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Antonio Garcia Martinez on what people usually get wrong about Silicon Valley

Antonio Garcia Martinez: “This is how the Silicon Valley works: You launch ten half-ready products out of the blue and announce them as the ‘savior of humanity’. Seven of these miserably fail, two do kind of okay, only one does absolutely amazing with incredible monetarization for reasons that only make sense after the fact. And, you will take that after-the-fact explanation and rewrite the creation myth of the product to make it seem like you knew this was going to happen all along but of course you didn’t.”

From Goldman Sachs to Roller Coaster Startup Career and Book Author

In this episode, Startup Notes has a special guest from Silicon Valley: Antonio Garcia Martinez.

Antonio has been an advisor to Twitter, one of the first product managers on Facebook’s ad team, and the CEO & Founder of AdGrok (a venture-backed AdTech startup that participated in Y Combinator and was later acquired by Twitter). He started his career when leaving his PhD in Physics program at UC Berkeley to join Goldman Sachs as a strategist until the financial crisis hit and his roller coaster career in the startup world began that he describes himself to be ‘completely typical’ for the Silicon Valley.

More recently, Antonio Garcia Martinez became known to a wider audience as the author of the New York Times bestseller “Chaos Monkeys”, in which he shares his experiences in the tech world and gives a behind-the-scenes look of Facebook and the supposedly ‘illustrious’ startup culture. A book that portrays the “obscene fortune and random failure in Silicon Valley” as he describes it in the caption.  

After all the intense years since leaving university, Antonio is still officially on leave from his Berkeley PhD program, and today lives on a fourty-foot sailboat on the San Francisco Bay getting ready to sail around the world.

Antonio Garcia Martinez on Startup Notes

In this interview with Startup Notes, Antonio covers a lot of ground on ‘everything startup’. He makes a deep dive and talks about what the culture in Silicon Valley is actually like, what makes Facebook special as a company, the reality of breakthrough ideas, and why he thinks the increasing automatization that gets accelerated by tech startups is a major threat to society. Lastly, he also gives advice on how European startup founders can increase their chances to make it into the famous Y Combinator accelerator program.

Here are the topics that we cover in this podcast with Antonio who gives an unfiltered view on the assumingly ‘illustrious’ startup world:

[01:00 – 05:46]     The main stages of his career
[05:47 – 09:52]   Why he criticizes the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem and its culture
[09:53 – 11:41]    On what makes Facebook special as a company
[11:42 – 16:24]     How the Silicon Valley and Facebook actually works
[16:25 – 17:37]     On why ‘bro culture’ and sexism in the Silicon Valley is a difficult topic
[17:38 – 22:41]     How ‘acq-hires’ work and how he managed to join Facebook after he sold his company to Twitter
[22:42 – 28:53]   On automation and its implications for society
[28:54 – 34:59]   Basic income as a consequence of automatization
[35:00 – 39:13]   How to get into Y Combinator as a European startup
[39:14 – 41:55]    On the correlation between ‘psychopath’ founders and startup success
[41:56 – 44:37]   On his next career steps and bucket list

Podcast host: Thomas

If you are interested to hear more about Antonio’s views on startups and why you should not split the equity equally between founders when starting a startup, also check out Startup Notes’ 1-hour video interview with him from 2015

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