Ben Horowitz — What You Do Is Who You Are >> Lessons from Silicon Valley, Andy Grove, Genghis Khan, Slave Revolutions, and More (#392)

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“One of the key insights from Bushido is that a culture is not a set of beliefs, it’s a set of actions.”

— Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz) is a cofounder and general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and the upcoming Harper Business book, What You Do Is Who You Are, available October 29th. He also created the a16z Cultural Leadership Fund to connect cultural leaders to the best new technology companies and enable more young African Americans to enter the technology industry.

Prior to a16z, Ben was cofounder and CEO of Opsware (formerly Loudcloud), which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007. Previously, Ben ran several product divisions at Netscape Communications, including the widely acclaimed Directory and Security product line.

Ben has an MS and BA in Computer Science from UCLA and Columbia University, respectively.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, StitcherCastbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#392: Ben Horowitz — What You Do Is Who You Are >> Lessons from Silicon Valley, Andy Grove, Genghis Khan, Slave Revolutions, and More


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#163: Marc Andreessen — Lessons, Predictions, and Recommendations from an Icon


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



  • Connect with Ben Horowitz:

Andreessen Horowitz | Twitter


  • Who is Andy Grove, and why is he interesting to Ben? [04:39]
  • How did Ben come to write the foreword to the updated reprint of Andy’s highly influential High Output Management, and what does he consider to be the most valuable takeaways from this book? [06:35]
  • As someone who, like Andy Grove, has a scientific background, how does Ben think about management and the problems in the world of business that need to be solved? [11:21]
  • How does Ben distinguish between management and leadership? [15:19]
  • When he was still working at Netscape, Ben wrote a paper called Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager. What brought this paper about and what impact did it have on Ben and the other people at the company? [17:20]
  • What was Ben’s relationship with famed Silicon Valley coach Bill Campbell like, and what are some of the most important lessons he learned from him? [20:45]
  • What allows someone like a Bill Campbell or an Oprah Winfrey to read people so intuitively within minutes of meeting them? [24:34]
  • How does Ben advise a first-time executive who might have plenty of product knowledge, but not much experience with managing people or the nuances of a growing business? [26:45]
  • Aside from High Output Management, what books would Ben recommend for first-time founders? [32:11]
  • How does Ben teach first-time CEOs one of the most important skills of the position: the ability to be good at the job and its difficult decisions without worrying about being liked? [35:01]
  • What tools or techniques has Ben found useful for someone in a leadership position to manage their own psychology? [37:44]
  • Self-talk for someone in a high threat, one shot, one kill situation. [41:28]
  • As someone whose superpower may be running toward scary things instead of away from them, what does Ben mean when he says “sharpen the contradictions?” [43:51]
  • After telling himself he would never write another book, what prompted Ben to write his latest, What You Do Is Who You Are, and what is he trying to convey about creating and maintaining a desirable company culture? [46:44]
  • “A culture is not a set of beliefs, it’s a set of actions.” How would Ben suggest that people in a position to create a company culture refine their thinking about what works and what doesn’t? [50:27]
  • One significant example of how Andreessen Horowitz tries to differentiate its own culture from those of other venture capital firms Ben has observed. [51:53]
  • Is culture something that someone has to get right at the get-go, or is it possible to do a rehaul and make it work without replacing all of the employees at a company? [53:55]
  • What did Toussaint L’Ouverture do to militarize a slave culture that was able to successfully resist the most powerful European powers of the day and create an independent state? [56:52]
  • What would it take for Ben to feel like the message of What You Do Is Who You Are is getting through to its audience? What would it take for him to consider the book a success? [1:03:33]
  • What would Ben’s billboard say? [1:07:00]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:08:25]