Ann Miura-Ko — The Path from Shyness to World-Class Debater and Investor (#331)

“The main difference was that I was willing to outwork and outdo every competitor who walked in through that door.” Ann Miura-Ko

Ann Miura-Ko (@annimaniac) has been called “the most powerful woman in startups” by Forbes and is a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Stanford. The child of a rocket scientist at NASA, Ann is a Palo Alto native and has been steeped in technology startups from when she was a teenager. Prior to co-founding Floodgate, she worked at Charles River Ventures and McKinsey and Company. Some of Ann’s investments include Lyft, Ayasdi, Xamarin, Refinery29, JoyRun, TaskRabbit, and Modcloth.

Given the success of her investments she was on the 2017 Midas List of top 100 venture capitalists. Ann is known for her debate skills (she placed first in the National Tournament of Champions and second in the State of California in high school) and was part of a five-person team at Yale that competed in the Robocup Competition in Paris, France. She has a BSEE from Yale and a PhD from Stanford in math modeling of computer security. She lives with her husband, three kids, and one spoiled dog. Her interests are piano, robots, and gastronomy.

Enjoy!

#331: “Is That a World-Class Effort?”: The Story of Investor Ann Miura-Ko

Download

Want to hear my interview with Ann’s business partner? — Check out my interview with Mike Maples, Jr. from venture capital firm Floodgate, the man who taught me how to invest. Stream below or right-click here to download.


This podcast is brought to you by WordPress, my go-to platform for 24/7-supported, zero downtime blogging, writing online, creating websites — everything! I love it to bits, and the lead developer, Matt Mullenweg, has appeared on this podcast many times.

Whether for personal use or business, you’re in good company with WordPress, which is used by The New Yorker, Jay Z, Beyoncé, FiveThirtyEight, TechCrunch, TED, CNN, and Time, just to name a few. A source at Google told me that WordPress offers “the best out-of-the-box SEO imaginable,” which is probably why it runs nearly 30% of the Internet. Go to WordPress.com/Tim to get 15% off your website today!

This episode is also brought to you by LegalZoom. I’ve used this service for many of my businesses, as have quite a few of the icons on this podcast, including Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame.

LegalZoom is a reliable resource that more than a million people have already trusted for everything from setting up wills, proper trademark searches, forming LLCs, setting up non-profits, or finding simple cease-and-desist letter templates.

LegalZoom is not a law firm, but it does have a network of independent attorneys available in most states who can give you advice on the best way to get started, provide contract reviews, and otherwise help you run your business with complete transparency and up-front pricing. Check out LegalZoom.com and enter promo code TIM at checkout today for special savings and see how the fine folks there can make life easier for you and your business.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Ann Miura-Ko:

Floodgate | Twitter | Instagram

SHOW NOTES

  • Ann was so shy as a child that her brother would have to introduce her at piano recitals. [05:35]
  • What Japanese phrase would Ann mutter at English speakers as a hostile kid growing up in Michigan? [08:21]
  • How did Ann manage to get a handle on her introversion and start opening up to people? [10:16]
  • When did Ann first speak on stage without an introduction from her brother? [13:20]
  • Why did Ann persist with speech and debate even after a rocky couple of years? [14:39]
  • Ann has always loved competition. [16:06]
  • To what dark lengths has Ann been willing to go for a slice of pizza? [16:41]
  • What catalyst turned Ann from a lousy debater into someone who won tournaments? [19:46]
  • What is the format of debate competition? [24:12]
  • What resources does Ann recommend for people who want to get better at debating and structuring arguments? [28:24]
  • Observations on what passes for modern debate — in politics and my family. [31:47]
  • Life is not a debate, and it’s not always about being right. So what does Ann feel is the most important lesson she learned during her debating years? [34:06]
  • A look at the differences between debate and negotiation in spite of their similar toolkits. [37:19]
  • Ann shares her rocket scientist father’s story of coming to America from Japan and one of his favorite phrases: “Is that a world-class effort?” [39:30]
  • How Ann made a world-class effort at a job making copies and filing, and what keeping her father’s words in mind taught her about ownership of circumstances no matter how seemingly insignificant. [43:54]
  • How giving a stranger a tour at Yale resulted in the opportunity for Ann to shadow a major company’s CEO. [46:36]
  • Ann’s first job that primed her for world-class photocopying and labeling. [53:15]
  • As an office supply connoisseur with many years of experience, what are Ann’s favorite notebooks and pens? [54:58]
  • What personal artifacts does Ann hold dear? [56:18]
  • Ann talks about teaching Mayfield Fellows at Stanford and what she loves about the program. [58:12]
  • What is the reading list for the intelligent growth in startups class Ann is teaching at Stanford now, and what’s in store for her students this quarter? [1:00:11]
  • How a potential investor might spot artificial inflation of value among startups. [1:06:03]
  • Why did Ann deviate from her initial plan to become a doctor? [1:07:20]
  • What thoughts surrounded Ann’s abandonment of the doctor track in spite of the preparation it had taken to get there, and what did she know about herself that her parents and test scores didn’t? [1:10:59]
  • How did venture capital and investing in startups enter the picture for Ann? [1:15:40]
  • “What is Steve Jobs doing in this house?” [1:16:20]
  • A job offer accepted over shared interests and an examination of the unique interview that led to it. [1:17:36]
  • Ann’s second day at CRV was 9/11. What did she observe and learn about shepherding companies and investors through a stagnant economy during her time there? [1:22:05]
  • The most expensive words in investing. [1:25:27]
  • First principles thinking and the toughest leadership decisions that Ann sees come up most commonly. [1:25:49]
  • Knowing the difference between a winning strategy versus a strategy not to lose. [1:28:45]
  • In what ways might hedging manifest as a defensive strategy? [1:30:05]
  • The importance of focusing on your own race, as demonstrated by Oprah and Dan Gable. [1:31:55]
  • Ann’s take on why you need a little bit of aggressiveness in order to have the win. [1:34:08]
  • How did Ann meet Mikes Maples, Jr.? [1:35:09]
  • Why Ann pursued a PhD in computer security, what kind of company she was planning to start, and how Mike persuaded her to work with him instead. [1:38:36]
  • What was Ann’s initial reaction to this proposition, and why was it such an unusual proposition at this time in Silicon Valley? [1:41:20]
  • Why Ann’s first year at Floodgate was so hectic — and what she considers “the most creative and probably productive” period of her life. [1:46:07]
  • What’s Ann’s real first name? [1:48:18]
  • What constitutes a struggle for Ann, and how has she coped with difficult times? [1:49:17]
  • What are Ann’s superpowers? [1:55:10]
  • What are thunder lizards, and why is Ann hunting them? [1:59:23]
  • Is the scientific method dead? How does Ann see the world changing as a result of artificial intelligence and machine learning? [2:01:10]
  • Philosophy thought exercises and real world applications. [2:04:03]
  • Societal problems that need to be solved and figuring out who’s best able to solve them. Do collective interests and self-interests have to be misaligned? [2:07:07]
  • What books has Ann gifted or reread most? [2:08:44]
  • What recent purchase of less than $100 had the most positive impact on Ann’s life? [2:11:00]
  • What would Ann’s billboard say? [2:12:27]
  • What do the Japanese characters for Ann’s first name mean? [2:13:25]
  • Where Ann can be found online, how Floodgate got its name, and parting thoughts. [2:14:30]

PEOPLE MENTIONED