Avram Miller – Author of The Flight of a Wild Duck and Founder of Intel Capital

Episode 178

Learn from a Silicon Valley legend! This week, I talked with Avram Miller - author of “The Flight of a Wild Duck” and co-founder of Intel Capital. Not only was Avram managing a multi billion dollar portfolio at the most successful corporate venture group in the field of technology - Intel Capital, but he has played an integral hand in the development of today’s internet by creating high speed residential broadband. Aside from his career, we dive into what shaped this legend by looking into his childhood and early years, as well as the incredible front-row seat Avram had in the budding world of modern technology. Find inspiration with this episode on #TheKaraGoldinShow

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Avram Miller 0:00
We have to keep in mind, two things are important to be lucky and not mistake being lucky for being smart.

Kara Goldin 0:05
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to just sort of make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked out knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control, control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara golden show. So join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time, can’t wait to get started. Let’s go Let’s go. Hi, everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m so thrilled to have my friend Audra Miller, who I haven’t seen in a long, long time. But if you have followed him closely on social and and of course, have admired his journey for very, very long, and I’m so thrilled to have him here he is not only the co founder, founder of Intel capital, but also the author of the flight of a Wild Duck and impossible journey through life and technology, which is coming out in September, he’s going to talk a little bit more about that I just got a preview of the book. And it is so I was so good. And I not only was inspired, which, which actually takes a lot for me to be inspired. I was just I was really, really excited about this and stuff that I didn’t even know about. Ron, that was that was definitely really fun to see in this. And he’s also been at really the center of technology. Going back to the early 80s. And when you think about so many people have read my book, and I’ve even said, you know, the, the mid 90s was just a time when so much stuff was going on. And that you know, it was it must have been so exciting for me to live in that time. I definitely look at that period as it as a you know, definitely great history to look back on but also the the 80s and the early 90s what was going on, I mean, not only Intel, and everything they were doing but Microsoft and and apple and I ROM has seen it, seen it all and has known many of these founders as well. So he’s he’s one of the most successful venture capital or been a part of one of the most successful venture capital groups in Silicon Valley. And also had invested in geo cities broadcast comm for VeriSign c net CMG. I mean, you name it, this is around the guy. And actually, he’s been, he was in Israel, I know for the last few years, and he’s finally back on on the best coast in California. So we’re thrilled to have you back here. And very, very excited to be here. So thank you for coming on.

Avram Miller 3:16
Thank you. I enjoy your podcast and I’m delighted to be able to participate.

Kara Goldin 3:23
Super excited. So one of the things you know, as I mentioned, I just got through the great book, which is so cool. And and if you can see this on here for our YouTube fans, it’s such a great cover. I love it. So avron tell everybody a little bit about odd ROM ROM the kid before we get into sort of the the juicy stuff going forward. And our problem the kid who was ROM

Avram Miller 3:53
Okay, well, first of all, I was born before the first computer was born. So you want to talk about going back to the 80s. I actually put my hand on like I started working computers in the 60s. I’ll talk about that a little bit more later. But I grew up in San Francisco. My family had been in San Francisco since before the 1900s. I grew up in a Jewish family, San Francisco at one time, was the second largest Jewish city has the second largest Jewish population in the United States. Most people don’t know that. But anyway, I grew up in that culture. I was a sickly child that was very sick. I had chronic asthma. I was constantly taken to the hospital. I had a kind of dysfunctional family. My father who had asthma would get angry at me when I got sick, I think because he felt a little guilty about having given it to me and my mother would be terrified. But I learned a lot of things at the hospital. I learned how to get nurses to laugh because I knew that if they laughed they To take better care of me, wow. And, and so, you know, I did it for a while and then I, something happened that was probably I’m sure it changed my life totally. The doctors recommended that I go to a convalescent home, a home for kids that had chronic illness. And it was called the Stanford convalescent home. And today, it’s next to the Stanford shopping center. And it’s called the Ronald McDonald House. It’s not the same building you kind of looked at, they may have adopted some of it. In my book, I have a picture of it. And there I was, for almost a year, my parents seldom visited me. And I, you know, the May, it may sound like, Oh, this must have been horrible. But I never experienced anything as being wearable, except I would be scared to death when they couldn’t breathe, I thought it would die. But if that didn’t happen, I was like, kind of, like, wow, the world is amazing. And everything’s amazing. And I’m so curious about everything. But I didn’t have a lot to do. So I worked with my imagination. I spent lots of time inside my head. And one of the things I tried to do was to see if I could change the colors of the walls. So I could change my room color. Or if I could change the proportions of it. And like it, I learned to do all those things with my mind. We don’t teach kids to do these things in school. Because I don’t know what we teach them exactly. And certainly we don’t teach them imagination or intuition, or creativity. But I always say the foundation of where I became, came from that time when I was alone, in my own head. And after that, I came back home. And I was still not very well. But I was also kind of dysfunctional, I couldn’t really fit into the school system. They’ve sent me to school, and I didn’t really, I couldn’t really make it. It wasn’t that I mean, everybody knew. And I knew that not only was a sick, but I was also smart. And you know, I was what would be called a gifted child, which had to do wasn’t such a great gift to tell you the truth. But it had more to do with my IQ. But I couldn’t fit into the classroom. And a couple of teachers at school saved me. They said, you know, don’t go to the class, just go to the library. And we’ll you know, we’ll give you books three will tell you what books to read. And then we’ll see that you’re okay. And that’s where I got my education, started my education. And I read so many kinds of books, and I was fascinated by that. And, you know, so that kind of continued, I never really could make it in school. I was always not there.

