Monthly Archives: November 2006

what the greatest threat to mankind?

Thinkingwhat is the greatest threat to mankind???

Great question.

So I thought about it .. What is my answer to what is the greatest threat to mankind?

I think it might be people’s lack of thinking for oneself.

Bad things happen when people don’t think for themselves. When people outsource their thinking to others, genocide happens.

There is a school of thought that most people CAN’T think for themselves and that the masses should be governed be the elites. Not only do I think that is wrong but that line of thinking is also extremely dangerous. Because once you convince people they shouldn’t think for themselves and they should think what you think … then that person is very susceptible to be easily influenced by others. Cults are generally not good … even cool Silicon Valley cults (like Google) can have their drawbacks.

When people think for themselves they need to take the first step and assume that they might be wrong and that some of their prejudices might be wrong. For thinking for oneself means evaluating the data available and coming to a conclusion. One could still reach a very bad conclusion … but one has a much better chance of helping themselves and helping society of they just think.

global energy demand increasing

So there was big news today … the Wall Street Journal reported that the International Energy Agency presented a paper to the G-20 meeting in Melbourne on global energy demand. The paper predicted that global energy demand will grow 50% in the next 25 years.

50% sounds like a huge number, but over a 25 year period it means it is only growing 1.63%/year. that number doesn’t sound like it would be insurmountable to deal with. it is much less than the global economy is predicted to grow. couldn’t a potential plan of conversation and new energy sources deal with this increase in demand???

Peter Thiel on saving

Peter Thiel penned a very thought-provoking commentary in Forbes on Americans and their inability to save.

Warning: Save, Save, Save


The grim facts: After peaking at a peacetime high of 15% thirty years ago, the savings rate fell, plunging below 0% last year. Over the same period, the Boomers went from the start of their careers to near the end. All the while, life expectancies grew. You’d expect the savings rate to be trending up, not down.

The nation didn’t stop saving because it finally built a solid nest egg. The median American household has just $37,000 in assets other than a home. Even those closest to retirement have surprisingly little saved–the oldest Boomers have about $180,000 to their credit. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but consider that $180,000 produces an income of just $750 a month.

Peter’s famous quote on the subject is: “The good news is that Americans are living longer. The bad news is that nobody believes the good news.”

Why big high tech companies are losing the talent war

Big companies are losing their “A” players and they’re struggling to attract “B” players. In an industry where everything is about people, large tech companies are in trouble because they are losing the talent war. And keep in mind, an “A” player in an organization can usually produce the same results as three “B” players.

Joining a big company is irrational in today’s market

Why would you want to join a big high tech company (Yahoo, Microsoft, eBay, HP, Oracle, or Cisco) when you can join a cool startup? [Disclosure: Auren is NOT a shareholder in any public high-tech company] At a big company you’re stuck with corporate politics, paralysis decision making, and a lack of getting things done. At a small company you’re having fun, pursuing your dream, and actually getting things done.

Job security is about a wash. While start-ups tend to go under, big companies are always doing lay-offs and good people are often getting fired due to corporate politics and purges. Thinking about cash compensation, if you make $130K at a big company, you’ll likely make $110K at a funded start-up – a significant difference ($11K after taxes), but not astronomical. Also let’s not forget the stock compensation which has no comparison.

In today’s hot startup market, it is essentially irrational to join a big company. That means that big companies are only attracting “B” and “C” players or they are attracting irrational A players. And they are losing all those great “A” players they hired in the dog days of 2002 (most of which now have fully vested stock-options).

Essentially, when the economy is good and massive amount of startup activity is happening, the big companies suffer. Just think about it…when you see the Google $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube, does that make you want to work more for a Google or for a potential YouTube? I venture to guess that you’ll want to go out there and work for startups like POSTroller and [Disclosure: Auren is an investor in POSTroller and is on the advisory board of and both companies are looking to recruit “A” players right now]

Now there are some rational “A” players that are still going to large companies. In order to recruit rockstar engineers, companies like Google significantly increase the pay and offer too many perks to list. And some people have their own reasons to join these tech companies. Niall Kennedy joined Microsoft last April because he wanted to be at the epicenter of the PC user experience. Like a scientist attracted to a university with great resources, Niall was attracted to Microsoft not to make a personal profit but to build true, long-lasting innovations. Unfortunately Niall left four months later when he realized corporate bureaucracy can stifle innovation.

