John Doerr on Picking Winners — From Google in 1999 to the Climate Crisis Now | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "John Doerr on Picking Winners — From Google in 1999 to the Climate Crisis Now | The Tim Ferriss Show".
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They've got all sorts of cool stuff to choose from. I was skeptical and it actually worked. It worked much better than I could have imagined and I'm very, very happy. So to find your perfect sofa, check out allform.com/tim. That's a-l-l-f-o-r-m.com/tim. Allform is offering 20% off all orders to you, my dear listeners, at allform.com/tim. Make sure you use the code TIM at checkout. That's allform.com/tim and use code TIM at checkout. Optimal minimal. Hit this altitude like in one flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. And I also request you. Now we're the same and I brought you time. Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferris and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferris Show. My guest today is John Doar. Do-e-r-r. You can find them on Twitter at @JohnDoar. John is an engineer, venture capitalist and the chair of Kleiner Perkins. As well as the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Measure What Matters. He has just written his new book, Speed and Scale. Subtitle and action plan for solving our climate crisis now. This is something that has really been in my mind and I'm thrilled to have him on. Doar was an original investor and board member at Google and Amazon, helping to create more than half a million jobs. A pioneer of Silicon Valley's clean tech movement, Doar has invested in zero mission technology since 2006. He's passionate about encouraging leaders to reimagine the future from transforming healthcare to advancing applications of machine learning. Outside of Kleiner Perkins, Doar works with social entrepreneurs who are tackling systemic issues across climate, public health and education. You can learn more about speed and scale at speed and scale.com. I recommend everyone take a look. John, welcome to the show. Thank you very much. I'm thrilled to be here. I am very excited to explore many, many facets of your life and certainly current interests.
Early Career, Influences, And Entry Into Venture Capitalism
Cold calling into a career (05:39)
I wanted to start with perhaps the first visit or your relocation to Silicon Valley. How and why, I suppose why most important, did you end up in Silicon Valley initially? I came to Silicon Valley in the summer of some graduate studies I was doing in Boston. I came there with no job, no place to live, and no girlfriend. My beloved Anne had dumped me and fled herself to Silicon Valley because I was persistent. I had put it. She found herself a great summer job at Intel. I didn't know where she was working and I too was looking for Anne and looking for a summer job. I rendered a $55 a month garage apartment in the hills above Stanford and set out to cold call my way into some kind of summer opportunity. This was just at the same time, Tim. You'll remember this, that Intel invented the 8-bit microprocessor, the 8080, which was the engine that MS DOS ran on and Microsoft basic and so forth. Low and behold, I got myself an internship at Intel. The first day that I showed up for work, Guess whose office was down the hall for mine? Well, Anne Holland, she was not pleased to see me. I took the better part of the summer to put the relationship together, back together, I'll say, and now we've been married 43 years. So that is a huge win and certainly persistence rewarded.
John's first impressions of Andy Grove. (07:24)
There are some other factors that seem to also contribute to another big win and that is landing at Intel and also getting to know Andy Grove. For those who don't know, could you describe Andy Grove and perhaps your first impressions? Andy Grove is a Hungarian emigrate. He came to the US with literally nothing. Enrolled in City College in New York, spoke broken English, studied semiconductor physics, taught that at UC Berkeley, has always been an educator and he worked at Fairchild, semiconductor, the godfather, if you will, or the pro-genitor of the Silicon Valley semiconductor industry. When Bob Noison Gordon Moore left Fairchild, the so-called traitor is 8, the Fair Children resigned to form Intel, Andy Grove was the first executive that they hired. Initially, he ran operations. Ultimately, he ran the entire company. But he's arguably thought to be the best manager and leader of his or maybe any other generation. That very first summer that I was at Intel, I got to attend Andy Grove's courses on Intel. He called them IOPAC for Intel Organization, Philosophy, and Economics. A particular lesson that he taught was how to get people to set goals, to get them focused and aligned and committed in tracking their progress. Andy called these "imbows" Intel Management Pi Objectives. I called them OKRs for objectives and key results. To make a long story short, in the semiconductor business, tens of thousands of people have got to get lines a millionth of a meter, one micron right, where nothing works at all. So discipline, precision, accountability, stretching to do amazing things, that was all a deep part of the Intel culture in this system. I took this idea of OKRs when I left Intel, everywhere I went. I was the Johnny Appleseed of the good gospel of Andy Grove. So I had the chance to introduce it to small companies and large companies, to startups like the Gates Foundation when it was getting started, to Larry and Sergey in the very early life of Google. This is interesting because our plan for the climate crisis is based on OKRs, objectives and key results. We're going to spend a lot of time on OKRs and discussing the climate crisis, but before we do, I want to spend a little more time on Andy Grove and your professional development after Intel. Could you say just a bit more about what made Andy a good or great manager? How did that manifest? What did you see? Several qualities, foremost among them, was he was an educator. He thought that leading involved educating your direct reports and the entire organization. Andy was extraordinarily disciplined. He was also ruthlessly, intellectually, honest. And you always knew where you stood with Andy. He was gifted and skilled at confronting problems without confronting people, sometimes and very often in business. During my first summer assignment at Intel, my job was to build benchmarks, comparing Intel processors to the competition, which was Motorola. I did that. Andy Grove saw one of my training sessions and drafted me to travel with him to Europe to train the Intel European organization and compete to win business at three very large accounts. This was quite a heady experience, a thrill for, as you can imagine, a summer intern. But he became a mentor, a value advisor, and gave me my fair share of tough love.
