never invested or gave me solid reasons as to why). I think that VC’s should at least give entrepreneurs honest feedback so that they may choose to refine their presentation or business model. Some VC’s already do – hoping that you’re one of them πŸ™‚

  28. bsoist

    I don’t even know how to respond to this. I could not agree more, but if I didn’t I would say so. :)and I know I am not a real lawyer ( cc @JimHirshfield:disqus ), but arguing is useful. Sometimes I’m tempted to wish my kids weren’t so good at it, but then I remember what an important skill it is.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Objection overruled.

  29. JD Carluccio

    “makes me do the dishes, walk the dog,” Agree. Wife brings down when doing dishes and then you pick up the dogs sh** and he/she brings you back to your toes as a normal human being picking up poop.

    1. bsoist

      I do a lot of cooking and dishes, and even more dog walking. Sometimes I think to myself “doesn’t this dog know who I am and how much important stuff I need to do?” She’s keeping me humble – or trying anyway.

  30. curtissumpter

    This blog attracts smart people. You can simply read the comments and know that. (Actually that’d be a pretty cool addition to a blogging product — a feature that counts the word count in a comment, the syllable count, the sentence length, etc. to measure the quality of the comments … if it doesn’t exist already. It might help advertisers to know what kind of people a blog was attracting or at least give some insight. Or not. I haven’t studied the issue enough but it seems like it’d be useful.) Nonetheless where’s the fun in agreeing all the time. Don’t disagree for the sake of it. That’s really annoying. But disagreement is really important. Steve Jobs said in the famous ad, ‘Think Different.’ But the reality is that most people don’t want people who think different around. Thinking different is uncomfortable. It’s challenging. It can be unsettling if it challenges long held assumptions. It can be revolutionary. It can put people out of work or disrupt the social order on rare occasions. But ironically those are the most valuable thoughts, the most valuable people, and the smartest people appreciate them. Me personally when I run into someone who truly thinks different or just at a very high level I’m so grateful because they’re so rare and useful.



      1. curtissumpter


        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

          YOU RIGHT, IT NOT.

          1. curtissumpter

            Awwww, Grimlock. It takes a strong Transformer to show his sensitive side. Lol.

          2. curtissumpter

            FG & FW — what blogs do you read besides AVC?

          3. fredwilson

            mostly my friends blogs i keep up with their lives and their passions

          4. curtissumpter

            Nothing like AVC?

          5. fredwilson

   is closest to avc i thinksuster is a machine. that guy never met another paragraph he wanted to add. but his posts are really good.gurley and horowitz are the best of silicon valley. both are people i admire friend bijansabet (.com) is the soul of the VC business. he oozes empathy. both on his blog and in real life.those are the best VC bloggers out there in my opinionOn Thursday, October 23, 2014, Disqus

          6. curtissumpter

            Cool. Thanks Fred.

      2. curtissumpter


  31. sigmaalgebra

    Actually I have not lost to her in backgammon in over twenty years because she used to beat me so badly that I couldn’t take it anymore.With my brilliant wife, it was Scrabble: Her verbal aptitude was off the tops of the charts, and my last and best SAT Verbal score was only 654. Once I asked her how she was so good at spelling, and she confessed, “I can see the words.” That’s like cheating, right? And clearly she could see the possibilities for words on the Scrabble board.So, right, at Scrabble she started beating me badly. But I wanted us to continue so that I could get better and catch up. Get better? Yes, I did. Catch up? Nope! She got better faster than I did, and the gap got bigger, not smaller. Finally she was the one who gave up and refused to play me again.Her verbal aptitude? During her Ph.D., for relaxation, she picked up the Henry James, The Golden Bowl and read it quickly, easily. Later at a Johns Hopkins party, she mentioned that she’d been reading James, and a Ph.D. student in English guessed that she’d been reading the popular Daisy Miller. Hearing that she’d been reading The Golden Bowl she said, “In our department that book is only for advanced graduate students specializing in James.”The text of The Golden Bowl has at times been online, and once I downloaded it and tried a few sentences. Of course a few sentence meant several whole pages, we’re talking long sentences! Eventually I might have successfully parsed one of the sentences — maybe! We’re talking tough reading! No problem for her; she zipped right through it. We’re talking verbal aptitude!One more: In her freshman year, a grad student gave her a B, and that was the last for her — it was all As after that, PBK, Summa Cum Laude, Woodrow Wilson, NSF, etc. But she wanted to take a course in European history, for curiosity. So, she signed up as an audit — no risk to her grade point average. But the prof wanted audits also to take the tests, so she did. At the end the prof told her that she should have taken the course for credit since she made the highest score in the class and would have gotten an A. The class? A lecture hall class with 300 students. So, without really trying, she, effortlessly, beat 300 students. Piece of cake. But, she had a fantastic memory. Maybe she had just memorized all the lectures and the whole book; I have no idea how the heck she did it.In some ways, it’s a strange world, and that’s an example of some of the strangeness. Just have to accept it as part of reality; better to understand it than not.

