The Jiu-Jitsu Move

When a new technology or a new entrant or some new behavior comes into a market, the initial reaction is often to reject it.

But, as my partner Brad likes to say, the better move is to take that new energy coming at you and use it to your advantage. He calls it the “Jiu-Jitsu Move.”

A good example is the emergence of Wikipedia in schools about fifteen years ago. Most teachers freaked out and told their students not to use it for primary research, citing the “inaccuracy” of the service.

But a few clever teachers started assigning their students Wikipedia entries to fix. That is a Jiu-Jitsu move.

Another example is personal health information. Many in the health care industry see the increasing amount of our health care information in our own hands as a risk to them and their profession. But a couple years ago when I went in for my annual physical, when I was using an iPhone, my doctor asked to see my Health app. He said it was another data point for him to use in my care. That was a Jiu-Jitsu move.

I spent the day yesterday at a real estate industry event and talked to a lot of agents about the fact that their clients are often more informed than they are these days. I encouraged them to embrace that fact and use it to their advantage and not fear it. It is hard when you have grown up in an industry when your advantage was information and you no longer have that working for you.

But I honestly believe the only thing to do with progress is embrace it. Fighting it is futile.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. rbrke

    I wish some teachers and parents would use a jiu-jitsu move when “competing” with technology. We all complain about the power of iPads, phones, PS4s, and Xbox’s have on our kids but we don’t turn that power for educational purposes. Compare the immersiveness of an Xbox game to most “education” apps. Not even in the same league. We need some jui-jitsu moves here and completely new approach.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Completely agree!

    2. fredwilson

      I took my son to the Normandy beaches when he was 12 .I took him to Ponte du Hoc and started explaining the battle to him. He stopped me and said “dad, I’ve taken those guns hundreds of times in Call Of Duty” .That was a lesson for me in the power of games to edicedu and inform

      1. Vendita Auto

        Agree but “you” have to know what is historically correct

      2. JLM

        .”Rangers lead the way.”I stood at the bottom of that cliff and looked up for half an hour in awe of those men.When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t understand the lineage. When I went to Ponte du Hoc, I got it.Hallowed ground.Those were men. Respect.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Pointsandfigures

          I wanna be an Airborne Ranger, live that life of sex and danger….

      3. LE

        He should realize that he is lucky to have you as a father because of your attitude. You didn’t say ‘oh it’s just a game’. Let me explain.When I was growing up my dad always pushed having mechanical ability. He would say ‘you don’t want to be like the doctor that has to call someone anytime they need something fixed’. He survived the concentration camps because of that ability actually.After I moved out I took up the sport of rc helicopter flying which involved building the gas chopper from absolute scratch (other than the engine) and re-building after the inevitable crash. Part of the learning experience. So you work for months building and then on the first or 2nd flight it breaks itself up and you have to diagnose and fix and get working again. (mid 1980’s cost $2k..). With nobody to help you at all.Anyway thinking my dad would be proud I tell him about all of this.His reaction?Oh that’s just a toy.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I think people from the Depression generation had much less time to “play” however we define that. I think he served you well. I have often told the story of learning to fix lawn-mowers.I cannot imagine surviving the camps.I have a friends mother a very wealthy and elegant woman who has the numbered tattoo on her arm. I thought I am surprised with all of the plastic surgery she has had she hasn’t had that removed. Then I realized it serves as a reminder.Does he ever talk about it? I’m guessing not much.I had a roommates father that survived D-day, battle of the Bulge, and saw the camps. He had never talked to his son about it. Strangely it was easier for him to talk to me about it. My roommate had to work late at First Boston, and they were visiting. We went to dinner and then were talking on the couch. My roommate came in and said Dad!! You never were willing to talk to me about those times. The camps had etched a very bad memory in his brain. More so than losing friends in those battles.

