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How entrepreneurs can build a better society and government with Joe Lonsdale

How entrepreneurs can build a better society and government with Joe Lonsdale

Robert Hahn:

Hello, and welcome to the Technology Policy Institute’s podcast, Two Think Minimum. I’m your host, Robert Hahn. And today we’re delighted to be speaking with a real live entrepreneur, which is a real treat for us. He’s also a public intellectual and philanthropist, Joe Lonsdale. Joe’s a graduate of Stanford, a co-founder of Palantir, and many other companies, and a founding partner at 8VC, a technology investment firm. He also plays leading roles in companies and nonprofits aimed at improving government efficiency, including OpenGov and Esper. Joe, welcome!

Joe Lonsdale:

Thank you for having me, Bob.

Robert Hahn:

It’s our pleasure and privilege. Before we launch into our formal discussion, I wanted to ask you, since you wear so many different hats, what’s a typical day like for you?

Joe Lonsdale:

Well, I guess there’s a few different priorities. First of all, I have three young daughters here, so I will try to wake up and spend time with them and see them throughout the day when they’re not at preschool. The two of them are in preschool. And you know, one of my rules which I try to follow is, I’m only responsible for the failure of one thing at a time. So, by that, of course, I mean, you know, you really have to have, if you have a lot of things going on, you can’t be responsible for them. You can’t be the person who’s directing them. You have to have somebody waking up and go to sleep thinking about that one company or that one project that they’re running. And so, you know, the projects that I’m involved in tend to be my firm 8VC an investment firm, as well as a lot of policy projects where we’re trying to create policy and push certain laws and so on interact with a lot of CEOs and a lot of policy people almost every day. This morning, I spent an hour on the Zoom with Secretary Ruben, former Secretary Ruben, who was very helpful, giving me some advice and some policy stuff. And so I try to work with people on both sides and I try to kind of coach our CEOs and learn from them as well.

Robert Hahn:

You mentioned the word failure. Does that mean you’re a fan of trial and error?

Joe Lonsdale:

I definitely am a huge fan of trial and error. I think evolution is an important concept for many parts of our society, and of the business world. And your things can only evolve by trying to guess what’s going to work better and trying it out and then learning and iterating.

Robert Hahn:

So recently you wrote a neat piece that I read in the Wall Street Journal on your decision to move out of California. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what your thinking is, both narrowly and broadly about state competition and what that might do for innovation?

Joe Lonsdale:

Of course, you know, one of the best things about how our country is designed is that you have this Federalist system that lets different ideas compete. And the whole point is that if one place has rules and regulations and structures that are not as amenable to building and doing what you want to do, you can try another place. And you know, it really, my wife who shares a lot of my values, she put it to me very clearly. Like, you know, it would be unethical to continue to build, and continue to put huge amounts of money towards the state of California, given how strongly we feel about how misguided it is and that we need to set the example for everyone. And we need to create more of what we’re creating in a place where we think more people should be living. And you really, you know, a lot of people, me included believe California has to get a lot worse, before it gets better, really prove, you know, how broken some of the ideas are there. And there’s, there’s a lot of problems with California. A lot of it has cost of living in housing prices. A lot of it is just the homeless problems in San Francisco. A lot of it’s mismanagement with the forest fires and the power grids being mismanaged just as the list goes on and on, but I’m much more bullish on Texas next 20 years. And this is a really a way to live our values, is to come here and to build here instead.

Robert Hahn:

So, you do a lot of thinking and doing in the area of innovation and many scholars periodically write about why America is losing its competitive edge. I was wondering what your take on that is as someone who’s sort of on the frontline of hiring people and creating new things in the private and public sector.

Joe Lonsdale:

So, America is still attracting the very top people in the world, and we’re still, in many areas, well ahead of the rest of the world. There are other places that have closed the gap or in some cases have potentially gotten ahead. There’s certain parts of things in China, in Beijing that are doing extremely well and competitively in certain areas. There are probably a lot of things we could be doing to raise the game and to change how it’s working here in terms of keeping it free and keeping the crony capitalism out of certain areas in terms of still being allowed to bring the best people. But overall, you’ll still see by far the most startup companies, by far the most innovation that’s worth a lot of money is still happening in America.

