The 10 Commandments of Startup Success with Reid Hoffman (#248)

“Hard work isn’t enough, and more work is never the real answer.” 

– Reid Hoffman

In this special episode, we explore the “10 Commandments for Startup Success” as taught by the one and only Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn, Twitter). Reid has been on the show before, and he is often referred to as “The Oracle of Silicon Valley” by tech insiders, who look at his company-building and investing track record (which includes Facebook, Airbnb, Zynga, Flickr, and more) with awe.

Reid is Co-Founder of LinkedIn, which has more than 300 million users and sold to Microsoft for $26.2B. Prior to that, he was Executive Vice President at PayPal, which was purchased by eBay for $1.5 billion. At PayPal, he was nicknamed “firefighter-in-chief” by CEO Peter Thiel. Noted venture capitalist David Sze says of Reid, “[he] is arguably the most successful angel investor in the past decade.” They are now both partners at Greylock Partners, a top-tier venture capital firm.

The “10 Commandments” in this episode are drawn from the entire first season of Masters of Scale, one of my favorite podcasts, also hosted by Reid.  But that’s not all… there is plenty of new footage, including 6-10 new questions posed by yours truly to Reid, some of my own startup observations, and lots of great cutting-room floor material from people like Brian Chesky (Airbnb) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook).

On Masters of Scale, Reid shares his theories on how companies scale from zero to a gazillion, and he explores them with famous founders.  It’s one of the few podcasts that has a permanent home on my phone.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#248: The 10 Commandments of Startup Success with Reid Hoffman

Want to hear another podcast featuring Reid Hoffman?  — Listen to this prior conversation. In this episode, we discuss the habits and behaviors of highly successful people, using board games to develop strategy, the 3 types of CEOs, best lessons from his network, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#101: The Oracle of Silicon Valley, Reid Hoffman (Plus: Michael McCullough)

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Reid Hoffman:

Masters of Scale | LinkedIn | Greylock Partners | Twitter

Show Notes

  • Commandment 1: Expect rejection. [09:14]
  • Commandment 2: Hire like your life depends on it. It does. [19:26]
  • Commandment 3: In order to scale, you have to do things that don’t scale. [25:37]
  • Commandment 4: Raise more money than you think you need — potentially a lot more. [36:18]
  • Commandment 5: Release your products early enough that they can still embarrass you. Imperfect is perfect. [44:45]
  • Commandment 6: Decide. Decide. Decide. [1:00:16]
  • Commandment 7: Be prepared to both make and break plans. [1:03:13]
  • Commandment 8: Don’t tell your employees how to innovate. [1:07:21]
  • Commandment 9: To create a winning company culture, make sure every employee owns it. [01:12:32]
  • Commandment 10: Have grit and stick with your hero’s journey. [1:23:22]
  • Bonus Commandment 11: Pay it forward. Use the momentum of your own success to move the success of others. [1:26:03]
  • What would Reid’s billboard say? [1:29:25]
  • Books most gifted and influential. [1:29:48]
  • What has Reid changed his mind about in the last few years? [01:30:52]
  • Recent purchase of a hundred dollars or less that has had the most positive impact on Reid’s life. [1:32:09]
  • Advice for a college senior about to enter the “real” world. [1:32:36]
  • Reid’s advice for a thirty-year-old version of himself. [1:33:15]
  • Favorite failures? [1:33:58]
  • The worst advice Reid hears commonly dispensed in his field. [1:34:54]
  • What’s an unusual habit or an absurd thing that Reid loves? [1:35:56]
  • Rules or criteria that lead to a “yes” from Reid. [1:36:40]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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41 Replies to “The 10 Commandments of Startup Success with Reid Hoffman (#248)”

    1. I would love that more than you can imagine. He’s a tough lad to get a hold of, as you might expect.

      1. I have asked you this on Twitter before, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t read it (quite understandably). Since you might see it on here I’m going to ask you again:

        I would love to listen to an episode with Austin Kleon, is there any chance that’s going to happen?


