By any account, 2015 was definitely one of the most interesting years of my life, though I think it’s been fair to say that every year since 1986 (the year I was born) has been at least marginally more exciting than the previous. As I reflect on 12 months that went by way too fast, here are some things I learned.
1. The richest guy in the room is always right. I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Warren Buffet this year, and amidst a slew of hilarious comments which I recount in this post, the thing that stood out to me was that anything he said was pretty much taken as gospel. Not that he isn’t a brilliant mind, but believe me, in a room full of people with opinions, the guy with the fattest bank account is always going to be right. Get used to it – that’s life.
2. Animals are way more deserving of this planet that humans. I fostered and babysat 8 different kittens and puppies this year, and I guarantee you, every single one of them was a nicer creature than the bulk of humanity. Between those ISIS shitbirds out in the middle east and the gun toting morons in this country who keep accidentally shooting their own kids but think the second amendment is more important than a life, I think we’d all be better off if we were just pets that dogs had.
3. Early stage venture investing is really hard. I became a partner in a small venture fund this year called Courtside Ventures that gave me an opportunity to invest in tech companies. I have a lot more empathy for all those VCs who turned me down over the years. It’s really hard to pick winners, even when everything seems solid. I will say though, that when you have a checkbook, everyone wants to come meet you. The rolodex has certainly gotten much bigger in 2015.
4. It is possible to fall in love again. After MJ retired for the second time in 1998, I didn’t think I could ever be that excited about the game of basketball again. Kobe did some incredible things, and I’m still debating whether I want to go see him on this farewell tour, or just remember him as the guy who dropped 81 points one glorious night, nearly a decade ago, but he didn’t have that same charisma. Then, out of nowhere comes this Steph Curry kid, doing things that nobody has ever done in the history of the game. And he’s the nicest guy. And he’s a normal sized human being. For the first time in almost 15 years, I find myself saying “man, this guy could be the greatest ever.” While Michael gave us all the hope that maybe, just for a little bit, we could all fly, Steph Curry is living proof that if we put in the work, we truly can achieve anything we set our mind to. Even becoming a machine.
5. A few simple words and a screenshot have the potential to change thousands of lives. Earlier this year I wrote a blog post releasing my horrendous Penn transcript to the world, in the hope that overwhelmed college kids would realize that their grades don’t mean shit in the real world. I never expected much to come of it, but the world took notice, as hundreds of thousands of people read and and shared my post across the internet. It was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life to have been able to affect so many lives with a few words that I wrote one afternoon when I probably should have been balancing our budget.
6. Your health really is the most expensive investment you have, and it depreciates faster than computer equipment. Everyone told me that my body would start to break down at 30. I thought I was invincible and would hoop till the ripe age of 70. Given my Indian genes, it was only fitting that after 29 years and 6 months of never having a serious injury, I tore the PCL in my right knee during a pickup basketball game. Not being able to play basketball for the past 2 months has been one of the most frustrating periods of my life. The good news is, while my friends thought they’d need to put me on suicide watch, I’ve managed to focus my efforts on attacking my physical therapy with a vengeance to try and come back stronger than I ever was. But what my mother always said was true – you can have all the money in the world, but it won’t buy your health. It’s one of the reasons I completely stopped drinking 3 years ago, I’ve always remained vegetarian, and plan to spend a lot more time doing things other than playing basketball for the rest of my days.
7. Getting 80 people to row in the same direction is really friggin hard. 2015 was a record year for us at Krossover. We grew from 50 to 80 people, doubled revenue, raised our largest round of funding, released a slew of new products, and with 10,000 sqft of space in NYC, I finally had my own desk and office for the first time. And yet 2015 was not only the most frustrating year for me as a leader, but there were days when I actually questioned whether I still had the passion to do what we do. It turns out that sometimes those days when there were 3 of us holed up in an apartment (with no money to pay ourselves, eating proverbial ramen noodles) seem more fun than where we are today. Getting 80 people to work together can be like herding cats. Things that seem ridiculous to me like free snacks in the office are suddenly important to people who were never there when I had to lay of 6 of my first 13 employees because we didn’t know how we’d make payroll. People make poor decisions, some people want to be cowboys and decide to take on projects without letting their teammates know. Others can’t handle criticism, and yet others feel we don’t give them enough harsh words. It was a humbling experience to realize that on the spectrum of CEOs, I’m a pretty shitty one, compared to what Zuck, Jobs, Elon, and others have accomplished. Much for me to still learn.
8. It’s an incredible time to be alive. Kids in Korea are earning millions of dollars playing video games. If you don’t want to walk, you can roll around on a overboard. An Indian was drafted into the NBA. You can order groceries on demand for home delivery for free. There’s a guy in the NBA who is shooting 45% from beyond 29 feet. There are cars that can literally drive themselves. A pocket watch sold for $24M. An NBA team sold for $2Bn. A crazy dude with a fox on his head is running for President of the United States, and holy shit, Bill Cosby is a predator.
Here’s to an even better 2016.