Robert Hahn:

What could we be doing to sort of raise our game? So, if you were whispering into President Elect Biden’s ear or the governor of a leading state, what are the kinds of things we should be keeping our eye on to try to raise our game here in terms of setting the ground rules or investing, or what have you?

Joe Lonsdale:

Well, you know, I think you’d have to come back to say like, why does a free society work really well? What do we mean when we talk about freedom and liberty? And one of the key things in a free society is you have a competition of ideas where you have the best ideas win, and the ideas that are not as good lose. And so when you have new, better ways of doing things, when you have things that are functional, they out-compete things that are not as functional. And so, the most important area in which I’d fix is probably healthcare. In healthcare, we have just tons of areas that are not actually letting the good ideas compete and win. Instead, you have cronyism, you have monopolies, you have all sorts of rules people put in to stop competition, to stop ideas. You know, there’s certain things technology and nurses could very easily do safely and save tons of money, but you can’t do that because doctors groups step in and the list goes on and on.

Joe Lonsdale:

So I look at healthcare, I’d say, “How do I inject frameworks where we get a more competition of ideas, more ways entrepreneurs can build and win?” And then I do the same thing in lots of other industries that comes without the regulatory state. How does regulatory state accidentally stop new innovation and accidentally lock in the worst ways of doing things? Because if you lock those in the old ways of doing things, you don’t allow new things to happen here, they will happen somewhere else in the world. That’s the definition of losing your edge.

Robert Hahn:

Gotcha. So you mentioned China as a competitor, and obviously China is not considered a free society. What allows China to be successful? And do you see it as being someplace, that’s going to continue innovating and being a very vibrant economy or someplace that’s on the decline?

Joe Lonsdale:

So certain parts of China, they’re very vibrant. There’s certain parts that are very broken and you must say decadent and full of decay and backwards. And it really comes down to the areas in which they have the most economic freedom or not. And so there, you know, Lee Kuan Yew was a really great leader of Singapore and took from where the very poorest countries in the world to potentially the richest country in the world. And, and he was a mentor to Chinese leaders, right? He had mentored Hua Guofeng in the late seventies and eighties. He was a mentor to others and they really convinced them you need to have basically free market economics and you need to be able to let the best ideas win. And so China has lots of economic freedom and they have a lot of people who are really eager to work hard and get rich within that economic freedom. And so even though there’s many challenges China has from its lack of freedom, even though there’s industries where they probably won’t be able to innovate because the people running the government own those companies and are not going to allow them to be out competed, there’s many places where they have allowed that. And that’s, that’s worked extremely well for them.

Robert Hahn:

So you talked a little bit about regulation, where do you see a need for regulation, for example, at the federal level, either in setting the broad ground rules or enforcing them, or what have you, and where do you think the federal government and the state should back off a bit? So you mentioned, for example, a nurse being able to do what a doctor does and things like that. So I guess that’s licensing requirements. So how do you think about the, in general, the regulatory frameworks we have at the state and federal level and are they good and how might we improve them?

Joe Lonsdale:

We’ll there’s obviously just a huge amount of mistakes in the regulatory state right now. It’s not data-driven for the most part. There’s no mechanisms to be able to really quickly challenge it and come up with a better ideas and try new things. And so this is a very, very big problem. Clearly licensing is a big deal. You know, in terms of what regulation we need, I think regulation is probably most helpful in the areas where the government’s going to have to be involved anyway. This is where libertarians, I think get things a little bit wrong. So I’d say like, for example, if we’re going to pay for end of life kidney care, this something that the government’s already agreed it’s going to pay for, well in that case, you’ve got to put some rules in around it. And you’ve probably got to put some incentives in around it because if the government’s going to pay for something, then what happened is because we didn’t do good regulation, it became a lot more expensive. And it became something where all of a sudden, everyone pushes people from middle of life to end of life kidney care, because now it’s the government’s problem. So suddenly we’re spending 7% of Medicare. You know, we’re wasting probably $30 billion a year versus we need to be doing because there’s not good regulation. There’s not good thoughtful rules around that. So things where the government’s already involved anyway, I think that’s where you definitely want to be really careful and thoughtful about regulations and incentives. Most areas where the government’s not going to have to be involved anyway, you don’t need that much regulation. What you need is really, really clear rules about the penalties, and about the torts for people who do hurt people. So my view is that in almost all the areas such as regulating, like, you know, different parts of how food and restaurants work, you basically could have self-regulation and you have organizations that would evolve where people would opt into them and people would only trust certain ones. And if something happened to hurt people, you would basically have huge torts. You wipe those businesses out and they get in big, big trouble. And people would only trust businesses that are tied to the trustworthy regulatory organizations that evolve privately, and they’d be a lot cheaper and a lot better. So, I think in a lot of cases, regulation has kind of put us in a strait jacket and made things work a certain way. The way they worked 50 years ago. The best example of that is banks. Banks are in a strait jacket, thanks to the regulations from the 1930s that have not let them evolve. And there’s all these ways banks would have evolved and much, much more intelligent ways. You wouldn’t put your money in a bank unless it had all these real-time checks from groups you trusted. If the government wasn’t doing it and it’d be much more sophisticated, much better. So there’s just the regulatory state we need to talk about. There are all different parts of it, but I’d say the principles are, if governments already have to do something where size rate is doing it, that’s when you really need regulation. Otherwise you should be really light handed and you should be letting it evolve, but punishing people from it for mistakes. I think that works a lot better. There’s the others that are in between like drugs and whatnot. We’re probably going to regulate drugs right now. We should have more competition. I think we should have three FDAs. And I think they should each be able to approve things. And if you have things like that, if you have competition, you have competition of ideas again, and that would help advance it a lot.

Robert Hahn:

So is that similar to the idea of you can incorporate in any state you choose and the States sort of compete and then you decide where you want to incorporate? Is that the idea?

Joe Lonsdale:

Yeah. I think that’s a great analogy. I think if we only had one state and then there’d be a lot of worse things. And because we have multiple states, I think there was one state, I think it was New York in the mid-19th century that decided you could start a corporate charter and get a corporation without having to get a voted legislatures. And suddenly a lot more entrepreneurs could build things there because they didn’t have to be buddies with the legislature to start a new company. And it turned out that works way better. And everyone said, yeah, we got a copy of that too. We can no longer control which corporations are being formed with the legislature. It’s just a lot of things like that, that sound really obvious to us, but they didn’t do it that way before. So yes, if you have multiple, you have competition, there are so many better ways the FDA could work. You could literally be saving hundreds of thousands of lives right now. I understand people are dead because we have a stupid, stupid regulatory system that’s way too risk adverse. And I’m not saying don’t have some kind of rules. You don’t have some way to protect people, but the competition of ideas can really advance that and can save a lot of lives in that area and a bunch of others.

Robert Hahn:

So, you mentioned the word charter and in doing a little bit of homework, and emphasis on the little, I Googled Joe Lonsdale: and I came up with an insightful piece that you had written on cities and charter cities. I was wondering if you could talk about that idea a little bit, begin for our audience and my benefit, by explaining what you have in mind there and how that might be helpful as a way of unleashing innovation and improving human welfare.

Joe Lonsdale:

Sure. Well, a lot of what we do, my work in general is we’re looking for large conceptual gaps in the world. And so when we look into industries, we say, okay, in this part of logistics, here’s how it works right now. And these trucks are all driving and they’re each less than half full. And they’re driving about the same routes and there’s, and you calculate, and you say, if they were to work together, you know, you could save a million barrels of oil a year and you’d save all this money and time. And it’s, so there’s a giant gap here in his process and how this works. And we, we find these gaps everywhere in the economy and in every industry and finance and logistics and healthcare, there’s so many gaps, the way things work right now. And you kind of go through these parts of the economy and see gaps. And frankly, the very biggest gaps you find consistently are gaps in government. There’s just constantly things, you see governments doing it this way. We all know, like we can sit down and a small group of us from both Republicans and Democrats, you know, competent people and look at this and say, yeah, that’s right. If I were to redesign from scratch, how this part of the government was working, this process would be way better. You could do it with tiny fraction of the resources and get better results. And so wherever you look at government, almost anything government does, there’s these giant giant gaps. And so just like we start companies in my firm and logistics and healthcare and finance to close the gaps and to show better ways of doing things which grow in our economy and our free economy, free society, the better ways when, and we make lots of money on it, it’s very similar with government.