  1. Tim,

    This one was fascinating. I’m having an interview on Tuesday and took down a bunch of notes for that conversation about the potential company’s culture, direction, vision, etc. Each commandment had some valuable insight that I’ll with me on Tuesday. Thanks!


      1. My interview went fine this morning, moving through the process now. Thanks again.

  2. Tim, I really enjoyed the format of this show, kind of has an NPR vibe to it. In terms of content, it never fails to amaze me that even the episodes that I think won’t be relevant to me personally end up giving me so much inspiration. It’s your show and others like it that have taught me success, joy, creativity and freedom all have fundamental mechanisms whether it’s in tech, philosophy, wellness, military or health. Thank you for all that you do!

    1. Thanks so much for listening and for the comment, Erin! The Masters of Scale team was really spectacular on this episode.

  3. Hi Tim,

    The lead off quote does it for me. Because it applies to everything in life, from business to heck… all. I used to work my butt off. Went nowhere. Or backwards. Then I worked more. Still not working. Then I chose to follow my passion, to dive into my fears per your exercises for doing super uncomfortable stuff, and things changed. I scaled. I made friends. I promoted other folks. I moved up in circles.

    It wasn’t even smart work; it was work backed with the right energy, while working with an intent to benefit a big group of folks, far past just fulfilling my needs. Almost like when you shift from self to service, all begins to pop in a major league way.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


  4. The picture of Reid in the email is bugging me–which painting or sculpture are you referencing?

    Also, what about interviewing Ky Yu, acupuncturist for the Golden State Warriors? I have a feeling you two would get along. He does Japanese acupuncture, which is highly empirical.

  5. I really loved the strategically placed “adlibs” during the stories and strategies of each contributor. really cool format that is more entertaining for me, yet still educational. thanks!

  6. Just realized I commented on the wrong post, so I’m gonna post it here again (would appreciate if you could delete my other comment/not publish it):

    Next to Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History and your podcast, Masters of Scale is one of my favorite podcasts right now. I love the effort they put into it with the many sound snippets cut in. Glad to see that he’s in the newest episode.

  7. I live in perpetual gratitude for your show Tim-and this episode continued to inspire and deepen my regard.

    My greatest take away is the common denominator in everyone’s story is their relationship with failure. It never stops, possibly invites a pivot, but no one see themselves as the failure itself or questions their self worth. There is an essence of detachment, of a desire to manifest one’s vision far greater than any trivial rejection could illicit enough fear to warrant one to stop. It makes me think of Joseph Campbell’s line “follow your bliss”. In following your bliss you become alive and the agony in the ‘pivots’ serve as breaks to re-evaluate and prioritize what matters most.

    This episode was truly great, in context, content, and format-and Reid Hoffman is just awesome (your production team too). I started listening to Masters of Scale and you guys are really paying it forward, making heuristic feedback and advice accessible to all those seeking. I am in talks to come on board at a seed stage startup and as I research and strategize, I see my resourcefulness, creativity, and humility deepen and I know it is in direct relation to your show and the plethora of other influencers you have exposed me too.

    Thank you, sincerely.

    My only quip is I feel like I can’t keep up, but that is on me 🙂

  8. Thanks Tim, I love this episodes. Yes you should do more like it.

    And, I am loving your book, Tools of Titans.

  9. Amazing show! Lots of insight and great tips. I enjoyed the clips of different interviews and the variety of knowledge given throughout the episode. I found it a bit curated and not like your other episodes, which could be a good thing. Change is good. Thank you for always sharing knowledge to the world.

  10. Tim, I think responses to your questions are better when you’re asking them live – something lacking in the energy, and ability for the interviewee to unpack further when done in this format (interview with Peter Thiel had similar vibe)

    1. I agree with this. The inter-play during an interview adds to its interest, otherwise its 20 questions with 20 answers. This puts more responsibility on the interviewer to control the flow, but Tim, you don’t have an issue with that. 🙂

  11. Wow! This episode is unlike anything I’ve heard before on the Tim Ferriss Show (which I love!). This collaboration with Reid Hoffman could be one of the most valuable and concise guides (Tools for Startup?) to making better decisions and getting traction that lasts! I’ve shared this post / episode more than any other in the past few months. Please keep them coming!

