Michael Moritz: Follow Your Instincts and Find Your Path [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

January 27, 2016
Stanford eCorner
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Michael Moritz: Follow Your Instincts and Find Your Path [Entire Talk]

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This video features a discussion between venture capitalist Mike Moritz and entrepreneur Lisa Sugar, the founder of POPSUGAR. They talk about important decisions they've made in their lives and how those decisions have shaped their success. They also discuss topics like the role of venture capitalists on social media, the challenges of running a profitable media company, and the future of POPSUGAR.

Questions & Answers

Q: In your book, you talk about leaders knowing that success comes from making a few big decisions correctly. Can you talk about some of the few important decisions you've made?

Mike Moritz mentions that his decision to emigrate to the US from the UK and to work at Sequoia Capital were the two big decisions that have shaped his life and career. He believes that all other decisions in his life have rippled out from these two choices, and if he hadn't made them, his life would have turned out very differently.

Q: How did Mike make the decision to emigrate from the UK to the US?

Mike explains that his decision was similar to the decision made by many others who saw more opportunity in America than in their respective home countries. He believed that there was far more opportunity in America, which led him to make the decision to leave the UK.

Q: Lisa, what are some of the big decisions you've made in your life?

Lisa Sugar mentions that starting POPSUGAR with her husband was one of the big decisions in her life. She never thought she would end up working with her husband, but starting the company together turned out to be a significant decision. She also mentions the decision to move to San Francisco, which she believes led to the creation and success of POPSUGAR.

Q: How did Lisa come up with the idea for POPSUGAR?

Lisa explains that POPSUGAR started as a hobby, as she wanted to get into the habit of writing every day. She started writing articles and realized that there was a void in the market for fun and constantly updated content tailored to women. The positive response and growth of her audience fueled her passion and led to the creation of POPSUGAR as a media company.

Q: What did Mike see in Lisa and Bryan that made him confident in investing in POPSUGAR?

Mike mentions that successful founders have a real sense and purpose about the product or service they want to build. He saw that Lisa and Bryan had a clear vision for POPSUGAR and a strong connection with their audience. He also mentions the opportunity to create a new internet-based property tailored to a specific demographic as a factor that informed his investment decision.

Q: Lisa, how did you decide to go with Sequoia and Mike for your Series A funding?

Lisa mentions that it was a combination of love at first sight and the alignment of their vision with Sequoia's expertise in media-related businesses and their connection to influential figures in the industry. She felt that Sequoia understood her passion for building a media company and had the expertise and connections to help POPSUGAR succeed.

Q: Lisa, what factors contributed to the success of POPSUGAR?

Lisa explains that they focused on providing constantly updated and relevant content to their audience. They paid attention to user behavior and constantly adapted to new trends and technologies. She also mentions the importance of their team and company culture, as well as their dedication to staying connected to their audience and understanding their needs.

Q: How has Mike guided Lisa and Bryan through the different stages of growing POPSUGAR?

Lisa describes Mike as a supportive partner who is always available for advice, helping with talent recruitment, and connecting them with valuable contacts. She emphasizes that POPSUGAR is Lisa and Bryan's company and gives them credit for its success.

Q: Lisa, what are the challenges and changes you've faced in your various roles at POPSUGAR?

Lisa explains that her role has evolved as POPSUGAR has grown. She initially started as a writer and had to transition away from writing as the company expanded and new roles emerged. She now focuses on strategy, growing the team, and ensuring that the core content and sites continue to grow successfully.

Q: Lisa, what have been some of the tough spots in the 10 years of running POPSUGAR?

Lisa mentions that one of their challenges was being slower to adapt to mobile. They had to make adjustments to ensure a mobile-first approach, including optimizing their website for mobile and creating seamless mobile shopping experiences. She also mentions the tough decision of transitioning from a distribution partner to building their own sales force, which was initially costly but became beneficial in the long run.

Q: Lisa, what are your hopes and dreams for POPSUGAR in the next 10 years?

Lisa mentions some upcoming projects like the release of a book and the expansion of video content. She talks about integrating different aspects of the company, like the shopping tool ShopStyle, and making the user experience seamless and enjoyable. She envisions POPSUGAR continuing to grow and establish a larger position in the evolving media landscape focused on their target demographic.

Q: What companies do you admire?

Lisa mentions Disney as a company she admires. She highlights its ability to create a variety of experiences and products while staying true to its vision and values. She appreciates how Disney has managed to make money in various ways while providing quality content and merchandise.

Q: Lisa, how do you maintain a work environment where people can work hard and play nice?

Lisa explains that they strive to create a company culture that feels like a family and maintains open communication. She mentions the importance of being present and involved with the team, as well as hiring passionate individuals who share the company's vision. She believes in leading by example and setting expectations for hard work and collaboration.

Q: Lisa, what do you think about Generation Z and their impact on media consumption?

Lisa expresses her love for the younger generations and their enthusiasm for consuming and sharing content. She mentions their preference for instant gratification, relatability, and personalization. She appreciates their open-mindedness, diversity, and inclusivity, and believes that embracing and understanding these characteristics will lead to future success.

Q: Mike, what can Silicon Valley executives learn from the manager Sir Alex Ferguson?

Mike mentions that the leadership attributes demonstrated by Sir Alex Ferguson are very similar to those embodied by successful company founders in Silicon Valley. He believes that there is a lot to learn from Ferguson's ability to lead and inspire his team, as well as his focus on excellence and commitment to his vision.

Q: Are there any big decisions that you feel you got wrong?

Lisa mentions that they had to restructure some of their original plans for launching verticals at POPSUGAR. They realized that some verticals were not everyday reads for their audience and made adjustments to focus on the core content and packaging it in the right way. Mike mentions the example of investing in Webvan, which turned out to be a bad decision.

Q: How do you see venture funding evolving with higher interest rates and market conditions?

Mike acknowledges that the flood of capital into private markets has been driven by low interest rates and investors searching for higher returns. As interest rates rise, the capital flow may retreat, and investors may seek more traditional and perceived lower-risk investment opportunities. However, the specific timing and effects on venture funding are uncertain.


Mike Moritz's and Lisa Sugar's success stories highlight the importance of making significant and strategic decisions in shaping one's career and business. The key decisions they made, such as immigrating to another country and having a clear vision for their companies, played a crucial role in their success. They both stress the value of following instincts and being passionate about the work they do. The discussion also touched upon the role of venture capitalists in social media, the challenges of running a profitable media company, and the importance of staying adaptable and connected to one's audience. Overall, the conversations emphasized the importance of making informed decisions, being open to learning and adapting, and having a supportive network along the entrepreneurial journey.

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