Andy Groves' managerial style. (11:55)
When he gave tough love, this is something I'm trying to develop as a skill myself. Good feedback, this ruthlessly, intellectual honesty. Do you recall how he did that with you, for instance, how he would deliver that so that it would be perceived as being tough on the problem, but not abusive to the person? It was always balanced but direct. So he'd say, "John, I love your potential at Intel, but you have failed miserably to communicate with the field organization the crisis that we're having with our 16-bit microprocessor." Andy had, I remember when I told Andy that I was going to leave Intel to join a venture capital firm of all things. Well, he had the ability to reach inside your chest and grab your heart, hold it in his hands in front of you, and really question not just what you were doing, but why you were making that decision. So he was a role model for more than the company, far more than me, I think, for the whole innovation industry in his tenure. Before you made your decision to become a venture capitalist or to pursue venture capital, and please correct me if I'm getting this wrong, but while at Intel, you made what people might think of as an unusual request to be transferred from the Santa Clara headquarters to the Chicago sales office.
Leaving Santa Clara for Chicago: pursuing sales. (13:09)
Why did you do that if I'm getting my research right? You're right. That's impressive. My initial assignment at Intel was in engineering and then in product management. But through my career, I've been really blessed to have at any given time one or maybe two mentors. And my mentor, Jim Lally, advised me, "John, if you ultimately want to be a marketing manager or a general manager, you're going to succeed or fail based on your ability to motivate others to get sales, to generate revenues, to have happy customers. And you're never going to learn that skill if you stay in the factory. You should go out to the field, take on a quota, carry a bag, solve problems for customers, sell, make your commission or fail at it, motivate others to do the same." And so he pushed me out of the offices. It was a great gift. And I decided I'd go around and hire myself a field sales manager, somebody to manage my career. I settled on Chicago. And that year and a half, helping people succeed with Intel's new microprocessors was one of the most gratifying times of my career. Was that an easy decision to make an easy recommendation to accept?
John's father. (14:45)
The reason I ask that is that you have technical training. And coming into Intel as an engineer, at least what I've seen in some places in Silicon Valley is a disdain by the technical, for the non-technical, for marketing and sales on some level. Did you see the value in that recommendation immediately? Did it make sense to you or was there some resistance? Yes, I seized it. There were a couple of reasons for that. First of all, I love people and selling, consultative selling. And I'm not talking about flogging breakfast cereals, but solving real technical problems is a very high calling. But the second is my father, who's my hero, was also an engineer and a sales leader and an entrepreneur. So in many ways, my career choices are reflections of his choices and his creative advice.
Why John wanted to become a venture capitalist. (15:47)
One of the entrepreneurs I work with, Jeanne Kim at Nuna says, she reminded me, "John, when you're backing the leader of an enterprise software company, be sure that leader loves enterprise selling because it sets the tone for the entire rest of the organization." That makes a whole lot of sense. And I would love to come back to the Segway to venture capitalist. And I'm actually going to read a little bit from Measure What Matters. And this revisits that conversation that you had with Andy about your decision. So I'm going to paraphrase here just for the sake of making it easy for this conversation. But Andy said, "Come on, door. Don't you want to be a general manager and own a real P&L? I'll let you run until software division." So now your commentary is it was a nonexistent business, but could have been built into one. And then he added a zinger, "John, venture capital, that's not a real job. It's like being a real estate agent." So of course, he knows how to push the buttons. He knows how to use the carrot and the stick. But all of this begets a question for me, which is, "Why were you so interested in venture capital? How did you become so interested?" I wasn't interested in venture capital. What I understood was that venture capital had something to do with starting companies. And I was held then as an entrepreneur, start a company with friends, with co-founders, because that's what my dad did and that just made sense to me. So after I interviewed with Kleiner Perkins Caufield in Buyers, which sounded to me like a law firm, they said, "What we're looking for, door, is someone with a strong technical background, an excellent network among brand name, Silicon Valley companies who has good people skills, strong technical skills, I've already covered that and is willing to be kind of a gopher, carry business plans, read them, do whatever we need to do to be successful." I responded, "Well, that's fine. I would join Kleiner Perkins, but only if you promise you will back me in starting my own venture." And they said, "Well, sure, we have a long history of doing that. Genentech was created in our offices, tandem computers. So we'd love to see our younger associates write plans and go develop them." And they stood by their promise on multiple occasions when I was fortunate enough to help others start new companies. Let's flash forward if we could to an encounter that you already mentioned.