  12. Hey Tim, really cool show. This format was really interesting, well edited and had great flow. It also felt expansive and generous by pulling in excerpts from other interviews and podcasts. Thanks for another winner!

  13. What a great episode, even if you’re not working on or in a startup! I love this format. Very well done!

  14. That was an amazing podcast. Whatever made you change the format — which you didn’t have to — is commendable. Thoroughly enjoyed, real gem worth revisiting.

  15. This one is definitely in my top 10 TF podcasts! Tons of actionable advice that I can apply to my kids, my business, and my personal life and relationships. Tim’s commentary was succinct and helpful, without being disruptive!

    While I’m not sure I’d want all of the podcasts to be in this digest format, this one was refreshing and covered a lot of ground. Great work, and thank you for all the inspiration all these years!

  16. PLEASE, more episodes like this!! I love all of your episodes but this one was fantastic and so incredibly insightful, especially as a friend and I are beginning a new business currently. The timing of this episode was impeccable. I love hearing actual strategies and experiences from people that are now at the top. We want to hear the dirt and know where these successful humans began and the exact steps they took to reach the point they are now. Many thanks for this episode, I will be listening to it multiple times.

  17. I love the format. Very well produced and very engaging. You should have a few more of those with your past guest re-visits. Thanks !

  18. Hi,

    Tim, this is a such a great format to listen to your podcast, continue this format I love this. Please, Could you make an interview with The $100 Startup

    Book by Chris Guillebeau.

  19. Is there any way we could have the transcript for this one? That would be phenomenal since there were way too many gems!

  20. Tim!

    Great episode 😀 thank you so much for taking the time to create it! Really helpful and very interesting in how you edited it. Love the new mic.

  21. Great one, Tim! My favorite quote was Reid’s advice for college grads (which I believe applies to people of all ages):

    “Look for opportunities that change your trajectory.”

  22. Hey Tim,

    This was one of the most helpful podcasts for me. My biggest takeaway was that the common experience shared by entrepreneurs, and really all people, is failure. The practice of premature product launches and feedback-based enhancements is intimidating, but in listening to this episode, I learned the value of those types of comfort-zone departures.

    In the spirit of facing failure, I shot you an email that may or may not receive a response. I look forward to your potential response and, of course, your next new episode.

    Have a great week, brother!


    Jon Castro

  23. I quickly shared this with a friend mid-start-up, and leapt to a purchase of Moringa Powder…thank you Tim and Reid! Kevin

  24. Hey Tim, Loved this episode and format!

    Easy to process and particularly helpful right now. I shall listen again and take notes as we are in the process of launching a new brand from London.

    I’d love to hear your take on Brand Positioning and how best to tackle this in a hard hitting way, yet being true to your brand and not going round and round in circles! Too often The British tend to under sell things or think that its not a good look to sing their own praises, but this is part of Brand Positioning/Marketing.

    There ya go … That could be a great topic to cover…

    “The Brits don’t give a S…T about singing their praises” … They need to channel a little more USA. Then Job done!

    I will continue to spread the word about your work as it’s absolutly brilliant, inspiring, educational and often hilarious in the way you engage with your guests. It needs to be taught in schools from primary age and in prisons!! That would be yet another game changer. Excellent work as always. Starts my day and I have so many favourites including… Rick Ruben, Ramit Sethi, Jamie Foxx, Peter Thiel, the list is endless! Many Thanks!

  25. I found this one EXTREMELY powerful! Could you please post the transcripts for the podcast? I would like to print the rules as well as the explanations to serve as a reference. Thank you! Btw I thoroughly enjoy your podcast and 5 bullet Fridays, keep up the great work!