Joe Lonsdale:

You can actually start a new government and then that would teach everyone else lessons. And it would be, you know, it’d become like a much better way of doing things. And so, because there’s such a big gap there, it’s a very compelling entrepreneurial thing to start a charter city. And so a charter city, there’s multiple things it could mean. In the purest form, it’s a city state. Of course, in the purest form, it’s a new Singapore or a new Hong Kong in the old days. And, you know, you basically start from scratch in every part of government. That’s obviously very hard to do. I mean, it would be very interesting geopolitically, to convince countries to just allow you to have a place you can do that. The one step down from that is you can have a near free city, where a country gives you your own regulatory zone. There’s lots of deals around the world right now, or different places are willing to let someone establish their own kind of Hong Kong, their own kind of Singapore, with mostly their own rules and maybe like just some treaties with the home country. And so the appeal of course, is there’s just so many possible ways you can make government work so much better, and you could show the world, look, this is a better way of doing it. I think there is a really strong appeal. What I would love to do is start a charter city and eventually bring a million people there. And have a million people on average living far above the US middle-class living standards, just to show people, wow, this is actually achievable. You can be way, way better than the US for this group of people. And of course a city is not a whole country, but there’s still ideas that are valid about how you run the regulatory state, how you manage decisions in government, how you have accountability for the people who are in charge, how you stop crony capitalism and these different areas, you know, how you attract top talent.

Robert Hahn:

So, this sounds a little bit, if you’ll forgive me, it sounds a little bit utopian. In the sense that if I were to substitute the word state for city, it almost sounds like you’re saying I want to set up a place, I don’t know, a hundred square miles, a thousand square miles, I’m making this up. And I want to create rules. You know, you used Hong Kong or Singapore as an example. It would make it enticing for people to come here and also to stay here. So, is there any reason a place like the US would allow a creative mind like yourself to do that? Or where do you see these ideas taking off?

Joe Lonsdale:

People have done this before, right? So for example, the UAE has some very strong, very intelligent rulers there. And they built Dubai with a model that was like this, and then attracted millions of people and created massive wealth, and talk to lots of people in the region about principles they should embrace as well. And it was very, very successful along those lines. So in some sense, and Hong Kong serving examples of this as well, Hong Kong and Singapore taught the rest of China, how to become a wealthy country. If we did not have Singapore. If we did not have Hong Kong, you would not have a modern, wealthy China that lifted up a billion people out of poverty. And so, so these ideas are very legitimate and they’ve happened in the past. It’s actually very similar to being, that’s what you’re doing when you’re an entrepreneur. Or you can even call it, every entrepreneur is in some sense, a bit utopian because you’re imagining how a company should look like and how an industry should look like if you’re successful. And you’ve seen, of course in the past 30 years, from where I grew up in Silicon Valley, a huge number of these crazy utopian people were correct. Hundreds of them were able to create things that are worth billions or tens of billions of dollars because their vision was actually a better way for that to work. So in a sense, yes, fundamentally everything we’re doing building these companies is some version of utopian, but there’s obviously a track record where it does make sense to try and figure it out. And it’s just such an obvious one, frankly, versus so much of what we’ve talked about. This obviously is a better way of doing things. And, you know, the thing that America or anyone else would get from allowing us to do this is they’d get a place that attracted massive, massive amounts of wealth and talent. And just innovative in ways that would then benefit everyone around them based on what they were able to prove.

Robert Hahn:

That makes sense. That makes sense. And I’m a dreamer, you know, I was just giving you a hard time to figure out where we could start our next charter city. In that piece that you wrote on charter cities, you said, and I quote, “I’m an American Patriot and continue to spend much of my career helping to fix the government we have.” So my question for you is, in what sense is the government fixable? And in what sense is it sort of truly broken?