First meeting with Larry Page and Sergey Brin: cruising the slides. (18:24)
And we may fill in the gaps, but I think this is also perhaps a segue into further discussion of OKRs. Could you describe your first meeting with Larry and Sergey, please? Oh, yeah, that was great. I just committed the largest amount of capital that our partnership had ever committed at the highest price to two Stanford computer science dropouts who had no business model. No idea how they'd make money. They were 24 years old. Perhaps you can add a rare photo that I have of them in their garage. But I was doing my gospel of Andy Grove, OKR, Johnny Appleseed, slideshow. I literally took Andy's slides and presented them to Larry and Sergey. At the end of that talk, I asked them for feedback. I wanted to know if they were going to adopt it or not. Larry was his usual quiet self and gave me no feedback whatsoever. Sergey was more abutiant and expressive. Well, I'd like you to believe that he said enthusiastically, John, we'll do this. Actually the truth isn't quite that. What he said was, well, we don't have any better way to manage this company, so we'll give that a try, which I took as a kind of ringing endorsement because every quarter since then, every Googler has written her objectives and key results for the next 90 days, posted them on a public website, graded them from the period before, and shared them. And Google does this to get everybody focused and aligned, committed, tracking their progress. And most of all, Tim, stretching for amazing, audacious, nearly impossible goals. So a good grade at Google is considered to be 70% or so. Now at the end of a quarter, what they do is they sweep these aside because very importantly, they're not used for bonuses. They're not used for promotions. They're used for a much higher calling, which is to get a collective kind of social contract and getting everybody to want to do what must be done. Do you recall what was on those initial slides? Was it copy and paste more or less the same thing you just described, but those slides that you presented in the garage, do you recall the primary takeaways or? Oh, sure. In fact, I have a set of them to this day. Amazing. If you'd want to post them on your website for your audience, I definitely love to do that. So we'll follow up and put those in the show notes. Let's do that. Why did you present that to them? Was it to try to provide them with a framework for ultimately executing on a business model once they identified one? Was it for some other purpose? It was simply so that they could achieve operating excellence, maintaining their culture as they grew faster than anyone ever had attempted before. They may not have known how they were going to make money, but they were very clear on their mission and their values. Their mission was to organize all the world's information and make it readily available everywhere. That's pretty breathtaking and ambitious and timeless and true still today. To do that, while you're trying to constantly improve the product and recruit more talented people to go faster, you want to have a sturdy, reliable way to set goals, check goals, get everybody aligned around really owning and wanting to do the right thing. I'll never forget some sessions that I had with Larry Page. Every quarter for a long time, for many years, he would review the individual objectives and key results for every engineer at Google. This would take him a day and a half or more per quarter. Of course, he walked the talk, he would stand up in front of all the employees, Eric, Larry, Sergey, and they'd show their individual OKRs graded as well as the OKRs for the entire organization. Here's one remarkable thing to him. Those goals, those OKRs, to the best of my knowledge, never leaked. It was part of the Google culture that information, which is very business sensitive and confidential, could be shared and kept within the organization. That is really remarkable just to try to wrap your head around, especially as they began to scale and add such tremendous headcount. At the time, if we could peg a date to it more or less, what year was that first deck? At first OKRs session? Yeah. The first OKRs session with Google was in 1999. OK, this is two years before I moved to Silicon Valley. Part of what impresses me about your career and experience is the breadth of investing that you've done. You've invested in so many different sectors, so many different types of companies. You mentioned this was the largest capital commitment that the partnership had made to date. Why did you decide that was warranted? How did you convince the other partners that this was a good idea?
What led to KPCBs inaugural round of investment in Google? (24:18)
Well, it was certainly a group decision. While I was the advocate, there were co-sponsors. It was a controversial decision, which is true, I think, of many great investment decisions. If it's obvious, then someone else will have done it before or everyone's doing it. This was, you'll recall, I think about the 18th search engine and Kleiner had invested in an earlier portal and search company called Excite, which became Excite at home. So there was some coordination, I guess I'll call it, or maybe just best practices of making sure that Excite had bid to try to acquire Google in the early days. I think they offered a million dollars, which the founders wisely rejected. Google had a stalker technology by far than Excite did. The idea of an 18th search engine didn't phase me one bit. I'll never forget my first conversation with Larry Page when I asked him how big Google would be, and he told me $10 billion. Remember now, this is around 1998. This is at a time when you still dialed up to get into the internet. I about fell out of my chair. I said, "Larry, surely you mean market cap at $10 billion?" He said, "No, John. I mean revenues. Search today is just in the very beginning. In fact, it's a very crummy experience. I want the search system to be able to answer any question that's asked of it, and indeed to anticipate what our users want to know. So I'm a sucker for big ideas and big dreams. And certainly Google was one of the largest that I'd ever seen. And was part of that just looking at the numbers they already had? Was it your engineer's assessment of the technology? I understand that Larry and Sergey, they're called the Wonder Twins for a reason, right? They're incredibly impressive. And there is that force of intellectual horsepower and personality. But as the 18th search engine, were there just characteristics of the technology or the growth trajectory that were unlike anything that you'd seen before? Well, beyond the brilliance of the founders and my belief, which I was shouting from the treetops that the internet at that time had been under hyped, was going to be very, very large, there were three other key observations.
