Vinod Khosla: Ageism, women entrepreneurs & failure

The transcript follows & video below

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.

Vinod Khosla

I was actually watching as eyebrows were raised independently & I heard a gasp when you said that people die after 45?

Moderator: Cathy Brooks

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.

Pemo Theodore

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!

Vinod Khosla

Here is the bulk of Vinod’s talk

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