I would play hooky, I would beware record. I couldn’t function. I just really conflicted in school. And, and by the time I don’t think that would be that happened to me, like in high school was I discovered music, which I became later I went to the conservatory in San Francisco, but I joined the choir, because I figured maybe I could get through this class. And so that’s where I learned four part harmony and began my learning about musical theory. I got a high school degree because my mom decided to send me to a private school in San Francisco through school. And they agreed that they would give me tests. And if I passed a test, I could get high school diploma. So I did that. But that was it. And after that, you know, I had no idea what to do. nobody in my family had ever gone to college or university within a conversation. We didn’t actually discuss it. It didn’t really play any role at all. My family were all shopkeepers. Although my father later went back to university and got an MBA, but at that time, they were just shopkeepers. And I didn’t know what I was going to do. But my grandmother’s second husband had a big connection with the merchant Siemens union, and was able to get me in to the merchant Siemens union and I became a merchant seaman. So at the age of 218, weighing 107 pounds, because I was really skinny. I sailed to Asia with some pretty rough guys. I’m still surprised that I survived. And I did that for a while. Should I stop? Is that me? It’s challenged. We

Kara Goldin 9:27
know. I know. I love this. It’s amazing. I know. I was listening to the I didn’t know you’re a merchant marine either. Until I read the book. I was like, This is wild. And I mean, just, you know, what year was this to that

Avram Miller 9:43
you were so in? 19. So I was born in 1945. So it says in the book, I was born when Hitler was still alive, and Frank was still alive before we drop. You know the atomic weapon before any computers have ever worked. And, but so this was 1963 in 1963. I was 18. And I had graduated from Drew, because they my mother paid them off, I guess. And I, you know, had no idea what to do with my life. You were growing up around Haight Ashbury as well, and yeah, well, this was before the hippie movement, but I was kind of a pre hippie. I was the first hippies, but I was, you know, we have beat that remembers those. And Alan Ginsberg was one. And I began when I was young. In my early teens, I heard him poetry readings, but later I became a friend that is, actually and I recently in doing my research, I discovered, I was amazed, I was discovered that he kept my correspondence. Papers, which made me feel really wonderful, because I thought, you know, that he wouldn’t even remember me. But, so I was really exposed to a lot of things before I became a seaman. I was going, I got a small scholarship to study composition at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco. I was learning music, playing piano, and learning, you know, philosophy, poetry. History, I was interested in all those things. And I had friends that were kind of like me, kind of misfits that were interested in, things like that. And we would hang out at City Lights bookstore. And in North Beach later, you know, when the hippie movement started, you know, and in the rock, the rock scene of San Francisco got started. You know, I was, I was involved in that, but I that was after I was,

Kara Goldin 12:00
I love it. So you can’t you come back from being a merchant marine, and what was the next step for you?