Why John knew Google was such a great investment (26:48)
The first of which was, their search was much better. This notion of page rank, which was, we're going to return results not based on keywords, but on how many pages point to the page or the answer in question, produced a demonstrably better experience. The second observation was, because of that, their numbers were off the chart. And so the growth rate was unlike anything we'd seen for any other service. And finally, coming from the technology industries, from Intel and networking companies, it didn't take a great leap of imagination to see that search well done could transform everything. And so we put those together and that compelled us to fight to win the opportunity to invest. Well, that turned out quite well. I would say on almost every level, is it true? And I should probably know this, but since you mentioned it, page rank, in part was page rank named page rank because of the last name of Larry Page, or did that have nothing to do with it? Yes, yes, yes. The founders, in fact, the whole place is still a great deal of fun. But the original name for the product, I think, at Stanford was BackRob, Back Reverse Ranking Link's relevance. That is very clever. I want to, and we're going to keep, of course, coming back to this, revisit OKRs.
A sample OKR for the climate crisis (28:40)
Could you give a concrete example, real or hypothetical, of what a business OKR might look like? It could be in any format. And then perhaps give an example of how you might apply OKRs to your personal life, one business, one personal. Could my business one be applying OKRs to the climate crisis? Yes. Good. Climate crisis first and foremost. So look, there's three numbers that we've got to remember about the climate crisis. This is the engineer, and me speaking. Those numbers are 59, net zero, in 2050. And simply put, Tim, we're dumping 59 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year as if it's some kind of free and open sewer. And that number has got to go to zero by 2050. We're told by the science if we're going to avoid catastrophic irreversible climate crisis. And so the number one objective of the speed and scale plan is to drive 59 gigatons to zero. That's great. That's a goal. The world has lots of goals with respect to climate and with respect to this really important area. But a long list of menu options is not a plan. A list of hopes and dreams or despair and anger. That's not a plan either. And so what speed and scale is is a plan. I'll describe it for you. And by the way, you can get this plan for free at speed and scale.com right now. Just have the listeners go there and click on it. But it shows the five areas where we have objectives which are to reduce emissions from 59 to zero simply. And we know this. Electrified transportation decarbonize the grid, fix our food systems, not only what we eat but how we grow what we eat, protect nature, clean up industry, which is how we make steel, cement and other dirty carbon emitting things. And then finally, Tim, because these first five only add up to 49 gigatons per year, we have another 10 gigatons of carbon that we must remove. We will continue emitting carbon, but we need to get to net zero. We've got to do this by 2050 or we're out of time. If we do it by 2060 or 2070, it's too late. This is a rape race that we're in. So there are four objectives in this plan that will enable us, give us a fighting chance, to get this done in time. The first of those is to win at politics and policy. The second is to turn movements like Greta Thunberg's Global School Strike into real action. The third very near and dear to my heart is to innovate, invent, and the fourth is to invest, to invest a lot more money in it. Now you said, John, give me an example of these for a business kind of problem. And on the reverse side of this poster, which is available for free, are 55 measurable, time bound, accountable key results, date specific with the amount of gigatons that will be removed if we take one of these on. So I'll just start at the beginning here in electrifying transportation. The goal is to reduce eight gigatons of emissions to two by 2050. And we're going to do that through six key results. I'll just read you the first of them. The first of these key results is to get price performance parity between electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles. And do that by 2024 in the US, just two years from now. And in India and China by 2030, just eight years from now, and specifically to get it to $35,000 and $11,000 respectively. I want to tell you this, Tim, if we don't get that done, we are not going to make it to net zero. And the story is the same for 55 of these quantitative measurable key results.
What would happen if we don't get to net zero? (33:01)
John, can you speak more to what it means to be too late? So if we don't reduce 59 to net zero by 2050, what does it look like for things to be too late? Does that mean ultimately planetary collapse? Irritreevably so? Does it mean something else? Could you paint a picture for us? The picture is devastating. One of the things that inspired me to do this work was a recent book by David Wallace Wells called "The Uninhabitable Earth." I recommend it. It's a terrifying picture of the coming devastation from global warming. The writer's predictions might seem extreme, but just look at the evidence all around us from the last couple of years. We've had devastating hurricanes, biblical floods, record wildfires, and heat waves, massive droughts. And since we won't be getting to net zero anytime soon, it's safe to say that our future is going to be even worse. According to the latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have a global carbon budget of 400 gigatons. 400 gigatons. That's the maximum that we can emit to have a decent chance to limit global warming to one and a half degrees Celsius and avoid an irreversible climate disaster. Now, Tim, at the current rate for global emissions, we're going to blow through that budget in less than seven years. That's why we're joining Jeff Bezos, Christiana Figueroz, and John Kerry in saying, "We must cut drastically now. This is the decisive decade. If we don't get a 50% reduction by 2030, we're screwed." Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors, and we'll be right back to the show. This episode is brought to you by ShipStation. The holiday season is fast approaching, and we know that people will be buying more stuff online than ever before. All of these trends to e-commerce have been accelerated due to COVID and much more. If you're an e-commerce seller, are you ready to meet the demands of record-breaking online shopping season? Be ready with ShipStation. ShipStation.com is the fastest, easiest, and most affordable way to manage and ship your orders. In just a few clicks, you're managing orders, printing out discounted shipping labels, and getting your products out fast. Happy holidays for you and your customers. ShipStation takes the hassle out of holiday shipping. No matter where you're selling on Amazon, Etsy, your website via Shopify or other platforms, ShipStation brings all of your orders into one simple interface. And ShipStation works with all of the major carriers, USPS, FedEx, UPS, even international. You can compare and choose the best shipping solution every time, and you can access the same postage discounts that are usually reserved for large Fortune 500 companies. It's no wonder that ShipStation is the number one choice of online sellers. And right now, my listeners, that's you guys, can try ShipStation free for 60 days when you use offer code TIM. Next go to the homepage, ShipStation.com. Click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in TIM, T-I-M. That's it. Go to ShipStation.com, then enter offer code TIM, ShipStation.com. Make Ship happen.
