Q&A on Venture Capital for Outsiders with Michael Gibson of 1517 Fund

Michael Gibson of 1517 Fund takes questions on how to think about venture capital, for indie thinkers working outside of normal paths: Which types of projects should raise money, how to connect with investors, how to not sound like a crank, and why more intellectuals should build startups.

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Questioner: [00:00:00] Michael Gibson was originally pursuing a philosophy Ph.D. at Oxford. Ultimately, he decided to break from that and go all-in on the venture capital world. Michael has had experience both in more academic institutional, intellectual environments and also in the VC world.

Michael's also, it should be said, roughly in the Peter Thiel orbit. He's worked with Peter Thiel. He played a role in the course with Blake Masters, then became quite well known and quite respected, the course at Stanford. I believe he was also a part of the Thiel fellowship where they, basically, pay promising young people to not go to college. Basically, Michael's introduction is, he's a venture capitalist right now with the 1517 Fund.

He's basically had his finger in a whole bunch of different, interesting experimental projects that all have a very anti-institutional outsider edge. He's got a wealth of knowledge and insight that, I think, could be very useful for lots of people here. He's a friend of mine. I've known him for some time. He's just a cool, smart guy all around. People should feel free to ask him anything you want.

This is quite a private setting, so everyone should feel comfortable. Let's just have an open discussion. Anything people want to ask about venture capital is a fair plan. That's my little introduction there. What I suggest is, I received a few emails from people, so I have some questions in advance from members of the community.

But if you have a question, I want you to just type it into the chat. That way, I can keep tabs on them. There should be time for everyone to ask their question or possible questions. In the event that there's a ton of questions, that way I can do triage and make sure we have time for everything, okay? First of all, I want to welcome Michael and say thank you, Michael, for joining us today.

Michael Gibson: [00:01:40] Hello. Thanks for having me, man, and meet you all as well.

Questioner: [00:01:45] Yes. How're you doing today? Are you good?

Michael Gibson: [00:01:47] I'm good. I'm in Boulder, Colorado checking the scene out here because I was based in San Francisco from 2010 to 2020. I moved down to LA, actually, last January. San Francisco is falling apart, and there was a bubble in the real estate.

So I got out of town. Then after that, COVID hit. Now, it's an open question about, where should someone be located? Where do you want to be located? Justin, I know you have moved around a little bit too.

Questioner: [00:02:21] Yes, it's something. Actually, a lot of us are talking about right now, for sure. That might even be something that might be relevant to get into at any point. While people are thinking about what their questions might be related to venture capital for outsiders like us, I have a few questions to start with.

Michael, the first question I wanted to ask you that I think is just a good way to kick things off that might be useful for a lot of people in this community is just -- I'm sure, as a venture capitalist, you probably get a lot of crazy emails, and DMs, and proposals, and pitches from crazy people out in the world, right? Especially because you have this reputation as being interested in funding outsiders.

My question to you is, what is the most common, obvious predictor that, "This is a terrible idea that I would never fund?" In other words, when people approach you, what is the most common way that they out themselves as someone that you would never pay much attention to or be interested in working with?

Michael Gibson: [00:03:12] Okay. I guess it depends on where the initial connection occurs. We have a form submission on our website because we want to be as approachable as possible. On that form, it's pretty quick, people explaining themselves. They'll talk about having tinfoil on their heads.

I got pulled into something two weeks ago where it was borderline. I responded to the email. Danielle, my co-founder, was like, "Oh, no, you shouldn't have done that." Now I've received six emails from this person. He's talking about buying hookers in Switzerland. I'm just like, "Okay --

Questioner: [00:03:47] Well, okay, but what are the telltale predictors? Like what are signs that we can be aware of people who might want to pursue this path? What are things that you should definitely not do because it will immediately out you as someone who's not very investable?

Michael Gibson: [00:03:58] I think the first thing is just being grandiose and long-winded. In your communication, if it is over email or a form, don't go on and on in some novel-length about this world-defying technology that you've invented. Just really stay concise and try to present yourself as professionally as possible.

That's just the bare minimum, right? To go back to Danielle. She has a great thing. Some of the best ideas, though, are on this borderline of what she says, "Is it just crazy, or is it crazy awesome?" The line between the two sometimes is hard to tell. You do want to be professional though. Just straightforward, a crisp summary of what you're working on, who you are, why you're contacting us, and how you heard about us.

That kind of stuff is pretty straightforward. If it's in person, you got to read the situation. It's like the elevator pitch. Let's say you're at a conference, and you meet someone, and you're walking with them briefly. Understand that you only have like three to five minutes and that person has probably got other things to do.

You want to make it sure that it's like, okay, 60 seconds, three-minute pitch. Here are the details. Try to get some information that you can exchange, so you can get in touch down the road. But you never want to give the appearance of being overly needy, or stalky, or any of that kind of stuff. It's more just about the professional vibe at minimal. Then it's only really when you get into things.

Like if we did take a pitch meeting or a call and you start digging in, the red flags you find then are usually around just -- you want to have integrity, and you want to present yourself as truthfully as possible. I'm not a big of the reality distortion field where people boastfully make claims about things they're going to accomplish. I'd rather just have people be as straightforward as possible. But at that point, it's not anything that I think you're suggesting where it's like, "Oh my God, I invented fusion. I'm leading with that, and all caps in my email." [laughs]

Questioner: [00:06:15] Okay, great. Basically, if it's too long, that's a warning sign. If it's too grandiose, that's a warning sign. If there are any words in all caps, that's a warning sign.

Michael Gibson: [00:06:23] [laughs] Yes.

Questioner: [00:06:24] Okay. These are good. Low-hanging fruit for everyone to be aware of if they ever pursued developing a pitch. I see people seem a little shy. But you're all here for a reason. So don't be shy. Type your questions in the chat. Let them accumulate. Fortunately, I have some others prepared, so –

Michael Gibson: [00:06:39] Oh, I will say this too. Another thing is, do a cold outreach, whether it's through our form or an email. Is always a weaker signal than if someone who knows us in the sense of like, "Oh, you met someone." We have a community of lots of people.

If you email us and we interact, we'll probably let people join the community. And if there are ways other people can vouch for you too, that's a real strong, positive signal. Not endorsing your idea or whatever, but it's just like, okay, you're not coming from outer space or something

Questioner: [00:07:17] Okay. This is basically going to be my next super basic question that I think everyone could possibly benefit from if they want to pursue these routes. If you actually do have a viable idea, and you're not a slightly raving madman, maybe in a good way, if you have no connections whatsoever to anyone with money or funding, what is the best first step?

