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Chris Sacca Interviewed by Brooks Bell for HQ Raleigh’s Fireside Chat


Chris Sacca and Brooks Bell at CAM Raleigh

Sacca talked candidly about the importance of vulnerability, the future of Twitter, and why everyone should ignore email once in a while.

Here are some highlights of their talk:

What makes a successful startup founder

Startups are fashionable, Sacca said, but not everyone was meant to be a founder. It requires more than work ethic and smarts. It means that no matter what setbacks you encounter, “you know in your bones that you’re going to make it out,” he said.

What trait do all great founders share, according to Sacca? It’s the belief in the inevitability of their success. Even in their initial pitch, the best founders won’t try to sell you—they’re simply relaying a story about what they’re doing and what the future holds. And if you’re smart, you’ll get on the train.

He recalls talking to Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, when the nascent company was working out of a co-working space.

“He said just in passing at one point, ‘When we get to 50 million users, we’ll layer in this other thing.’ … It didn’t even occur to him that he’d said it, because he wasn’t trying to smoke and mirror me into doing a deal. He just knew that Instagram was going to be huge, and he was going to make it huge.”

What Twitter can do better

Sacca invested in Twitter early on, and he clearly still believes in the company. Twitter is unique, he said, because it has access to more information than any other company in the world—even Google—and they have it in real time.

But he clearly thinks they can do better. “That company shot itself in the face eight or nine times since its birth,” he told the audience.

“[Twitter] has something that everybody in this room would care about, whether it’s sports or politics or entertainment and celebrities, your weird hobby, or mathematics or planetary science—whatever it is, it’s in there. They just do an awful job of getting that to you.”

Surfacing that information in an effective and relevant way is where opportunity lies, Sacca said.

Why effective leadership requires vulnerability

Leaders get tripped up when they feel like they need to have it all figured out. Vulnerability is knowing when to identify where you need help, then finding the right people and empowering them to help you.

He recalled a leading a group at Google that made a bid on the FCC spectrum auction in 2007. After one meeting, much to Sacca’s dismay, his partner wrote in the notes, “Chris doesn’t know what to do about this.” The notes were sent to anyone in the company who was subscribed to the list.

“I came to the meeting the next week, and there were six new people in there who all thought they knew the answer to that question and who wanted to help. And one of them was Larry Page.”

After getting over his shock, Sacca realized that he had become more powerful—and it was because he had admitted that he didn’t have all the answers himself.

How money doesn’t buy you time—and what to do about it

It can be a challenge to be productive while still focusing on the things that make your life meaningful. That’s why “you have to ruthlessly guard your time,” Sacca said.

You have more time in your day than you realize, he said. If you were to journal every minute of your day, you would see how often you check your social feeds, respond to email, look at the news, and waste time in general.

“The reality is that most of your day is spent not moving the needle.”

The more you can ignore the distractions and focus on the task at hand, the more time in the day you’ll have. And that’s more time to be present with your family and friends.

His decision to move from San Francisco to the quiet town of Truckee was spurred in part by his realization that San Francisco had become “a series of coffees.” As a result, he was accomplishing little on his scorecard.

“Just because someone sends you an email doesn’t mean you have to reply,” he told the audience.