Why has there been so little progress? (36:35)
Let me ask a question because I'm sometimes asked by listeners what keeps me up at night. And for the last few years, especially the last year, it has been climate change and just looking at the canaries in the coal mine and where the trend lines are headed. I mean, that sort of existential distress has been palpable for me. And in my exploration of different technologies, different startups, different policy makers, different policies for that matter, there's no shortage of will, proposals, to address climate change. There are many movements. A lot of people are upset and trying to get attention, but it's unclear to what end. Why has there been so little progress on getting closer to net zero? Well, it's a very hard and complex problem, but there are three really big rocks, big obstacles that are standing in our way. First, we've got to overcome the entrenched incumbents that now rely on fossil fuels. And that includes multinational oil companies and heavy coal consumers like China and petro states like Russia. China recently announced it's going to stop building coal-fired power plants in other countries, but it also needs to accelerate its commitment to get off coal inside China. This is why the Climate Summit in Glasgow COP26 is so important. The second big challenge is to speed innovations, for example, in batteries and in clean energy, so that we can turn the green premium into a green discount. We're already at the point where it's going to clearly cost more to ruin the planet than to save it. But we need additional breakthroughs to get global adoption of clean energy with speed and scale. The third obstacle is that up to now, we haven't seen a pragmatic action plan to fight climate change. We have not had a plan that shows exactly how we're going to get those 59 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere in time. Speed and scale is our attempt to fill that gap.
Life Lessons, Clean Energy, And Different Perspectives
Favorite failures have a way of paying forward (38:59)
Let's dig into a number of the bullets that you mentioned, specifically the innovate/invent and invest categories. The reason I'm focusing on those is we can come back to win at politics policy and to converting movements to action. But since a lot of people listening may feel like they're in a position, either as a founder or an engineer or otherwise to innovate and invent, or they're in a position with capital to invest. I'd love to approach this from a retrospective if you're open to it. I sent some of my rapid fire common questions to you and your team ahead of time. One of those questions is how is an apparent failure set you up for later success or do you have a favorite failure? The cliff notes here, which I'd love to hear you expand on, was 1 billion in clean tech and then fisker/tesla. Did you expand on that because you've been in the game of investing in this space for a long time? A lot has changed over the last decade plus. But could you speak to that answer? For me, this all started 15 years ago. You'll remember then your audience will. Al Gore's a movie, an indimmediate truth. Definitely. Right after seeing that movie, I had some friends over with my family for dinner and I got a challenge from my teenage daughter. Gary said to me, "Dad, I'm scared and I'm angry. Your generation created this problem. You better fix it." And Tim, I didn't know what to say. The room went silent. As I dug into this, I'd never seen a problem. This is 2006, so vast and complex. I'm the electrical engineer/entrepreneur who loves to tackle big problems. So what I did, my partners, was to set out to find, fund, and accelerate the innovators you're talking about who would have solutions to the climate crisis. We couldn't just sit back in our offices on Sandhill Road and wait for business plans to come in. We searched the world from the Mojave Deserts to the Precision Rainforest. We convened meetings of top scientists. We advocated for more funding for R&D. We met with hundreds, actually nearly a thousand entrepreneurs, and even hired my personal climate hero, Al Gore, to join Kleiner Perkins. We invested a billion dollars, starting in 2006, in a hundred different clean-tech companies. And most of them failed. I've got a lot of scar tissue. We had our share of failures. And failures come with the territory in the innovation business. But we stood by these entrepreneurs, Tim. And that billion dollars today is worth three billion. What I learned from that experience is that clean-tech takes more time, more money, more guts, with longer horizons. And the innovators, the entrepreneurs, need to, in Andy Grovespeak, be ruthlessly intellectually honest about where the risks are in their venture, get those risks upfront, remove them with early dollars. And if the risks are way downstream, think twice or even three times about pursuing that. Because it will take longer. It will take more capital. You'll be fighting incumbents. There will be a groundswell of public demand and appetite. And ultimately, I believe institutional support. Today, 2021, 15 years later, are very different times than 2006. But this is not for the faint of heart. It's for the people who are full of heart, full of head, and are devoted, as so many are, to using their entrepreneurial and creative skills to literally change the world. I would love to look at this a little further, because I'm committing a lot of my own capital to startups who I hope can move the needle with getting to net zero and in many other capacities.