Is it trying to make that friend of a friend contact? Maybe someone who knows someone and you should just approach that person forthrightly and say, "Hey, I have this interesting idea. Is there any way you could connect me with someone?" Is that the best way to do it, or manual cold contact friend-of-a-friend method? Or what do you suggest?

Michael Gibson: [00:07:57] I guess there are two things going on here. One is the stage of the idea to the product company. Then on the other track is raising money from potential sources. As you develop further along on the product side, let's say, or the proof of concept and so on, you're going to be interacting with different types of people along the way.

Let's say you just have an idea and nothing else. At that point, I'm going to say it's going to be really hard to raise money from, either venture capitalists, or even grant-making bodies, unless you have a sterling resume of previous accomplishments, or you've authenticated by some impressive institution.

At that point, what I would do is, I would try to find all the conferences that are in the field I'm working in, however they're related. I'd try to find events and meetups, and assuming a post-COVID world because you want to start rubbing elbows with other people who are thinking about similar topics.

Then you want to find people who already work in the industry like in the world of tech. Maybe they had a startup a few years ago in the same space. Now they were bought by Google or whatever, and they're thinking about what to do next. That's the perfect type of person to approach because they might be an angel investor. Angel investors love to help out people in the idea stage.

Maybe they even join as co-founders. It's not easy to find these types of people, but you want to find them based on shared beliefs and missions. The best place to do that could be events, festivals, conferences. Let's say you've got a team. You're not just an idea, but you've got one or two other people working with you on something. You even have some initial users, a handful of them.

Or maybe you have one or two customers. Certainly, anyone here could approach us at our fund. But I would say we are the most accessible funds in the sense of; you email us, and if you're at any of those stages, we'll actually respond. Not every fund will do that. But if you do have a few users customers, then you can start thinking about, one, the accelerator programs.

YCombinator is the most famous, but there's Techstars and other outfits. They're very good. I have my complaints about all of them, but they're very good at that backing people before they have a lot of proof and their idea. And proof would be determined by the number of users, or how impressive the product is.

Questioner: [00:10:45] Okay.

Michael Gibson: [00:10:45] Then even at that stage, you might be able to look into grants. The government has SPRI grants. It's complicated application, but it's definitely worth looking into. And it varies depending on what sort of technology you're working on. There are other sources of government funding: NSF, the military. Depending on your idea.

It could even be DARPA and so on. There are front doors for all these things in application processes. If you're at that stage, it's good time to start trying. Then let's say you get a conversation with us. Our typical investment is $250,000. We do, as well, have a $50,000 check for R&D. That would be before you even have a proof of concepts.

For us, it's got to be that you're working in a very hard technology. It would have to be like nuclear batteries, as an example, we've done in the past. But the $250K check, there's a team. There's some sense of the market that you're operating in, or will be operating in, and how big of an opportunity it might be.

Then there's some product or service that already has some initial attraction. Then you would reach out to us. We'd hear your pitch. Then if we invested, we'd help you raise out the rest of your round. If you weren't a good fit for us, I think -- how do you meet investors? Now you got to try everything. You try to cold outreach. That could work.

There are contact emails on websites. You're going to just do a Google search. Now, this is the jargon about the stage of things. Pre-seed is the first money in along with the Angels, and friends and family, rich uncles, that kind of thing.

There's pre-seed seed. Let's say you grow some, and you've got revenue and everything. Then there's seed round. Then there's series A. You will be searching. Do a Google search; pre-seed venture capital funds, and then you would just start knocking on doors and sending cold emails.

Then you could even try things like LinkedIn, and Twitter, DMs, and all that stuff. You got to get like nerdy on the stuff, and follow all the investors on Twitter kind of thing, and interact with them. Then maybe in DMs, you might be able to interact.

Questioner: [00:13:04] Okay.

Michael Gibson: [00:13:04] It can be difficult if you're an outsider. All I want to say is, you know one, and you just have an idea, but, hopefully, that's a good enough overview of the landscape.

Questioner: [00:13:14] No, that's excellent. Really good information in that comprehensive answer. One thing you said, I want to pause on because I feel like it's really important, or it sounds important. You said it at the beginning of your answer.

You basically said, if I understood you correctly, you really don't want to be shopping things around without some evidence of traction. Is that right? You basically said, if you just have an idea and an idea alone, you're really not -- yes.

Michael Gibson: [00:13:35] Sorry. Go ahead. Finish.

Questioner: [00:13:35] No. I just want to make sure I understood that. You were basically saying, I think, that if you just have an idea, purely idea, but no users, no, nothing started, then you're not really ready to start shopping or anything around, is that right?

Michael Gibson: [00:13:47] Yes. Or I would revise that to say, you're shopping it to -- you want to find co-founders or first employee. That's who you're shopping to. Then you might even find advisers, and so on.

So you're pitching the idea, and you're getting feedback on it. But the main work you should be doing is actually building what you want to build. If you can't, then you got to get other people involved.

Questioner: [00:14:11] You need some sign of traction, whether it be users or some amount of sales, something to bring to an investor to say, "Here's proof it's happening. I need funding."

Michael Gibson: [00:14:19] Yes. That's if you are a first-time entrepreneur, and you have no record of success in the past, and you've got no endorsements from whoever, and so on. Yes.

Questioner: [00:14:31] Okay. Great.

Michael Gibson: [00:14:31] Every so often, there is a story where it's like, "Oh, yes, well, this guy. He worked somewhere else before, or I knew this person. He has a rich uncle, or I don't know what."

Questioner: [00:14:42] Great. We got some great questions pouring in here. I'm going to start with the questions I got through email. Adam, Jesse Nevsky, who's here us today. He's a software engineer in the Bay Area. His question was if you can build a stably-growing business on your own, a lot of people think you shouldn't even look for venture capital because it just makes things more complicated and raises all these other new problems.

What's your take on that? If you're not interested in building a massive unicorn rapidly, and you just want to build a business on your own on the internet, how should you be thinking about whether or not venture capital could be useful for you, or it might not be useful?

Michael Gibson: [00:15:16] Right. That's a great question. I recommend building the company on revenue if you can. That is the oxygen and lifeblood of business. You'll just have greater control over your faint. You'll also have the opportunity to become possibly richer, let's say, in the sense of you own a lot of the company. Bill Gates, famously, only raised one round of capital for Microsoft.

I think that's in part why he was the richest person on earth for so long. To the extent that you can build the business through finance, through the revenue alone, I encourage it. However, there are things where, either because you need to put more money into R&D, or you need to make the hires necessary to run the company, could be in order to hire 30 people.

That could be a lot of money. At any rate, there are these costs that you might have to cover, and venture capital is a great way to do it. But you should only do it as well. If there's this sense like the idea has massive potential because you are entering into this dance of -- I don't know what the right analogy is. A lot of what people don't understand is that the venture capital business has its own business model.