Avram Miller 12:08
I got very active in the civil rights movement, and the anti war movement. And, you know, I’m sure that most of the people that are listening to this will have been born a lot later than me. So they may not remember or know, the Vietnam War. But I would like to say that, you know, the country was polarized at that time, too, not as bad as now. Although, in some ways, it was more violence than and, you know, i. So, I mean, I would lay down in front of Dow Chemical products in Redwood City, where they were trying to load chips with napalm, you know, these huge trucks would have to stop or run me over. Or I was arrested in a palace hotel for, you know, surprise stuff. And I was arrested with a great comedian, Dick Gregory. I wrote about that book. Yeah. But so whoever’s doing all that stuff. And I had made some money as a merchant seaman. And so I was living off this money that I made, and eventually I ran out of money. I was running out of money. And so I said to all my friends, I set this up, I need work. Does anybody have a job that he was there any jobs out there for me? And I did get a job at a pizza store, you know, Night Manager, pizza store, but I wasn’t really satisfied with that. And then one of my friends said, Well, you know anything about electronics? So I haven’t said anything. To now I have mentioned the fact that the time I was a child, I was studying physics and electronics. I was really fascinated by that. And, you know, like many people maybe are not many, but some people, I built my first radio and I was, you know, into all kinds of science, and I love science. And I loved Albert Einstein, you can see from my hair, and I identified with him, you know, I wanted you know, because my mom, I couldn’t tie my shoelaces. And my mom once said to me, you know, you’re just like this guy, Albert Einstein is really smart, but he can’t tie his shoelaces later. I think she made that up, just make me feel better. I hope he waits for that. So my friend said, you know anything about electronics? I said, Yeah, I know something. So he introduced me to a fascinating man then joke me I was a professor at the University of California Medical School, Langley Porter neuro psychiatric Institute. And Joe wanted to study brainwaves. And he wanted to see if you could use biofeedback. biofeedback wasn’t the concept at the time. That but if you could you train people, we don’t know what’s going on with their brainwaves. But if you could tell people what was going on, could they control it? And this was a CCS and he needed somebody to design equipment to be able to do that. And so he, he said, Yeah, I have a job to do that. Can you do that? And so I said, Let me try I think I probably can’t. And so and I said that if I do it, will you hire me? And he said, Yeah, so the company’s leader and design what he was looking for, and he hired me. And we were together for a couple, two and a half years. And I designed the all the technology used to do biofeedback. We studied Zen monks, for instance, and look, and see if we could get people to have the same brainwave configuration. And then what do they report with the reports of thing like, you know, meditations on which they did. So I did that we, you know, we became kind of a little famous, we were in the Walter Cronkite show, and, you know, Time magazine wrote an article about us, and so this is the 70s or the 60s, this is still okay, this is still the 60s, am I really gone through, you know, the hippie part, I, I got tired of all that stuff. I was really once I discovered technology, I couldn’t stop myself, I would not sleep at night, I was studying constantly, you know, all the technology, basically, you know, binary arithmetic, binary logic, Symbolic Logic, but I could do it’s, it’s nuts to think about it, I could do anything, then I mean, I, I could take the raw materials like transistors, resistors, capacitors, and I could build flip flops. And I could build, you know, all the elements that came into a computer. But something happened to me in about 1967. That changed my life. We got a computer, and we got a computer. I didn’t even know what a computer really was, you know, but we got a computer, not to program. But to run an experiment, the subset that we were Our job was to duplicate this experiment. And it wasn’t Joe’s computer. It was, we were in the we had an institute first. And Joe was part of this institute at Langley Porter. And we got this computer. And I remember everything about it. And it was PDP seven, it was blue, kind of big. And, and when everybody left that day, at the end of the day, I stayed. I said, I have to understand how this works. So I opened up the back door, and I saw all these modules from Digital Equipment Corporation, the manufacturer, the computer, yeah, but I, in those days, I would build things. And the way I would create a program is I would have like a punch, like a plank and board like you would see in the switchboards. You know, phone operators, and I couldn’t find the plug in board, even how are these things connected? I didn’t know about software. I never heard about sulfur. So I started running through the manual on wicked things run. And then like three o’clock in the morning, I realized the concept of software, it was like, I would like to have a sense of outer space. It was such a powerful idea of software. And by that morning, I could program. And so I was now you know, I could do hardware, like in the software edge of the computer. And I asked nobody there know how to support that computer. So I asked Joe Can I spend one day a week kind of managing the computer activity. And so I did that, and, and inserted by the more and more programs and so on anyway. I was in love. I mean, I can’t tell you the passion I had for that computer. And you know, and that computer, you know, I think the memory of that computer would be like, at best, a quarter of the size of one photograph you take on your iPhone. Yeah, no, I knew I knew every bit in it.

What were some of the names that during that time that were you know, sort of thrown around around not only the names of companies with computers, but were Who were some of the people like that the more kind of famous people at that time that were kind of doing sort of stuff that you were interested in. Do you remember? Well, on the computer side, you know, IBM was a dominant company, but IBM at that time. You know, it was all like punch cards and batch processing. And you know, you really never and you couldn’t ever get near the computer business in this room and all these people will fight coats were running around, you know, so the second largest computer company with digital government Corporation, which was the leader of many computers. And Ken Olson was the founder of that company. Later, I worked very closely with him. Amazing man. Gordon Bell was the guy head engineering guy, great technologists who I’m still close to Ken Unfortunately, no longer live. And Ken wanted to build a computer that you could actually touch you know, wasn’t didn’t need a computer room, even though I mean it was obviously maybe 10 times heavier than it was, you know, it was still he could, you know, actually get him to hold it in tension, I mean, you can hold it. So that was the second largest company, a computer company, there were a lot of company computer companies at the time, they all none of them amounted to anything. But I mean, ultimately prime data general and so on. So there was no personal computer. You know, I will remember, I worked real closely with the guide. So, a note name was Peter is a little bit younger than I am. And Pete was also brilliant. When it came to this technology. We had a Scylla scope, we have an oscilloscope so that we can look at signals electrical signals, and P figured out how to turn it into a character generator. And we actually saw words up on the screen the first time, you know, we were amazed by that. And then we would do creative things like we could we figured out how to vibrate. There was a like a big rack that had a tape on it. You know, these tapes, you see sometimes maybe in the movies, and we figured out how the vibrates, we could make the rack dance to the music. And we created music when the lights went to our transistor radios. We had like full thing going on for a while. Yeah, in the science side, I you know, I, you know, only remember some number names. But, you know, this was also a time when LSD was, you know, people were experimenting with, you know, Timothy Leary, Leary would come to our lab, you know, we had all these people and people studying whales, and porpoises, and we even consulted this crazy, but we consulted for NASA. Because some of the astronauts were claiming they were having out of body experiences. And they wanted us to figure a way that we get them not have these experiences. I called the astronaut program. Because astral projections. Yeah, so anyway, I did that I must have been so much fun to I wish I could go back in time and be a fly on the wall, you know, sort of knowing I mean, just just things as simple as like you said the text Finally, I mean, how many people sat there and looked at a computer at that time and said, Who needs text? Right? Like, I mean, and now you can’t even imagine. Right? Yeah. I mean, and to think that you were, you were there. And you know what I mean? That that during that time, it was just so critical, I think often about, you know, the visionary entrepreneurs that are coming up with things that people think, you know, you’ll never be able to do that you’ll, you know, who needs it, all of these things that you’re challenged by when it when you see it. So clearly,

