2013 is My Year of Learning – What Have I Learned This Week?

2013 the year of learning VC Cafe

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ? Confucius

I decided to make “Learning”, my top new year’s resolution for 2013. Because things can get a bit hectic at work and life sometimes, we don’t always register what we learn on a daily basis. This is an attempt to capture my lessons from the past week.

Life/Career Lessons

  • Productivity – David Allen, productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done came to Campus as part of the Campus by the Book series. He said this about multitasking: “Ninjas only focus on one enemy at a time, but they shift quickly”. Productivity is not about doing many things at once necessarily, but about performing everything that you do in high focus, and shifting quickly from one thing to another.
  • Procrastination –  In the same session, I asked David Allen how he suggests to deal with distractions, especially social media, to be more productive. His answer – “Grow up”. He made a great analogy between social media and a cocktail party. Parties serve a purpose and can be a lot of fun. But you wouldn’t like to live your whole life in a cocktail party. It has a time and a place. So, despite him having 1.2 million followers on  Twitter, he uses it selectively, to add to his productivity (say, promoting a talk, or a crowdsourcing an answer), but unless you NEED social media for your own goals (recruiting, networking, raising profile), turn it off.

  • Resource allocation –  I usually read a few books at the same time (blame it on my ADD) but I’m currently pretty fixated with Clayton M. Christiansen’s “How Will you Measure Your Life?”. How do you implement the strategy, whether in business or in life, that enables you to spend your resources (energy, time and money) on what you care about the most? Watch where your resources flow. If resources are not supporting your main goals (say, health, time with loved ones, learning), you’re not getting closer to your goal. “If you’re not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person”.

  • Force of Habits – Based on David Allen’s recommendation, I bought on Amazon “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, to better understand why we do the things we do. He mentioned how powerful little steps are towards creating a habit change. For example: I wish I jogged more often in the mornings. But sometimes the weather, tiredness or just plain laziness, make me skip the run. Duhigg’s advice: create conditioning – every morning, as soon as you wake up, wear your sports gear. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll go on that run. All you have to do is wear the clothes, and your chances of going will magically increase!
  • Ambition – I hosted a roundtable chat with Gary Stewart, CEO of oDesk.com for what ended being a personal, inspiring conversation with startups at Campus (separate blog post coming up). Gary spoke about the moment that made him leave a high profile, high paying job at IBM to launch his own startup. He met with Howard Schultz for a chat, and Howard told him straight out – you’ll never be rich like me if you stay in IBM, a charter flight back home in coach on Air Alaska, and Gary knew it was time to make the jump. Gary spoke about ‘transformational’ wealth, balance and challenge.

Product/ Tech Lessons


  • New product ideas
    – in East by East East, a great event about music and digital in Shoredicth, the panel gave 3 great product ideas that need solving: fix merchandising for artists, give me movie recommendations on Netflix based on the Soundtrack and one that already exists – a subscription service for Vinyl and Ales :)
  • Bootstrapping can only get you so far – I took two hours to mentor at Google Office Hours this week and met with 3 great early stage startups. The difference between a sole founder, no funding and a team with some-funding, is astonishing. Sole founders will struggle to get out of the MVP phase and perform well in all fronts (product, sales, marketing). The trouble is that sometimes they don’t see it.
  • MOOCs have a way to goOnly 4% of people who took  an online course on MIT passed. MOOCs have some way to go before they become mainstream and really fulfill their vision. Education startups raised more than $100 million in recent months – are investors throwing their money?
  • Google Reader closing – The news that Google Reader will be closing on July 1st taught me a few things as well about how to handle this kind of situations. Will save my thoughts to myself on this one, but this was an interesting tweet I got:

     

 

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Eze Vidra

General Partner, Google Ventures at Google
Eze is a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before joining GV, Eze started Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and led Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.
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  1. Btw, I totally do the gym clothes thing. I put them on in the morning no matter what, removing the mental friction. Much higher chance of not making up some justification for not going.

  2. MOOCs definitely have a way to go, especially when it comes to learning programming. In our experience learning programming is greatly facilitated by two things: having an experienced mentor you can talk to often and doing it full-time (as opposed to occasional evenings/weekends). Provided both conditions are met, MOOCs can be extremely helpful. So although they have a long way to go, I believe there’s a good reason investors are investing heavily into this industry.