  32. Robert

    Now that’s the best post I have ever seen in my life on the internet πŸ™‚

  33. Traci Tenneson

    On behalf of those of us who suck up to you: It’s because you write honest stuff like this. I’m not in your business world at all but I take stuff I learn here and see it play out in my life in different ways and find it extremely interesting. I also share stuff you write with my kids. I can’t call bullshit here because I don’t know or feel it. But the stuff I learn here makes me much more argumentative and willing to call bullshit elsewhere where I feel confident to do so. So thanks for that too. hahaha. (I’m not really argumentative but it was funnier that way)

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Thank you for this comment, Traci, on behalf of your fellow sucker-uppers. I could make this same comment — everything you said. Everyone in my house knows the name “Fred Wilson” — but also the names of several of the regulars because I quote them to my husband and kids. During an argument with one of my teens a couple of years ago, he said, “I bet Fred Wilson would take my side.” Ha!In terms of sucking up, I don’t think of it as sucking up but rather as affirming and grateful. I know a number of people who never get affirmed because people assume that someone in that position already has all the confidence and affirmation that they need. I have learned to take nothing for granted and what I gain from Fred and this community has been a significant part of my professional — and to some extent, personal — reinvention. It has been incredible.

  34. Dav Siklos

    Hey Fred, I would love to hear your opinion on block-chain technology based crowdfunding. How does a concept like this impact the VC world when equity is made available to even the smallest investor? Especially given how time-sensitive the tech start-up world is.

  35. Mario Cantin

    Got it.

  36. PhilipSugar

    It is just as hard if you are the CEO, and you damn better remember that.I have always said this is what I respect about you. I have always thought is it cause or effect?? Are you great because you are an asshole or are you an asshole because you are great??The answer I have come to believe is you are an asshole because you are great. The more successful, the more money you have the more bad behavior people will tolerate.This sucks, because pride goes before a fall. Yes, there are some that have accumulated so much that it looks like the fall never happens, but it actually does. You see it in the broken marriages, and fucked up kids.It is my biggest fear. I see it happen and I try to stop. I also have a wife that keeps me grounded. If I did not I think I would be out of control.

    1. LE

      Are you great because you are an asshole or are you an asshole because you are great??It’s both. Some people because of no “kickback” or “feedback” will push limits and become assholes. Some people who are assholes will push limits and become great.I remember when I was a young guy and had employees sitting in my office and I would pontificate on things and they would just sit there and listen and never take issue with anything that I say. And I would do the same with customers of mine when I was selling. Just get the order. Didn’t matter to me didn’t miss a beat at all or care.Another example: The girl who cuts my hair will let me say almost anything no matter how outrageous it is. Sometimes I will even push the limits just to see if I can detect (I can) any facial cues which say “wow that’s fucked up”. Even though her words and outward reaction say “not a problem what you are saying just keep the tips coming”.There are actually a fair amount of small business owners that exhibit this tendency. They can and will be totally wacky with anyone but a customer. So they end up developing in their own world and become really fun to be around (because they will say the darnedest things). My uncle was like that and to a lesser extent my dad as well.the more money you have the more bad behavior people will tolerate.Well it’s both the halo effect as well a natural human tendency to not want to cut off the source of your food supply, right? I mean it’s kind of a survival skill.It’s also a firm acknowledgement of “the pecking order”. There is a strong correlation between those who understand the pecking order and those that get ahead. As a generality “losers” don’t understand the pecking order and don’t understand how to work under that system. They expect things are just or should be fair.You see it in the broken marriages, and fucked up kids.I don’t know if you have ever been divorced yourself (I have and I’ve dated many divorced women for that matter and have dealt extensively with their “issues”) but there are two sides to every story. The guy or woman who is a total failure in one relationship can be god’s gift in another relationship. Same with kids, people will think that they are great parents with the kids they have which is not the same as dealing with another kid with behavior problems.

