Steve Jurvetson — The Midas Touch and Mind-Bending Futures (#317)

“Celebrate the childlike mind.” — Steve Jurvetson 

Steve Jurvetson (@jurvetson) is an early-stage venture capitalist with a focus on founder-led, mission-driven companies at the cutting edge of disruptive technology and new industry formation. Steve was the early VC investor in SpaceX, Tesla, Planet, Memphis Meats, Hotmail, and the deep learning companies Mythic and Nervana. He also led investments in startups that were acquired for $16 billion, and five that went public in successful IPOs.

In 2016, former President Barack Obama announced Steve’s appointment as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship. Steve has also been honored as one of “Tech’s Best Venture Investors” by Forbes, and as the “Venture Capitalist of the Year” by Deloitte. Steve will be launching a brand-new venture fund sometime later this year, and you can read about it at


Steve Jurvetson — The Midas Touch and Mind-Bending Futures

Want to hear another conversation with an incredible investor? — Check out my interview with Mike Maples, Jr., a partner at venture capital firm Floodgate, and the the man who taught me how to invest. Stream below or right-click here to download.

The Man Who Taught Me How to Invest

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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…


  • Connect with Steve Jurvetson:

Future Ventures | Facebook | Flickr | Twitter


  • On the power of quantum mechanics and the potential for quantum computers. [09:23]
  • What is a quantum computer? [11:34]
  • How big is a quantum computer? [14:20]
  • An explanation of Rose’s Law. [15:10]
  • How useful are quantum computers now, and how much more useful can we expect them to be in the near future? [19:50]
  • What is quantum chemistry, and what problems does it potentially solve? [21:06]
  • Quantum applications for deep learning. [22:22]
  • Musings on quantum entanglement. [23:15]
  • What Steve sees for the future of business as we move from theoretical and experimental exploration in quantum physics toward its practical application. [25:37]
  • What existential challenges of rapid technological advancement are we most likely to face? First: bridging the accelerating rich-poor gap. [26:54]
  • Protecting Earth from asteroids. [28:33]
  • Addressing the increasing ease with which weapons of bioterrorism can be synthesized. [30:09]
  • How might we cope with the effects of climate change through hibernation? [32:07]
  • In what ways can we prevent or mitigate social unrest resulting from a widening rich-poor gap? [34:14]
  • If life-saving drugs are to become cheap and affordable to everyone in the future, how does Steve see the incentives for research and development adapting? [41:00]
  • How did Steve get through his undergrad at Stanford in two-and-a-half years? [42:28]
  • Why did time and budgeting become less of a concern when Steve began his master’s program? [44:45]
  • Why did Steve decide to get an MBA, and would he still make that decision today? [46:00]
  • How did Steve enter the world of investing? [48:39]
  • What mistakes does Steve see otherwise smart venture capitalists making often? [49:53]
  • What helped Steve succeed early in his career? [53:13]
  • The simple rule Steve began to implement around early-stage investing. [55:26]
  • When did Steve start to see signs pointing toward a likely dotcom crash circa 2000, and how did his investment strategy change? [56:59]
  • At the time, why did Steve choose nanotechnology as the next big thing? [59:16]
  • On machine learning, cellular automata, and the difficulties faced when trying to reverse engineer an evolved structure to understand how they work (like a teenager or a human brain). [1:02:15]
  • A deep dive into deep learning and neural networks — and how GPU technology once designated for video games has pushed the field forward in unexpected ways. [1:06:08]
  • With an education and background in electrical engineering, why did Steve get involved in product marketing at Apple and NeXT? [1:14:23]
  • What are the check boxes that help Steve mitigate risk when he’s weighing investment opportunities? [1:18:52]
  • The question that weeds out “the charlatans and the arbitrage-seeking opportunists.” [1:22:04]
  • The uncertainty of enormous markets. [1:23:36]
  • Where did the name for Hotmail originate, and how dedicated to “free” were the founders? [1:24:32]
  • Wildly successful companies that were initially regarded as bad ideas. [1:25:19]
  • Why does Steve never sell shares once he’s invested in a company? [1:26:07]
  • Commonalities and differences observed between Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. [1:31:18]
  • In what ways does Steve believe Elon Musk is the “most risk-immune person” he’s ever met? [1:36:09]
  • Elon’s “battle mode” of focus during crises. [1:42:26]
  • On Steve Jobs’ architecting of the way people communicated, and enforcing the ideal number of people in team sizes and meetings. [1:47:18]
  • Steve addresses recent bad press. [1:48:54]
  • What was Steve’s self-talk when these allegations arose? [1:52:15]
  • Who helped Steve throughout this time, and why was he advised to keep mum about the allegations — even in his own defense? [1:56:59]
  • What other particularly trying times has Steve endured? [1:59:31]
  • What helped Steve through the grieving process when his father passed away? [2:00:32]
  • How Steve prepared to become a parent, and what analytical thinkers can gain by trying to see things from the perspective of a child. [2:04:59]
  • What Steve would put on his billboard. [2:07:11]
  • How children are like scientists. [2:07:38]
  • Steve is so enthusiastic about model rockets that he even gave a TED Talk about them. [2:09:15]
  • Drones and how to eliminate the TSA. [2:10:36]
  • As a technology investor, how does Steve budget for regulatory or political opposition from incumbents? [2:15:01]
  • The current and future science of synthetic “clean” meat and why it’s important. [2:18:27]
  • Could this technology be adapted to produce human tissue and organs for transplants, or is 3D printing more feasible? [2:28:13]
  • How might the layman become more scientifically literate? [2:31:13]
  • How long does Steve estimate it would take for someone to familiarize themselves enough with deep learning to get involved in the field? [2:35:04]
  • Steve talks about the commencement speech he gave at his old high school, what it covered, and what was most strongly received. [2:36:20]
  • Personal strengths don’t always come from obvious places, and their combination into “talent stacks” can result in unforeseeable breakthroughs. [2:38:25]
  • How “every great idea is a recombination of prior ideas,” and the part technology plays in increasing possible pairings of these prior ideas. [2:40:52]
  • Parting thoughts and what’s next for Steve. [2:42:51]


