The Anthology of Balaji By Eric Jorgenson Book Notes

🙋‍♂️About the book & author:

Balaji S. Srinivasan is an entrepreneur, investor, and engineer who has a unique view of the world.

He co-founded a company, Counsyl, a clinical genomics company which was for $375M. He invested in bitcoin while it was around $10. Become CTO of Coinbase and was General Partner at a16z.

In this book, Eric Jorgenson compiled his ideas from different sources like podcasts, articles, and social media and created this book. Balaji is also the author of the WSJ best-seller book, The Network State.

đź«°Buy the Book:

The Anthology of Balaji By Eric Jorgenson

This post includes affiliate links, buy from these links to support my work.

Subscribe to the newsletter to get book notes to your mail without any distractions.

đź“•Book Notes:

Bullet lists and quotes are excerpts from the book. Normal writing is my thoughts on the excerpts from the book.
  • Negativity is louder than positivity on the internet.
  • Any attacks are attacks on your arguments rather than your character.
  • Putting in a lot of labor doesn’t necessarily generate value. Putting in the right technology often does.
  • I look at money as a tool to build things I can’t buy today.
  • Science is theory. Technology is practice. It’s applied science.
  • Business is simply a vehicle to push the future forward and drive human progress.
  • If the purpose of technology is to reduce scarcity, then the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate mortality.
  • The reason speed has value is because time has value; the reason time has value is because human life spans are finite.
  • Rather than the “labor theory of value,” I think about the “technology theory of value.”
  • Technology theory of value is better than labor theory of value.
  • Technology’s first law: whatever can be done over the internet will be done over the internet.
  • What distinguishes man from ape is technological progress.
  • Law, medicine, education, finance, real estate…all of these are lagging areas that are regulated or subsidized. Technology has partially reformed them, but not fully. Now, they’re just relics being dragged into the future.
  • Technology is the driving force of history. It lies upstream of culture, and thus upstream of politics.
  • Today, we’re on phones and computers. Whether it’s politics or wars, it starts with the device.
  • To be against technology is to be on the wrong side of history. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. You won’t take away voices newly gained by billions.
  • What is politically feasible is a function of what is technologically feasible.
  • Google founder and computer scientist Larry Page said any law more than fifty years old has to be re-examined. Any law written before the internet needs to get re-examined, or it’s going to collapse. Cryptocurrency is going to cause the same situation.
  • Today we have ninety-year-old laws wielded by seventy-year-old people to prevent twenty-somethings from using twenty-first-century technology.
  • Society, driven by technology, goes through cycles of centralization and decentralization. The decentralization phase approaches.
  • Technology started enabling decentralization with the personal computer in the late ’70s, then with the internet in 1991, and now with Bitcoin.
  • Those saying, “Crypto is just another asset class” sound like those who said, “The internet is just another media outlet.”
  • It might take ten to twenty years, but as blockchains scale, every centralized service can become a decentralized protocol.
  • Crypto allows free markets without corporations.
  • Digital globalist, physical localist.
  • Even when the goods themselves can’t be digitized, the interfaces to them will be.
  • It’s funny to notice the most nutritious foods—lettuce, tomatoes, fruits, etc.—don’t have nutrition facts on them. That’s because a little bit of a chemistry experiment has to occur to require complex nutrition facts.
  • Longevity has the potential to be to traditional medicine what crypto is to traditional finance. It changes the terms of the debate.
  • The goal of transhumanism is simply to become the absolute best version of yourself.
  • Transhumanism is human self-improvement with technology.
  • Many things that are true are unpopular; many things that are popular are untrue.
  • You can position facts at two poles: political facts and technical facts. A political fact is true if enough other people believe it to be true
  • A technical fact is the result of an equation or the diameter of a virus under an electron microscope—the result of physical constants.
  • Determining the type of evidence people accept is as important as knowing their incentives. Some take data, but many accept only popularity.