And it's like Hollywood or other industries where, thereafter, blockbusters. The reason that's the case is because we invest in 40 companies in each of our funds, and maybe like 37 of them go bankrupt. They're all very speculative, risky bets. Therefore, the three remaining companies that survive, they now have to do more than survive.

They have to be extraordinary so much so that the investment returns everything in the fund to our investors and more. You have to make it worthwhile to the investors because there's a lot of risks, right? That's why VCs are always pushing for unicorns and the billion-dollar company, is because they know they need one deal to return all the money and more in their portfolio.

That's going to create an incentive. The venture capitalist is going to push you to grow as fast as you can, as big as you can. If you don't want that in your company, well, then you might want to choose a different path.

A lot of people are passed on by venture capitalists because there's no plausible story in the pitch that gets the company from where it is today to some continent-dominating company in an industry. And that's fine. I've never created a $10 million business. That's extraordinary.

But a $10 million business and a VC, one of the pieces of jargon in the industry is venture scalable. Is this a venture scalable idea? Well, yes. Maybe there's a small business you have, and it's a $50 million business even. That's not a great return for the venture capitalist, so they're going to pass, which is sad because it'd be great if we could support people, making more of those businesses.

Questioner: [00:18:21] Great. A few more questions. Hopefully, we'll get to all of them. I think we will. We have a very interesting question from Jonathan Edwards, who's here with us tonight. Jonathan asks -- I'm going to read it word for word because it's thoughtful. And this will take us into more exploratory terrain at the edges of venture capital and academia and new forms of research models.

Jonathan says that Alan Kay says that it's not enough to assemble a team. You need to assemble a league. A proven way to make progress is through competition for success or status of some form. In academic research, the leagues are called conferences, and journals, and fields. Currently, universities dominate research in the same way that the NFL dominates football.

The problem is that many established fields have become decadent and performative, producing many papers but little progress. They stifled upstart fields and upstart researchers. With that as background, the question is, we've learned a lot about starting up corporations, but what can we use from that to learn about how to start up a field of research?

I'm going to merge this with the question in the chat where someone asks -- you can combine this, Michael, with, are you seeing interesting things right now, whether companies you're funding, or just things you're observing about people that are trying to disrupt the university or academic, or scientific research? What do you see on that front moving forward?

Michael Gibson: [00:19:45] Wow, man. There's so much in both of those questions,

Questioner: [00:19:48] Give us the highlights of what you think is most interesting right now and most important.

Michael Gibson: [00:19:52] Oh, just in DC or --

Questioner: [00:19:55] Well, from your perspective, what you're seeing when it comes to innovations in funding intellectual work or science.

Michael Gibson: [00:20:03] Well, yes. I think there's a trend of decentralization both physically from cities because of COVID and also because of the high cost of living and now some of the lower standards of living just based -- cities haven't been governed well. San Francisco, in particular, was pretty bad. People are dispersing. There's a tension in tech always between centralization versus decentralization.

Bitcoin and other forms of blockchain technology, Ethereum, and so on. They offer the promise of decentralization. I think we're starting to see things within that. In the university itself, I break down the university in terms of its four main architectural features. The number one would be the clock tower. The second one would be the stadium. The third would be the admissions building.

The fourth would be the frat house. Again, it's like the challenge of disrupting the university will be, "Can we unbundle these buildings from it?" The clock tower goes back to medieval times. The invention of a standardized form of time that could coordinate people in one geographic location became, in essence, a proxy measurement for skill acquisition and learning.

Even to this day, it's like you take a number of hours credit. You spend a certain amount of time, a semester, studying a certain course. Your exam is a two-hour exam. All this time measurement is supposed to act as a substitute for direct measurement of your skill.

Well, wouldn't it be great if instead of having the crowd around, a fireplace to get heat, if we had a way to deliver heat decentralized, right? It's like, "Okay, you could learn things and demonstrate that you were capable of doing that independent of some clock tower that you're walking around for four years."

Maybe it's a boot camp. We see lots of progress there where people, at Lambda and other places where they're able to demonstrate that they've learned things, they have a portfolio on GitHub and so on, and then they can get hired.

Maybe that'll spread to other places like philosophy or literature. Who knows? But right now so much. Okay. Other buildings on campus, the stadium. This is hard to disrupt. We are a tribal political species. It boggles my mind that I see 50-year-old men painting their faces, wearing jerseys of complete strangers, and congregating to drink and watch football games.

Nonetheless, it provides a sense of community and belonging, and people feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. College sports is a multi-billion dollar industry. I don't know what to do about that, but it seems to bring a lot of people great pleasure and satisfaction. The next thing, the admissions building.

Education is a lot about signaling. Just getting into a great school often means than even graduating. I could go deeper into that. Then the last piece of university life is the friendships you form and the network you build. That's the frat house. I would love to see that get decentralized in different ways.

The question that was asked though is more about like research programs and how to motivate people, as well as being political animals. Maybe it's part of the same statement. I think we do operate within hierarchies of competence and skill.

In the best circumstances, it's like the people at the top are the most expert masters. Then at the bottom, they would be novices. Your ranking on this scale is determined by some level of skill and performance.

But a corrupt hierarchy is the opposite. It's where your place on the totem pole is determined by, let's say, pleasing your superior and parroting their thoughts. And you're getting promotions just because of the chain of commands, not because of some independent way of validating things. I don't know how to disrupt that.

I think the academic institution is pretty well entrenched. I love what Justin's doing, carving a path out for himself on the outside. Maybe that's where discoveries can be made in the humanities and philosophy literature, and so on is outside these institutions because what's a published paper in philosophy?

I always thought it was dry as dust, fake lawyer bullshit. The stuff that changes minds and hearts in each day was an independent scholar. Plato formed the Academy, but he wasn't handing out diplomas [crosstalk] rambling here but...

Questioner: [00:24:40] No, that's okay. A lot of interesting stuff there. I never quite heard that unique four-story breakdown of the university. I never quite thought about it that way. That's intriguing. I like that. One thing you mentioned was Lambda School.

Lambda School's innovating in the provision of technical education, especially around software engineering and stuff like that, by income-sharing agreements. That's the big innovation there. Basically, people shouldn't have to pay to go to college.

They just get the training for free, and if they get a good job, then they get a cut, Lambda School gets a cut. You also mentioned what I'm doing, which is more like the content creator model, like trying to scale that up, essentially.

Then you have people like Tyler Cowen who are doing emergent ventures, basically, just giving out money to researchers who seem promising. There's a few things that are swirling around, I think, at the intersection of essentially business projects or small solo startups. A content creator is, basically, a solo startup, right?