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      upvoted….I am definitely going to use that “I am asshole because I am great” line.

      1. PhilipSugar

        Please don’t misunderstand. Thinking you can be an asshole because you are great is the saddest statement that somebody can say about you.

        1. JamesHRH

          In my first job I called a legendary of our industry and came across like a complete tool. The reason: my boss gave me his phone # and he answered it.I was my boss’ EA and I just assumed that i would get an EA when I called. Doofus.

        2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          I meant in a funny way … like”you are making me angry and you don’t like me when I am angry” kinda stuff.I know I am not great … so can’t use that line the arrogant way. Even if i do … people will laugh at me rather than getting annoyed.

    3. JamesHRH

      Success / money does not change people, it magnifies them.When you chase someone, move cities to be with her, marry her, convert to her religion and then state that one of the things that you cherish about her is that she can be counted on to keep you from becoming an arrogant tool, you have your priorities set right.

  37. Frank W. Miller

    Nice try

  38. Steven Lowell

    Feedback and listening is my favorite….it just gives me that chance to stop and try and read minds or ask myself, “Ok. Wtf are they thinking and why?”.Why did they get ticked off? Why do they care? Why do I care?

    1. bsoist

      Why do I care? We can learn a lot from that one can’t we?

      1. Steven Lowell

        Oh yeah. Definitely.

  39. rich caccappolo

    20 years of not being beaten by GG – come on!!! impossible…

  40. Guest

  41. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Damn, now I’m all paranoid thinking ‘do I play the suck up game?’It’s kind of mind-bending for me, because sometimes I watch the comments and think I observe another way of sucking up, which is criticizing you for the sake of it. Like playing hard to get or something (which I was never good at).

  42. Amar

    Hrmm i am looking for the kidmercury reference in here πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i missed that one. he’s a good push backer too.

  43. JaredMermey

    dissent is incredibly healthy. a culture that allows for respectful dissent is a good culture.makes me think about what charlie o’donnell wrote a few days ago on culture:You’re not difficult because you’re an asshole–you’re not. You’re difficult because you don’t make it easy to have difficult conversations.

  44. Eric Finlay

    *cue marked increase in argumentative comments.

  45. William Mougayar

    Marc tweetstorms.You blogstorm.Some of us (ahem) commentstorm. To each their own stormy way to get feedback in public.

  46. jason wright

    me, me, me, me, me…

  47. Pete Griffiths

    Interviewer: What would you say is your biggest weakness?Candidate: Honesty.Interviewer: I don’t think honesty is a weakness.Candidate: I don’t give a shit what you think.

    1. fredwilson

      ooh, i love that

  48. Dave Pinsen

    Andreessen is into pushback on Twitter and yet he has blocked me there. Neat that my first blocker was the creator of Netscape.

    1. JamesHRH

      Shut up!What was your offence?

  49. Tom Labus

    Lots of people and cos say they like pushback but it’s rare that they really do.

  50. Marissa_NYx

    I was interviewed by Emily a few weeks back for her research project, what a beautiful down to earth girl, balanced & grounded. You always come across humble & proud about your family. Your family and your values is what makes success.Forget the work stuff that is bullshit. family , that is precious and that is everything,

    1. fredwilson

      wow. that is so nice to hear about emily. and thank you for taking the time to let her interview you!

  51. Salt Shaker

    Just a hunch, but did your long summer vacation afford you an opportunity to “step out of the box” a bit, and see the world (and your place in it) a tad differently? Not an epiphany, per se, but an opportunity for a little self reflection (and I’m not just talking about embracing iOS). You seem a bit more introspective, or perhaps It’s just the shrink wannabe in me speaking. #I’mhardlydrrfreud

    1. fredwilson

      yes. very much so.

  52. ShanaC

    Isn’t this what makes blogging good according to you? :p

  53. Conrad Ross Schulman


  54. Sean Hull

    Great post.Maybe it is something like fending off disease. By doing that our immune system learns & becomes stronger.We learn from the process criticism? We learn by falling & failing.

  55. Semil Shah

    Once a year, I do two thing: One, I send a Google Form of about 4-5 questions to a set of friends (say about 200 in industry) and ask for anonymous feedback. Two, I ask a different set of questions on Twitter to get feedback. It is painful to read but there is signal in it.