          1. LE

            Actually with the number [1] it’s was the opposite. He would have doctors ask him what it was (or know what it was) and he got special treatment as a result. Human behavior at work. Not to trivialize in any way but a good example of ‘party in your brain’ as I like to say.I realized it serves as a reminder.Not with my Dad. There were several groups of survivors and my Dad fell into the ‘don’t complain and talk’ camp. We went with our siblings to some event of children of survivors. We were shell shocked at (what we thought) was all the whining. We weren’t raised that way. My dad remember thought Germans made good products. Also they paid reparations. German check came every month. Even after he died I think my mom still gets one (she was born in US). Also there was other money that he got in lump sums within the last 10 years. It paid off. I bought plenty of German products (printing equipment and cars..)Does he ever talk about it? I’m guessing not much.Literally never did. Remember only one time when I was sixteen and complained about something. He then threw in my face what he went through when he was sixteen. And that was it. Not again and not before from memory. Told me stories of how he would get one over on guards by keeping the elevators broken so the other prisoners didn’t have to work though. And how he used to fool a thermometer to prove your were sick. Maybe things like that. He was never trained as an electrician. He manage to fake that though. When he came to this country he did electrical work on the side. Growing up I went with him to help him when I was 5 or 6 I think.Why no play and no games? Because he survived because he had skills that could be used and he could do a job. Hence people that were silly and couldn’t do that (and had no capacity for hard work) died. He didn’t do hard labor work he had skills and intelligence and hence he survived. Why he thought art and music as a career are stupid. Those people died had little value. (I am sure there are historians who will dispute this btw). To this day you know I still get annoyed when I see people on this blog joke or be trivial. My brains says ‘that’s stupid’. That said before the war he was studying to be a rabbi but held a side job that allowed him to learn skills and that saved his life.Strangely it was easier for him to talk to me about it. Yep. Ditto. Same with my dad. Talked at colleges was interviewed. I have the tapes. Have not listened to them yet. It’s strange given how curious I am.[1] Yes he had one and didn’t remove it as did he surviving brother and sister (everyone else died.

      4. Pointsandfigures

        When I took my kids there, I looked and still can’t believe they did it. A few weeks later we had breakfast with Walter Ehlers and he told them how they did it.

    3. awaldstein

      Yup so true–as the person who brought Carmen Sandiego and a host of other edu-gaming titles to market.

    4. mplsvbhvr

      Now if only you needed to type in the quadratic formula to open chests in Fortnite we’d have a revolution on our hands…Seriously though – has anyone ever put together a trivia game where students compete globally for trophies and cosmetics? GabeN has shown us the power of hats… has no one figured out how to port the same motivation to “book learning”?Maybe it exists – curious if anyone has seen anything I haven’t.

  2. David A. Frankel

    So many factors contribute to people ignoring progress: ego, arrogance, fear of change, risk aversion and a lack of understanding of the opportunities that progress can offer. Entrepreneurs (and, interestingly, Millennials) get this. The Establishment does not. As always, thank you for the reminder that we need to embrace the changes we are experiencing and adapt to them, not resist them.

    1. LE

      Existing players ‘The Establishment’ are entrepreneurs. Also you have to factor in the age of the person involved. Older people have more to lose than someone fresh out of school or without children. And they have, in some cases at least, vastly more obligations in general and or might have to think about retirement. So the risk they are willing to take is not going to be the same as for a millennial.For sure many people suck, are stuck in the mud, lame, rest or their laurels, lazy and so on. But there are other factors at work here that put them in a position to not be able to deal with changes and want to protect the status quo.

    2. JLM

      .The wiz kids who wrecked the US economy were 20-something geniuses with MBAs and mousse in their hair designing derivatives.They didn’t know how to foreclose on the junk tranche of that Birmingham second lien roof loan. Cause they had no experience.I hit a good lick being on the other side of that crowd.There is something to be said for wisdom and judgment.”Wisdom – the application of good judgment over a protracted period of time.Good judgment – the product of experience.Experience – the dividend conveyed by bad judgment and failure.”Your generation didn’t invent sex, entrepreneurism, or innovation.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. JamesHRH

      This is a callow statement.Adopting new ideas is a function of mindset and capacity.I had dinner with ran energy company CFO in 2012. He was super capable, going flat out with a spouse, 3 kids & a serious, challenging career.He had no clue what was happening on the web – how could he, with that workload?Millenials are not secret keepers of the magic. They are just in the zone of life to be carrying more newness.