Then you have these innovations on the edges, like Lambda School, and people like Tyler Cowen giving out money to researchers in a small scale. I'm curious; do you think at all, Michael, about the content creator economy?

Because there are some way bigger than me who are pretty big businesses all by themselves. Do you see that as a vector for serious like commercialization of intellectual work? I'm just curious. If you see anything there,

Michael Gibson: [00:25:58] Yes, I think there are some promising shoots, at least. I don't know. Over the last decade, maybe, there have been some bloggers-turned-SAS to have really carved out careers for themselves. In the world of journalism right now, we're seeing people peel off from publications, like the New York Times even, to become independent journalists with a Substack, and newsletters, and so on, and people are paying for it.

I think there is an opportunity there. I think the biggest problem is that -- the phrase is you got to be so good that they can't ignore you. The competition for content is just so fierce to be a great novelist, or poet, or even social commentary. There's so much of it out there that you really have to build a strong portfolio in order to make a career out of it, I think.

Even so, I think there's room for dilettantism, or hobbyists, and so on. Maybe on the side, they can get a small niche following. I think there's more opportunity than ever for that. It's just a question of like, can you build a career on it?

It's going to be a power-law distribution where a lot of people up front who are the people everyone knows. They're going to make good money, but then the drop off is going to be fast and long tail. I don't know how thick it can get.

Questioner: [00:27:24] Yes. And in your own case because you were originally going to do a Ph.D. In philosophy, and then you decided not to, and you went into this venture capital route. Maybe you could reflect on that for a moment. Maybe you could explain how you made that decision, and are you happy with how that turned out, and any key takeaways from your experience and that kind of thing?

Michael Gibson: [00:27:41] I always wanted to be a writer. It's so naive. There's people like T.S. Eliot who I fell in love with when I was 19. At the back of every book, when you open up the flap, and there's a picture of the author and a paragraph bio, I just remember seeing things like T.S. Eliot, Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard. Tom Wolf was another writer I liked. Tom Wolf, Ph.D. in American studies.

I was naive enough where I thought, "Maybe I need a Ph.D. to write like these guys." I ended up falling in love with the content itself. That really drew me into the study. And it continued through my studies where I thought, "I really want to be a writer."

So some number of years, thank God, I transitioned. I originally studied the classics and literature, and then I moved into philosophy towards the dog. I had master's in Latin and Greek. Then I transitioned to the doctorate in philosophy. It's taken me years to get to that point. Then it hit me.

I just decided, "Hey, if I want to write books, I don't need the Ph.D." I realized I didn't like being a teacher in the traditional academic sense. I went to conferences, and I'd give talks on papers. Maybe there were eight people in the room, and I convinced none of them of anything. It's like I'm adding a decimal point to some already existing view.

I just felt really exhausted by that. I thought, "Well, okay, I don't need a Ph.D. to write books. I have a little bit of experience in journalism from internships and other things. I got a job at a magazine. The thought was, "Okay, I'll work here a couple of years. I'll cut the fat off my pros and then I'll be ready for the main event, writing the novel. The great work of creative nonfiction." Then, yes, I went through a series of unlikely events.

I got pulled into Peter Thiel's world and set on this journey. I don't know. Maybe it was fortunate in some ways, in some sense. I don't think I would've produced any original or bold ideas down that academic path. I was in a good program, but it's a fierce world where even if I had graduated from that program, would have been hard. I'm sure to get hired anywhere still.

Then you're fighting your way trying to get published, and all that. I don't know. Maybe out in the wild, I have more opportunity to really develop my thought independently of those kinds of influences. I still pay attention to what's published. I pay attention to, not the journals and stuff, but books and philosophy that come out, particularly, moral-political philosophy and then philosophy of mind.

Questioner: [00:30:30] Well, you must feel significantly greater or intellectual freedom and latitude, right?

Michael Gibson: [00:30:35] Yes.

Questioner: [00:30:35] To just think on a day-to-day basis talking with people you know, I'm sure you can just think a little bit more freely.

Michael Gibson: [00:30:41] I don't have the respect of the academic world or anything. I even though I got pulled into this world of venture capital, I have still tried to publish what I can. So I wrote blogs for years, then I started submitting articles to online magazines over the years.

To this day, I've been writing book reviews, I write little squibs complaining about San Francisco and getting published here and there. That actually led a book agent to reach out to me.

Questioner: [00:31:19] Oh, interesting.

Michael Gibson: [00:31:20] This person said, "Hey, have you ever thought of writing a book?" Now I've been trying to work on that. If I don't sell it through the traditional route, maybe I self-publish on Amazon. Maybe I only have 10 readers. Even so, I would say I feel more energized and proud of whatever I would write, which will have a philosophical bent, I think.

Questioner: [00:31:44] Okay. Interesting. That's --

Michael Gibson: [00:31:47] Even if I'd been hired at Harvard, and I supervised all these senior theses and dissertations. I feel like maybe my -- who knows? It's just worth of doing.

Questioner: [00:31:57] That's interesting. That's a cool little wrinkle there. Basically, you shifted out of academia, you got a little bit more freedom to maneuver, and then you built a profile more in the capitalist world.

And by building that profile, you eventually, only carved out a little bit more intellectual freedom for yourself to do little intellectual projects as you please in the way you see fit, but it actually did materialize into more prestigious offers. In fact, probably, because of the profile that you built through capitalist route.

Michael Gibson: [00:32:24] I think it's right. Maybe we're different in this way, where I feel like you're in the arena competing for -- you're up against all those other podcasters, and community builders, and so on. Yes, I have my day job. That gives me this credibility.

Well, maybe, this magazine, whether it's city journal, or the Atlantic, or whoever, where they've said, "Oh yes, we'd love to have you write that piece and so on." I would encourage either path. Then I've taken, I don't think a lot of people do it.

I wish they did because I know there are a lot of great thinkers and writers out there, but they're just so caught up in their nine-to-five life that they don't put much work into it. It dawns on me. It's like there are a lot of great independent intellectuals out there.

Questioner: [00:33:14] Oh, yes.

Michael Gibson: [00:33:14] I'm not a fan of his style of writing, but this guy, Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander is a great example. I think he's earned the respect of a lot of academics. I've seen Steven Pinker and other high-profile people referring to his work. I think it's an option.

Questioner: [00:33:33] Awesome. That's a really interesting little set of details about your personal story. It's actually quite illuminating. I'm glad we went into that a bit. I wasn't even necessarily going to ask you about your personal life, but I'm glad you did.

All right. I think we should go a little more rapid-fire through the remaining questions. There's some fun ones. We've got one question here. When you consider pitches, how much are you looking at the idea versus the person or the team?