How the clean energy sector has evolved since 2006. (43:00)
And it strikes me that there are a lot of different approaches one can take. And one of the things that makes me optimistic now, as opposed to, say, 15 years ago, and I'd love to just get your sanity check and have you add to this because you're so much more experienced, is that we're starting to see a lot of companies where the unit economics are so attractive and the products they are creating and services so compelling from an economic standpoint. Also the narrative has changed culturally, that they can very quickly generate profit and be self-sustaining where it seemed like in the earlier days, maybe even in 2006, it was really important to play the policy angle and to look for regulatory or legal change, as well as maybe even possible government subsidies to support a lot of companies. And I'm just wondering if some of those changes are things that you agree with or have observed or if other material changes have made this sector even more attractive for investment now. Even the sector is a lot more attractive now than it was in 2006. The market need is more evident. The technologies are in higher volume and therefore more cost competitive even without subsidy. Though I want to say that for most new energy, clean tech startups, cost is king. That's the area in which you must work the hardest to innovate because of something Bill Gates calls the green premium. Most carbon free solutions cost more than their carbon drenched counterparts. In the years following Al Gore's movie, 2006 through 2008, 2009, the country entered the Great Recession and except for some loan guarantees from the Obama administration. Venture funding really was almost extinguished. Just last year, by contrast, venture capitalists invested $23 billion into more than 1,000 clean tech startups. In this year, 2021, startups have raised $16 billion in 250 ventures. That's in just the first part of the year. Over the last year, more than 1,000 investment firms have joined in this mission. So it's very vibrant. The paths are clear. The transportation sector is leading the way. Coming from early stage series A deals to SPACs, these have all doubled in size. Late stage growth funds are now available. And so the scale and pace of venture funding is remarkable. But we need a lot more financing of all types. Seed, venture, late stage, project financing and philanthropic capital. And there are stories from each of those five sectors or components and key results that make up the invest part of our plan. Could you give another example, could be personal, could be from a past company that folks might recognize, whether it's a Google or an Amazon, could really be anything.
How OKRs differ from typical goal setting. (46:40)
But could you give another concrete example of what OKRs might look like for those people at home or thinking how they might create OKRs for themselves? And we're going to come back to discussing speed and scale and the various multi-pronged approach. But I'd love to just make it exceptionally clear to everybody listening what OKRs are. And like you said, how they differ from what people might consider goal setting. OKRs stands for objectives and key results. The objective is what we're trying to achieve. The key result is how we're going to get it done. One of my favorite OKRs stories is in my first book called Measure What Matters. And that's when Larry Page and Sergey Brin turned to Sundar Pishai, who at the time was a Google product manager. And they said to him, they'd like to create the next generation web browser and application development environment, which eventually became Google Chrome. Now Sundar's genius was to translate that into both the correct objective, build the world's best browser, and the correct key results. So how will you measure? What will be the key results to tell you that you've built the best browser? Sundar could have chosen any number of measures like click-throughs or revenues or how many times people came back to using Chrome. And by the way, any one of those nuanced and different key results would have taken his effort in a different direction. But Sundar did brilliantly his say, we're simply going to measure success by the number of users. So he boiled it down into a bold and beautiful OKR, where the main key result in the beginning was to reach 20 million weekly active users by the end of the year. Starting from zero, by the way, this was a moonshot for sure. In fact, Tim, do you remember the internet back in 2008? It was very, very slow. We were using Internet Explorer, and the Chrome team missed their target. Comes with the territory when you set really audacious goals. So what matters is what Sundar then did. Did he give up? No. He kept the same timeless objective to build the world's best browser. But he said even more aggressive stretch goals. By 2010, he said his key result would be 111 million weekly active users. And they made that key result. Now, you also asked about a personal OKR. I'll share one out of my own life. I'm the proud father of two amazing daughters. In raising them, I wanted to be sure that we had a healthy family life. And so I set that as an objective, have a healthy family life. The key result was to be home for dinner 20 nights a month by 6 p.m. and to be fully present. No screens. That was definitely a stretch goal. And I'd say I made it only about 70% of the time. But when we were together at dinner, we were there with phones off, Internet off, and able to be centered and focused on what really matters. I have to ask you a follow up on becoming a parent and building a family.