      1. PhilipSugar

        I completely agree.I have a couple observations if we are going to stereotype people (bad).Millennials have grown up in an with everybody is a winner. That has made them self centered. I have had a millennials tell me I need to learn how to work with them. Last I looked I sign the back of the check and them the front, the fact that the thought of how do you work with me never crossed their mind is telling.They do use more technology. Now is this good? I view technology as having only two purposes:How does it make/save me money. Real Estate PlatformsHow does it make my life better. Health Care Apps.I will use. BUT:Do I think having your head buried in your phone 24/7, tweeting, face booking, etc, while ignoring the important people around does either?Well you know the answer.I guarantee that CFO is using the shit out of technology. He has dashboards, phone apps, models, etc that were not possible 20 years ago when he started his career.Does he know the latest “zazzies” app? Love that commercial:

  3. PhilipSugar

    You know I first learned judo playing football. if you pull somebody their instinct is to resist back, and then when you push them their resistance just aids your push.I think it is an interesting world. Sometimes I think I am the one resisting.

  4. JaredMermey

    A parallel (perhaps a corollary): Often times when a new technology enters a market, it is either too early or just slightly off.Other players often see the miss as a reason not to invest in something similar that the market might accept. They should analyze why something went wrong instead of blanket-ly dismissing it.

  5. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Disheartening that the “Jiu-Jitsu move” doesn’t work on posters intentionally lying, misinforming campaigns, pushing talking points from talking heads, prosocial lies, intentionally deceptive, prevarications and falsification we called out and continuing with lies called alternative truths.We blocked three of the culprits new posters are now engaging. They need your interaction to live. We chose to let their lies die by blocking them.Captain Obvious!

  6. Jeremy Robinson

    This is a nice illustration of how we should think of emotional intelligence as a form of common sense. “….talked to a lot of agents about the fact that their clients are often more informed than they are these days. I encouraged them to embrace that fact and use it to their advantage and not fear it.” Leaders and investors who demonstrate flexibility and vulnerability draw others to them, building trusting. There’s nothing as powerful as a smart person being able to be vulnerable about what he doesn’t know to allow others to add value and thereby increase a feeling of community and connection. This is also the secret sauce for building a sense of belonging on teams.

  7. Diego Antiñolo

    Interesting view on a industry historically leverage on information. The easy tactic is to focus on client service, which was not a priority to many.What is your strategic insight as a new leverage?

  8. curtissumpter

    God. Some days I love this blog.

  9. Frank W. Miller

    Nick: “Sometimes you just have to let art …flow… over you”,

  10. Girish Mehta

    Be Water My Friend…“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friend”.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Sorry, my culture, training, and experience has me regard such comments as just nonsense, likely dangerous nonsense.”Water becomes the cup.”E.g., if there is a good analogy or metaphor here, it is not clear enough to take seriously.Instead, literally, under common conditions, the water will take the shape of the inside of the cup. But the cup will likely be made of some metal or ceramic, and no way will the water become a metal or ceramic.Being vague or even obviously literally nonsense is not a sign of any deep or valuable information or insight.

      1. Chimpwithcans

        The whole martial arts link and “going with the flow” as an overarching theme clearly not doing it for you?