Michael Gibson: [00:33:59] Well, yes, there are three main elements that we look at in a pitch. I touched on them earlier. First and foremost is the most important thing is the team. That means their character and their abilities. We're looking for everything from, do you have the smarts and technical know-how to build what you're building?

But more importantly, combined with that, do you have the social, emotional intelligence to work with others? Can you get investors on board? Can you tell your story clearly and with persuasion? Can you hire people? Can you sell things to people?

The Venn diagram of people who are technically gifted, who also have these social skills, is vanishingly small overlap, and we're looking for that. Then we're also looking for things like the grit, the perseverance, the cunning. All of that is way more important at the stage we're investing in because it's the earliest point. You've heard of these pivots where people change things and so on.

Well, you need to trust the team that they can do that. And that's why the team's most important. Number two is the market size. That's the fact I refer to, where it's like some things are just too small, and VCs won't invest in them because of that.

The last thing is the current state of the product. Oh, yes, that is always going to change. Even though you have users, we know you're going to get information. The product is going to get refined, you're going to get new things. That's the least important. Yes, we really focus on the team.

Ideally, I would never be in a shark tank situation. It's hardly ever that we make that investment where it's like someone comes in, we have no idea who they are, they pitch us, and then we invest. Ideally, over time, I get a number of data points about who you are and your character.

Can you execute over time? Do you show progress along these -- Do you get co-founders? Do you get customers? All that stuff shows that you have these traits. In a lot of cases, we've known people six months to a year before we invested in them.

I should add, going back to the earlier conversation too, we do offer 1K grants to people who just have ideas. If you're interested in that, that's the thing where it's like someone has an itemized list, "Hey, if I could buy X, Y, and Z, I'd love to be able to build this thing," and we'll kick them a thousand dollars over Venmo. That helps us with evaluation because then it's like, "Hey, now we know this person for two, three months while they're building this thing, do they execute on it? What's it like to work?"

Questioner: [00:36:31] That's interesting. Okay, great answer. By the way, I don't know why I'm asking people's questions for them. People can introduce themselves and ask their questions.

Interviewer 2: [00:36:37] Was that my question, Justin?

Questioner: [00:36:39] Was that?

Interviewer 2: [00:36:39] Was that my question, Justin?

Questioner: [00:36:41] Yes, it was. I asked you for it.

Interviewer 2: [00:36:43] He did question, anyway. Not at all. Thank you for doing this, and thanks for this wonderful presentation. That was the question and a great answer. Thanks a lot.

Questioner: [00:36:52] Nice day. All right. Hey, Gran are you with us? Do you want to ask your question? It's a good question about, do you need to live in a certain city? Why don't you introduce yourself Gran and ask it?

Interviewer 3: [00:37:04] Sorry. Hey, thank you for coming. People are really talking about like, "Okay, what's the future of San Francisco, New York City, these types of places?" There's the network effect question. Do you need to actually be somewhere, or is it enough to be online? I guess, what's your take on how important location is?

I guess, maybe it, probably, depends on like what you're trying to do. Then what is your favorite underrated city right now that you think? Not for startups, but just in general. If you believe that it doesn't matter where you are, what are some underrated places that you think are going to be really cool?

Questioner: [00:37:41] Answer the question. Should you move to build a startup? Is that necessary or not? Then best-underrated city.

Michael Gibson: [00:37:49] Yeah, I think you should be wherever you need to be. Often, that's where your customers are. If you're building something where you need constant feedback from your customers, you should be near them. It could be the case that you can do it remotely, or maybe you're just some kind of like a dating app, or whatever, and you don't really need to be interacting with your customers.

And that's not an issue. But for a lot of enterprise companies, for instance, that's the main thing. And that's where we want you to be. The other part of location is hiring. It used to be. Yes, you would go to Silicon Valley because that's where all the engineers were, strong labor market.

But that's not the case anymore. People can work remotely more and more. Nevertheless, if you need people to work in person with you, it's going to be harder to find people to fill the roles if you're in Wichita compared to Chicago.

Nonetheless, you don't need to be in Silicon Valley anymore. And it may even be better because the salaries won't be as high. Then the last thing was the investors. It used to be the case you needed to be in the Bay Area in order to raise money. That's not true anymore. The investors here are happy to take meetings now over Zoom, but also, you can fly in and fly out and get what you need.

Yes, you don't need to be in the Bay Area anymore. Best underrated city. I would actually go for places that are overlooked and really cheap, like Tulsa, for instance. It's like Austin from maybe 10, 15 years ago. It still has a music scene that's not dominated by tourist tax. It's a tiny city, but it's got some great bars and restaurants bookstore, guitar shop, all that stuff.

Cool crowd. It could be fun to live in a city like that. I think we'd be able to build a company there as well. But outside of that, yes, I would look to places like Austin, Chicago, Boston. Maybe even Seattle. I think all of those are doable. It's just going to depend on the type of place you'd live in.

Questioner: [00:39:58] All right. Excellent answer and excellent question. That's great. Let's see. Tifa friend, are you with us? Because you said team is very important, and you judge the team very closely, Tifa wants to know if people's Twitter personas affect that. Tifa, are you with us? Do you want to introduce yourself?

Interviewer 4: [00:40:16] that's okay. Yes. I was being as being a jokester in the chat. We don't have to. Someone who has, maybe, a better thought out question.

Questioner: [00:40:25] It's not a bad question. Have you ever seen an internet persona get in the way where you're like, "Oh, I like this idea? It seems solid. This seems like a good team. But this guy's crazy on Twitter. I'm not giving him any money?"

Michael Gibson: [00:40:37] [laughs] It's never come up that way. We did have one investment. This was post-investment where we had this guy. He had the handle of a beast mode. Maybe it was only on Instagram. He was beast mode.

Questioner: [00:40:51] It's a great animal.

Michael Gibson: [00:40:53] Yes. We noticed he spent a lot of time on the beach. He was taking these Instagram shots of him at the beach all the time. We were like, "It's more like beach mode." We started like wondering, is this guy even working on his company?

Because he's on the beach on workdays. Sure, we shouldn't be spying on people, but you can't help but notice what they're doing. I haven't ever looked at someone's social media, though, before meeting them in the sense of trying to get a sense of who they are. Maybe they've looked at me. My LinkedIn page is fairly inflammatory, and some people have said. Because I give this a little spiel about the paper belt.