I was driven. I wasn’t an entrepreneur, right? Because, you know, I was a scientist. Now, Joe had joke me, I had turned me into a scientist. He taught me everything about scientific methodology, statistics, everything. I mean, I was a scientist. I mean, I didn’t think about being an artist, funny, because I came from a family of shop owners, but I never thought about being an entrepreneur, you know. And, and I was just driven by the amazing potential of it all, you know, the possibilities of the, and, I mean, I didn’t really realize that, you know, we were Moore’s Law hadn’t been invented, you know, I didn’t know what the treadmill was like, you know, yeah. I just thought, Oh, my God, you know, you can create a program out of your head, in your side, your brain, you can try something. Yeah. Yeah, I know. I just loved it.

Kara Goldin 23:40
Well, your journey is great. I mean, you just so why do you think you never actually became an entrepreneur? Because in so many ways, I feel like you had the, you know, that your parents or shopkeepers thinking or thinking about, you know, I don’t know, a better life creating whatever it is, I feel like you also, were always working around entrepreneurs, but you supported entrepreneurs, but you never actually founded your own thing.

Avram Miller 24:12
Right? Well, I mean, I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurs for a while. Because my only dealings with corporations with you know, they were pretty large corporations, you know, with 10s of 1000s of people, I never, you know, work with a small company, until later. So after I left Jo I went to the, to ra to Holland, and was kind of a co founder of what became what is the thorax center is an interdisciplinary center for cardiovascular and pulmonary medicine. I left brains because it was more money in hearts. Yes, and quit and we build a center, using technology as a fundamental ingredient to how we’re going to provide patient care. So Paul is probably well, you can also found that he probably was an entrepreneur, you know, he had a vision, you know, he just was an entrepreneur, not in a business sense. But in a, you know, healthcare since he was an entrepreneur, he created an amazing Medical Center that still lives today, and a place where remarkable things, you know, were done that affect all of you. Like, for instance, we did the presacral, cardiac cardiology system. There, but so anyway, why did it become an entrepreneur? I think that I’m too rational. In a way, even though

Kara Goldin 25:39
everything works, I mean, you’re no vinaya, airy, curious,

Avram Miller 25:43
you know, I preferred generally, I prefer to work with large companies that had a lot of resources. And, and I never had the dream, it was never my dream, to have a company. myself. And, and also, you know, it’s a different thing, because it’s kind of limiting. You know, when you first become an author, at least, you know, I know, entrepreneurs. I mean, do I know I’ve invested, you know, hundreds of early stage companies both win at Intel on the later of my own account. But, you know, when you’re not a runner, you get to figure out a strategy. And then it’s all execution. Mm hmm. And, and it’s probably pretty narrow. And then something new comes by, but you can’t follow it, you’ve got to keep going, you got to keep doing the thing you’re doing. And, personally, that would be limiting. For me. I wanted, I needed a lot more leverage. You know, I needed Digital Equipment Corporation where I went to work, I needed Intel, I needed lots of, you know, to get the things done that I wanted to get done.

Kara Goldin 26:59
So you came back to Silicon Valley in the 80s. And so talk to me about the 80s.

Avram Miller 27:06
The Well, first of all, I, first of all, I spent five years in Israel, and in the 70s 6074 to 79. And probably, I started the business, actually medical electronics business because I wanted to do something for Israel, and help Israel with exports. But I was also by that time, I was an associate professor in medicine. And I had an appointment at the University of Tel Aviv By the way, you know, I mean, I, I still think it’s amazing, remarkable that I could get that without ever going to university. You 29 Yeah, I have published many papers and in serious medical journals, and so on. But something happened again, I, I wasn’t really happy in Israel, Israel 19. In this at that time, it’s not the Israel today. And I was struggling. My, my, my first wife was struggling, living there are our kids were happy. And but I decided, you know, I was my, I was too narrow of a, of a niche, you know, real time physiological signal processing, we’re focused on cardiology, with computers alive. And so I said to myself, you know, ever, you got to either get deeper in medicine, or deeper in computers, you know, don’t couple those two things together, you know, and the way you have, and then it was easy, because I couldn’t give up computers. Then I decided that I was going to Venice, I was going back to Holland, where, you know, I didn’t five years. And so I spoke, I speak fluent Dutch, still. And my children, my sons had been born there. My wife is Dutch, or we go to the United States, and I work in the computer industry. And so since I wanted to computers, I went to the United States. And I think go back to Silicon Valley. I went to Massachusetts, that’s where computers were happening not in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley wasn’t a computer place. And I because I knew a lot of people Digital Equipment Corporation, I had consultants for them, they did some design work for them. I ended up actually running the low, low end hardware engineering for the company, which is crazy because I didn’t have an engineering degree. And now I have, you know, like 1000 people working for me and doing hardware engineering. And I did that and then I it’s a lot you know, I Developed which became, which was kind of Digital’s personal computer, but we didn’t call it a personal computer. We didn’t think of it as being a computer, but if professional computer single purpose computer. And that didn’t work out, so long story, but I talked about in the book in detail. And then I went to work for Franklin computer, which was an apple, which is Apple to clone. And, like, Compaq was an IBM PC clone. And we were growing faster than compact. But we had a lawsuit with Apple. And Apple never won that lawsuit. But the lawsuit really made it very difficult for Franklin. To be the successor was why did I go to Franklin, I thought about starting a company on my own. But I was I didn’t know exactly how am I supposed to raise money? And what if it fails, and, you know, I and then I got an offer, Franklin was doing really well and was going to go public, but I like to join and be, you know, run the company and make it what I wanted to. So I thought, sure. Anyway, that didn’t work out. So it’s one of the I have many failures, by the way. In the book, I’ve chronicled them writing the book, I was really surprised about how many times I failed, because you kind of when he remembered later, and when you have successes, you kind of focus on your successes. And you can you know, I can see that LinkedIn, because when I look at what people’s LinkedIn entries, and I know them I see with gaps. I know what happened in those gaps, you know, because they fail. But and I, you know, I it’s only a failure. It’s only a failure, if you don’t learn so true. I joined until 1984.