Should John's 30-year-old-self have started parenting sooner? (50:31)
And that's in part. This is purely selfish. But I am, oh, the my 44 in a committed relationship, talking very seriously about kids. And there's another question I ask off, which is what advice would you give to your 30-year old self? And the note that I got back was have kids sooner. And I thought to myself, well, damn, I really need to hit the pavement running and hear more about this, maybe in the opposite order. So could you just elaborate on that answer, please? Sure. I think it starts with how you make meaning out of life. And we each ever own choices there. My north star, as you make meaning with and for others, that life alone is one great big missed opportunity. My personal regret is that Anne and I started our family at around age 40 instead of age 30. And 40 was a great time for my career, but I think we could have raised one more amazing daughter or son if we'd started at it sooner. Could you say more about that? I know this might sound strange as a question, whereas as an ask. But what does it feel like to be a parent for you? Maybe it's an intuitive, sort of instinctive response that is hard to put into words, but you're also an engineer. So I'd love to hear you say a bit more on making meaning, particularly as it relates to kids and family. I reminded of something that Andy Grove told me. When he retired from Intel after the most amazing career, I mean, this man democratized the microcomputer chip and built an amazing company. I said, "Gosh, Andy, I bet you're going to..." And by the way, I was working to try to get him to join the board of Amazon or Google at the time. And he said, "No, that's for another generation to do." I said, "Aren't you going to miss Intel enormously when you retire?" And he said, "John, I'll miss it, but not so much because I'm a grandparent. And when I look into the eyes of my grandchildren, I get to see the future." And he didn't say anything more than that, but it clearly is how he made meaning of what over the sweep of a lifetime. So what was your question again? The question was, how you broadly think about making meaning, and I had in my mind, of course, how that relates to kids and family. But I think that as people who are listening get barraged with polarized bad news day and day out, there are increased levels of anxiety, existential distress. And I think a lot of people are asking what the point of it all is. I'm not saying that's a good question, but there's a certain malaise. And I think finding meaning is an important countervailing force or antidote to that malaise. And so it's really just a broad question about how you create meaning for yourself. I do it in relation with others, with family, with entrepreneurs that I get to work with, with friends, with policymakers. I'm an introverted engineer, but also avid networker. I'm talking about the kinds of networks that are built and sustained over a lifetime. How do you make meaning out of life? I currently think that I may require kids to fully answer that question well. And a friend of mine once told me the story, he's in his sixties now. He might be actually known, he's in his early seventies, grandparent. And he said when he had his first child, which he had late, his brother said to him, "Welcome to the human race." That was his comment when he had his first kid. And I feel like there's probably a lot to that. So how do I create meaning right now? I mean, this might sound really strange, but I try to make meaning out of bonds with others and trying to alleviate suffering. Perfect. And that is, that could be the suffering of pain. It could be the suffering of attachment to outcomes. It could be the suffering of uncertainty, but that's where I am now.
How John and Tim think about 'making meaning' (55:18)
We'll see where it goes. So right now for me, making meaning is to give a healthy climate to the future generations. I believe we owe it to them, for them to enjoy the opportunities and nature and the lives that we have. I think I'm also converging on that and that that will be more palpable for me once I have kids. And I don't want to take us off track, but I remember hearing from someone who's focused on artificial intelligence or the threats of artificial intelligence say that whenever he's discussing it with anyone, he asks them two questions. One is, do you know how to code and the other is, do you have kids? And he said, unless the answer is yes to both of those, he really doesn't spend a lot of time in the conversation. But coming back to climate crisis and solutions, and you're talking about building relationships, you've mentioned two names, Al Gore, Bill Gates. Where do you have differences of opinion? There's a three of you on the state of affairs or the value of different solutions and approaches. Where have you guys had spirited debates? First of all, and this is really true, they, each of them, have given for all practical purposes their lives to this mission, the climate crisis. Yes, Bill cares enormously about public health and health care. But if we have a billion climate refugees, the people least responsible for this problem are going to pay the highest price and they're least capable of dealing with it and that's the world's poor. I am probably not as optimistic as Bill or Al are, but I'm very hopeful and my concern is that on this quest, we are fast running out of time. All especially in Bill as well are stunned by the declines in the costs of solar energy and wind, renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, which the IEA among others have said, we've got to stop burning to make electricity. But I think it's really a balance between deploying more now of what we have and we know works while we're investing for the new. That's the now in the new. I think Bill Gates has great confidence in the new and the role of innovation and I share a lot of that optimism with him. I do think there's, to your earlier point about motivation, besides Al and Bill who are working this full time, I'm really struck by something that Barack Obama said about the climate crisis, which is, and our obligation. He said, we're the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it, truly conveys, I think the responsibility and the urgency that we have to tackle this problem. Let's discuss action steps, calls to action. This audience, meaning my fine listeners, really span across every possible sector.
The difference in perspectives between John, Bill Gates, and Al Gore which likely drives their different strategies, approaches, and economies of scale (58:38)
They are found in private sector, in public sector positions of policy influence, governmental influence. They're everywhere. They're all over the place. And there are many people who are not in those positions, but nonetheless very interested in trying to contribute in whatever way that they can. Are there any particular requests you would like to make of people in the audience or suggested next actions that you might have? Well, what a great question. And the answer is, absolutely yes. Look, Tim, I wrote this book for leaders everywhere in all walks of life. It's for your audience, for sure, for entrepreneurs and for activists and for philanthropists and investors, but it is also for teachers and their students and for teenagers and their grandparents and your children and your children's children to come. But most of all, I wrote this book for the leader inside of each of you listening to us. And remember, Jim Collins' great definition of leadership. He says, leaders inspire others to want to do what must be done. They inspire others to act. And so while we've got to act individually, you should switch to electric appliances. If you can afford them by an electric vehicle, eat less beef. Individual action is not going to be enough, not nearly enough. If we're going to get to net zero, we need massive global action. And an example of that is to pressure our utilities to clean up their electric grids. That's collective action. Make electric vehicles cheaper and available at scale. That takes collective action. Transform our food system. Eliminate food waste. That takes collective action. So we really need the leader inside each of your listeners to decide this is their North Star and then they're going to organize to support candidates who are committed to climate action. They're going to push their employer to make net zero commitments. They're going to support and in fact become entrepreneurs who innovate like crazy. We need investors to push companies for big emissions cuts. All of this needs to happen. And we have to get halfway there by 2030. We've got to improve at least 8% per year against a monumentally hard goal because we're at 59 gigatons right now. That's going to get worse before it gets better.
