VC Vinod Khosla: Vision is 'bumbling' around

There is no such thing as vision. Just keep failing enough, never giving up, and eventually...

Lessons learned from entrepreneur by Bambi Francisco Roizen
June 26, 2009 | Comments (7)
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"Vision is great, especially when you can do it with 20/20 hindsight," said entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who last night received a Visionary Award, an honor bestowed annually to industry leaders who've pioneered innovation. The award was given by the SDForum, a leading Silicon Valley non-profit organization.

Khosla, whom I met while he was a partner at blue-chip venture firm Kleiner Perkins, co-founded Sun Microsystems back in the 80's, upon graudating Standford University. In 2004, Khosla founded Khosla Ventures

In 1986, Khosla was asked about his vision for Sun Microsystems. He responded by suggesting that having vision is as much as about being lucky. "The best  thing to do to have vision is to pray to Lady Luck because frankly, you never know vision when you see it. And, I still don't really believe in vision."

Khosla's speech was short, sweet and humble. It was under four minutes long, about half the time of the other speeches. For anyone who wants to hear an inspiring and motivational speech about how to succeed as an entrepreneur, this is it. The takeaway is that vision isn't something you have, it's something that comes to you in time.

"I still don’t believe in vision. I believe in bumbling around long enough to not give up on things. Eventually, when success comes your way because you've failed in every possible way, and the only way that’s left is the one successful way. And, always for those of you who are entrepreneurs, it seems to come last.

"This bumbling around is to me what vision is about. It’s the best way to be a visionary. You just keep failing enough, and not giving up."

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Ezra Roizen, on June 29, 2009

This was a great talk. 3 minutes and pretty much all you need to know about entrepreneurship. I also am pretty wary of the concept of vision - I think vision is better thought of as the ability to know when something is working after everything else has failed.

Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman, on June 29, 2009

The bit about never keeping awards reminds me of Bill McDonough's speech (which he gives everywhere). He talks about leaving a legacy for the next generation (in his case, eco-friendly design), and tells of Jefferson writing his own gravestone epitaph. J included three things there: "Author of the Declaration of Independence [and] of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia." No mention of "president" or other honorary titles... just the things he created and left for following generations.

Khosla seems similarly determined to forget his honors.

Bambi Francisco Roizen, on June 29, 2009

Matt: I forgot to mention that great line at the end about not keeping awards! And, thanks for reference to the Bill McDonough's speech. I think we should live by these same guiding principles and ask ourselves everyday, not what have we achieved for ourselves, but what we've created for others. I like that!

Kevin Rivers, on June 29, 2009

Very interesting. This is exactly what most entrepreneurs have. It's all about not giving up on your 'vision' even though you've taken many of the failing routes. Eventually, you'll come to a successful point. - Kevin

Ezra Roizen, on June 29, 2009

The other piece is a culture of failure. You need to be fine failing if you're ever going to succeed.

Katherine Winston
Katherine Winston, on July 1, 2009

Well said Vinod. During these challenging times, it's always great to hear such simple words of wisdom as an entrepreneur.

Otto Newhouse
Otto Newhouse, on August 1, 2009

I like the way Vinod approaches vision as a kind of post rationalization of an insight that may not be popular (at a time) as it lay outside the logic of established rule sets. Thanks, Bambi, for posting. Enjoyed reading the comments.

Ron Sheridan
Ron Sheridan, on November 18, 2010

The bumbling around thing... I got that one nailed.

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