        1. Girish Mehta

          Ha, Nicely done on the “going with the flow”…thats right up there with something by the expert @JimHirshfield.You obviously read “Water becomes the cup” within the frame of the previous line – “Be formless, shapeless like water”. Now, I wonder if that was really so difficult.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            > “Be formless, shapeless like water”.To me, that is still nonsense: Clearly literally it’s nonsense. As a metaphor or analogy, just what it is claiming is no more clear than mud but, maybe, is recommending being self destructive. Moreover, if the meaning were made more clear, we’d still be way short on any evidence for just why we should follow the advice.Again, my culture, training, and experience has me regard such comments as just nonsense, likely dangerous nonsense.Here my intention is just to let you know.Put more clearly, I’ve heard many such things before, all from parts of Asia and India. IMHO, for people with culture, training, and experience in STEM fields in the US and from the last few hundred years of western Europe, my reaction, if articulated, will be common.To be more clear, “Be formless, shapeless like water” will long have a tough time getting translated at all well from the western Pacific and east across the Pacific to people STEM fields, medicine, law, finance in the US. Such a remark might do a little better in parts of California than, say, the US Midwest Rust Belt.Bluntly if my auto mechanic said such a thing, he’d never touch my car again. Same for my physician, any lawyer or financial planner, any kitchen and bath renovator, etc. If I were hiring and a candidate made such a remark, he’d never get hired. If he were already working for me, likely soon he’d be fired.I’m being blunt but not really wrong.The> as an overarching theme clearly not doing it for you?is a nicely phased, if maybe a little too subtle, gracious, delicate, euphemistic, gentle, humorous way to put it.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          > “going with the flow”While I don’t really know what that means, it sounds like an invitation to stop thinking, and that would be self destructive.

          1. Mike Cautillo

            Oh don’t you worry, your mind never stops thinking with or without your illusion of control.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Just now on the back porch I’ve got a big bucket, covered, soaking white cotton dish towels, with laundry detergent, chlorine bleach, and some sulfur based iron remover that fumes. The bucket weighs about 70 pounds. Now my “illusion of control” is that I’m better off (A) leaving fumes outside and (B) not dropping the 70 pounds on my foot or in my house! I value that “illusion”. Indeed, should I drop that bucket on my foot in the house and spread all that reactive liquid, I’m sure I’d regret it! The stuff in some parts of physics that all we have are illusions is a fine point a bit distant from my efforts to get the stains out of the white, cotton dish towels!!

          3. Mike Cautillo

            It’s not your voluntary thinking that provides you with any real gateway to enlightenment my friend, it’s of the involuntary kind that exists in most humans. Not the right medium though a clue would be to ask yourself (your true self) that if it is really so, that you had to really access your conscious mind to keep you out of harms way as you describe. Please give your being much more credit/respect than that.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            > It’s not your voluntary thinking that provides you with any real gateway to enlightenment my friend, it’s of the involuntary kind that exists in most humans.I’m not sure just what you mean by “enlightenment”, and maybe I don’t see or have any of that.While I don’t know where all my original ideas, even those in math proofs, come from, I don’t trust anything that didn’t pass careful review by my “voluntary thinking.”E.g., early in my work in writing software, commonly I’d take a listing of some code I’d written, pretend I was someone else, and TRY to find something wrong with the code, no matter how small, no matter how bizarre the case. I have faster ways of working now, but I still check code, so far apparently carefully enough.

    2. JLM

      .Do not BE the water; harness its power.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Girish Mehta

        Water can be still, it can flow, or it can crash.Be Water My Friend.

        1. JLM

          .The water is more powerful.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. PhilipSugar

      As always, great quote. Can you imagine being a person that everybody wanted to kick your ass?

  11. sigmaalgebra

    When a new technology or a new entrant or some new behavior comes into a market, the initial reaction is often to reject it. Of COURSE: Nearly everything that is new is total, coughed up, upchuckable, deliberately a scam, garbage, nonsense.Lying, manipulation, deception, duplicity, etc. must ruthlessly be eradicated from the garden or will take over the grass, flowers, pumpkins, raspberries, etc.Don’t judge a book by its cover. Being so foolish as to take a book just by its cover is at best a waste of time, money, and effort and possibly dangerous.Have to remember the simple, old, still wise words:Many are culled (called). Few are frozen (chosen). Measure twice. Saw once. Trust but verify. Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see and still will believe twice too much. In pure/applied math I learned a lesson:In pure math, it is accepted that the proofs are really important and can’t have even a tiny error, e.g., could be routinely reduced to purely mechanical symbol substitution. Well, in advanced pure math, following lots of such proofs is difficult.So, there are books on applied math that try to be easier to read and omit the proofs.Sadly the lesson I learned is that the proofs are crucial discipline and without them the presentations without the proofs tend to have a lot of errors, some serious.Here math can teach us a broad lesson: Work done with less than a lot of care tends to have lots of errors. Math is a good place to learn this general lesson because in math we can usually tell the difference between what is true and false. But, again, from math or nearly anything else, getting rid of the false stuff usually takes careful work.Quite generally we need to be careful, really severe, about getting high quality evidence. We are careful in lots of places in pure and applied math, physical science, engineering, medical science, law, finance, etc.But I honestly believe the only thing to do with progress is embrace it. Fighting it is futile. Sure, for actual, real, genuine, significant “progress”.ButWhen a new technology or a new entrant or some new behavior comes into a market …. so far we have not yet any significant indication of real progress.

