September, 2011

Sep 11

Figure Out Who’s On Your Team

I haven’t written much yet about my experiences during my first year on the VC side of the table — I’ve been pretty busy just learning, doing, trying to process everything as I go.

Along the way I’ve met a LOT of new people — entrepreneurs, investors, designers, scientists, on and on. I’ve always had a pretty large network of friends and colleagues, but this year it’s pretty well exploded — I’ve gotten to spend some time with amazing, amazing people I hadn’t really spent time with before.

But the interesting, and maybe counter-intuitive thing I’m finding is this: as I’m meeting so many more capable and awesome people, my core group of collaborators — the folks who I’ve built companies and careers together with over the last 20 years — while I see the core group less often, I’m finding that the interactions I have with them to be much more valuable.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, back when I was 23 and newly out of school, is this: look around and figure out who you want to be on your team. Figure out the people around you that you want to work with for the rest of your life. Figure out the people who are smart & awesome, who share your values, who get things done — and maybe most important, who you like to be with and who you want to help win. And treat them right, always. Look for ways to help, to work together, to learn. Because in 20 years you’ll all be in amazing places doing amazing things.

That’s turned out to be true for me. Knowing who’s on your team — or as Reid likes to say, who’s in your “tribe” — has been critically important for me, even though I don’t see them all as much as I’d like.

Sep 11

Mike Shaver: Thanks!

Mike Shaver has done as much as anyone on the planet over the last ten years to make and keep the Web open, free, and awesome. That’s no joke, not a typo, not an exaggeration. The guy has done a lot, and I’m incredibly thankful for his contributions — they’ve just been astonishingly broad, durable & meaningful.

He announced today that he’s leaving Mozilla after working there the past 6 years in a variety of roles (and he’s been involved even longer, since before even existed). His absence will be felt acutely by everyone, I think, but his fingerprints are all over the place, and all over the project, and they will be forever – the way Mike thinks is pretty well part of the DNA of the company and project.

On a personal level, I really liked working with Mike – he’s smart and humble (sometimes!) and thoughtful – he routinely challenged (and continues to challenge) the way that I thought about problems both on a micro level and more importantly at web scale. He’s been involved in too many technology strategy decisions to count, always working for the betterment of the open web, even when it was inconvenient for him and Mozilla. (or maybe especially then!)

And he affected my framing of the problem deeply – I remember one day a couple of years back when we were talking about some market share point, thinking about how incredibly, insanely competitive the browser technology landscape was – and he said to me: “Look, this is the world we wanted. And this is the world we made.” Wow. Exactly right. He taught me so much about how enormous an impact a group of dedicated people can make.

I quote him a lot when I talk with entrepreneurs of all stripes. I say this: “Figure out the world you want, and go make it that way.” That’s the essence of entrepreneurship, and I think it’s the essence of Mike.

For my money, that’s the best advice anyone can give anyone else, and the best lesson I really, deeply learned from Mike.

Mozilla has been incredibly lucky to have amazing engineering management leadership over the past few years, from Schrep to Shaver and now Damon – just incredible leaders, and the loss of Mike will be obvious, although he’ll undoubtedly stay involved in the larger project.

But for myself, I just wanted to give Mike a very public thank you, and to say that I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Sep 11


Right at the moment, Kathy’s away, attending the funeral of a close family friend of ours — someone she’s known since college, and someone I’ve gotten to know a bit over the years, although she was much closer to him.

It’s tragic to lose him — he was just 45, was an amazing husband and father and friend and practically an uncle to SPL. Tragic that he left behind an amazing wife and 6 year old daughter. And made more tragic because he died at his own hand, after suffering from depression.

Kathy & I have really been struggling with it as everything’s unfolded this week — not even in the same universe as how the family’s affected, of course, but it’s caused a lot of soul searching and emotionally tough time.

There are so many different aspects, each of which seems too gigantic to really get a handle on. How to understand it in the context of his life? How to help his wife and daughter? How to talk about it with SPL, who loved him so much? And how to think about it all in the context of our own lives?

I think not too many of those questions are answerable quickly, or maybe at all, really. For myself, I have 3 main things I’m thinking about while Kathy’s at the memorial, celebrating his life.

1. Life can change profoundly for us in the space of a day, or an hour or a minute. Need to pay attention to now, need to enjoy those around us.

2. It’s an amazing thing to be with friends during a time of extreme emotional distress — it’s obviously so, so hard, but it’s also an opportunity for profound grace and dignity to show through, and that’s what’s manifestly evident this week with his wife and daughter. Such grace and strength in the face of so much uncertainty ahead.