Joe Lonsdale:

Well ultimately everything’s possibly fixable, right? It’s just there’s a system that’s broken here where there’s not really checks and balances in the regulatory state, which makes it very, very difficult. And there’s not really incentives lined up correctly. So originally, the American government was designed to have these three branches that checked each other and to be very small. And, you know, ideally somewhat efficient. And as you’ve grown out, you know, it’s, to me somewhat of a fourth branch. It’s supposedly part of the executive branch. But to me, the regulatory state, the administrative state is really more of a fourth branch. It doesn’t embody some of those same principles. So therefore, it is much harder to fix, and you probably need to put some of those principles back into it if you’re going to fix it. But I mean, there’s just so much the government does in our society. It’s a very large part of our GDP now. I’ve created a lot of companies to help with certain processes. So for example, how should your budget process work in a municipality or a state agency? That is a process that’s fixable. You’ve got to put in ways for people to collaborate, people to have transparency, people to compare themselves automatically to other cities and other state agencies. And you can take and create, as OpenGov did, a much better process for that. And then you can simulate. OpenGov has 30 processes they’ve fixed at the municipal level. They say, this is a process. This is how the city is going to communicate to its citizens. This is how the city’s going to make decisions about X, Y, and Z. And you can help them fix that with technology and with better processes. So, it’s definitely fixable in some areas, but some of the things are only fixable if you actually get to the higher-level principles.

Robert Hahn:

Okay. So what I hear you saying, and sort of what I might call social entrepreneurship, if you’ll allow me to use that phrase, is that you thought very hard about making the processes more efficient and more effective, where you can sort of bring sophisticated data analytics or systems management to some of these government processes. But if you want to fix many of the bigger pictures, maybe issues like the increasing polarization we observe in society, or what our parties do or do not deliver, that may require a different level of intervention or thinking?

Joe Lonsdale:

Exactly. I think in some sense, you need a revolution from certain areas where you’ve realigned the incentives. You rely on checks and balances. You’ve reinserted a competition of ideas back into certain parts of government. Otherwise, they’re going to be very hard to fix.

Robert Hahn:

I was listening to Michael Porter. Who’s a professor at Harvard, I guess a few weeks ago, on a podcast or a broadcast. And he was talking about the fact that you might think about the two political parties we have in the United States as a rather comfortable duopoly that may extract rents in some sort of way, or extract money from the broader society, and may need to be redesigned. Do you find that analogy or that framing as a good way of thinking about the problem, or how do you think about the problem?

Joe Lonsdale:

Well, both parties have within them, a lot of very competent people who really care about good policy and really want to get the right things done. And both parties have within them, a lot of people who are there to perpetuate their power and are in there to make sure that the main goal is to work with the existing interests to keep them in power. And that’s obviously very difficult and broken. I think a lot of this can be achieved culturally by almost shaming people into wanting to do the right thing and into like seeing very starkly. I think there’s a lot of areas that have become so broken. That’s very, very stark and it is very obvious in some ways that there’s a such a giant gap that this is a better way of doing things. These are the principles of our country. So, I do agree that there’s two separate questions. There’s, what’s the right policy answer? And then there’s, what’s politically possible? And how do you get there? I think both of those are important to work on. I think the political part is a lot harder, but I do think it’s possible even within the current system to have moderates ally and to get good things done. And there’s a lot more we could do there if we work together on it.

Robert Hahn:

So is it fair to say that you’re a guy who sort of, sorry I’m using all these academics on you, but I know, you know, some of these people, like Hayek, you know, talked about the importance of things bubbling up from the bottom or sort of bottom up ideas. I mean, is your view that good governance should be setting sort of the broad ground rules and then letting people create and get the lion share of the fruits of their labor in order to sort of promote growth and innovation and happiness?

Joe Lonsdale:

I think the Hayek framework is very important to understand. I think free societies work from the bottom up. And what that means is that people will test and try ideas and the ones they succeed, they grow, and they expand and, they gain influence. And then when they’re not succeeding, they shrink and they lose influence. I think you have to take the Hayekian view and you have to say, how do I insert that bottom up evolutionary functional way of being into different parts of our economy? Because right now you have parts for our economy, where for better or worse, government is involved and it’s realistic for government not to be involved. Sorry to go back to the kidney care thing, but you’re not going to let people die of end-stage renal disease. It’s given the government’s going to be involved in so many of these areas, how can we still minimize the top-down impact and maximize the bottom up part, maximize the extent to which ideas can compete in which there’s checks and balances on good and bad ideas.