And at first I was in Oregon. And then, and I was doing some work in their systems area. And then came down to do business development in Santa Clara. And Intel kept saying, you know, we don’t really have the headquarters and I said, Okay, that’s fine. But I want to sit next to Andy Grove, and Gordon Porter, if you don’t mind. I went down there. And I started doing, I wanted I was I saw my job is to help Intel expand its horizons, it was a very insular company, I had been hired by listed as because he wanted to bring somebody in that was different than somebody who knew more about the computer industry. And I was the highest ranking person that was ever brought in. And in fact, in 1988 98, in the annual report, there are 28 officers, I’m one of them. I was last one to join 15 years earlier. So I was only when they were brought in. And God knows how he managed to survive, but in that restaurant culture, but I after doing some mergers and acquisitions, I realized I was not going to be successful, didn’t tell the culture was so strong. The antibodies would come in and attack the foreign object just impossible. So they said it will be we should invest in minority companies take minority position, let’s do this do some early stage investment. I didn’t even know it was called venture capital. But anyway, let’s

Kara Goldin 33:24
not back then. I mean, was that were any? Well, it

Avram Miller 33:28
was true. The venture companies Intel was backed by art rock, but not because

Kara Goldin 33:35
they weren’t investing.

Avram Miller 33:36
Now some had tried and pay or whatever. And so I was doing it. And I had some successes. I worked for less the whole time less for this amazing man. The whole times Intel. Less was, you know, badge, three actually lands family. And he was should have been better. But last week was bad three. And Andy decided that he won’t, he wanted to rationalize all these investments and and some of the business units were doing some investments and whatever. And that’s less the focus on it full time with me. And that’s when we created we call it a corporate business development and later was renamed Intel capital I, I always referred to as Intel capital because otherwise people get confused, but it’s the same organization just for the name change. And I became a corporate officer, which was a great honor. And kind of strange because, you know, in those days, corporate officers had, you know, pnls, and they were real men, you know, it’s been late to women. And, but, you know, and we started until capital, and we had three objectives, to give Intel insight into the future by looking at what venture early stage companies were doing and I would say really early stage companies Are the research lab for corporate America, there are people who have seen something believe in it so much have so much passion to want to risk everything for it. You know, and, and so you get a lot of insight from that the second objective was to grow Intel’s business, you know, by investing in companies who’s, who could add kind of to the ego to the value chain that would allow Intel to grow. And the third thing was to make good financial return. So we, so they would leave us alone, if we figured that if we made money, nobody was gonna try to, you know, met over managers, they just leave us a lot. So that happened, and Intel capital became the most successful corporate venture capital activity in the world. By the time I left money in 1999, and maybe, certainly, at least one of the most successful venture capital companies Overall, we started with $50,000,000.11 years later, we the portfolio was worth 8 billion, and we probably had taken 3 billion off the table already. Wow. And we made 100. And but it’s two and it still exists, and it’s still successful. So that’s testimony. You know, I think a large extent is a testimony to less, who, you know, together with me, you know, we kind of figured out how to do it, and how to, you know, teach people to do it. And we didn’t think of ourselves as venture capitalists. And in fact, I don’t even like venture capitalists, by and large, although some of my friends are Catholics, but but, you know, because we saw ourselves as having a strategic objective.

Kara Goldin 36:41
Yeah, now, it’s, it’s, it’s awesome. I mean, this is at a time when, you know, personal computers were just getting started, how did you ever imagine that? We’d be walking around with one in our hand? I mean, it did you? Did you ever heard there was a time when that was going to happen? I mean,

Avram Miller 36:59
Oh, of course. You know, it happened a little bit differently. So in the mid 90s, there were all kinds of devices for the hand, there was General magic, there was go, there was wind pad, which was done from Microsoft, with Intel, there are many Newton’s etc. Anyway, there are many attempts, okay, were many attempts. But you know, one of the things that I was able to see these waves that happen, so we had, you know, I started in the mini computer area, then we went to the personal computer area, you know, we went to the Internet, and broadband. And then we went to mobile devices, which I see is an extension of the personal computer, you know, it’s not an extension of the phone, telephone, the telephone is an application of a, on a computer. But, you know, it wasn’t to entrepreneurs, other people, they’ll all start too early. You know, because when you’re a technologist, you see things too early. They should be, you know, like a warning, you know, it’s, so they all start too early. So I always say, if you want to look for a good idea, look in the graveyard of the failed ideas.

