An Interview With The Legendary Mark Suster About Investing, Israel, And The Internet Of Things

Ok, listen, I have done my fair share of legendary interviews.

From Om to Woz to Alyssa to Vic to Andreessen, and many many more! Twitter has been monumental in helping me form amazing relationships across the globe and I have zero intention of slowing down. Zuck and Marissa, I am looking at you. I will let you choose who goes first.

Anyway, some amazing interviews over the years but this one, this one has a special place in my heart. Honestly, I have been following Mark on Twitter for as long as I can remember and just quietly learning from the man daily for years.

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There are some people who I look to for insights on tech. There are others I look to for their opinions on life. Those two do not usually mix. Over the years, I have found Mark to be one of the most balanced individuals in the tech world and no, I do not always agree with him, but I always learn from him.

He is also someone I have a tremendous amount of personal respect for because of his opinions on one specific issue. See question 2 for more on that.

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Anyway, when Mark agreed to this interview despite his celebrity status in the tech world, I was thrilled. He then outdid himself by providing such in depth comprehensive and insightful answers. Enough babbling on, enjoy the interview.

Thanks again, Mark!

1: Who is Mark Suster?

I run the largest venture capital fund in Los Angeles, which is called Upfront Ventures, which has more than $1.2 billion under management across 5 funds, the most recent of which was $280 million. We started investing this fifth fund in March 2015. Prior to being a VC I was a 2x founder of two software companies – both in the document management and team collaboration spaces. The first I built-in Europe and we operated in 6 countries before selling to a French, publicly-traded company. The second I built-in Silicon Valley and was sold to Salesforce.com (their 3rd acquisition ever) and I became VP, Products at SFDC.

I grew up in Northern California and started programming computers as a teenager, which in the early 1980’s was more the exception than the rule. I also grew up for many years with a family of Israeli’s living in my home. My mom was the president of the local UJA chapter and took in young Israelis, which was a life experience for me as a teenager to have somebody from a different culture, language and background living with us. It also gave me a much better appreciation for the Israeli culture overall – and I learned to argue much more proficiently.

I studied economics at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where I am now on the alumni board and received my masters in business from the University of Chicago.

2: You are one of Israel’s biggest supporters in what I call the elite of the tech world, at least in my Twitter feed. What has the experience been when so many big names are so blatantly anti Israel? Has it had an effect of any kind?

Well, let me start by why I spoke out against the loud anti-Israel cries that were coming from Silicon Valley during the 2014 conflict in Gaza.

I would start by saying that I believe every individual has the right to voice an opinion on world politics and have a different opinion than my own so it wouldn’t trouble me, per se, if somebody had a different point of view on Israeli policies and politics than I. In fact, many Israelis and I don’t totally agree in Israeli policies! That’s what I love about the Jewish culture – we accept and tolerate debate and dissent and are willing to engage publicly and democratically.

What concerned me though was a growing number of influential tech professionals who were publicly condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza without ever having commented publicly on any other world conflict at any time and of any level. And it felt particularly hypocritical during an era where contemporaneously we have Vladamir Putin’s imperialism in Crimea and the Ukraine more broadly leading the many deaths and much destruction. The criticisms came in an era of unprecedented state-sponsored death and destruction in Syria, political crackdowns in Egypt, death squads emerging in Iraq, terror in Nigeria under Boko Haram. With all of the worlds conflicts going on and with all of life’s injustices I felt it was very convenient for people to only single out Israel’s policies for criticism.

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