Colby Donovan

May 9, 2020

9 min read

Pods & Recs: No. 113

Today we have an episode with Mike Maples on early stage investing, an episode with Nick Kokonas on the restaurant business, Billy Donovan on lessons from the NBA and how he has evolved as a coach, and best-selling author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance on the current state of America.

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Business

The Pomp Podcast: 289: Mike Maples on Finding World-Class Founders. Maples is a Partner at Floodgate and one of the most successful early stage technology investors in the world with previous investments in Twitter, Twitch.tv, and Lyft. He talks about what type of founder he looks for, why a founder’s original idea is more important than the product, the idea that entrepreneurs are living in the future and trying to bring us there (he says this repeatedly), and that entrepreneurs have to be good salesmen to convince people to go on the journey with them. At 47:35 they talk about the current situation with COVID-19 and its impact — he thinks education and the passion economy are really interesting and that there will be more seed checks going forward. He finishes with saying we should all think about decisions based on how we would feel looking back when we are dying (see his book recommendation below on the topic).[ May 7, 2020–1 hour, 34 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

Startup founders who are great understand that the future is designed by people with a determined, deliberate view of what the future should be. And they realize the future doesn’t happen to us, it happens because of us and the decisions we make.

The Tim Ferriss Show: #429: Nick Kokonas on Resurrecting Restaurances, Skin in the Game, and Investing. Kokonas is the co-owner and co-founder of The Alinea Group of restaurants, which includes Alinea, which has been named the Best Restaurant in The World. He was previously a derivatives trader and also is the founder and CEO of Tock, a reservations and CRM system for restaurants. He has a really unique viewpoint on what the restaurant business is going through and has been vocal on Twitter with his thoughts. He talks about the process of winding down his restaurants and furloughing people, pivoting to takeout which is not what his restaurant typically does, and what he’s seen from other restaurants. He’s really honest about how hard the situation is, why he thinks some restaurants shouldn’t be saved, why buying gift cards for restaurants is a bad idea, and why this time may be an opportunity for restaurants to thrive in the future. [May 6, 2020–1 hour, 49 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

The Meb Faber Show: #218 — Adam Karr — One Of The Most Important Decisions You Make Is The Price That You Pay. Karr leads the U.S-based investment team as director and portfolio manager for Orbis Investments. His firm is a contrarian intrinsic value equity investor that typically holds 60 stocks with a 4–5 year hold period and an active share <90%. He says to generate meaningful long-term returns you need to 1) attract and retain independent and unconventional people, 2) structure the firm values and culture to reward differentiated thinking, 3) seek and nurture aligned clients with aligned incentives, and 4) structure the firm ownership to promote long-term differentiated action. He says he believes they have three edges: analytical, behavioral and structural (time-horizon). He finishes with talking about how they handled the recent market decline and the importance of realizing that a change is just reversion to the mean (cyclical) or structural (they believe the change within retail now is structural). [May 6, 2020–56 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

“It works because it hurts.” I think some of the best investments that I’ve made over time are the ones that were most difficult to make in the moment and that’s because you’re against those behavioral biases.

We Study Billionaires: TIP295: Mohnish Pabrai on Value Investing & Philanthropy. Pabrai is a value investor and founder of Pabrai Investment Funds. He discusses behavioral biases covered in Poor Charlie’s Almanack, how he uses his checklist when investing, and looking for what he calls “hidden compounders.” He finishes with talking about his philanthropic efforts, which is both really interesting and admirable. [May 2, 2020–58 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

Planet Money: #966: About That Hazard Pay. This is a sobering episode that takes a look at those who are working “essential jobs” which are typically lower paying and more exposed to possibly getting COVID-19. They follow a woman working at a supermarket in a lower income neighborhood. She makes $300/week (half of what the lowest you could receive right now with unemployment) and has not received a raise or any extra money to work amid COVID-19. Her coworkers have also had to work fewer hours since they can’t get a babysitter since schools are closed. In economics you’re taught that if you take extra risk you should get rewarded more, but these people definitely are not. [May 1, 2020–21 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

The Meb Faber Show: #217 — Mary Wheeler — 2019…There Were 20 $1B IPOs…We Just Don’t Call Them Unicorns Because They’re Not That Rare. Wheeler is Founding Managing Director of BioRock Ventures, a Silicon Valley based life sciences venture fund investing in startups developing novel drugs to treat diseases. She has an incredible background too — MBA from MIT and PhD from Princeton. Her firm does smaller check sizes whether its a seed investment or Series A investment. She explains how she got into the space, what she thinks the impact of COVID-19 will be on biotech, why she thinks AI is more of a tool for companies to use rather than a company, her process for sourcing deals which includes cold calling, why she thinks you really have to do your homework when investing in biotech (reading a deck isn’t enough — you need to dig down and analyze the actual data), and how she started doing private investing on AngelList. [May 4, 2020–50 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