Kara Goldin 38:19
Yeah, it’s, it’s so true. Right? And, and I often think, too, it’s, you know, in the case of hint, very, very different. My company, it’s, we were the, we started a new category, and which is unsweetened flavored water and the number of people who said, Who needs to, you know, no one got it,

Avram Miller 38:39
we’ll start a new category, it’s pretty difficult. But you know, the thing that we have to keep in mind I talk a lot about this is, first of all, luck, I’m sure that it must have played a role because it always does. You know, I always say, you know, it’s important two things are important to be lucky and not mistake, being lucky for being smart. You know, you know, be humble and realize you’re lucky, you know, take it take advantage of it, don’t think you know, you’ve made it. So the thing is that, you know, once I gave a lecture at the Anderson School of the UCLA, about business in early stage companies, whenever in somebody and they always ask, you know, what do successful companies have in common? And I say that they were successful. Because they don’t have much in common. I mean, I mean, there are reasons why companies fail, but the reason why they’re successful is when they didn’t fail, but two, they kind of got lucky, you know, because Timing is everything, but you don’t know what the right time is. You know, so people started, you know, earlier, they start later and that’s why, you know, I kind of think you have to be a little bit insane to be an entrepreneur because most entrepreneurs are not going to make it. They’ll think You did, and I’m so proud and happy for you that you did. But I probably have a dog around. Like, if I had a lot of people that didn’t

Kara Goldin 40:09
know it, you know, I always share with with entrepreneurs. And I think this is true in every single industry that when you are creating a new category, and you’re the only one your initial instinct as an entrepreneur is to say, I’m the only one doing it, you know, maybe you’re really quiet about your idea. Yeah, you don’t want anyone to know. And you mentioned that execution is is so key, and it’s luck and, and everything else. But when you’re the only one, I mean, I would I realize, as we had entrance coming in that were, you know, competitors as we started to grow. At first I thought, you know, especially when it was Coca Cola, they were coming in with a knockoff product. And I thought, Okay, I’m done. You know, at this point, they have lots of money, but what I realized is that they’re actually building the awareness of the category. And so there’s competition is not a bad thing. You just have to be able to stay the course and stay alive and run, and to have enough money to, you know, keep going and set yourself apart in some ways. But I think that there’s so many lessons and you know, even in what you’re talking about, about in the computing ages, as well, where there was just one, right, and there was none, there was nobody else around there, and then it just died, because there wasn’t enough buzz about it, there wasn’t enough.

Avram Miller 41:33
There are a lot of factors that go I mean, it’s like any one of 10 things that would go wrong would kill the business. So that means all 10 have to go right. You know, it’s really hard. It is that’s Yeah, no, I

Kara Goldin 41:45
totally agree.

Avram Miller 41:47
Maybe I can share with since we’re on this topic, I’ll share with you the four ingredients that I think that go into making having a successful

Kara Goldin 41:55
company, I love it.

Avram Miller 41:56
And okay, and, and I use this all the time to evaluate companies. So this is like my secret sauce. Okay. So the first thing I want to hear about is the opportunity. And I don’t believe that you create opportunities, you recognize opportunities. So if you want to go surf for surfing, and you have not a surf and you have a surfboard, you still have to go to a beach that has waves because you can’t make a wave. So recognizing an opportunity is critical. And if you can recognize it before other people, that’s really great, it’s easy to recognize an opportunity after nobody else has recognized, okay, but to recognize it early, is really important. And when people try to pitch me a company, I always say, tell me about the opportunity. Because if I don’t believe in the opportunity, I don’t care about the rest, we can end the meeting, because, you know, if it’s not a great opportunity, you know, and I think of an opportunity, it’s like a neighborhood, you know, and a neighborhood that’s gonna take off, you know, and in the neighborhood, I want to invest in the neighborhood, I want to, you know, I’d rather have a bad house in a great neighborhood than a great house in a bad neighborhood, because I can fix the house. Again, fix neighborhood. So there’s the opportunity. And if and if your listeners want to take an exercise, go around and start looking at companies like Uber, you know, Airbnb, Facebook, whatever, just see, Google, see if you can describe the opportunity. Because if you’re no good at describing the opportunity retrospectively, believe me, you’re gonna be no good at describing it. perspectively. Okay, so you can have to stand that, you know, and really take into your heart, the notion of opportunity, after you have a great opportunity, you can have a strategy. And there isn’t just one strategy, there are many strategies, some are better than others. So I always want to hear well, what’s your strategy I want to do I believe this is a good strategy. Do I believe there might be a better strategy? I would maybe ask about your okay. I understand that your strategy, what other strategies? Did you consider that they say? Well, I didn’t consider any other ones, I’m probably not going to go much further with them. Because I want people to, you know, to think, and, and, okay, now, when you get to the strategy, there’s the execution, because you can have a great strategy, opportunity, great strategy, and lousy execution, you’re gonna fail. And, and so that’s where the team and the people really matter. Now, there are a lot of venture capitalists, john doors. The favorite when I pick one is john says, Well, I invest in a team. And I always think, well, maybe that’s because that’s what you understand, john, you know, because you’ve already 20 people have come in with the same idea. And you’re going to pick the ones that the best team that you give that idea, because the way venture capitalists do pattern recognition is they see how many people come in with the same idea. And then, but, you know, execution, you know, becomes absolutely critical. And then there’s the reward. So as an investor As an entrepreneur, as anybody who’s involved, what am I going to get out of this? If we have a great opportunity, a great strategy, we execute brilliantly? Am I going to get a payoff? And not always, because sometimes it’s takes too long. It’s too expensive. You know, it’s just, you know, and so you were successful, but it’s just not worth it. Okay. So I always, you know, think about that as well. And, you know, I’m not an entrepreneur, but I am an investor in entrepreneurs. And so, I have spent a lot of time with, even so probably, I have a pretty good track record, but probably half of my investments now, you know, fail. And, and I’m always, you know, and I’m always thinking, Oh, God, I’ve lost my touch, because they always feel really, you know, later, you have to wait for the other ones to succeed. So anyway, that’s how I look at.