This is this term referring to all the old technology industries of the East Coast from Washington DC to Boston. In DC, they make laws, passports, visas, regulations. All of that's on paper. In Delaware, you incorporate on paper. In New York, they print media on paper, New York Times, Wall Street journal. In Boston, they print diplomas on paper, MIT, Harvard, and so on. The paper belt is like, "Okay, maybe new technologies will render that as the rust belt of the future." On my LinkedIn, I'm like, "I want to shit on fire." And so I've had people approach me where they're like, "Why are you this arsonist who wants to destroy the paper belt?" I don't know if it's cost us anything, but sometimes people ask questions.

Questioner: [00:42:24] All right. Okay, cool. That's insightful. Interesting. I think Pablo asked a question about funding, startups disrupting the university. We talked about that a little bit. Grant actually has another question. It's a good question, so he gets if he gets a double-dip here. How did you --

Michael Gibson: [00:42:40] Yeah, we are not an ed-tech fund, even though we do have this educational mission.

Questioner: [00:42:45] Okay.

Michael Gibson: [00:42:47] We've done one or two investments in education-related ideas, but we're not devoted that. It's more about setting people up who have no backing of the university. They have no degree. They've never been to school. They're no expert in something.

And hopefully, by supporting and validating their career path, we show that there's a third way beyond just being living with -- there's more to life than university, we show up.

Questioner: [00:43:14] Okay. Yes. Great. How did you meet the person or people in your life who had the greatest influence in changing your career? Maybe it's best to focus on your transition out of academia into venture capital world. Maybe give us a quick vignette about how you made that connection that changed things for you.

Michael Gibson: [00:43:32] Man, I was going through some personal stuff when I worked for Peter Thiel. I was technically an employee at his Hedge Fund. I remember one day I was on the trading floor. I must have looked like shit because I was going through some personal stuff. My beard was like Dostoyevsky's. I probably had a ratty t-shirt on.

It was the end of the day, and, some of my friends were like, "Hey, John Walker Lindh, you want to go to happy hour?" Now, John Walker Lindh. It set me off. I was like, "Wow, he's an interesting guy." If anyone remembers this. He was found aiding and fighting alongside Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and he was a US citizen.

He was like a 22-year-old kid. What's wild to me about him is that he was born in Marin, raised in a very nice suburb of San Francisco. Sometime in his teens, he became radicalized into Islam. At 18, he joined a very radical sect. They told him, "Hey, to get the real dope, you got to go to this place in Pakistan." So he goes there, and he becomes even more radicalized. Some Imam there says, "Oh, well, you're really into this.

You got to go into the mountains in Afghanistan to meet this guy and go to this camp." And so he does, and he shows up to this camp. This is pre 9/11. It's been Osama bin Laden's training camp for Al Qaeda. And John Walker Lindh had a face-to-face meeting with Bin Laden before 9/11. That day at the bar, when I'm drinking and thinking about this, I was like, "Holy shit." This guy did something that the CIA apparently had no idea how to do.

He found Bin Laden and had a face-to-face meeting with him. It's like the government spends billions of dollars on the NSA, the CIA, and they couldn't fucking find this guy, but some radicalized teenager had a face-to-face meeting with him. The key was that John Walker Lindh tapped into and shared Bin Laden's deepest beliefs.

What I've realized in my life is, it's like some weird inverse of that where it's the same thing. It's like I have some radical views on governance. I started volunteering at the Seasteading Institute. This crazy idea that, hey, we've run out of land to experiment new forms of governance on. Maybe we could try something new on the ocean. That brought me into contact with a lot of strange eccentric people. Among them was Peter Thiel.

In a sense, it's like these radicalized views led me to some Imam was doing things. Counter-terrorism is about finding a small group of people capable of creating global catastrophe. I think in the ideal sense, venture capital and other sources of backing people are about finding small groups of people working in a garage who are going to build something of incredible value.

It's two sides of the same. Maybe I'm overly romantic here. Nonetheless, I think there's something to following your deepest, weirdest, interests, and curiosities. That's going to take you to conferences. It's going to take you to meetups.

Really dig in there, and then, hopefully, either within that field, or overlapping with it, you're going to find other people who are just as passionate and, maybe, as smart and talented as you are. Maybe you want Bitcoin, and then you go to these Bitcoin things, and you meet people. And you really gel because you want to get rid of central banks and have decentralized finance, whatever.

But then you end up starting a laundry company together, or something. There's something about that where because you were brought together on these shared deep beliefs, you're entwined in a way, and you're able to work together in ways that just randomly meeting people on like LinkedIn doesn't allow for. I think there's a lesson in John Walker Lindh. [laughs]

Questioner: [00:47:27] No, that's a really interesting story. There was a minute where I was like, "Where's he going with this?" But then you totally brought it back around and I said, "Oh, that's cool."

Michael Gibson: [00:47:32] Well, how do you find people? I don't know. It's like, well, you got to --

Questioner: [00:47:35] No, I totally like it. I buy that completely. You find what you are most uniquely passionate about and just go full throttle on it. You're going to end up somewhere weird, and there's going to be someone somewhere more powerful than you who's also really interested in that. When you have a shared passion in common with someone more powerful than you, you immediately stand out to them as someone that they want to help and do everything they can.

Michael Gibson: [00:47:58] That's a really great summary.

Questioner: [00:48:01] Awesome. Okay. A few more good questions. Joseph has a question about whether video conferencing is overhyped right now given the blow-up of Zoom and all of this with work from home. Joseph, do you want to introduce yourself and ask your

Interviewer 5: [00:48:13] Yes. I'm working on several projects with a video chat. I was wondering like, are you seeing a flood of video chat, video conferencing products? Also, what have you noticed about them? And if you know, would be seized? Is this already like, "Oh, avoid," or?

Questioner: [00:48:36] All right.

Michael Gibson: [00:48:36] I think it's a really hot space right now. Any remote work tool is really hot right now.

Questioner: [00:48:44] Not too hot. It's not saturated?

Michael Gibson: [00:48:46] It could be too late. In the sense of, we've heard a bunch of pitches on different stuff. People trying to disrupt Zoom trying to figure out better ways of hosting video conferences. There have been designed solutions that we've seen where people are claiming that, "Oh, our design will allow for interactions better," all the way to VR.

We've seen VR. We've seen people try to reinvent VR, some second life for conferencing tools, and so on. It's out there. Some of the more developed stuff that's been around for a few years. We have a company called Loom, not Zoom. Loom. They make asynchronous video tools. It's doing extraordinarily well.

Questioner: [00:49:25] Oh, I use them. I didn't know you were investing in them. Yes, it's a good tool.

Michael Gibson: [00:49:28] Yes, we were the first backers. We found those guys in a tiny little room living together. It's one of those weird things where COVID, in a sense, really helped the company out. I would encourage you to just pay attention to what's out there. It is hot in a sense. I think people are interested in it. Maybe there are ways of making these experiences better. I don't know what they are, but maybe even something.

