Randy Komisar: Entrepreneur, Author
Randy Komisar is one of the greatest thinkers in the 21st century. He is a venture capitalist(KPCB), author(The Monk and the Riddle), and entrepreneur(Co-founded Claris Corp). He was a co-founder of Claris Corp., served as CEO for LucasArts Entertainment and Crystal Dynamics, and acted as a “virtual CEO” for companies such as WebTV and GlobalGiving. Randy also served as CFO of GO Corp. and as senior counsel for Apple Computers, following a private practice in technology law. Randy is a founding director of TiVo and serves on the advisory board of Roadtrip Nation, as well as on the global advisory board for the Institute for Energy Efficiency at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a lecturer on entrepreneurship at Stanford University and the author of the best-selling book The Monk and the Riddle. Today, he shares the mastery of life.
It is often the case that we talk a lot about money and forget what is truly important in life. It cannot be black or white. Let's learn how you can create a balance between business and life.
-----Let us know more about you, what is your current passion and mission?
My mission is to serve Human Potential. Business is just the means, not the ends. In my experience entrepreneurship is a very effective marriage of business and social progress. Not every venture contributes to a better future, but the potential is there to do good while doing well.
My passion is to partner with high potential leaders to accomplish meaningful change. I relish the opportunity to teach and learn from the next generation of business and thought leaders. It’s a privilege for which I am very grateful.
-----What is the greatest experience you’ve ever had in your career?
I can’t think of a single “greatest” experience. I am fortunate enough to continually renew my “greatest” with the “latest”. Joining Bill Campbell, my life-long mentor, to found our first startup, Claris Corporation, was exhilarating. Inventing the role of the Virtual CEO at WebTV and TiVo was a joy. Writing my first book, The Monk and the Riddle, was a dream. Teaching at Stanford, with my partner Tom Byers, was life changing. Working with Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers to make Nest one of the most successful Unicorn Ventures was extremely satisfying. And the good news is that today, I am having a completely new set of wonderful experiences.
-----Explain the emotions and feelings you experienced on the first day of your entrepreneurial life.
I was working at Apple 1.0 in 1985 when Bill Campbell, Sr. VP Sales and Marketing, grabbed me in the hall, pulled me into a dark office, closed the door and asked me if I would join him in creating Claris Corporation, an Apple Software spinoff. He didn’t mention my title, role or compensation, and he wanted an answer before we left the room. I thought hard, for less than a minute, and leapt into my career in entrepreneurship. It was a whirlwind. I did everything that needed doing. Deals, real estate, hiring, etc. The hours were never ending, but I could not have been happier. I was finally the master of my own fate and part of a team I loved and admired. I didn’t know what could not be accomplished, so I accomplished it. Win or lose, there was no turning back from a career in entrepreneurship.
Randy Komisar: Mastering Your Career, Business, Life
-----When you take a new action in terms of business, what is the first question that comes to your mind?
Does it matter? More specifically, does it matter to me? Do I care enough about the mission and opportunity to fail at it? Yes, fail at it. Why? Because most ambitious ventures fail and if you are not committed to the mission, the ensuing emotional roller-coaster will lead you to howl at the moon. So I ask myself if I am truly passionate enough, and sufficiently committed to the mission, to risk failure. If not, I look for another one.
-----On one hand, each city, country, and region has different values. On the other hand, knowledge and management process tend to get generalised. What are you able to learn from generalised knowledge and what do you need to find answers by yourself?
A decade ago, when I traveled the world meeting with entrepreneurs, I was struck by how far they were behind their competitors in Silicon Valley. Innovation and creativity arise anywhere on the planet where smart people reside, and that is everywhere. But entrepreneurship is a profession with a best practice, and that best practice seemed to be centered in Silicon Valley.
Today I am impressed by how advanced the global entrepreneurs have become in a mere decade. The Internet and media have disseminated the details of best practices to every corner of the planet. Those practices are recited in endless books, blogs, videos, conferences, competitions, hack-a-thons and news services.
So today, the regional challenge is not one of an unfair information advantage, but rather an experience gap and a lack of suitable mentors who can bridge the experience gap. I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in the generalised area of entrepreneurship, but I look for specific answers by reaching out to the smart people who surround me. They have the perspective and knowledge I lack.
-----Sometimes, people are afraid of failures too much. Sometimes, people romanticise failures too much. What are people actually able to learn from failures?
No one should set out to fail. And no one should take the risk of failure lightly. But innovation is about trying things that have not been done before. It is about experimenting and struggling to challenge the status quo. It is about creative destruction. Most change fails just as most mutations are evolutionary dead ends. If we are ambitious, we will fail often before we succeed.
Silicon Valley has distinguished itself in part because of a culture that does not punish failure. If you fail for some reason other than being stupid, lazy or corrupt, then SV wants to put your experience to work again as soon as possible. You learn a lot succeeding, but failure seems to sharpen the senses even more.
And I have come to understand that disappointment is not always failure. Was Edison’s 900Th filament a failure or merely a disappointment; more knowledge on the way to success? It all depends on whether you stop trying. Failure in the context of innovation needs to be defined differently as we all fail toward success.
-----All the resources on the earth are available to you, what would you like to create?
An energy ecosystem that supports a prosperous but sustainable planet. A food ecosystem that feeds a growing population without taxing the earth and future generations. An educational ecosystem where everyone on the planet can reach their full potential. Hopefully, these three accomplishments will further our collective peace, fairness and happiness.
-----If you could start everything from scratch again without any money, status, or network, but with the wisdom you have now, what would be the first thing you work on?
I would first work on myself. To find the peace of mind and inner strength so that I can undertake the challenges ahead. I would combine my inner journey with opportunities to teach and mentor the next generation of leaders. I would look for those opportunities that can make a difference and to which I can contribute meaningfully. I would resist the urge to race ahead with the herd chasing the Next Big Thing in the hope that I can find my own way.
-----Make a call to 20-year-old Randy Komisar, what kind of advice you would give to him?
Trust yourself. You don’t have to become someone else to succeed in life. Define your own success and don’t surrender to the expectations of others. Don’t worry about what you can’t change and don’t concern yourself with the ultimate questions of life’s challenges, focus instead on the here and now. Know yourself in order to know others. And don’t be fooled by money. It can empower greatness if you are truly great, but it comes at a steep cost and can be a burden that keeps you from living a meaningful life. In the end, it’s the relationships with others and your help for those who need it that will define your happiness. Trust in goodness.
-----If you could leave one message to make the world better, what would be your message?
Be kinder. Move beyond yourself and deeply empathise with others. We are all in this life together and no one will get out alive. While our generation is obsessed with how we can make and consume more, twenty-five hundred years ago the world’s best thinkers on every continent wrestled with a much more powerful question, “how should we live our lives?” I think it starts with losing your ego and being kinder to each other in the process.