How MG Siegler became one of the most prolific readers on Pocket
A series of interesting conversations with interesting people.
Whether it be reading scripts in Hollywood, deciding which stories to cover for TechCrunch and VentureBeat or what to invest in for GV, vetting the worthy vs. unworthy has been the common thread through it all for MG Siegler. As one of Pocket’s most prolific readers it comes as no surprise that he uses those same vetting skills to tackle his extensive Pocket library. We caught up with MG to chat about his go-to places to discover and absorb content, and find out how he manages to read so much.
You’re a general partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures) where you primarily focus on early-stage investments. What does a typical day-in-the-life look like for you?
My day, sadly, starts and ends with email. I try to kill a few things in the morning that’s timely in nature and triage anything else until later in the day during my “email hour” (I try to limit myself to an hour of email a day, but I almost always fail at this).
Next, I try to get some reading done. This is a mixture of news (always saved to Pocket first, of course) and increasingly, newsletters (loving the new ones from the Axios team. I try to do this during breakfast and/or during the commute into the office.
Then it’s usually a bunch of meetings. Some are internal team/partner meetings. But more often they’re meetings with entrepreneurs either fundraising or already in the GV portfolio.
Then, as noted, it’s back to email for my email hour (which I try to time around happy hour to make it more bearable).
Then, finally, I can get back to Pocket :)
Your career has taken you everywhere from working in Hollywood, to writing about tech for VentureBeat and TechCrunch, to venture capital. Why did you decide to make each change, and how did you make the jump between roles?
The Hollywood chapter of my life was immediately after college. I packed up my car and drove out to California without knowing a soul. It was new and exciting, but after a couple years and various jobs, I was also getting a bit burned out by how much BS permeates pretty much everything in that industry. I just wanted to write.
So I found myself a little further south in San Diego working for a web development company (doing front-end work). Technology (including the internet, of course) had always been a side passion of mine since I was a kid. While I was doing that, I started writing about various news and trends in the world of technology on the side, on my own blog. This caught the eye of VentureBeat.
Fast forward a few months and I was living up in San Francisco working full time for VentureBeat. After about a year and a half there, TechCrunch came calling. Once TechCrunch sold to Aol, a bunch of VCs reached out to me to see what I was going to do next. Those discussions started along the lines of potentially funding something I would start, or have me as an EIR (entrepreneur in residence), but eventually, the discussions morphed into actual VC work. The thought process, at least at the time, was that what I had been doing at TechCrunch (finding interesting new startups to write about) had some nice overlap with what venture capitalists do…
When I went to Heather Harde (CEO of TechCrunch) and Michael Arrington (founder) to tell them I was likely moving over to VC, Michael noted he was in the planning stages for a new fund with AOL as a key LP: CrunchFund. So it was a natural move to help start that with him and a third partner, Patrick Gallagher (who had actually been a VC).
After a couple years at CrunchFund, GV came calling… That was 4 years ago!
There has to be plenty of differences between script reading, journalism, and funding startups, but have you noticed any surprising similarities?
Fundamentally, it’s all about vetting. With scripts, you’re going through hundreds to find the one you actually like. With journalism, you’re wading through thousands of pitches to find something worth writing about. Funding startups is harder in that you’re constantly having to say “no” (versus just not following up or responding in the other lines of work). And, as you note, there are obviously a lot of differences behind-the-scenes. But learning how to vet at a high level has served me well across professions.
You also regularly maintain a blog “500ish Words,” where you largely write about tech & culture. Do you see yourself going beyond 500ish words in the future, dare we say with a book or a screenplay? Sounds like you’ve had an interest in the latter for quite some time now.
The book question is actually the one I get asked more these days versus the screenplay one. But yes, I would love to write a screenplay one day. I suspect I’ll get talked into some sort of book first…
The main issue with both is having a good topic/story. I wouldn’t write something just to write it. Unless it’s only 500-ish words, of course :)
So, in addition to writing, you also happen to read a lot. In fact, you’re one of the most prolific readers on Pocket. Why is reading so important to you, and how do you make time for it?
I view reading as absolutely vital to what I do. It’s all about information gathering. And reading is one of the most succinct ways to do that. Of course, going back to the notion of vetting, you have to know which sources you can trust and which you can’t. I have a lot of relevant experience here given my background on the blogging side of things, so hopefully I’m pretty good at this by now. But it’s honestly a continual learning process, which I love.
What’s your favorite medium — blogs, books, Twitter, etc — for consuming information?
For fast-paced consumption, nothing beats Twitter, in my book. But for quality consumption, I love Pocket. Because, again, it’s like my vetted list of things I know I’ll either enjoy or get some information out of.
I also like to listen to things more than I like reading them, as I can be doing something else while I gather my information… I also like to listen at pretty fast speeds to further refine information intake…
Sadly, this really dampens my book reading. But I do still try to find time with my Kindle each night before bed.
You’ve written that you and your wife have a “Pocket Club” (we’re blushing), where you share and discuss what you’re reading with one another, similar to a book club. What was the last discussion inspired by?
Ha! We haven’t actually done it yet, but yes, we have discussed the notion. We *do* share articles with one another in Pocket to talk about. But I do think it would be fun to have a slightly larger group all read a handful of articles in Pocket (as opposed to an entire book) and then discuss them in a communal setting.
You mentioned in one of your blog posts that anyone who follows you on Pocket can see the articles you recommend as “worth their time” to read. What have you been reading and finding worth your time lately?
Looking over my latest shares, it’s a lot of content from The New York Times, The Economist (which doesn’t surprise me, as I subscribe to both), and increasingly, Medium (disclosure: GV is an investor in Medium).
Here’s a fun (short) one of the history of Zelda within Nintendo: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2017/03/legacy-zelda?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/thelegacyofzeldahownintendotoldgamerstogetlost
Here’s a Mike Bloomberg op-ed in NYT about the current debate about regulation to save the climate: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/opinion/climate-progress-with-or-without-trump.html
Here was one I enjoyed on Medium, on the history of banking in San Francisco: https://medium.com/@kaz_63659/building-destroyed-vault-intact-credit-unaffected-94e40e514fb2
What are your go-to places — sites, apps, people, etc — for finding new stories to read and watch in Pocket?
If you had the chance to escape and read all of your current Pocket saves where would you go to do it?
In a pub. Preferably in the UK. Preferably with a fireplace. And my wife, of course.
Who would you want to see us interview next?
You can interview Megan (my wife)! Her habits are *very* different than mine….