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Mike Vernal
Mike Vernal

Children grow up thinking they can do anything. Life slowly teaches you all the things you supposedly can’t do. It’s why most of the truly great companies are founded by really young entrepreneurs. They haven’t yet learned what they can’t do.

The best founders are relentless learners. We saw this with Patrick and John when we first met Stripe - there were only 3 employees when we partnered with them. A small team of people with vision and drive can change the world.

I’m interested in almost everything. Consumer, fintech, marketplaces, enterprise, developer, infrastructure. I don’t know very much about genomics, but would be happy to introduce you to Roelof!

Don’t play by someone else’s rules. The very best entrepreneurs don’t chase an existing competitor or market. They create their own game with its own rules and, in the process, create a whole new market.

The best consumer products tend to do one thing really, really well. Once you figure out what that is, just keep making it better and better. Resist the temptation to prematurely add more features.

When I was 11 years old, I won a trip for my family and me to Denmark. There was a contest at a toy store to guess the number of pieces in a giant Lego Christmas display. I think I was off by seven.

Don’t mistake motion for progress. It was one of my favorite sayings at Facebook. I’ve seen a lot of talented achievers confuse being busy with actually doing something important. Find the small number of things that really matter and focus all your energy on them.

When I first graduated from college, I thought you were supposed to design novel, thoughtful, elegant solutions to problems. I eventually learned to just find the quickest, simplest solution and move on to the next problem. Done is better than perfect.

Hire for slope, not y-intercept. If you’re a fast-growing startup, you need people who can scale with the company. Hire people who have shown they can grow quickly, rather than people with lots of experience but slow growth curves.

I started out believing that you could build a great developer platform and let someone else build the killer app. When that didn’t work, I figured you had to build both at the same time. I finally realized that great platforms evolve out of killer apps.

In consumer, the best product leaders are students of human nature. They think about how a product makes people feel and how those emotions propagate through the network.

My first computer program was a 50,000-line version of Battleship in Pascal, complete with ASCII animations when the ships sank. When I learned that you could define your own functions, it got a lot shorter.

Creating value is not enough. To build a great company, you need to make sure you can capture some of the value you create. Most early technologists don’t pay enough attention to how they’re going to sustainably capture value.

My favorite class in college was CS161 (Operating Systems). Each assignment involved writing a huge chunk of the operating system – the memory manager, the file system, etc. It was the best possible training for understanding how computers really work.

I grew up in a tiny apartment outside New York City. One day when I was 5, my oldest brother told me to stand between two chairs and started shooting hockey pucks at me. Thus began my 15-year career as a goalie. Eventually someone bought me a helmet.

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