Climate Action And Resources
Tools to start learning about the issue and taking action. (01:01:22)
We're going to go from 7 billion to 10 billion people. And so I like to say this is the mother of all markets. It's also the mother of all problems, but we can do it, especially if we've got a clear plan. And my understanding is that people can find free resources, a lot of what we've talked about in terms of options for action that you and certainly your team have thought through based on OKRs and timelines, deliverables, et cetera. They can find those at speed and scale.com. Is that the best resource for people? That's certainly a place to start. Get the plan there. So get this book. And I'm not saying it to sell the book, but there's a bibliography. The book doesn't have appendices. It has resources. And so there's another 40 or so books. There's every advocacy group. There's every investor that's working in the field. I think of this book as a field manual, a guide that I'm determined to update on the web and in print form until we get this job done. The work, by the way, I want to give credit to the teams of policy experts and scientists. I'm an engineer, Tim, and I have a hard problem with words. It's really hard for me to write and write things well. So the truth is I cheat. And easily half of this book are verbatim conversations with 35 different climate leaders, stories from Murray Barra, who's running General Motors and what it was like for her to decide to stop making internal combustion engines or take Christiana Figuerois, who ran the Paris Accords the last time. She tells in the book what her hopes and dreams are for the coming Glasgow COP26 or an entrepreneur, Bruce Nillis, who shut down more coal-fired power plants in the US than I think any individual. So 35 different conversations, a field guide, a plan, an action plan for solving the climate crisis. It sounds like people will not only get inspiration, which is sort of that initial push in a sense, but also the instructions so that when they're pushed in a direction or pulled in a direction, they actually have practical next steps that they can take. And certainly two of those right now would be going to speed and skill.com and getting speed and skill subtitle and action plan for solving our climate crisis. Now this is something I am thinking about all the time. So I was very, very happy to have you on, John. I've been looking forward to this conversation. I think it's a critical conversation, maybe the critical conversation that more people should be having right now. Is there anything else that you would like to say, any closing comments, any requests of my audience before we bring this conversation to a close? Yes, there is. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to do that. I think it's important and been an important part of my learning to realize that climate change is the world's biggest inequality machine. I said before, those that suffer the most, who will suffer the most, did the least to cause this. And those who cause the most are best equipped to escape the consequences. And so our work in this field needs to be guided and grounded in a deep sense of climate justice and equity, both at home and around the world.
Funding climate action must be a priority for developed countries. (01:05:04)
That all sounds great. What it really means is we need to acknowledge the differences between the developing poor countries and the developed countries, because there are vast differences, disparities in their ability to move away from fossil fuels and in how fast they can do this. Specifically, the countries who have contributed the most to the crisis and the US is the greatest, really must help finance the transition for developing nations. We've also got to be mindful of the millions of everyday workers whose livelihoods are tied to fossil fuels. They deserve retraining, quality job opportunities and pollution-free neighborhoods. United States must go first. And so just in the last couple of days, Biden agreed to double the US commitment towards the $100 billion per year fund that the developing world in the Paris Accords called for. But it's not yet enough if there's a rallying cry for where we stand today on this existential crisis, this mission, it's not enough. We've got to act with greater speed and scale. Hence the name. Hence the very apt title, speed and scale. John Doar, I have followed you very closely since before I moved to Silicon Valley, it's such a pleasure to spend time together. Everyone can find you on Twitter @JohnDoorD-O-E-R-R. In the book again is Speed and Scale, speed and scale.com is where people can learn more. And I really appreciate you taking the time today, John. This is an important message and I'm glad to have you out there pounding the drum and having these conversations.
Want to talk to John about climate action? IKRs are encouraged! (01:06:57)
Tim, your creation of a community and causes a great gift to this campaign. And I just, I'd like your audience to share with me and with us what they're doing about this, what OKRs they are creating and have them send them to me. I'm John at speed and scale.com. We're all in this together. We are definitely in this together. And I imagine you will get some OKRs via email. So thank you for that. And to everybody listening, I will include the links to everything we've discussed, resources and more. Perhaps we'll have that photograph of Larry and Sergey and yourself in the garage and perhaps even that initial presentation as a lure to get people into the resources at Tim.blog/podcast. And until next time, take care, be safe, think long term. Long termism is important. And we are all in this together.
5-Bullet Friday (01:08:00)
And until next time, thanks for tuning in. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just one more thing before you take off. And that is 5 Bullet Friday. Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little fun before the weekend? Between one and a half and two million people subscribe to my free newsletter, my super short newsletter called 5 Bullet Friday. Easy to sign up, easy to cancel. It is basically a half page that I send out every Friday to share the coolest things I've found or discovered or have started exploring over that week. It's kind of like my diary of cool things. It often includes articles on reading, books on reading, albums perhaps, gadgets, gizmos, all sorts of tech tricks and so on that get sent to me by my friends, including a lot of podcast guests and these strange esoteric things end up in my field and then I test them and then I share them with you. So if that sounds fun, again, it's very short, a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off to the weekend, something to think about. If you'd like to try it out, just go to Tim.blog/Friday, type that into your browser, Tim.blog/Friday, drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. Thanks for listening.
Allform is Now Live! Win One at allform.com/Tim (01:09:11)
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Athletic Greens (01:11:34)
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Sam Returning to Primitive Living (01:13:10)