When people like Niall (who make career calculations based on doing something cool rather than on compensation) are leaving big companies, you know these Microsofts and HPs are in serious trouble. Too bad for them.

In fact, the only rational reason that I can think of to work for one of these large tech companies is if you want to work less (or eat free gourmet food). If you are content with working 35-40 hours a week and are not interested in growing your career at this point in your life, then working for a large company is a good short-term decision.

Rapleaf recently hired five people. None of those people were seriously considering working at large firms (and we actually recruited some of them out of large firms) but all of them were considering other startups. Rapleaf was competing for talent with other startups.

Now I know someone that just joined a company a large tech company is going to get mad at me. That person might well be an A Player because there are always personal factors (like you get to work directly with Vint Cerf). However, large tech companies are, on the whole, getting whipped by start-ups in the battle for talent.

The big macro trend in technology is the big sucking sound coming out of the large tech companies. Whooooosh!

How to do Reference Checking

One of the core stages of hiring at Rapleaf is reference checking. Depending on the person we are hiring, we require 10-20 references (and we wouldn’t give an offer to someone without at least talking to 8 references). For some people, this might seem a bit extreme but we think it would be crazy to do otherwise.

Reference checking is important for a few reasons. First, it gives you a general sense of the candidate. What is her personality? How does she act in certain stressful situations? Etc. I like to ask a judgment question. Like what would the candidate do in a certain situation? Why?

Second, it gives you a window on how best to manage the candidate if you do hire her. I like to ask how one could get the most out of a candidate and what work environment they strive under most.

Third, the list of references themselves tell you something about the person. Does she give you her current boss (if so, she’s more likely to leave her current job and she has a very open relationship with her boss)? How far back does she reach for her references? Is there a good mix of references.

Fourth — look for how quickly the references get back to you .. And how quickly they call you back. Presumably the candidate is going to first contact the reference and let them know you will be calling … so this is a good indicator of how organized the candidate is. And it is a great indicator of how passionately people feel about a candidate. (I once did a reference check on a candidate who listed a very well-known CEO as a reference. The CEO called me back with one hour — he obviously really liked the candidate.) And I like to later understand how the candidate prepped the reference.

Fifth is to look for consistency. We were reference checking one candidate and his references all consistently said he was amazing but stubborn. This gave us better insights into the questions we asked him in the final interview.

Sixth — find out how the candidate has changed over time. My personal favorite question is asking how the candidate improved over the time the reference has known him. This usually gives an interesting window into the candidate’s personality.

And seventh — references can often predict a candidate’s future. “Where do you see this person in 5 years?” is a good question.

(and, contrary to popular belief, reference checking is especially important with engineers)

is Europe innovating?

Here is an interesting stat:

last year, add up all the venture capital put in companies in continental Western Europe (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Denmark, etc).

add it all up.

it was less than the venture capital put in companies in tiny Israel

things I like

This is a post of things I like. Very simple … I like these things:

Mikeike_1990Mike and Ike’s are absolutely yummy. They could be my favorite candy. Hot Tamales, Mike’s distant cousin, are great too.

AlfdvdAlf is cool. I love Alf. I know … weird … he wants to eat cats.

Favorite movies are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Field of Dreams. Yeah, i know, they’re both sappy. I like sappy films. So sue me.

Malcolm Gladwell is super-interesting. So is Dan Gilbert. So is Dialog.

I like pasta, Thai noodles, chow mien, and anything noodlely. Yeah, starch and carbs are good.

I like my scuba writing tablet. But I don’t scuba-dive. I often get my best ideas in the shower and I use my scuba tablet to write them down. i get great ideas in the morning. not at night while going to bed like many of my friends.

I like living close enough to work to walk (7 blocks). I love that of the 6 other people I work with, 4 of them live even closer to work than I do.

I like reading about psychology. I like meeting other people that like reading about psychology.

I love dinner parties … especially those where the entire table is engaged in one conversation … and especially if the conversation is about something substantial.

I talk to strangers … a lot. But I also love to be anonymous.

I love my job. I love going to work and working.

I rarely “exercise” … but I twirl people on the dance floor. and I’d never give up my weekly soccer games.

I like people who think they might be wrong.