Words of Wisdom from Vinod Khosla

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Vinod Khosla and Kevin Delaney

Vinod Khosla is a seasoned Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur who is unafraid to speak his mind, however controversial his ideas.

Last Friday, Vinod did just that during a fireside chat moderated by Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney at General Assembly’s New York City campus. The conversation was live streamed exclusively to subscribers of Front Row, GA’s monthly online learning service. Viewers were encouraged to submit questions for the Q&A section that followed.

Vinod shared his view on a wide variety of topics including innovation, success, and Elon Musk. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorite quotes below, but encourage you to watch the hour-long video:

On Innovation

I have a surprising perspective that is almost nothing that is not open to technology innovation.

You mention an area, and I’ll come up with an innovation.

On Failure and Success

Most technology startups fail. There’s a winner, and there’s 7 out of 10 that lose. If the press wants to play up the failures, there are always plenty of those.

I don’t mind failing, but if I succeed it better be worth succeeding for.

It doesn’t matter what your probability of failure is. If there’s a 90% chance of failure, there’s a 10% chance of changing the world.

I’ve probably failed more than anybody in this room, mostly because I’ve tried more than anybody else.

My willingness to fail is what gives me the ability to succeed.

On Doing

Most venture capitalist don’t build real stuff. The only value of bad venture capitalists is their money. I tell entrepreneurs to take their money and then just ignore them.

I love doers and I hate people who tell other people what they should or should not do.

On Human Biases in Medicine

If you want to be a doctor, you’ll be a better doctor if you do math than medicine. A few years ago they did a study and asked 40 doctors about what treatment they would prescribe. Half the doctors said surgery, the other half said do nothing. Whether you get cardiac surgery or not didn’t depend on science, but on which doctor you got. Then two years later they gave the same doctors the data and 40% changed their mind. That is what happens when you rely on human judgment instead of science.

Today, it is silly to say that human judgement that can exceed the performance of fast trading systems. So in 15 years we have gone from ‘you can’t replace human judgement’ to ‘there’s no way human judgement can keep up with these systems.’ We will all say that about doctors 15 years from now.

On Elon Musk

Basically [Elon] risked most of his wealth to make Tesla succeed. He’s a guy with the courage of his conviction, enough to bet all his wealth, time, and energy, then get in the trenches and fight the dark battles which come when you are not doing well. I like guys like that; they are my heroes.

On the Future

I suspect there’s much more creativity that can be harnessed than we harness today. I’m hoping that the number of value-producing jobs in society will increase.

We are now in an economy of ideas. If you build a great search engine, you make $50 billion. A few people with great ideas and the courage to follow their convictions result in disproportionate paybacks. Previously, there was no way for a Mark Zuckerberg to start, and then within 10 years be worth billions of dollars. And so, this non-linearity driving the economy and wealth creation will drive the need for social change away from the kind of capitalism we have today.

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