Hindsights of Thirty Years in the Valley

Guy Kawasaki – Cheeze @GuyKawasaki + Derek Andersen – Startup Grind @DerekjAndersen

"Are you Jackie Chan?"

“About 10 years ago, I was driving in my Porsche, and I notice a group of teenage girls driving in the car next to me. I think to myself, 'Guy, you have finally arrived.’ Even teenagers know who you are. What a great thing. They motion for me to roll down my window, one leans her head out and asks ‘Are you Jackie Chan?’ From that moment, I have lived my life so that one day Jackie Chan will have a group of teenagers ask him if he’s Guy Kawasaki.”

What do you see yourself as? An entrepreneur, an author, writer, marketer, or who do you see when you look in the mirror?

Well, if you look at my LinkedIn, I’m the chief evangelist of Canva, I’m a Mercedes Brand Ambassador, on the board of directors of Cheeze, and the executive fellow of the Haus School of UC Berkley. But  truly, all of that is subordinate to my children.

My children have fundamentally changed the outlook of my life. As a 63 year old, I’m 2/3 dead. Never in my life am I going to think “If only I had gone to one more meeting, done one more thing, sucked up to one more VC, I would be happy.” 

So now I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids. We all share the passion for surfing, and I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to surf with all your children. When I was their age, I was working nonstop. I’m not a saint, but working and thinking -- it’s the most important is a stage you really have to go through. But I define myself as father first, evangelist second.

What parts of the valley have remained the same?

The beauty of the Valley is people constantly see the glass as half full. They’re always thinking there must be a better way. Whether its Stephen Wozniak thinking, why do you have to go to the government to use a computer? Why don’t we start Apple? Or, there must be a better way to share videos, start YouTube. Etc. That’s what I love about the Valley, it is so full of optimism to the point of delusion. It’s not rational. Mathematically you know they’ll most likely fail, but there’s still that optimism! If you don’t know it’s impossible and you try, you just might succeed. That is the beauty of Silicon Valley.

What things do you see that have become different?

It’s gotten better for entrepreneurs. To start a company, you need cheaper or free, and so many things have become that. For a software company, you don’t buy servers anymore, it’s all in the cloud. Thank god for social media, because you don’t have to spend as much on marketing. If you have too much money and you try social media, you aren’t doing it right.

So many tools are free or low cost because you are using virtual things. It’s so much easier to start a company. But in the same breath, when barriers to entry are so low, there can be too much noise. But I would rather have extremely low barriers and more startups enter with a greater chance of building something good. All in all….It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.

You worked for Steve Jobs, and he was famously difficult to work for, what are your thoughts on that?

You know, if Steve was left completely naked on an island, he would somehow find a way to start a country. He was hard to work for, but I learned so much from him. When you look back, it’s the hardest boss or teacher that you learn the most from. When you’re in school you may think you want the easy teacher, or the easy grader, but it’s really the difficult teachers you learn the best lessons from. This was way before political correctness. Let me tell you something, Steve didn’t care about your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, anything. He did not care. He only cared about competence. If you look at the Macintosh division, it was mostly women. He was completely blind to any variable but: Bozo/not bozo. He was so far ahead of his time. Every day was an adventure of proving you were competent, and it sounds harsh, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. I hope all of you have the chance to work for a Steve Jobs. And I haven’t met Elon Musk personally, but he seems like the closest we’ve got right now.

Have there been failures along the way?

I don’t consider myself a fantastic success. It’4's not like I’m a fancy billionaire

I’ve hit a lot of singles and doubles, but not home runs. I wrote books, make speeches, and have had a good life. I’m not disappointed. People and even companies, as they get to a certain stage, they should become mensch-like. (Yiddish term) Meaning trusting, gentle, patient, kind, having a noblesse oblige, taking the higher road and you aren’t entitled or elite.

People talk about Guy’s golden touch. Let me explain: Guy’s Golden Touch isn’t that whatever Guy touches turns to gold, it’s whatever is gold, Guy touches. The secret to evangelism, is evangelize good stuff. It is hard to evangelize crap.

Simon Hudson – Cheeze founder @Hudson

So, Guy Kawasaki is telling a really important point here at Startup Grind (see photo below) -- this goofy man hops out from behind the curtain and takes a selfie!!! Can you believe it?? Look at Derek's shocked face! LOL. 

[I just made that up -- but a great story -- huh?]


Simon Hudson, founder of Cheeze, was one of the first 20 chapter directors, heading up the Dubai chapter. He met Guy Kawasaki by following one of the Startup Grind basic tenets; be kind, and talk to everybody. He chatted with an Apple store manager, asking how his day was, little did he know that conversation would turn into an investing opportunity with Guy Kawasaki.

Guy says that one thing that drew him towards Cheeze, was it was almost an “anti-social” sharing app. “I have somewhere around 12 million followers, and every picture I take, I don’t want to blast out to all of those followers. Something great about Cheeze is that I can blast out a photo to all the people in my album, like my family or surfing buddies, but nobody else. I don’t have to share a crappy picture on Instagram, just to them. Selectively sharing photos.”

Guy left us with two very important lessons:

  1. The most important piece of advice I can give you; focus on the prototype. It’s all about the prototype.
  2. Don’t evangelize crap.