Questioner: [00:49:54] All right. Awesome. Great. We've got a question here from Pablo about whether you think there's a higher education bubble. Do you think it makes sense to talk about a higher education bubble? Pablo, do you want to introduce yourself and ask the question?

Interviewer 6: [00:50:05] Yes. Hi, I'm Pablo. I'm working on this startup trying to disrupt higher education, especially in the diploma side. What we're seeing, and we're really worried about which actually was my thesis about in a major in economics. I think there's a bubble right now in higher education.

The debt is like rap more than $1.6 trillion, US. The default rate is rising while at the same time the government has given out more loans. That is completely insane. And there are these student loan asset-backed securities, which I have no clue what is the [inaudible] the student loan. It keeps me up at night really. It's really scary.

Michael Gibson: [00:50:56] I don't know what I could add to that, but you're right. One of the interesting things was that before I started working for Thiel in 2010. My first day of work, we started the fellowship. There was a blogger named Glenn Harlan Reynolds. He's a libertarian lawyer. He might be the person who coined the term higher education bubble.

If you look at Google Ngram, or whatever, it's like 2006, 2007 a little bit. But suddenly, Thiel starts talking about the higher education bubble. When you see a spike, it was quite traumatic. I love the term. I think it's different from other asset class bubbles for all sorts of reasons, government backing, the rules and regulations around there.

But it is overvalued right now, especially from second, third-tier schools and degrees that aren't related to skills like engineering or hard science degrees. I think we're going to see lots of that turmoil. I feel really bad for people who paid so much money to earn a degree that gives them no skills that are rewarded in the labor market.

That's a tough spot to be in. I think it's afforded a lot of lives. Life stories have been thwarted because people -- I guess in the past, you could try to be a novelist when you were 23 because you didn't have student loans to pay off. But now, people have to pay off their loans, so they end up taking safe, but well-paying jobs. That sounds great, but it just means, I think, it SAPs our creativity and dynamism as a society.

Questioner: [00:52:29] Excellent. Hey, we got a few more questions. Can we keep you a little bit past the hours at our end, Michael?

Michael Gibson: [00:52:33] Yeah, sure.

Questioner: [00:52:34] All right. Awesome. I won't abuse the privilege. We've got a good question here from Bill Gerald about runway and how you think about, especially, because you're interested in, you have a sweet spot for dropouts. I'm sure you have some perspectives or some observations on people making different transitions into a startup. Bill, do you want to introduce yourself and ask your question about runway?

Interviewer 7: [00:52:54] Yes. I do AI and things like that. I may ask another quick one if you know anything about Share care, which is a health and wellness engagement platform, let me know because I'm just about to accept an offer with them.

Michael Gibson: [00:53:15] I don't. Sorry. [laughs] I don't know.

Questioner: [00:53:17] What was your question about runway. It's a good question, though. Ask it.

Interviewer 7: [00:53:21] My question is, if you're young, it's different, but if you have kids, and you're 40 or 50, you need a year or, preferably, two years’ worth of income saved in the bank that you're willing to burn through. It's a rich person's game doing the startup. Unless you're 25.

Michael Gibson: [00:53:52] That's certainly something I see. It's not even with the people who found companies. There's just a real cultural difference between 22-year-olds who have no spouse, no pets, no mortgage, and they're willing to work like crazy over the weekends. Then they'll hire someone who's in the industry expertise, professional, who has mortgage, and so on.

And you'll just see a clash where sometimes the workaholics don't feel like the person's contributing enough. I don't know if that's fair, but it's there. I would say runway. Okay. Yes, you're right. It could be harder if you're older and you can't take the risks. In which case, I would say, you want personal savings on the side, but you don't want to devote that to pay for the startup. Hopefully, you can raise money from Angel investors and Pre-seed investors.

You're typically in that round of financing. You're going to raise anywhere between -- it could be $300K to a million dollars. That's going to be the team. There's going to be that proof of concept or initial customers using a product.

Hopefully, that's enough runway to get you to the point where you're making probably $20,000 a month in revenue. Maybe a little bit more. Then at that point, you can raise the next round of financing, which would be like $2 million. And that's going to get you, probably, a year, year and a half. But the goal is always to get more revenue in the door in this venture capital game.

When you raise one round, you're always thinking about what do I need to get to the next one? And how long do I have to get there? With enterprise B2B companies, it's easier because it's just like the dollar amounts. The typical series A company has about a million dollars annual recurring revenue. Maybe $70,000 or $75,000, monthly recurring revenue.

You know you have a year, year and a half to go from $20,000 a month to $70,000 a month, and you got to do whatever it takes to get there. It's less about like months and months to how quickly can you get to those revenue goals?

Questioner: [00:56:10] Excellent. That's a great detailed numerical answer. Thanks for that. There's another good question. Somewhat related, actually, here from Ben about investment ranges for first time funding. Ben, do you want to introduce yourself and ask your question?

Interviewer 8: [00:56:26] Yes, sure. Hello. Justin, thanks for inviting me to this. This is my first time here. Michael has been really great to hear what you've been saying, super valuable stuff. This ties in with what you were saying for the past few minutes.

I guess, how flexible are those investment ranges? Is everyone going to raise a pre-seed first, and then build up their company for a year, and then raise the next $2 million, or is there some flexibility and variety in the amount of money that people will raise when they're first starting their company?

Michael Gibson: [00:56:59] Yes. I think it is very different, especially that first idea stage. If you can get friends and family to put together 50K, that's incredible, and that could be enough to get you to the point where you have some customers, and then you can start talking to pre-seed venture capital funds. Once you get to that stage, then there is pretty much standard sizing. I think it's tied to the VC business model because they're always going look for -- everyone wants to get -- let's say we write a 250K check.

We're trying to get, maybe, 5% to 7% ownership of your company. The reason that's the case is, it's just what the -- it's a best practice. It's developed over time. Because it's so hard to -- you can't put a price on the stock at that point. It's funny.

It could be a nuclear company or software company. You're all going to be in the same range in terms of the pricing. Then, therefore, you don't want to sell off so much of your company in that round, so, typically, you're raising $500K. Then the seed round and the series A. They all have a rough outline where investors are always trying to buy, especially the total round.

You're probably going to sell off anywhere between 20% to 30% of your company. Then the amounts in the price are going to be some variations on those. I would add as a warning. One thing I see about working out of pocket in outside regions where there are a lot of startups is, sometimes, you get an angel investor who has no experience investing in startups.

They think they want to own as much as the company as possible. For $50,000, they think they can own 50% of the company or 40%. something outrageous. You should never work with that type of person. It's all about the mechanics of what works. It's so funny. I'm reaching for ways to explain why this is the case.