Robert Hahn:

So, let me press you on that. So, I teach a course in probably one of your favorite subjects, micro economics, where we talk about the idea of public goods. And sometimes we talk about global public goods or bads, so sometimes mentioned in those subjects are things like climate change, pandemics, like where we’re experiencing with COVID. What sort of role do you think national governments should play there? What sort of role do you think international institution should play there and what should be the role of the private sector?

Joe Lonsdale:

First of all, I would argue, and I will respond directly to that. But first of all, I’d argue that a lot of sloppy thinking comes from taking these very, very rare exceptions and then trying to build government frameworks around them. The vast majority of things that matter to humanity are not tied to public goods. The vast majority of things that matter to humanity can be solved with much more individual bottom-up economics in our society. And then those are what drive most things. And so it is important for government to exist, to work on some of these public goods, but we have to be very careful not to assume that’s like the default thing that matters in our society, because these are exceptions. Now, in terms of these exceptions, there are ways that you can coordinate and have incentives around these types of things. On the climate change one, we’re going to assume this is a problem we definitely all want to work on. You want to be logical. You want to use economics. You want to use the ideas of scarcity, the same, what you do for anything else. And you know, one of the mistakes you’ve seen people make is they have all these fields that are regulations and subsidies that effectively value carbon at like $1000 to $2,000 per ton. When there’s lots of other methods to get rid of carbon, that’s only like $400 out of the year. And so it’s just nonsense in terms of what’s done in these areas. And so if you actually wanted to coordinate on climate change, you should basically treat it like an economic problem and figure out who’s going to pay for what, and who’s going to value it properly. And you know, you push ahead in the least crony way possible. It’s not, I don’t think it’s nearly as complicated as people are saying. I think people are very dishonest about it because they’re not actually interested in solving it. And I think what’s actually happened is a lot of people who used to be socialists have now become environmentalists. And so you have this very messy whole policy world where they’re not actually interested in environmentalism. They’re interested in socialism.

Robert Hahn:

So I don’t think of myself as a socialist, but I do teach my students sometimes that it might be a good idea to put a price on what we call those bad or an externality in this case, climate change or carbon dioxide, or whatever the pollutant de jour. How do you feel about using a pricing instrument like that to encourage people to use less or emit fewer emissions.

Joe Lonsdale:

Some kind of pricing instruments is probably a good idea. The problem is that it’s actually so extraordinarily complicated how to measure carbon and how to decide. I mean, obviously every time you pass gas probably shouldn’t count, right? Not to be silly about it, but it’s like what are you going tax? And what are you not going to tax? Are you going to count cows to do that? Are you going to count carbon released from the soil, depending on the farming technique? Are you going to count certain trees? Which trees count? Which trees don’t count? Or you’re going to set up a market where all of a sudden everyone has to go buy all these forests in middle of nowhere for huge amounts of money and claim carbon credits. And is that necessarily what you want to be doing, and just suddenly making force worth a huge amount more? So, there’s all these weird questions and like which plants get counted for what and how do you measure it? And can people do things in secret that are too hard to audit? So there’s, you know, I mean, if you really did it properly, should you get tons of credit for nuclear? Maybe you should. I think that nuclear is probably a good thing if you care about this logically. So, but it’s just a very, very complicated kind of what we say, crony. Like everyone’s going to be spending all their time running to the capital city, arguing about how to do these things. There’s going to be an 800 page bill. There’s going to be 600 opt-outs for different industries. It’s a giant mess. It’s very dangerous when you give government that kind of power. So, if you could very elegantly, very simply, very clearly do some things with carbon taxes, it’s probably not a bad idea. It’s very aggressive because a lot of poor people have a lot more of their money they have to use towards energy and towards carbon. So you probably want to do this in a way that doesn’t just hurt the poor. And this is one of the ironic things, is that the left always wants to do this stuff with carbon. And then actually it just makes things way too expensive for poor people if you’re not careful. So sure, I think there’s something you could do there to use markets. There’s probably more clever, simple things you could do for just try to measure every carbon tax thing everywhere in tax, all carbon. There’s probably something with negative emission engines and with nuclear and with farming, you probably could pick a few areas that give you like 90% of it and create markets for those and maybe not have to do it everywhere, is probably the easier answer in my view.