Kara Goldin 45:57
Well, I love this. And so let’s, let’s talk about your book. Yeah, first of all, I loved your book, because that the honesty, and, and the humor, and I felt like I was just having a conversation with you. But again, the historical nature. And I think that history really does play such a critical component to what happens going forward. And I felt like there were so many pieces in here that I kept coming back to kind of what’s going on in today’s world. I mean, one of the things we haven’t talked about, but broadband communication, I mean, you were you were there. I mean, when, when people were, I mean, for those of you who are not old enough, I mean, this was a, you know, when you used to back in the in the 90s, when I was at America Online, where you know, you would fight with your brother in the next room while you’re on a chat room on AOL and somebody or I CQ, or whatever, where somebody would cut you off, right, and you get, you get very angry. And, you know, broadband was not there. And it wasn’t a possibility. And even before that I was with a little spin out of Apple that was doing CD ROM shopping, where they were taking all these graphics and putting it on a disk because broadband wasn’t, you know, quite there yet. And so what do you see is, like it tell us a little bit about the broadband, what would you compare that to, in today’s world of like, where the future is, is not quite there, but you think it’ll get there.

Avram Miller 47:40
So this is a problem, probably my greatest accomplishment was an Intel capital, it was kind of leading the industry’s efforts to create residential broadband. And that was an easy thing to do. It took us seven years to get from from beginning to having a million people having a broadband connection, their home. But it started in a really funny way, because I wanted to work in the consumer, I had taken a sabbatical and 91, I can’t come back. And I told Andy, I want to work in the consumer market. And Andy said, there is no consumer market for computers. And I said, I have no idea. I think people will really, you know, I think there is no, no, no, this is a business project. So I said, Well, I think you’re wrong, I really want to work in it. And so Andy, to his credit, said, okay, you want to waste your time, in the home market for computers, go ahead, but nobody else is gonna help you. I’m not gonna let anybody have any other resources, just you can spend your time doing that if you want to. And I had a meeting with for about 200 managers in the company, and he said, You know, I really wants to work in the home market, but there’s no home or market. Nobody helped them. So and then I would tell people, well, you know, every Tuesday, I’m gonna sit in this conference room. And I’m gonna think about the home computer market and have lunch, and people started showing up to have lunch with me. And I got bigger and bigger conference rooms. And we eventually launched the Pentium into the home market. But I was doing that. And then one day, Andy gets a call from Bill Gates. And bill says to Andy, you know, Andy, we really want to pursue the home market. We want to pursue the consumer market, but nobody at Intel seems to be interested. So you don’t mind if we work with AMD. AMD was Intel’s competitor. And of course, he did that to manipulate AMD. Because AMD didn’t wouldn’t work with AMD. And Andy says, What do you mean nobody cares? You know, whoever him and Bill said, you know, of course, because I knew it. I met Bill Gates when he was 25. You know, so he didn’t. And he said, Yeah, well, Adams working full time at the home, the consumer market, and Bill said we’ll get him up here in Redmond and have them meet with Rob Glaser. Rob Glaser was responsible To consumer stuff at Microsoft type, before going off to form real networks. So I went up there, and oh, so Andy, Andy has come up to his office to tell me about this call. And he says, I don’t care what you do, just keep them away from AMD. You know, it’s just my job. So, so place, it’s fantastic. Now I could do something consumer market, you know, and I’m gonna have some resources. So we put together and there was a big announcement about it, and so on, we’re gonna build a set interactive set top box, together with general instruments, which was the largest supplier for the cable industry equipment supplier, guess who was running general instruments, Don Rumsfeld. So I would meet with Don Rumsfeld. And he’d have like eagles and American flags applied, because he had been already the Secretary of Defense for the first george bush.

Kara Goldin 50:51
Donald doesn’t even know Donald Rumsfeld as his name, your, you know, our Brahm calls him done, because it’s like, you know, that was, but Donald is how many of us know, know his name as, as, you know, the former Secretary of Defense, so keep going.