  • I admire Ramanujan. I admire Feynman. These great mathematicians and physicists were able to see things others couldn’t. Just by writing down what they observed, they created a huge leap forward.
  • Technical truths—like genetics, math, and biochemistry—are true even if no one believes them to be true.
  • Technological history is the history of what works; political history is the history of what works to retain power.
  • Politics at its root is about tribes, not truth.
  • Political truths—like money, status, and borders—are true if everyone believes them to be true.
  • In politics, there’s almost never an incentive to tell a truth that could annoy your tribe.
  • Everybody has strong opinions about people they’ve never met based on tales told by people they do not know.
  • Crypto is turning the world into investors, just like the internet turned the world into publishers.
  • We need to have statistics that do not come from guys in their basements making things up. This is very important.
  • If you are what you eat, then you think what you see.
  • To restate the analogy between your nutritional and information diets: you are rebuilding your body with what you ingest with your mouth and rebuilding your brain with what you ingest with your eyes and ears. Put these two concepts together and you realize what you eat and what you read have enormous power over you.
  • A “scissor statement” is something that is obviously true to one party and obviously false to the other. Media and social media companies are constantly searching for and selecting scissor statements because they’re enraging, and therefore engaging.
  • The story behind the story is usually more interesting than the story.
  • The one type of corporation a journalist will always defend is a media corporation. The one form of equality a journalist will always resist is the idea that everyone is now a journalist. A direct competitor is not a neutral arbiter.
  • The media you consume changes the decisions you make. The technology you have changes the decisions you can make.
  • You’re typing code line by line, verifying that it works. A YouTube video showing you how to sew something or how to build a table works the same way. You’re applying every line or every frame as you build. Tutorials can’t “lie” to you
  • Infotainment should be filtered out of your information diet. Returning to the analogy between your nutritional diet and your information diet…having a cookie from time to time is fine, but if you’re eating only cookies and you’re not eating healthy food, your health is going to be messed up. Your life is going to get worse.
  • What’s the good stuff? It is what helps you boost the measurable variables you care about. It’s increasing your truth, health, and wealth. It’s your knowledge, your physical fitness, your bank account balance, or some combination of them.
  • Dashboards are better than newspapers. If you are in tech, the first thing you look at each work day may be a company dashboard with metrics, like sales. This is good. The first thing you look at personally each day shouldn’t be random stories someone else picked. It should be carefully selected metrics you want to improve, like your health or hobbies. A personal dashboard is a good path to disrupt newspapers.
  • Algorithms and incentives could surface what is important and true rather than what is popular and profitable.
  • Nicholas Kristof’s article inspired Bill Gates to create hygienic rural toilets in Africa, the Minority Report movie sparked Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, and the Ready Player One book inspired Oculus.
  • We could create a system to go line-by-line on every tech article to independently check facts. We could do this in a semi decentralized way. For an article with 100 sentences, at $10/ sentence, that’s about $1k. At four tech articles per day, 365 days per year, that’s “only” about $1M/year.
  • You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to post-supporting them.
  • Lots of popular ideas on social media are a result of consistent repetition rather than independent replication.
  • Everyone thinks the censor will agree with them. Actually, the censor will censor them.
  • The right to voice is as important as the right to vote.
  • An “important feed” will be very different from the “news feed.” What is important often is not new, and what is new often is not important.
  • “News” isn’t an article; it’s a graph. A graph of posts, images, and videos from many parties.
  • Own a media corporation or be owned by one.
  • If writing the Great American Novel on your laptop or building a billion-dollar startup in your dorm room is possible, breaking the story of the year as a citizen without any access to traditional institutions is absolutely possible.

Some principles:

  1. Every citizen is a citizen journalist.
  2. Every company is a media company.
  3. Media scales.
  • Good writers and artists should be rewarded. We just need to change the incentives.
  • Media corporations are against free speech for the same reason Microsoft was against free software. They are for-profit corporations that want to eliminate all competitors. But they’ll lose. Every citizen is becoming a journalist, and every company is becoming a media company.
  • To get lucky, you must first take a chance.
  • You want a win-win mentality rather than a crabs-in-the-bucket mentality. A win-and-help-win mentality is even better.
  • The fewer people you employ in the process of wealth creation, the harder it becomes for people to claim that you “exploited” others. Some software entrepreneurs make billions by themselves like J.K. Rowling did writing books. Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin) and Notch (Minecraft) are early examples.
  • Power compels; money persuades.
  • The less money you need, the less dependent you are.
  • When you’re in any institution, you cannot speak freely, especially when you’re the CEO.
  • I had around ten years of personal runway (the number of years one can go without working).
  • I don’t buy cars or homes. After I earned a big payout, whenever I could save time with money, I did.
  • I’m not a consumption person; I’m a production person.
  • Once you get that first win under your belt, you build the confidence you’re able to do it again and again.
  • Reducing your cost of living to â…•x is way easier than increasing your net worth by 5x.
  • Build your personal runway. [your current savings] Ă· [your yearly expenses] = [personal runway]
  • Can you believe the Wright brothers went into the air without approval from the FAA or any kind of collective decision-making? They decided to fly just because they could.
  • Technology is how civilizations unlock new frontiers. Columbus used new navigation techniques to find the new world because the Ottomans had blockaded the known route to India.
  • Bad leaders divide. Great leaders create.
  • Nothing is more costly than incompetent leadership.
  • The highest level of leadership is technology leadership. It’s not simple positive-sum capitalism; it also brings something new to the market. You’re literally moving humanity forward.
  • Don’t argue about regulation. Build Uber. Don’t argue about monetary policy. Build Bitcoin. Don’t argue about anything; just build an alternative. Don’t argue with words. Build products based on truths many people can’t grasp.
  • The point of doing a startup is to build something you can’t buy.
  • The founder is usually the only one who has the credibility to impose large short-term costs for larger long-term gains.
  • The state has far more money than anyone else. But NASA is behind SpaceX because tech isn’t capital-limited; it’s competence-limited.
  • Don’t do a startup unless you’re ideologically driven to make it succeed. You need something beyond economic motivation because startups are very hard.
  • At the beginning, goals are qualitative and mission-driven.
  • Good founders don’t just have ideas; they have a bird’s eye view of the idea maze. Most of the time, people see only the journey and result of one company. They don’t see the paths not taken and don’t think at all about the companies that fell into various traps and died before reaching customers.
  • Whenever a new technology is coming out, figure out how to use it for something transformative while minimizing your technical and legal risk.
  • We transitioned from paper to a scanner that scans paper into a digital version, and then to a native digital text file that begins life on the computer. We transitioned from face-to-face meetings to Zoom video meetings (a scanner of faces), and then (soon?) to native digital VR meetings. We transitioned from physical cash to credit cards and PayPal (a scan of the pre-existing banking system), and then to the native digital version of money: cryptocurrency.

Many industries will evolve like this:

  1. Human Service
  2. Semi-automated service
  3. Fully automated

Human, then human/machine pair, then machine.

  • The best entrepreneurs are logical enough to think of unpopular truths and then social enough to make those truths popular.
  • If you are not constrained by competition, you want to charge the highest possible price at the beginning to get profitable as soon as possible.

The best market size estimates are both surprising and convincing. To be surprising is the art of the presentation. To be convincing, you want to estimate your market size in at least two different ways.

First, use Fermi estimates to determine the number of people who will buy your product (top-down market sizing). This requires general stats like 300 million Americans, 8 billion world population, 30 million US businesses, and domainspecific stats like 6 million annual pregnancies.

Second, use SEC filings of comparable companies in the industry to get empirical revenue figures and sum these up (bottom-up market sizing).

  • Say the first five people want your product so much that they will pay $1,000 for version 1 with features x and y. (Remember, the vast majority of people will pay $0 no matter how many features you add.)

The 6 Ps are a useful checklist.

Product—What are you selling?

Person—To whom?

Purpose—Why are they buying it?

Pricing—At what price?

Priority—Why now?

Prestige—And why from you?

Seems obvious, but many companies (especially in healthcare) can’t easily answer these.

An idea is not a mockup.

A mockup is not a prototype.

A prototype is not a program.

A program is not a product.

A product is not a business.

And a business is not profits.

