Transcript: Vinod Khosla - How to build and manage a team

We have put together another transcript - This time a great talk by Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures and previously the founding CEO and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. The focus is on his belief systems around hiring, and how to manage your company’s growth internally.

 He was interviewed by Anu Hariharan, Partner at YC Continuity.

 The full original video can be found here:



AH: You've talked a lot about company building and hiring, and I know that you've often said that a company becomes the people that it hires, not the plan it makes. Can you elaborate? What should founders focus on in hiring?

 VK: This is one of my favourite topics. When you start you know very little about what you're doing because if you did know enough, you wouldn't start the company. If you were really sensible and pragmatic, you wouldn't start companies.

 I'm an entrepreneurship zealot - that's self-described - and I'm a real fan of people trying companies and trying to build things, especially when you're younger and can afford to take risks. There's no reason to go work for someone else in my book, and I never did.

 What I find is people have plans, but it is very, very rare for a company to achieve that plan. So the way to think about where you're starting is a collection of ideas in a relatively rich space that you find that you can be passionate about. That's the way to think about a plan.

 I have a separate talk on flexi-planning which don't plan, just plan to plan.

 But the critical part of that is the team you build ends up making all the iterative decisions about where you're going to end up. Whether you're going to hire the next person from this area or that area, or that strength or some other strength, or take path A or B, is very critical to where a company ends up.

 Mixing the right experience, where you can identify the problems, with first-principles thinking, from fresh new ideas from people who have never worked in the domain, or people who are just fresh graduates and have no idea, but can ask fundamental questions - those are the best kinds of founders. Put differently, in big companies you need people with good process. In start-ups you need people with good iteration and good adaptation. Those are very different skills because in start-ups you invent 90% of stuff, and in big companies 90% of what you do this year will be what you did last year. So there's little innovation and it takes a different kind of person.

 Every start-up, if they're successful, will need some process people later. But process people early in a start-up can be a disaster. Too good a manager is a bad thing for early start-ups. But at some point, you really need to add that.

 So that's what I mean by diversity. If you have a bunch of PhDs, how many are experienced PhDs and how many are fresh? How many are from within your area, and how many are from completely outside your area? Every dimension of diversity will help because they'll bring a different point of view. As long as they have this ability to think from first principles - not say, this is done this way because we did it this way before.

Full transcript can be found at the link below.