  12. jason wright

    Brad seems to be a very under the radar secret weapon.

  13. Richard

    VCs can be so blind at times. The more common case is technology built by people without enough input from the market of users, without an understanding of the use cases, without significant industry experience, without an understanding of an income statement.Fred, you have a tremendous amount of charisma. But, try a test sometime and blog on the opposite of what you believe to be true. My hunch is that you’ll get the same number of responders telling you how insightful you are.

    1. Pointsandfigures

      Jiu-Jitsu is a good business strategy. Entrepreneurship isn’t a calm sea. A rogue wave can come out of nowhere. While you have plotted a course, being flexible enough to handle the rogue wave keeps you in business and surfing on it might take you in a different direction but help you get to the end of the journey faster.

  14. Vendita Auto

    “Fighting it is futile” I thought the same thing at the same time

    1. Vendita Auto

      Love Bjork more today than from the Sugerbabes days

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Never saw her before. She’s ADORABLE!!! Why? Her face is still childlike with her short, turned up nose, small chin, perfect skin. And she is animated. that is, with her tone of voice, facial expressions, head movements, hand usage, VERY expressive, e.g., just naturally does brilliantly well at the main goal of art — “communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion.” So, she gets her emotions across and, in particular expresses a LOT about what she’s thinking and feeling. That makes her seem real, open, forthcoming, reveling, maybe honest and not manipulative, approachable; those and that she is smiling, that is, looks happy, also has her look approachable — net she’s not just attractive but adorable. That’s where girls and women are MUCH better than boys and men — no contest. When she removes the back of the TV set, a lot of men with a background in electronics are screaming “Keep your hands OUT of there” because of the possibility of some hot parts and especially of some capacitors with a lot of charge.Some of the feminists want to push the idea that boys and girls are different in genitals and only a little more. That’s a big lie that could get young people confused. Björk shows some striking differences if just look! A URL to her video should be in Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys!

  15. LE

    It is hard when you have grown up in an industry when your advantage was information and you no longer have that working for you.Just to be clear here most real estate agents are not selling in high priced areas and making large commissions and earning a big income.If the average selling price in the US is $200k and the commission is 6% that breaks down as follows hypothetically:Selling agent 1.5%Listing agent 1.5%Listing broker 1.5%Selling broker 1.5%Consequently the average commission (using rough numbers) is only $3000 for a completed sale. And importantly agents don’t get paid for all of the schlepping around and getting jerked around by both buyers and sellers. And most agents are not selling tons of houses per year either. So total income is not that high although the job offers good flexibility.Agents have to complete, deal with and tie together a host of loose ends (inspections, title, deal with attorney review, answer questions, mortgage) which at least today is easier because of email. However that also creates more work for them. My point is the information that is out there is only one small part of the value that they provide in terms of assisting the market.That said if you can get a job selling real estate in a high priced area like Manhattan or parts of California where things just fly off the shelf and there are bidding wars the saying ‘nice work if you can get it’ applies. Not the same in most other parts of the country.

    1. Jon Michael Miles

      I’ve always viewed my agents as way over-priced concierges. I hope beyond hope that VR services and google maps replace the initial drive, handymen or women, show us the actual home, inspectors inspect, and software helps close the deal. The MLS is outdated and deserves to join the Yellow Pages.

