John Doerr Talks Leadership and AI

A recent Barron’s article offers highlights from an interview with John Doerr in which the Silicon Valley startup veteran investor shares his views on what he sees as the leadership crisis in America and the challenges ahead for venture-capital investing.

Here are some highlights:

Doerr said his new book, Measure What Matters— was inspired by his belief that our country is at a “particularly relevant moment when a lot of our leaders and great institutions are failing us” (he cites the Wells Fargo scandal as an example). In the book, Doerr explains the goal-setting strategy he devised (based on his early work at Intel) and named “objectives and key results” (OKRs).

For most corporations, Doerr argues, “the first step is to embrace transparent goal-setting internally, so an organization can get collective alignment.”

Although Doerr has never seen OKRs applied to investing, he says, “But I would think a portfolio manager, in addition to producing a fund with the right risk profile, the right beta, and the right absolute and relative returns over a period of time, also has some other important things to do in her business activities, including developing insights into new opportunities and expanding her network.”

Regarding big tech trends that investors should keep an eye out for, Doerr says that every 12 years or so there is a “tsunami—a huge wave of disruption.” We’re almost at the end of the mobile wave, which began with Apple’s iPhone launch in 2007, says Doerr, adding that the next will come in the form of artificial intelligence (AI). “Machine learnings and artificial intelligence are unlocking capabilities that previously were unthinkable.”