Nietzsche and the Rebels: A Conversation with Brad Feld & Krishna K. Gupta

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Krishna K. Gupta | June 17, 2021

In Brad Feld’s world, entrepreneurs “entrepreneur with a hammer… you’re trying to bash your way through something totally new against the backdrop of constraints.” Putting the Nietzschean hammer in the entrepreneur’s hand is a novel image, but it’s one that makes perfect sense and is the impetus behind Brad’s new book: The Entrepreneur’s Weekly Nietzsche: A Book for Disruptors.

I’ve long admired Brad as a rebel who marches to his own beat, both as a venture capitalist and a human being. I reached out to Brad—a fellow MIT alum—early in my entrepreneurial journey, and I’ve always appreciated his responsiveness, his no bullshit approach, and his offers to help.

I was thus pleasantly surprised when Brad reached out to me after reading about my admiration for Nietzsche. He and his MIT friend Dave Jilk had just published this book with 52 morsels of weekly advice for entrepreneurs from the great philosopher. 

I have read many of the classic philosophers, but none has inspired my rebellious journey as an entrepreneur as much as Nietzsche has. My interest in Nietzsche began when I was 16, sparked by readings in Father Francisco Nahoe’s English class at Andover.

While many entrepreneurs may view philosophy as a useless thought experiment, Reid Hoffman articulates otherwise in his brilliant foreword to Brad and Dave’s book. Indeed, philosophy helped ground some of history’s greatest men and women of action in a deep understanding of themselves and the world around them.

At REMUS, we are looking for rebels seeking to redefine the future. As Reid writes, “Nietzsche…felt that the highest pursuit of the human soul was to seek human evolution: evolution of identity, of culture, of new mind.” Rebel creators have an edge that other entrepreneurs do not: they pursue evolution of ideas, technologies, and ways of operating. This is why this new book aligns so well with our firm’s way of thinking.

Brad, Father Francisco, and I had a fun conversation discussing Brad and Dave’s book, and I encourage you to give it a watch/listen. I am buying this book for every entrepreneur in our portfolio, and I hope you all might consider examining Nietzsche through this new lens. As a preview, here are my notes on 5 chapters (1 from each section) that really resonated with me, both as an entrepreneur and as an investor:

1) Finding your way (Strategy) – I’ve never cared much for what others think, nor have I believed there is “THE WAY” to do anything. You have to find YOUR WAY as an entrepreneur. The concept of  embracing your own world and eschewing society’s structures is very Nietzschean.

2) Surpassing (Culture) – If you’re not constantly leveling up as an entrepreneur, you are actually falling behind, because the world around you is always moving. Entrepreneurs must instill this culture of leveling up across their organizations, but many have difficulty  upgrading their leadership teams due to complacency. Life—and business—is a constant journey of surpassing the last moment.

3) Delight in yourself (Free Spirits) – You have to love the entrepreneurial journey. It is such a difficult road to build a great company from scratch. It’s lonely, it’s full of rejection and self-doubt, and it usually ends in failure. The only way to grow as an entrepreneur and maximize your chance of success is to love the journey—and yourself.

4) Gratitude and integrity (Leadership) – We often think of entrepreneurs as uninterested in the well-being of people around them. In my experience, though, the best entrepreneurs are good humans. They are authentic, they have gratitude for those who help them, and they are honest with everyone, including themselves. The greatest leaders are well-liked, even if a desire to be well-liked is not the driving force behind their decisions.

5) Sustaining intensity (Tactics) – The journey of building a great company is long. When the journey is going well, it is very easy for entrepreneurs to take their eyes off the prize and lose their intensity. That is often fatal, because the world doesn’t stop for anyone. It is thus critical for entrepreneurs to find ways to sustain intensity within themselves and their teams. Building a great company is neither just a marathon, nor just a sprint: it is a marathon full of sprints.

Through this philosophical lens, may we all re-envision our entrepreneurial journeys, keeping in mind that there are no absolute truths, no absolute values, and that it is up to us to stamp ourselves on every moment of our journey.