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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32 Replies to “Steve Jurvetson — The Midas Touch and Mind-Bending Futures (#317)”

  1. Haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but have been listening since the beginning and been a fan since The Four Hour Workweek. Looked down to see myself wearing a black T-shirt , gray shorts and flip flops.

    Tim is a Jedi Master. Thanks for all of your hard work!

  2. Tim! Thank you so much for this great episode, it was very inspirational to listen to and experience your new learning as well!

    You mentioned that you had about 75 pages worth of notes in preparation for this interview, have you considered sharing these raw resources with your fans? I am unsure if this is a request you normally get, but I for one would be very interested in how you were thinking in prep, in addition to other topics that you would have liked to get in to but ran out of time. I would really appreciate your thoughts on sharing.

    I am a big fan of the five bullet Friday, podcast, and books. but another raw form of your thoughts prior to interviews like this one would be very interesting to me.

    Thanks for everything,


  3. What an awesome podcast!!

    When I saw the 2 hours and 50 minutes length, I cringed, but what a blessing to listen and then see how Tim broke down ALL the details AND people discussed!!

    Kudos Tim on such a wonderful presentation you (and your team) produced!! Truly thoroughly engaged from beginning to end!! Steve has such an intriguing mind! I plan to check out many links, purchase a few books and gain so much more from all Steve shared because of Tim’s production excellence!!

  4. Wow, Steve is incredible.

    Steve’s mindset is top dog. It’s amazing he has achieved so much and is still so young. Great episode by the way Tim…

    Keep it up. 😃

  5. My mind just had an orgasm listening to this talk. By far the best engineering / scientific talk ever on the show. Being an engineer my self I found this deeply stimulating and mind-expanding.

    Steve is an extraordinary fascinating human being.

    Thank you, Tim, and hope you bring in more fascinating people such as Steve for the future episodes.

  6. I wanted to like this guy, he had some really great insights. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it through the episode. It sounds like he is talking on the 2x speed setting. I wish I could slow down just him. Other wise love the show Tim.

  7. Regarding today’s 5BF, if you really want to see the stars, go visit Jack Newton in Canada. He has a B&B there and he’ll show you stars you can see in the daytime, the sun and then at night a tour of the night sky. If you ask, he’ll also teach you some astrophotography and let you drive the scope. He’s a fascinating guy who’s also one of the world’s most prolific discoverers of supernovas. He’s a fixture in the astronomy community, go visit, you won’t regret a minute of it. [Moderator: link removed.]

  8. Per your latest bullet email, the dark sky park in Nageezi (Chaco Culture) is great. If you go, I also recommend fly fishing at Navajo Dam, and camping around Chama. White Sands in southern NM is also spectacular for star gazing. If you ever want more info hit me up, my family still lives in Farmington and we visit NM several times a year.

  9. My mind was blown over and over again listening to Steve demonstrate both his scope and depth of knowledge. Truly and amazing guest. I wish you would make it easier to pull up the show transcripts. I find myself listening for a second time and pausing while I take notes. Thanks for sharing with us.