Avram Miller 51:10
He just, he just died recently. Anyway, we’ve created this project, and we have a team and we’re building a set top box. And the and the good news is, I’m learning about how the whole cable system works. You know, I’m worrying about how the business works. I’m worrying about all the technology, you know, and I’m, you know, I’m pretty nerdy. So, you know, I get into understanding how all the bits are flowing and whenever the cable system and but then eventually I come to the conclusion, you know, it’s never gonna happen, because there’s no way the cable company is going to pay for something that’s powerful enough to do what they want. And also, the TV’s got no pixels, it’s lousy advice. And nobody wants to do interactivity in the living room and whatever. But people were really buying computers. And I noticed that people at work, were staying at work to get on AOL from work, because it was faster, you know, because they had basically broadband. So So I, my counterpart in the general instruments was a man named Matt Miller, is not related to me. And, and so one day, I brought Matt to actually Gordon Moore’s conference room, and I said, Matt, this thing’s not gonna work out. But then I explained when we use personal computers, and why don’t we build a cable modem, and I am with the chips that were being developed. I knew how they work, and they were all packaged network chips, I can see exactly how we can build a cable modem. So we agreed to do that. And then I said, Let’s not tell Microsoft. So we didn’t tell Microsoft and Bill Gates found out he screamed at me, and he called me profanities, but it wasn’t the first time and it wasn’t the last time. And, and we started working with it. And we did a trial of Comcast and whatever. And it’s a long story, that it’s a big detailed in my book. And that’s when I went to AOL. And, you know, met Steve Case, and I’m a prodigy, and I’m trying to convince everybody you know, that they need to get on the bronco. And AOL, to his credit really made the change, whereas, you know, others were a bit slower. But what we had to do at Intel was we had to get the whole ecosystem to work. We had to get all the software, we had to get everything to work the chips, like Broadcom are, so we were all over the stack. And we invested in, we need billions. We made billions from investing in Broadcom and broadcast Comm. Mark Cuban’s, you know, things when they talk about Shark Tank, you know, we had Shark Tank, he was on the stage, I was in the audience. Because I had it, he’s pitching me. While so it was amazing thing. And then we did DSL, as well, because we wanted to get it, you know, cable was in every place, and especially in Europe, and so on. But it was a huge, huge undertaking. And it wasn’t 2000 that we began to see real numbers, but it changed everything. It’s such an incredible story. So

Kara Goldin 54:08
before we, before we go, I want to talk about it. So the title of the book, The flight of the Wild Duck, why, why is that the title?

Avram Miller 54:19
It’s the title, because when I was talking was I was doing research for the book. I interviewed about 70 people, one of them was Rene James, Rene James became president of Intel. But one time she was a technical assistant for Andy and Renee and I were close friends. And I was telling her he said, You know, I feel like I am worried about this book that I didn’t have the impact on Intel that I wanted to have. And that until like when we see what is happening until now, you know, and, and I felt like Andy just didn’t listen to me and I kept thinking why is it I’m not getting him to listen to me and what is it are dumb I know. And Renee said, you know, Andy thought so highly of you, he loved you. He called you Intel’s Wild Duck. And he said that I always want somebody like avrom on my team, somebody who thinks this differently. And the Wild Duck term for that actually came from IBM Watson. He was one who said he didn’t have to have Wild Duck. So Andy took it from that. So I thought, okay, you know, kind of, that’s what I was. So, you know, I use the Wild Duck, and I’m happy with it. Oh, I

Kara Goldin 55:37
love it. So great. So we’re so obviously, this, this book is available early September, right.

Avram Miller 55:45
Yeah. And I mean, it can be pre ordered now, for ebook. And I think by the end of next week, you can pre order it for hardcopy hardcover or paperback.

Kara Goldin 55:59
I love it. Well, it is such a great journey and so incredible. And where do people find and follow you? I’ve ROM as well on social find out more about what you’re up to? Well, okay,

Avram Miller 56:11
I have a blog, though. The new 16 years, called two thirds done. So it’s all spelled out. I started when I turned 60. Because I thought maybe I might have another third left. The word The book has a website called Wild Duck, flight, calm. I’m on LinkedIn, as I remember. I’m on Facebook, but I don’t accept people I don’t know. But on LinkedIn, I’m pretty promiscuous. So

Kara Goldin 56:41
Well, everybody gets this book, learn more about avrom. And I wish I could sit here with you for more hours, because you just you’re an incredible storyteller. And again, I said, it’s, it’s not only informative, this book, but it’s historical in so many ways, and more than anything, I, I just, I hope so many people read this, to be inspired to know that, you know, there are things that are possible. And you know, and being able to be a part of something you so often don’t when they seem challenging when they seem crazy. Hopefully, you’ll recognize later that that it’s it’s normal. Right? And yeah, it’s expected. And that’s what I got out of this. So thank you so much, Avraham. And thanks, everybody, for listening. We love hearing from inspiring people like omraam. And definitely come back and see us and listen to us again. And we’re here every Monday and Wednesday, by the way, with a great podcast for you. And so thanks, everyone, have a great rest of the week. Thank you. before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara golden golden thanks for listening