Kicking off DLD15, a16z's Ben Horowitz shares his experiences as an entrepreneur and discusses his book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things", in conversation with Paul-Bernard Kallen.
Ben describes how the life as entrepreneur is not just a series of success stories. You are running into uncomfortable situations very fast because you are trying to do something nobody did before. All your time and money is in that company. You got all the people you know investing in that company including your own parents. That's a lot pressure and it keeps you driving when your really don't have any other reason to continue.
Kallen asks Ben about the hire and fire culture. Ben says you have to differentiate firing and laying off. Lay-offs are caused because there's not enough money to keep everyone. The company fails, but the employers pay. However horrible it is, it's important to do it yourself: "Outsourcing a lay-off is the end of a company." You remember the day you have been hired and the one you have been laid off. As an entrepreneur, you have to do it yourself and communicate that your company has failed.
They go on to talk about entrepreneurs in 'peacetime' and 'wartime'. Most handbooks for entrepreneurs are written for peacetime. Nobody tells you what to do in a competitive market and disruptive environment. Most tech companies are more or less always operating in 'wartime'.
How did his experiences as an entrepreneur help him as a VC? Ben says, it's very difficult to build something that becomes relevant as a hobby. Having gone through this and knowing how it's like definitely helps.