Randy Komisar is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He is a venture capitalist with decades of experience with startups. He is the author of the best-selling book The Monk and the Riddle, about the heart and soul of entrepreneurship, as well as numerous articles on leadership and startups. He is also the co-author of Getting to Plan B, on managing innovation, and I F**king Love that Company, on building consumer brands. He taught entrepreneurship at Stanford University and is a frequent lecturer at universities, as well as a regular keynote speaker on entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. He joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2005 to focus on early stage ventures. Prior to that he created the role of “Virtual CEO” to partner with entrepreneurs to help them and their businesses achieve their potential, serving as Virtual CEO for such startups as WebTV and GlobalGiving. He was a co-founder of Claris Corp., and served as CEO for LucasArts Entertainment and Crystal Dynamics. Randy was a founding director of TiVo and Nest. He served as CFO of GO Corp. and as senior counsel for Apple, following a private practice in technology law. He has also served on dozens of private and public company boards and advises such organizations as Road Trip Nation and the Orrick Women’s Leadership Board. For more information, please visit http://straighttalkforstartups.com
What do I do best?
Listen and empathize. These are not innate traits. I had to first recognize and value them, and then work diligently to actualize them. I am a natural problem solver; so my inclination was always to step in and take control, offer the answer, impose my will. As I matured as a leader I realized my own limitations and saw that my greatest value was to help others solve their problems, to grow and reach their potential. In the process I became more open to new ideas and approaches, and have grown at least a foot myself.
What makes me the best version of myself?
At different stages of my life I have relied on various strengths. Speed characterized my early successes. Grocking things quickly and executing swiftly. People learned they could rely on me. Later it was my endurance. I slept little and would toil until I had delivered the desired result. Now it’s patience. Not rushing in, nor straining to exhaustion, but staying internally quiet as I observe people and situations. Arriving at an understanding and appreciating the consequences before acting. Then finding the most skillful way to engage with others to overcome challenges and optimize outcomes. Being truly present necessitates subordinating my ego, an endless battle, in order to open up more fully to others.
What are my aspirations?
My life is about fostering human potential, no matter how small or large. To contribute to the development and empowerment of talent. To help people succeed, even beyond their own expectations. Early on I developed a skill working with talent when I dabbled in the music business. Looking back now, an affinity with talent has been a common thread throughout my various careers. I hope to continue collaborating with great talent to achieve meaningful improvements in the world till my last breath.
My Biggest Success?
My closest relationships are my biggest successes. Nurturing and maintaining them. They didn’t come easily and they require dedication and commitment. It’s some of the hardest work I have ever done. I don’t have many intimate relationships, but they are precious. My relationship with my wife, with my late mentor Bill Campbell, and with my oldest and newest friends – all are an expression of my best self.
My Most Challenging Moment?
There have been more challenging moments than I like to remember. Probably my crisis of confidence when I was running a game company in the 1990s stands out most. I came to the business with a grand vision and faltered when I confronted the reality of what I was actually doing. It was a critical turning point for me, leading to my abandonment of the conventional route and propelling me to find my own path. When something breaks, don’t stop until you have fixed it better than it was before.
The less there is of me, the more room there is for everything else. Never fail to be kind and thankful.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
I am discouraged by our modern equivalence of celebrity and hero. I believe what defines a hero is their personal sacrifice for a larger ideal. People who choose to take less in order to give more. My wife is not just a personal favorite, but a role model. Her work teaching at Stanford, engaging tirelessly with an array of social enterprises, and her commitment to a sustainable food supply and global nutrition are remarkable. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my good friend, the late “coach” Bill Campbell, and ask myself, “what would Bill do?”. Of course, what I am really asking is what would my “best self” do. My Zen teacher, Misha Merrill, is a wonderful role model. Her deep expression of the Dharma inspires me to sit long and hard every day.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I seldom return to a place, knowing there is always somewhere new to experience. I love traveling by bicycle. I see, taste, smell and appreciate so much more “at street level”. I have ridden through China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Bhutan, as well as the Alps, Dolomites, Pyrenees and Rocky Mountains. I have trekked around East Africa, Egypt and Turkey. I have enjoyed the east and the west of India. The list goes on, and I can’t imagine a place I wouldn’t be willing to visit again. No matter the place, however, I choose to be immersed, meeting people where they are rather than skimming the surface.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Easy, my bicycles. I have over a dozen. I LOVE them. They are perfect machines. So elegant and beautiful. They give me wings. I like to sweat and push myself higher, to feel the breeze and carve the descents. I have a classic 1991 Tour de France bike handmade in studio of the great Eddy Merckx hanging in my office, just to inspire and remind me of the open road. I love to tinker with my bikes, always improving something. I secretly see myself someday as an itinerant monk, …..on my bicycle.
My Current Passions?
I really enjoyed writing Straight Talk for Startups with my friend, Jantoon Reigersman. It was a joyful collaboration. The process of debating, thinking hard and expressing the answers as succinctly and compellingly as possible gave me great satisfaction. I believe the book will make a difference to a lot of people in the startup world for many years to come, and it’s a fun read. Then there is cycling, of course.
I still ride over 7500 miles a year, with over 500,000 feet of climbing. My daily Zen practice of nearly 25 years is more than a passion, it like breathing air. And more and more I find the improvisation and spontaneity of jazz elevates my mind and spirit. Dogs are a lifelong passion, though sadly my Ridgeback, Lola, recently passed away, leaving a huge hole in my heart. Luckily Rufus, my jokester pit bull, still limps along with me on the trail and keeps me company as I write this.