Sports

Coaching U Podcast with Coach Brendan Suhr: Ep. 174 Billy Donovan, Donnie Jones & Brendan Suhr from the Stetson Virtual Clinic. Donnie Jones says the two most important things he learned from Donovan are humility & his ability to lock in & focus (mentions his famous pre-game speech before the National Championship). Donovan talks about the differences between coaching in the NBA and college, and how he would adjust his coaching if he was a college coach again. At the 31 minute mark, he discusses team building and leadership — he talks about connecting with players, how you can push a player to be great and push them hard, why you have to think of players as a seed and continue to coach them hard while realizing some may be great after one year (Joakim Noah) or three to four years (Chandler Parsons and Casey Prather), and that the #1 thing to have in a great team is a love for each other. [May 6, 2020–59 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google

Every single day that player is a seed and we’re watering that seed everyday. We’re doing different stuff to try to get that seed to grow. Sometimes those seeds grow really quickly …

The Rest

***Must Listen*** The Portal: 32. J.D. Vance — American Dreams and Nightmares. One of the most thought provoking episodes I’ve listened to in a while. Guest J.D. Vance grew up in poverty in Appalachia and ended up joining the U.S. Marine Corps, attending Yale Law School, becoming a venture capitalist, and writing the best selling book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. The episode starts at 16:40 when Vance explains his backstory and why he wrote the book. Then they address issues they have with both political parties, how poor white individuals in the middle of the country are really struggling and are being left behind, why the left isn’t honest about helping poor middle America, the idea that speech is being policed in the country which is making it difficult to have tough but necessary conversations to make progress on certain topics including race, and the left and the right both promoting globalism to make themselves wealthier while leaving middle America behind. They finish with thoughts on Medicare for all, student debt forgiveness, and issues with universities. [April 29, 2020–2 hours, 18 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker

The Learning Leader Show with Ryan Hawk: 363: Admiral William McRaven — The Bin Laden Raid, Saving Captain Phillips, & Leadership Lessons For Life. Admiral William McRaven is a retired U.S. Navy four-star Admiral, who led a force of 69,000 men and women, and oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The episode is all about leadership: he discusses the importance of loving the people you lead so when you criticize them they know it’s coming from a positive place; that he thinks the best leaders are all great listeners, decisive, and measured/calm; and why you need to embrace failure which he faced when he was fired as a Seal squadron leader. Then he talks about the Bin Laden mission and the preparation, teamwork, and decision making process that occurred around it, which is damn inspiring. One thing he hits on is the amount of practice the best Seal team put in to ensure they were prepared for every possible scenario. It finishes with a Q&A which is worth listening to. [May 3, 2020–1 hour, 4 minutes] iTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

Great leaders recognize it’s never about them. If it ever becomes about you, you’re probably not a very good leader. It’s about accomplishing the mission, it’s about bringing in whoever you need to help you accomplish the mission.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Books

Mike Maples (Partner, Floodgate):

  1. Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware — By a woman who was in Australia and would help people in the last 90 days in hospice before they died. She found out what were the things people wish they had done that they didn’t get around to. The book is good enough to have made Maples get emotional when talking about it.
  2. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho

Admiral William McRaven (Retired U.S. Navy four-star Admiral):

  1. The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey — The leadership implications of this book are pretty strong. It’s about how you build trust. It takes two things: 1) you have to have a personal relationship with someone, and 2) you have to deliver on your promises.
  2. It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff — Written by one of the best leaders in the Navy and he gave it to all of his staff at the University of Texas.

Keith Rabois (General Partner, Founders Fund):

  1. Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair — Talks about things he believes in: supplementation, high intensity interval training, severe caloric restriction, and sleep.
  2. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
  3. High Output Management by Andy Grove — The Bible about how to run and manage a high-growth startup. He tries to re-read it once a year.
  4. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal — Didn’t change his beliefs about the benefits of stress and challenging yourself, but very contrarian and has given him a tool to give to others to they understand his point of view.
  5. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell

Nathan Latka (Serial Entrepreneur, Best-Selling Author):

  1. The Four Agreements: A Practice Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz — The most impactful book for him because it’s simple, easy to read, and you find yourself nodding “yes” when you read it.

Adam Karr (Director and Portfolio Manager, Orbis Investments):

  1. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke — Simple heuristics can be really powerful and she talks about framing your views as a probability. She also talks about motivated reasoning which is a bias we all have — says we look for information that supports the view that you have.
  2. The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin — Josh is all about pursuing excellence and has done it in a number of fields. He loves the art and craft of excellence and breaking it down at a world-class level. He gives it to all his firm’s new analysts.

David Heinemeier Hansson (Founder, Basecamp):

  1. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David Marquet — Talks about how you give people the power and ability to set their own course. You can chime in, but you assume everyone who works for you are creative, caring, and diligent and you don’t need to constantly interfere with that.
  2. To Have or To Be? by Erich Fromm — Explores the topic of defining who you are in terms of what you have or who you are.