What I Learned From Peter Theil, Richard Branson, and Bill Gate’s Q&A’s

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I’m always looking for guidance on how I can improve my startup journey. AskMeAnything.Me has provided me a collection of Q&A’s where I can learn from the most successful entrepreneurs for free. Here is what I learned:

Peter Theil, The Co-Founder of Paypal

Don’t wait to start your business, the sooner the better

Q: What would you tell college kids debating if they should drop out or start a company?

Peter Theil: They should think hard about what they’re doing. If you have a great idea for a company, there’s no right time to start it, and it’s often better to start it sooner rather than later. I went to Stanford undergrad and Stanford Law School, and if I had to do it over again, I might still do those things, but I wish I had asked the type of questions like, why I was doing it, was it just for the status and prestige, or was it because I was really interested in the substance of it.

A MBA isn’t required

Q: You said you don’t like MBAs. Should MBA students just drop out?

Peter Theil: You don’t want any sort of absolute categorical rules, but I do think there’s a challenge with a lot of the business schools in that the behavior tends to be very herd-like. The people are very extroverted, often fairly low conviction. MBAs have been oddly under-representatives as founders of tech companies, and I think it’s worth trying to think about why that is.

Richard Branson, The Founder of Virgin Group

Self-funding is an Option

Q: Do you think self funding a start up and taking longer to set up is better than taking investment/loan?

Richard Branson: Self-fund for as long as possible, so you can keep as big a stake as possible.

Great Teams Build Great Business

Q: What is the simplest thing people do not realize about taking their own business to success?

Richard Branson: That all a business is, is a group of people and the 100% necessity to inspire.

Its Never Too Old to be an Entrepreneur

Q: Can one suddenly become entrepreneurial at 50?

Richard Branson: Why not? If you have an idea that will make a big difference to others. Screw it — just do it!

Bill Gates, The Co-Founder of Microsoft

IQ Doesn’t Define You

Q: Can you share some of the lessons of pain and failure from your early career?

Bill Gates: My basic theory in my twenties is that IQ was fungible. I would hire a great physicists, biologists, someone who was smart, and I would assign them some task, and they would figure out how to do because they have a high IQ.

I basically thought that I should never ask somebody to work for somebody who is not smarter than them. We’ll just have this IQ hierarchy. Well that didn’t work for very long. By age 25, I realized IQ comes in different forms. These guys who understand sales and management, that seems to come negatively correlated with IQ. That was befuddling to me.

Science is the Market for Innovation

Q: If you had one piece of advice to a young person, who wanted to be an innovator, what would it be?

Bill Gates: The sciences change the game. Entrepreneurs are the people who take it on, but the thing that shifts the rules of the game is science. If you really want to be part of driving that change yourself, just pick some state-of-the-art science and get involved in it.

Be Aware of the Job Market

Q: Is it safe to choose a career in programming or will most coders below the expert level be replaced by automation solutions in the next decade?

Bill Gates: It is safe for now! It is also a lot of fun and helps shape your thinking on all issues to be more logical. There is a prospect for change in this area for the next generation but that is true for most fields and understanding how to program will always be useful.

Don’t be Ashamed of Failure

Q: You once said success is a lousy teacher. What did you mean by that?

Bill Gates: Anybody who’s super-successful has been misled a little bit. They don’t really know the actual magic factors of luck and skill that led them to this wonderful success. Hopefully they’re engaged in an effort where they have lots of failures, things that try and don’t work.

Ben Horowitz, General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz

When Hiring Friends, Be Prepared to Fire Them

Q: One topic you go over in the book is the difficulty of firing friends. what is your advice when it comes to working with friends?

Ben Horowitz: John D. Rockefeller once said, “a friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” Andy grove also once said, “it’s fine to hire your friends as long as you’re willing to fire them.” I think those are the rules. you have to be responsible when you’re running an organization and firing people who are your friends is part of that responsibility

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