  56. Donna Brewington White

    But wait… you ARE smart and successful. πŸ˜‰

    1. falicon

      oh but to be able to add handsome to that list too…

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Not touching that one. πŸ˜‰

  57. falicon

    I have to say it’s taking an insane amount of self-control *not* to write a suck up comment now that I know it bugs you so much… πŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      thank you.



  59. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Paddy comes to mind.Paddy when it grows … grows with arrogance… displaying all its glory …but once it becomes mature and ripe …it bends down or bows down.

  60. JamesHRH

    I gotta bear down. Choked I did not make the “keeping Fred real” list ;-P

  61. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Getting feedback —– many do.Hearing it —– many do.Listening to it —– very few really do.

  62. kirklove

    It’s the second part that’s hard. The “and listening to it”. Because getting feedback is easy. Plenty of folks like to share their opinion. Listening to it and deciding what to take and what to not is the challenge.I’ll also add I struggle with the messenger part, too. The same exact feedback from one person (say whom I like) vs someone (say I don’t like) is processed very differently. I need to work on that. Good feedback is good feedback regardless of the source.

  63. Chimpwithcans

    Holy Crap that’s an amazing interview.

  64. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    All that talk of democracy and all the time I thought the USA was intended as a republic.I guess the founding fathers would roll in their graves. A little enshrining of freedoms rather than restrictions might help. Like – You may run a small business – you are free to offer services for financial reward, caveat emptor (so if you dont like uber dont buy – but dont say others cant enjoy a lesser service for a lesser charge – its called a marketplace)

  65. Susan Rubinsky

    Do you think women do the debating and the suckup differently than men in general?

  66. Susan Rubinsky

    Also — and this is something I am always discussing with my 17 year old son (teenagers have such big egos sometimes) — this is my rule: The second you are feeling like you are the best person in the room is the second you will do something completely stupid and fall from your little mountain. A lifelong lesson that I am still learning. LOL.

  67. panterosa,

    Sucking up automatically means a) you think you suck and b) just hope the other person is vain enough to want to be stroked rather than challenged so that c) they don’t notice you suck because you have neither the balls nor brains to challenge them with anything worthwhile.

  68. Donald E. Foss

    It’s ironic. I have read Marc’s entire interview and two places where they had snippets with additional comments. As I read the first paragraph, I immediately thought about Marc and his near continuous argue-fest on Twitter.Even, perhaps especially, CEO’s have the same problem as what you’re describing. I think anyone in a position of power experiences it to some degree. Similar to what you said, I play my wife in Scrabble and lose nearly every time. Being a CEO, I’m an eternal optimist, so I keep playing Scrabble anyway. Beyond that, with 3 teenage daughters, I’m lucky to have an ego at all.At the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up, I never enjoy not being right or being brought down a level, but it’s critical to remaining a menche. It’s critical to avoiding group think.

  69. Paul Ivanov

    The quote from Marc Andreessen reminds me of the “I’d like to have an argument” Monty Python sketch:

  70. jason wright

    I’ll give the Yahoo Mail team some feedback. Stop thinking about your Alibaba bonuses and fix the product. “temporary” is now three days ago. My gmail account is becoming more familiar to me as every day passes;”We’re experiencing some technical difficulties…We’re sorry, but Yahoo Mail can’t load due to a temporary error. You can try back again shortly, or visit our help pages for ways to troubleshoot the issue.Temporary error: 14″

  71. Charlene Ngamwajasat MD

    I think this post will embolden more people to express their honest opinions & that’s a good thing. There are two extremes, the sycophantic ones that re-inforce the bubble & the troll-like ones that attack the person & not the issue at hand. I think that playing devil’s advocate is always a worthy exercise, even if it’s with yourself because it forces you to critically think about all the angles & try to avoid groupthink. Sometimes it’s important to stay the course in spite of all the naysayers and sometimes it’s important to heed their counsel or at least listen to it so you can address it dead on when someone else brings up the same adversarial point. Entrepreneurship is interesting because no matter what is said, it ultimately comes down to what is or isn’t done & what the market says (ie we don’t need your product, we love it, pivot or drown).

  72. Eh Lu Htoo


  73. richardaltman

    my site is at it’s functional and in progress, if you give me feedback, i’ll listen, this article was like, as far as VCs go, i have no opinion on them, chicken egg plus informed gambling or they are just savvy nerds from school town or rich town

  74. riemannzeta

    Open loops and/or only positive feedback lead to instability!