Hi, I’m Reid Hoffman. I’m Co-Founder of LinkedIn and a partner at Greylock. I believe in the power of networks to build iconic businesses and change the world. I’ve practiced that belief as a board member and executive at PayPal, Co-Founder at LinkedIn, and investor in companies like Airbnb, Aurora, Coda, Convoy and Facebook, as well as social impact organizations like Endeavor, Kiva, OpenAI and Opportunity @ Work.
Networks and marketplaces are central to my investing and thinking. They are foundational to scaling businesses that reach hundreds of millions of people.
The world is always changing, and the rate of change continues to increase over time. I do not presume that things that I’ve learned before are still 100% true. In high-speed entrepreneurial journeys, the speed to learning key insights, techniques, and capabilities frequently makes the difference between success and failure. That’s why I strive to be an “
.” Every interaction is a chance to learn something new, or to improve an existing skill.
: in discussion, share what you’ve learned (about what works and what has not) ー it builds collaboration as well as advancing the project.
2. Experimentation beats debating
While I have a degree in Philosophy, that training helps me understand that: in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is a difference. I do have theories that frame everything that I do. However, I also understand the difference between theory and data ー and, related to infinite learning, I’m constantly evolving my theory based on what I learn. It’s a serious mistake to think that you’re so smart that data and experiments will only confirm your theories. Cross-checking yourself often with reality is essential. Frequently, time allocated to designing and running a rigorous experiment is better spent than trying to convince people to accept conclusions without evidence.
: In presenting a plan, include the best ideas on where data and experiments might evolve the plan.
3. I’m not interested in being the smartest one in the room
I know when I am an expert and (the majority case) when I am not. I want to get to the right answer as quickly as possible, so I seek out people who can help me make the right decisions and listen carefully to their perspective and analysis. As part of “always be learning”, I want to be learning from you and other people.
: I like discussions that focus on improving our collective understanding. Participate and lean in. I love to hear unusual and thought-provoking perspectives.
4. If I ask for feedback, I actually want feedback
When I ask for feedback, I am looking to improve. As noted above, I’m always trying to learn, and one of the best ways to learn is to gather honest and precise feedback from smart people. Feedback is a gift. Generally when asked, I will also try to offer feedback.
: Asking and giving feedback is always best targeted at improvement, with an effort to being specific and actionable.
5. The “Who” in a project is as important as the “What”
Every project I take on serves a purpose (the “What” and the “Why”), but whom (the “Who”) I’ll be working with is just as important. A great team obviously significantly improves the chances of success; but, personally, it also increases the value that I find in collaborating on the project. I love working with talented friends; I also love working with talented people I don’t yet know, but who might become friends.
: If we’re considering doing a project together, share your history and motivations for the project, share how this project embodies your ethos and values.
6. I tolerate “foot faults” when we are moving at speed
In most cases, I prioritize speed over perfection. In entrepreneurship, we live in a world where General George S. Patton’s famous quote often applies:
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.
With startups, I have somewhat infamously said: “if you’re not embarrassed by your product at launch, you’ve launched too late.” Prioritizing speed can lead to mistakes, but as long as we can recover from them, I prefer rapid imperfection and fast learning to slow perfection. Most highly successful entrepreneurs combine a huge, ambitious goal with high speed execution that takes intelligent risks.
: Focus on moving fast and learning, but still strive to avoid critical mistakes. If you cannot articulate both your learnings and some mistakes, you’re probably not moving fast enough.
7. I want to know what makes you passionate about our shared projects
I strongly prefer to collaborate and partner. You can’t scale your impact if you do everything yourself. Good partnerships relies on strong relationships, which in turn requires understanding each other’s motives. Mutual understanding improves our productivity, and it also allows me to recognize and share other opportunities from my network that might connect with you.
: Jeff Weiner would recruit people to work at LinkedIn, saying “don’t come work for me, come work for the mission.” Share your mission and how it aligns with our joint mission.
8. You need to be a self-starter; I’m not going to tell you what to do…
We are working together on a mission; we are moving fast; we are learning and iterating. We don’t have time to constantly await instructions; we accomplish more, faster by forging ahead. Self-starting gives you the learning curve to achieve more. In working with you, I prefer to offer feedback and perspectives instead of orders. I like sharing the drive and ambitions of smart and talented people. While I may offer suggestions, they are truly suggestions, not polite orders. You can assume that if I’m working with you, it’s because I believe your self-direction and skills will produce a better outcome than following a detailed set of instructions.
: By default, take action and do not wait. Share constantly your theory of the game; I will collaborate and help.
9. ...and that means you need to be very clear in what you need from me
My focus is on choosing the right people to work with, not micromanagement. I assume that if you are capable and driven, you will let me know what I can do that will have the greatest positive impact on advancing our shared projects. I may not be able to do all those things, but it’s my job to push back if I disagree about strategies or priorities.
: Ask. Share the key problems in front of you. While trying to avoid serious problems, do not worry about the unavoidable mistakes of commission that come from driving ahead at maximum speed.
10. I categorize my involvement in each project into one of four tiers of engagement
I believe that there are four tiers of engagement:
Principal (you’re responsible for the outcome, a captain of the project)
Board Member (your job is to be a good partner to the Principal)
Investor (you contribute assets and are on call if needed)
Friend (you voluntarily help but have no structural commitments).
If I don’t tell you which tier I’m in for your project, be sure to ask! You can learn more about the four tiers of engagement in
. This framework comes from network thinking, by which we can bring our networks into collaborate on a variety of projects.
: Generally, any person can only be a principal in between zero to two projects, with a usual answer of one. So, often, my role in a project is somewhere between board member and friend.
11. I will always be distracted by the most urgent fire, so working with and around that reality is part of the deal
My partnership philosophy allows me to take on a significantly larger-than-normal number of worthy projects, but it also means that I end up dealing with more-frequent-than-normal emergencies. One of the counter-intuitive rules of blitzscaling is to “Let Fires Burn,” and focus on only the most critical issues. If your particular fire isn’t that intense, fast-growing, or near where we’ve stored kegs of gunpowder, you may need to get comfortable with letting it burn a bit longer ー or sometimes solving it largely on your own.
: I often get the feedback that I should put more time into a project. And, while I will try, usually the best evolution of my involvement is figuring out how to help more in the same amount of time.
12. Friendship is really important to me; if I can reasonably help a friend, I will
One of the most important things we can do in life is to find our tribe. Part of being a good friend is being a good ally, especially when a friend needs help. If you need help, please ask. If I can’t help, I’ll let you know, but I definitely can’t help if you don’t ask. I might also be able to find others to help. Friendship is a virtue unto itself; it goes beyond the projects that we’re working on.
: I don’t value friendships based upon shared facetime. I value friendships based upon heart and spirit, aligned missions in the world, and a commitment to greater aspirations for humanity. We can work on projects fiercely and loyally together, on the road to friendship.
13. Baker’s Dozen Bonus: I can read faster than you can speak
If you want to convey detailed information, or need feedback that requires a detailed understanding of the project or situation, please write something up and have me read it. It will save me time, and get you a quicker, more useful response.
: As venture capitalist, my most common small irritation is having someone read a PowerPoint slide or document to me. If you’ve written a document, the best way to present is to say something additive or framing of the document.
About this Doc
Through my various books, blog posts, and podcasts, I hope to give people a sense of what it’s like to work with me. I’ve noted a trend towards others doing the same (e.g. Luc Levesque calls this a