      1. LE

        It’s an interesting quirk of human nature that people react the way you do when the money comes directly out of their pocket vs. when it is buried in a way where they don’t see (for lack of a better way to put it) the waste or inefficiency.Check and see what people make who pickup trash in NYC. In many cases more than someone selling real estate (or leasing it) and especially with overtime. Look at what people who are on patronage jobs earn working for the Port Authority make and you will be quite surprised.Part of my point is that people making money, even if it’s inefficient, is not necessarily a bad thing. You have to accept that those people working for the bridge tolls everyone pays (look at what it costs to go into the city) are supporting families and injecting that money into the economy. If they get paid less who will replace that income? I know this sounds like a stupid argument and point but the truth is it’s similar to how unions kept wages up whereby those jobs could quite easily have gone to the lowest bidder (not all about working conditions).A home purchase (sorry to be cliche) is a big important transaction. In theory if the pay for that goes down the quality of the person involved would in theory go down. And for sure problems could happen and things could get overlooked (I am sure that happens now in cases anyway). Hard to believe by the way that the people making big money in real estate sales are the same quality and ability as those handled transactions for 1/100th of the price. Possible but not very likely. I think they add value. If you don’t think so try getting them to show you an expensive piece of real estate they have listed and see if they don’t qualify you first prior to opening the door.I have been involved in transaction on the buying end. And in the case of certain agents you are right. I’ve noted that their marketing is well off the mark so as a result I’ve gotten great deals. Deals that I wouldn’t get if they had their act together. Bad for the seller good for me. The problem is the pay at x% doesn’t allow someone with greater ability to market to get into the game. So the seller is actually losing when in fact they would come out ahead if there were ironically more expensive options (but because of competition and legacy issues there is not).

        1. Jon Michael Miles

          My next door neighbor is an agent. He has a Volt, an Audi, a Z-20, a Harley and a vacation home in Florida. It’s an expensive and wildly inefficient cabal ripe for the picking.I’ve bought and sold one town home and two condos, probably upwards of 70k in commission. In what universe was the agent truly necessary and worth $70,000?One agent took the listing and profited wildly in two weeks. And in another case I had MY agent working against ME withholding offers that were higher that we found out when the potential buyer contacted us personally the next day when they lost the deal.The agent’s job is to collapse the deal onto it’s singularity and move on. It is outrageous. Layer on that property taxes, condo fees, insurance, and interest on equity and real estate is a flat if not loser investment.It’s not all real estate agents obviously. There are many layers in what I’ve said, but the agent commission is a good place to start to me.

  16. LE

    Jiu-Jitsu move when you are running or jogging and a dog runs toward you. Reverse and run like a crazy person toward the dog and it should retreat [1][1] I have done this but it only works 1 time per dog generally. Important that your arms are flailing and you are making a large amount of noise keep that in mind.

  17. William Mougayar

    To complement that thought, I like the ending of Bob Dylan’s “The times they are A-changing” The slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be past

  18. Alex Kistenev

    Here’s another example from my experience (I don’t share the URL otherwise it’ll look like an ad).We’re building a Slack bot for asynchronous daily standup meetings. I often hear from Agile coaches that it’s against Agile principles – standup meetings should be run only face to face.But you know what? Thousands of people are doing standups via Slack (there ~25 similar bots), it’s a common practice in some Fortune 500 companies already.So when I hear many people advocate are against something new, I start asking myself “is it a beginning of a new trend?”

    1. JLM

      .The whole juju of stand up meetings has been around forever.The idea came from the military who held councils of war on the fly. George Washington used to conduct his councils of war with everyone standing.He had no furniture.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  19. Vendita Auto

    A Chinese Jiu-Jitsu move that I like “Poor rural students get priority in college admissions”…

  20. Pointsandfigures

    You were using an iPhone? If I was your doctor and knew you well I certainly would have thought something might have been wrong with you.

  21. Pointsandfigures

    One of the things that I have learned with tech is that the cream will rise to the top in a lot of cases. It makes the A player even better. There are certainly cases where tech comes in a leaves a trail of death and destruction like Sherman through Georgia (trading industry was like that). But, in Fred’s example, many of the real estate agents that embrace tech will do more deals faster and earn more money because of it creating a bigger business than they otherwise would have.