  10. This comment is in response to Tim’s interest in Chaco Canyon (the link brought me here). I have been to Chaco several times, to experience the ancient ruins. I highly recommend spending a chunk of time during the day in awestruck wonder, to match the night. 😉


  11. This is from your comment on visiting Chaco Canyon: Go see Chaco Canyon ASAP because they are looking to approve drilling in the area if they haven’t already done so. It’s an amazing place! If you going all the way to Chaco, you should fly into Durango and see some of the magical places in the area and drive then to Chaco. Check out Mesa Verde National Park, hike around Silverton, CO and float the Animas River. It’s all so close if you are already making the trip to the area. You will LOVE it here!

  12. *you can’t understand the thing you made, nor can you predict what you’re going to get, there’s discovery in it, emergence, you can learn about the process of creation…you have to run the program over and over again, you have to run the experiment” …. : )

    *process learning is the method of compounding knowledge over time..we can’t define how something works but we can run it and see how it works…we can build things beyond our understanding…

    *every great idea is a recombination of prior ideas…the number of possible pairing is growing combinatorially…it’s the cross pollination…once the breakdown of the barrier between the fields are stripped of their language…

    * non domain expert entering into a new domain….reminds me of Austin’s initial research in Zen & the Brain showing how the brain functions during insight

    What an astonishing talk…speed (like taking a drive around the track w/ Steve McQueen), precision (like watching Kobe’s Detail), depth (like dokusan with zen rosh) & relevance, inspiration, community…

    Fantastic! Thanks Tim

  13. The Steve Jurvetson podcast was one of the most captivating ever on topics including quantum computing, deep learning, venture capital investing, existential threats to humanity and potential solutions, and entrepreneurial opportunity of mission driven businesses.

    Favorite quote at 1:05:20. “Deep learning/machine intelligence is the biggest advance in how we can do engineering since the scientific method itself… it enables growing solutions to problems instead of purposely designing them. You can build things that exceed human understanding.”

  14. Tim! I have been following you for years but have never commented. But, this latest episode of the podcast inspired me to ask the 4-Hour bloggosphere about what they think about bringing on a master of the sustainable farming revolution (this is brought on by the talk of Memphis Meat and related science mentioned a lot in the podcast world). I would love to hear you interview someone in the progressive end of the food system, like a Joel Salatin, Wendell Berry, Gene Logsdon, or Temple Grandin. Please, anyone reading my comment and thinks this is a good idea, hop on board. I am studying in said industry, and have always wanted to ask about it here. There is a large population of people getting back to the land, especially Veterans like me, and even though I am a bit out of the loop, I think I speak for us all when I say Tim Ferriss interviewing Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm or another agricultural professional would be amazing.

    Thanks all, and thank you Tim for all the work you do.

    1. I can name at least 2 – 3 people that I know personally here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina that are doing fascinating things with sustainable farming. Let’s find someone to fill this slot please?

  15. Really great to listen Steve and questions asked by Tim. Amazing to know how one person can have so much knowledge on wide range of things. Also was happy to know about how Steve admitting not liking to stick to single thing or topic but try something new always.

  16. This is in response to Tim’s comment on Chaco Canyon. This place is right up your alley, Tim, as it’s an old memory palace, to use a modern term for it. Indigenous people around the world used orality (& their memories) to pass on information. Chaco Canyon was one of the important places to keep information for culture and survival for the first people of America. Check out Lynne Kelly’s book, The Memory Code to see how it was used. Happy travels 🙂

  17. Would love to listen to Keanu Reeves on the podcast!

    I’m particularly curious because he comes off as one of the most genuine people in Hollywood. Maybe it’s his charity work or motorcycle shop but I’d just love to know how he approaches life.

    Thanks Tim.

  18. Ref 5BF see if you can stop by NMT while you are out Chaco way. Dr Frank Etscorn and story of the ‘patch’ worthy of Tim ferriss treatment.

  19. Fantastic episode. Worth listening to just for a venture capitalist for whom the exit not only isn’t the primary concern, but isn’t a concern at all because he truly has a long-range vision and looks for the same in founders. Throw in all the potentially world-changing technologies you touched on and his meta-perspective on how to think about them, and this was among your best interviews (with the likes of Kevin Kelly and Ray Dalio).

    Thanks, Tim and Steve!

  20. I’m very much looking forward to listening to this episode, whenever my professor let’s me go! I’ve been listening for awhile now, might have a handful of your books (thank you for the wonderful content) and really appreciate the structure of your podcast. I did have a quick question, and with your background, it seemed like a fitting question! I’ll keep it short, what’s the best way, and most culturally respective way, to opening up business discussions with individuals within Japan? I’ve done my healthy amount of research, and reached out to a numerious organization’s, but any recommended resources would be genuinely appreciated! If you lack the time to answer, I completely understand and am grateful for the podcasts that you producers. To say that it has helped progress my way of thinking, is a understatement. Thank you!