But I can only say it's just history and the evolution of the industry, where in order to be the kind of company that goes public in 7 to 10 years, they follow similar patterns. Everyone's going to get rich and angel investors think they own 5% or 3% of a company, they're going to make out all right.

The reason you don't want to sell off too much of the company is, you and everyone you hire after you, has to be incentivized massively to work on this. Enough of the stock in the company has to remain in order to incentivize the main players to really grow as big as possible.

Questioner: [00:59:36] Awesome answer again. All right. Let's see. There's a question from Amanda. But I think we covered that. It's about the person's ability versus the idea. I think we already covered that. Thanks, Amanda.

I'm trying to see what else. We have a little bit more time. People want to squeeze a question. Jason wanted to ask you a question about your background and intellectual and speaking skills. Jason, did you want to introduce yourself and ask your question?

0Yes. I'm Jason. I work at a Fang company in Seattle. I'm just curious. You speak very well, and you condense things really extraordinarily. How much of your philosophy training, do you think, that has to do with? If it's a fair amount, would it be possible to replicate that part of your education virtually?

Michael Gibson: [01:00:32] I would stay, yes. I've certainly learned a lot. I left grad school in 2007. It's been a long time. I don't know how well of a writer, thinker, public speaker I was at that point. I've learned a lot over the last 13 years. Maybe I can feel these questions too because they're variations on things I've been asked before in different contexts. Nevertheless, I think there's something to be said for writing and reading every day. I make a practice out of it.

I've had trouble in my romantic life, even, because I'm a morning person. I get up at like 6:00 AM. The first thing I want to do because it's a fresh day, fresh mind, is I want to write and I want to read. I try to get an hour to two hours in every day. Writing, in particular, I think, is strong for organizing your thoughts. You start to figure out ways of condensing things.

If you find a great critical reader to work with, they'll really call you out on your bullshit and try to get you to slim your statements down. I've been in relationships where I'd get out of bed in the morning and someone would say, "Oh, why are you getting out of the bed?" And I'd say, "Oh, I'm going off to read." They're like, "Why would you want to read? Don't you want to cuddle?" I was like, "No, I got it. This is my thing. I got to do it."

Now I just say, "Hey, I got to work," because it is work. It's a practice. If you're a pianist, and you don't practice, you're not going to be as good as you are if you do it every day. I've read widely, nonfiction and fiction, and poetry. I love poetry for its concision.

I think it could be in part be defined by its density. I don't know if that comes out in my speech, but in my writing, I do want to bring a poetic element to what I write, because I think that part of it is the information condensation.

Questioner: [01:02:38] All right. Excellent. Going through the list. I think that's all the questions that have been entered in the chat. If you have one that's pressing and really good, you can squeeze it in. Otherwise, I think we've covered a lot of ground. Michael, having talked about all the topics we've talked about, I think you have a good sense of the types of people in this community and the types of things that people are interested in.

I wonder if, maybe, you think there's some question or idea that we should be thinking about, but we're not? Maybe is there anything you were surprised we're not asking you more about that we would really benefit from hearing from your perspective?

Michael Gibson: [01:03:20] Nothing comes to mind. I'll just notice some patterns I see is, people need to get out of the building more. There's too much abstract theorizing about whether or not this product or service will help people. Get out there, talk to your potential users and customers, get their feedback as soon as possible. I just find people don't want to get on the phone.

We have some content. I could share with you on that. Then the other thing is, yes, there are books and stuff you can read on all this stuff too to deepen your knowledge and just get familiarity with some of these concepts. I'm happy to share it. I'll put my email there. If anyone's interested in continuing the conversation, I'm happy to pick it up over email.

Questioner: [01:04:01] Awesome. That's great. Thank you for offering that. Michael's also in the forum. He's a member of the community, so you can always tag him in a forum post if you want to follow up about any of this stuff in a more conversant discussion-based way. Really quick. Any book recommendations, Michael? Books that are really important?

Michael Gibson: [01:04:20] No. Secrets of Sand Hill Road Zero To One. In terms of startup stuff. Zero to One --

Questioner: [01:04:25] What's the first one?

Michael Gibson: [01:04:26] Secrets of Sand Hill Road will take you into the VC world. Then zero to One is great on general startup stuff. Go to Paul Graham's essays, read the biographies of successful founders, or the memoirs and stuff, the profiles, and New York.

Then there's management stuff like Ben Horowitz's, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, I think is good. These are all business books. They're not going to inspire you to deep, profound insights, but I think it's worth having a familiarity with them.

Questioner: [01:04:59] All right. Excellent recommendations. I never heard of the first one. That's cool. This will be the very final one from me. Do you think, in general, that there should be more intellectuals considering the startup path? Do you think that's a generally underexplored opportunity?

If you're a brainy interesting creative person, and you have intellectual ideas, and you find academia to just be suffocating, which is, I think a lot of people here, people are very intellectually oriented, but they find the current avenues just not very attractive.

Do you think that generally, intellectuals underappreciate the possibilities of pursuing a startup? Is that something you find, or is that something where you really shouldn't be forcing or encouraging intellectuals to think about --

Michael Gibson: [01:05:41] No, I strongly, urgently recommend it. I think if you find success in life, you'll be able to carve more and more time out and become your own patron to some degree, and really find the time to write and think, and explore topics. You might even be surprised what avenues open up for you.

If you are wildly successful, then my God, you'll be able to find all sorts of fora to talk, and debate, and be involved in. I urgently recommend it. I think it's sad that there's not more active public intellectuals where it's like they actually operate in the world, to some degree. Like Garza started his Faust. In the beginning was the deed, not the word. I think we need more of that. We need more Fausts.

Questioner: [01:06:35] Awesome. I think that's a good final word as any. Michael, I just want to thank you very much on behalf of everyone here for your time and your very thoughtful answers to all these questions. You really let us rapid-fire drill you with a bunch of questions. You were a great support. Thank you, Michael.

Michael Gibson: [01:06:49] Yes, sure thing. Thanks for having me. I've been your guest.

Questioner: [01:06:52] I appreciate it. Good night, Michael. We'll let you go. Thanks, everyone for coming out. This was awesome. All right, folks, this will be archived. I'm going to get it transcribed and put it in the archive. You can go back to any of this if you want to. Everyone's free to roll.

If you want to stick around and chat a little bit, I'm here. I'm not in a rush. Otherwise, this is over. Thanks, everyone for really great questions. The questions made this what it was. I think this was really quite useful. Thank you all for showing up and for your enthusiasm and great questions. If you want to stick around and chat, I'm here. I'm going to stop recording now. All right.