Vinod Khosla: Ageism, women entrepreneurs & failure

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Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures spoke @FailCon in October.   Cathy Brooks moderated the session.  Many thanks to Cathy for responding to my raised eyebrows & distress from the audience, to allow me to refute what Vinod was saying !

Vinod Khosla is an entrepreneur, investor, failure expert and technology fan. He is the founder of Khosla Ventures, focused on impactful clean technology and information technology investments. Mr. Khosla has a few decades of first hand failure experience across several sectors as a founder, incubator, investor, and advisor: from his first soy milk startup in the 70’s to several high profile venture investments throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. Mr. Khosla was also a co-founder of Daisy systems and founding CEO of Sun Microsystems where he pioneered open systems and commercial RISC processors. One of Mr. Khosla’s greatest passions is being a mentor to entrepreneurs, assisting entrepreneurs and helping them build technology based businesses. He is also passionate about Social Entrepreneurship. Vinod holds a Bachelor of Technology in Electrical Engineering from IIT, New Delhi, a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The transcript follows & video above

So I’ll give you my bias. How many people here are over the age of 30? (Many people raise their hands in the audience!)

I find that people fundamentally stop trying new things after the age of 30. And it’s great that all of you are here. I’m over 30 so I can say that. After 45 people basically die. They keep doing what they were doing before & it’s the worst thing that can happen. The fundamental notion is that if you don’t try something new, you’re not going to do anything new. It’s sort of self evident. People want to do something new but they don’t want to take any risk. And to try new things first to me it’s like being alive! It’s about trying new things, trying new experiences.

Moderator Cathy Brooks: I was actually watching as eyebrows were raised independently & I heard a gasp when you said that people die after 45.

Pemo: I’m here to refute that Vinod. I’m 59 & I failed at getting venture last year in London, after 5 years. And instead of crying into my soup, what I did was that I had promised years ago to help women raise venture. So I started a project video interviewing vcs, angels & women founders on the shortfall in funding for women. I’m wondering if you would give us some advice for women who are sourcing venture. (I know we’re in a similar situation to the Indians in Silicon Valley many years ago.) I wondered if you’ve got any pertinent advice from that model that would support women in raising venture now.

Ok let me answer that question but let’s be sure to come back to the original question which I didn’t answer. I wandered off as usual, about what to do after graduation. I don’t mean to avoid questions, I just forget & I wander off. I’m 56 so I say because I’m encouraging people to stop doing what they used to be doing & stop becoming creatures of habit & find new things. Because it’s a lot more fun if you allow yourself failure. It’s a lot more real living & being alive to try new things. I personally don’t believe (& I grew up in Silicon Valley so maybe this is a biased statement?) that there’s any difference between young & old, women & men, in trying new things or how much venture capitalists accept or reject that idea “I won’t fund women!”. I don’t buy that! But I can easily see how it might be true in other locations, in other cultures. I just don’t have any experience with that. But San Francisco is an unusually open & accepting place so maybe I have a biased view of the world. I never really saw any bias against me being Indian when I was starting out. Even though there weren’t many Indians in Silicon Valley, & so I cringe a little bit.
So role models in every area no matter what part of the world you are at, is the single biggest way to encourage an entrepreneurial environment. All the government programs usually don’t lead in anything. People sitting in secure bureacratic jobs trying to encourage you to innovate. Or design entrepreneurial programs when they’ve never been through one. They don’t know what success is, what failure is!

Here is the bulk of Vinod’s talk.

Written by
Pemo Theodore

Pemo Theodore is a Media Publisher & Event Producer and a great people connector.. She is Founder/CEO Silicon Valley TV which has served the San Francisco Bay Area for 11 years! She has produced Silicon Valley Events for Investors & Startups for 9 years. Pemo loves to video interview venture capitalists & founders to engage the human behind the success stories.. She has been Executive Producer of FinTech Silicon Valley for 5 years, organizing twice monthly FinTech talks & panels in San Francisco & Palo Alto. She believes in learning through a great discussion with experts in the domains. Pemo has a talent to bring the right people together and is an incredible networker. Pemo's events have been seen as supporting Venture Capitalists & Angels in sourcing great deal flow from startups who attend her events. Many founders have received funding through meeting investors at her events. Her favored medium is audio & visual media and she has built up a great body of work of podcasts & videos of panels & interviews in Silicon Valley.startup ecosystem.

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Written by Pemo Theodore