Mullet startups and how Silicon Valley has changed

Product Hunt Radio



Nov. 13, 2018, 9 p.m.

Today on Product Hunt Radio, I make the trek from San Francisco down to Sandhill Road to talk to Andrew Chen and Ada Chen at Andreessen Horowitz. Their matching last name is not a coincidence — yes, they are siblings.

Andrew Chen is a relatively recent addition to Andreessen Horowitz team, where he's a General Partner focused on consumer and SaaS. Prior to joining the illustrious firm, he led growth teams at Uber. He's also a prolific writer with more than 650 essays over the past decade covering startups, growth, and more. Fun fact: he coined the term “mullet business” which we touch on during the podcast. (Where's a mullet emoji when you need it!?)

Ada Chen has a unique background, operating at companies with massive scale, including Mochi Media, LinkedIn, and SurveyMonkey, as well as startups at the earliest stage. Today she advises several startups and is the COO of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for teams, which she co-founded with her husband.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The uniqueness of the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem, how network effects conspire to create a “rich get richer” situation for cities, and why new communication tools enabling distributed teams to work together across continents could mean that there will be no “next Silicon Valley.”
  • Ada shares her insights on the contrasting skill sets needed when working at a big company versus a small startup, after having herself gone from a small startup to a huge organization like LinkedIn back to a two-person startup with her husband.
  • How to port the concept of OKRs — objectives and key results, a personnel management framework originated by legendary Intel CEO Andy Grove — to your personal life from your business (and why you would want to). We talk about you can use them to help manage your exercise, social life and relationship with your SO.

Of course, we also chat about some of their favorite products, including an app that lets you pop in to a luxury hotel for a few hours to shower or have a nap, a super cool way to greet visitors to your office, and a new app for emailing yourself.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Also, big thanks to our sponsors, Airtable, GE Ventures, Intercom and Stripe for their support. 😸

Quotes from This Episode

“When you’re executing at a small startup, or a small team, or just by yourself, it really comes down to ideating, picking and prioritizing, and then rolling up your sleeves and just getting things done as quickly as possible. It's a night and day difference from a big company.” — Ada

“If you graph cities, there's a power law: the biggest cities are really big and there's this long tail of all these little tiny cities, and the reason for that is that there's a network effect within cities. These ecosystems emerge because the designers are here, because the engineers are here, because the capital is here, because the marketing people are here, and on and on and on.” — Andrew

“When it comes to working at a large company, it's much more cerebral and much more about the heart. You’re thinking about how to collaborate and communicate across a cross-functional team to get the initiative done: can you communicate what it's about; can you motivate people to get it done; can you manage all the working pieces?” — Ada

“Either these network effects will continue to hold and the Bay Area will continue to be strong, or we make big structural shifts in how we organize teams and workforces and the network effects become less strong. But that doesn’t mean some other city becomes the next Silicon Valley, there won’t actually be a “next” Silicon Valley — it either continues or will just be distributed.” — Andrew

“The irony of it is that sometimes when you are working on projects with such large scale, because the skill set is so different, it actually feels like you're not doing anything at all — you’re merely managing the appendages of the other groups and trying to make sure everyone is staying on track and executing.” — Ada

On joining a venture capital firm: “The idea that I would do the thing I want to do for fun as my full-time job feels like I’ve won an ice cream eating competition, and the prize is more ice cream.” — Andrew

Companies and Products Mentioned in This Episode

Bose — Noise-cancelling earbuds.

Breather — Peace and quiet, on-demand. Reserve a private space on the go.

Captio — Email yourself with one tap.

Envoy — Elegantly greet visitors to your office.

HabitShare — The only habit-tracking app that is social to its core.

NotaBene — Shortcuts for quickly emailing notes to yourself and others.

Notejoy — Collaborative notes for your entire team.

Recharge — Take a nap or shower in a luxury hotel.

Redditr/InternetIsBeautiful, r/bestof and r/firstworldanarchists

Spacious — Flexible, drop-in workspace.

VIPKID — Teach Chinese children from your home.

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