But mostly, we’ll miss him and the influence he had on everyone around him. He was always so generous, so engaged, so happy to share time and joy. Kathy & SPL especially loved spending time with him and his family so much.

Sep 11

Play Structures Fix All Things

Today will not go down in history as one of the most amazing games of U7 AYSO ever.

It was our first game of the season, and since we have an uneven number of teams in the league, we had a bye week – so we traveled to another nearby region to scrimmage their bye team, too.

We went to the wrong field, as did all the other parents, so we had about half the boys show up. They play by different rules (bigger goals, goalies, 5×5, instead of small goals, no keepers, 4×4). We were all late. No referee, first game of the season, and some emotional reactions to getting scored on by some bigger kids on the other side. And really no subs for our squad, which made for a pretty long 40 minutes.

First half was tough; second half was a lot better, and the boys really worked hard at getting better — the effort and focus showed; I was very proud of all of them. Some were a little discouraged at the end, but the snack and talking for a few minutes about what each of us did really well and the effort we gave helped a bunch.

But then everyone was off to the play structure and was happy. Best thing about traveling to a new region/school/playground is the novelty of their play structure.

Just a simple, Saturday morning reminder that lots of things don’t go like you want them to, lots of situations spin out of control from the start. But it’s all good if you get out and try your best, learn something, and get a little time with your friends on the play structure at the end.

Also, it’s a humbling thing to try to coach 10 6 year olds. Seems like such a small, constrained set of things to think about — not many kids on the field, not too much action at one time, no real strategy. But I’ll tell you: the games and practices seem to fly right by — it’s so much to pay attention to all happening at once — trying to nudge so many kids in the right direction, while they’re all learning so incredibly fast. It’s an amazing thing — always feels pretty chaotic, but also deeply rewarding.

Sep 11

The Bittersweetness of Parenting

It’s been a busy summer for us, one full of change, and I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but just haven’t had the time to sit down until today. WARNING! it’s a bit saccharine on the topic of being a parent. Beware. 🙂

It’s about the bittersweetness and ephemeral nature of being a parent — the overwhelming feeling that I’ve had ever since SPL was born is happiness mixed with an acute awareness of how quickly time moves, how quickly SPL is changing and growing and developing.

It seems to me that the essential nature of being a parent is building and creating, and then always letting go. Letting go of the kid that lived in your house yesterday, accepting that they’ve changed and are becoming the person they’ll be tomorrow. It’s been hard for me to explain to people without kids; it’s been universally & immediately understood by my friends with kids.

I’ll talk about it here in the context of our trip to Disneyland this summer.

Now, it’s easy to be cynical about The Walt Disney Company and the various parks and properties that they run — and I’m often cynical myself about them. But I have to say that I really love going to Disney World and Disneyland — I always have — and I really, really love going with Kathy & SPL. I love being there, I love exploring with them, and none of the machinery of manipulation of the place really bothers me all that much.

This year, with SPL being 6, was a fun mix of wanting to venture out on his own and wanting to hug tight to Kathy and me. It felt like we’re crossing a line towards more and more independence.

So here’s a story in 4 pictures.


Above and beyond everything else, the trip is a time that the three of us get concentrated, dedicated time with not much to worry about other than just being a family.


One of the best parts about an experience like this is the combination of familiar and completely new things to experience together. Above is a picture of SPL & me watching one of the parades, talking about what we saw together, processing it together.


At just 6 years old, SPL still gets excited by the characters, loves hugs and holding close. We didn’t get too many pictures of it, but lots of times SPL grabbed onto Kathy and me — he’s still small enough that he wants the safety of his parents, and isn’t really 100% ready to take on the experiences by himself.

Still, my favorite picture of the trip this year is this one:


It’s on one of the smaller roller coasters in the park — in Toon Town, and this was the very first time he was able to ride the coaster by himself (I was in the seat behind, obviously).

I just love this picture because it represents so much about the way SPL is beginning to engage with the world now — in an “arms up, even though it’s a little scary for me” mode.

And as hard as it is when on the 2nd day of kindergarten he shoos you out of the room or runs away from you across the playground — and it is hard, and emotional — again, tough to describe to anyone without kids.

As hard as that feeling is to experience, it’s also exactly, exactly the thing you want for your child. An eagerness to engage with the new, to run unafraid towards the unknown.

So for me, that’s the essential quality of being a parent. Spending endless hours building and caring, and then just letting go and watching. The wisest thing anyone’s said to me since SPL was born is this: “The days are long, but the years are short.” That seems awfully right to me, and sort of wonderful, too.