Robert Hahn:

So, I hear what you’re saying is when Mr. Economist or Ms. Economist meets the real world, politics rears its head. So you need to think about that and sort of what the incentives of people are to ruin what might’ve been a good idea from Mr. Pigou a hundred or more years ago. Let me, since you spent a lot of time, both thinking about these issues quite deeply, as well as being a doer. And I’m reminded of the saying “Those who can do, and those who can’t teach.” And I’m one of the people who’s a teacher. I want to ask you a little bit about entrepreneurship, because increasingly in many of the top universities, we try to teach entrepreneurship and teach things about being a social entrepreneur. But I’m wondering what your view is about whether in fact that’s teachable and what sort of skills you might teach and how you might promote more entrepreneurship of the kind that you do both socially and privately.

Joe Lonsdale:

Sure. Well, you know, entrepreneurship again, it’s about seeing these gaps in the world and it’s about courage. It’s about seeing things differently than others. It’s about seeing where others are making mistakes. I think if I want to like get someone to be a better entrepreneur, and it’s hard to teach courage, but I think you can instill courage with practice. I think one of the best exercises would be to try to do something secretly where they have to do a post that was not openly, it was not openly dismissive or hurtful to one group but offended as many people as possible in the university. I think that’d be a really good practice for being an entrepreneur, is how could you just offend everyone? And then because you know how to do that, well, you’d have to be kind of insightful about like where people have kind of the things they’re not comfortable with. And then you’d also have to have the courage to do it. So, I think someone who could do that would be a really good entrepreneur and that’d be good practice for them. But seriously, I think entrepreneurship is about kind of being an iconoclast and being willing to push boundaries and being willing to tell people they’re wrong. To be an entrepreneur, you have to have opinions. Being an entrepreneur is not someone who just like takes a math test and ACEs a math test. It’s about telling a teacher why the math test was stupid, and what they should have been doing instead. Right? So it’s just, it’s a very different framework, where you have to, you have to have that kind of courage and you have to maybe be a little bit obnoxious sometimes in order to say, here’s how I think the world should work.

Robert Hahn:

If you were in charge of trying to cultivate more entrepreneurs through an academic system or in any way, maybe setting up a website, how might you do that?

Joe Lonsdale:

You know, in some ways it’s kind of like the opposite of toxic masculinity. I think it’s this like, and women and men both have masculine feminine traits, but I think there’s a trait of just being bold and being courageous in saying like, this is a better way for the world to work. It’s very much like the British imperialist energy of saying like, “Here’s how we’re going to shape this thing, and it’s going to be better than it was before.” And as there’s none of this relativism, it’s like this industry is stupid how it’s doing this and this is the right way. So I think I’d teach people, I’d find areas where I’d like practice having different opinions and make people argue for one side or another. I’d make them say why something was stupid or why something was dysfunctional or s how something could be 10 times better. I might engage in those kinds of frameworks where they learn how to make opinions. They learn to see what they think. And at the same time you have this kind of bold courage, not like an arrogant bloviating sort of thing. It’s a thing where you have it and you assert it and then you learn and you study and you say, okay, here’s why I was wrong, but here’s why now I’m right. And you have to have this ability both to be courageous and have opinions, but then also to learn and iterate on your ideas and to get better over time and into it, to be able to have both of those together. That’s a really key thing. The other really key thing is to understand technology and technology cultures. I think everybody going to school these days should have some computer science, should have some exposure to computer scientists and engineers working. But if you could have that computer science and tech exposure, given another area, you go deep on informed opinions about and are willing to be courageous about. I think that combination could lead to some really great entrepreneurship.

Robert Hahn:

Thank you so much, Joe. This has really been informative and insightful, and I hope we can have you back at some point to think big thoughts about technology and other domains. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Joe Lonsdale:

Thank you, Bob.

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