  21. I want to see what happens if he were coked out + caffeinated. I usually listen to podcats at 1.5x speed. Had to slow this one down. I also never needed to listen to a podcast more than once. I’m working through the 3rd time. There were just so many intriguing topics covered. One of your best interviews Tim. Please do a follow up with Jurvetson! And thanks as always for including the show notes/links. Looking forward to exploring them.

  22. Steve is obviously a very smart guy and well read on a number of different subjects. Regarding plant-based meat, I wonder if he has looked into organizations such as the Savory Institute. Perhaps using those methods for agriculture would be better than creating man-made meat? Nearly everyone could be eating meat that is raised locally if that is what we valued. Every time humans decide to take control of the processing/growing/etc of our food, it seems we become less and less healthy. Is this a concern with man-made meat? Will this be studied before it is a product? Or is it just an attempt to create a business and make money under the guise of the health of our planet?

  23. At 2 hour 25 min the guest says “99% of all USDA meat inspectors become vegetarian”. As a Vegan, I would love that to be the case but I have yet to find any corroboration.

  24. Great show as always! I’m actually an AI/Deep Learning researcher who also happens to have a PhD in Quantum Information Theory, so I could actually very closely relate to a lot of the technological and scientific topics you guys discussed 😉

    You were asking about good resources for people who want to get a bit deeper into deep learning. I recently wrote a series of articles that was trying to bridge exactly this gap, being understandable by people without scientific background but without being too fluffy or vague (like most articles of this kind unfortunately are). To do this I actually used something people in quantum physics love to do: Analyze and understand complex scenarios by boiling them down to simple games between two or three players. For example in (quantum) cryptography a typical game is some variant of Alice wanting to send a message to Bob given certain constraint, and without the malicious eavesdropper Eve intercepting the message.

    I tried to use the same kind of game analogy to explain a particular area of deep learning, and also a particular application to Natural Language Processing (NLP). Judging from the feedback I’ve got I think I succeeded at reaching and entertaining both a novice audience and people with technical background.

    Here the first part of the series:

    And for people who really want to go into the details (although a technical/mathematical background is required), the best resource in my opinion is the freely available Deep Learning Book by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio and Aaron Courville:

    1. I actually also just remembered an anecdote involving David Deutsch that you might enjoy. When I was doing my PhD at Imperial College London, I was co-organising a Quantum Computing conference. One of the speakers we wanted to invite was David Deutsch. He is kind of notorious for being reclusive and hating to interact with students, but we decided to try anyway. Literally less than 60 seconds after sending out the invites, we got his reply. It was an email that contained absolutely nothing except a lowercase “no”. He definitely mastered the art of saying no 😉

      This whole thing turned into a bit of a running joke between us organizers. We were actually speculating whether he had some kind of autoresponse set up that checks for words like “invitation”, or maybe he even employs someone just for that purpose.

      A little bit closer to the conference when all the speakers were decided, me and another co-organiser spent a day in Oxford (where David Deutsch is) for a meeting with some collaborators we had there. We actually had some posters for the conference with us that we wanted to post at the physics department. We were debating for a while whether we should save one and post it at David Deutsch’s home. Unfortunately we didn’t do it in the end. I would have loved to see his reaction though.

  25. A mind blowing pod cast, I am not a scientist or have anything to do with this subject but I am hooked on to it completely now, will be looking forward to learning much more in future.

  26. LOVED this episode, Tim. So chock-full. So dense and deep and brilliant and mind-expanding. While I’m still chewing on the implications of so much of what Steve shared, I’m reaching out in response to your “I’m fascinated by self-talk” comment, as I’d love, love, love to send you a copy of my new book, The New P(aradigm) Handbook Vol. 1: Little Langauging Hacks for Big Change. I know you’ll find oodles of value in it, as it addresses many of the unconscious self-identifying langauging patterns I often hear you using during your interviews, and even your commercials. Please let me know the best way to gift you a copy. Every word matters, yo. xodk

  27. Tim, long time listener, first time in touch. Was concerned about the enthusiasm from both of you about purpose “grown” meat in a box. I get the environmental benefits of eliminating industrial farming, but what about the things we don’t know that gets into the meat naturally? I’ve found myself increasingly responsive to lots of food … might be pesticides, might be part of my biome dying with antibiotics … but is there any way to really know what all gets into meat unless you grow it inside the animal? The concept is intriguing, but the blind enthusiasm terrifying.

  28. This is first attempt at being inspired by 4 hour work week. This was an inspirational podcast. First off – being an immigrant from Ireland myself and being able to do relatively well here in US, I am captivated by Steve’s vision of future. My background in in built environment and I would love Tom talk with you both on what you see the impact of quantum computing having on that and the challenges it presents Tina dinosaur industry. If all else fails I grew up not far from Connemara and we could have a Guinness!