  • You can quantify the quality of a user interface by the number, type, and duration of user inputs required to achieve a result.
  • SaaS first, code second, hire last.
  • If at all possible, do your first version with off-the-shelf SaaS tools, even if the interface is ugly. People will tolerate it if it’s functional. If you get some traction, you can code a nicer version or automate. Only then, if you can’t automate a process, should you hire someone.
  • Investors care about the future of your product; customers mainly care about the present.
  • A new product can never be superior to an incumbent in all respects. Launch means criticism.
  • To attract attention is to attract negative attention.
  • What I prefer is a tiny team of well-rounded athletes, employees who are smart, hard-working, and work well together. Then there are no politics because everybody was selected for alignment.
  • Hire geniuses no one knows yet.
  • Hire people who are hungry and can teach us something.
  • Hiring “hungry” people usually means finding people at the beginning of their careers.

There’s a difference between casual conversation versus writing something for instructions. To be effective, pull key information to the beginning and communicate it in the headline.

Then you should communicate it again in the subtitle, communicate it again in a slightly different way in the opening sentence, and expand on it in the opening paragraph.

That’s how you should write internal memos. That’s how you should write Slacks. State the most important thing first. I look for folks who can do that and who are underpriced relative to their potential.

  • If people are better than you in a skill, why would they want to work for you or work for your company? My answer requires thinking of each skill as a vector.
  • Speaking of the course of the relationship, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s concept of the initial employer-employee compact as a “tour of duty” is useful because a company is not a family.
  • A good company works on conditional love—you have to deliver.
  • Everybody has bad days. Everybody has a bad week at times, or sometimes even a bad month or more. These are our fellow co-workers, and we have mercy for their challenges, even if the customer doesn’t.
  • Politics arises when one person’s biggest win involves (or requires!) another person’s loss.
  • More people, more differing incentive structures (hence problems).
  • Leaders should focus on creating, quantifying, and communicating alignment as much as possible. Doing so is complementary to daily management. Alignment is why people do things even without assigned to-dos.
  • Both the best and worst CEOs have this in common: the company could run without them.
  • It is not enough just to build. You must also build the power to disrupt.

Startup = Growth. If you don’t consciously optimize your company for growth, you will be outgrown by a competitor who has.

To maintain a constant monthly growth rate, you need to either keep hiring more salespeople of equal or greater quality (a very difficult task), or you need some way to grow virally through your existing customer base.

Everyone in the company is responsible for one thing. Each person should at all times know what their one thing is, and everyone should know everyone else’s too.

Marc Andreessen’s anti to-do list is also good: write down what you just did, and then cross it off. Even if you get off track, this gives you a sense of what you were working on and your progress.

  • Doing things as fast as you can often means doing them one at a time.
  • “list, rank, iterate.” —Read this article to know more about it.
  • “It’s not the idea; it’s the execution” is an excellent reminder, a mantra to keep ourselves in a state of focus.
  • In the early days of a startup, the most important number is the burn rate. Every single person must be indispensable.

When things go wrong in your company, nobody cares. The press doesn’t care, your investors don’t care, your board doesn’t care, your employees don’t care, even your mama doesn’t care. Nobody cares.—Ben Horowitz

  • Mark Zuckerburg also said something like this: “When you feel boxed in, if you’re smart enough, there’s usually a move.”
  • Business presents difficult situations where you need to achieve the best outcome possible under the circumstances.
  • Economist and philosopher John Maynard Keynes said, “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Meaning, if you don’t know what intellectual software you’re running, you’re running something subconsciously.
  • Your email inbox is a to-do list other people write for you. Task length and importance are not related to recently received.
  • You can work sustainable seventy-hour weeks if you work when you want, sleep when you want, wake up when you want, work out when you want, and never travel.
  • Losing sleep for a night isn’t the end of the world. Losing sleep for a year will affect your long-term health.
  • What you choose to load into your brain first thing in the morning is the most precious, precious space. Perhaps your first few hours should be offline with pen and paper, writing things out.
  • Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb, learned from a bunch of articles written in the late 1800s about rooming houses. Room sharing was much more popular around 1900 than in 1950.
  • Today, a founding engineer and a founding influencer are building a company. Tomorrow, a founding influencer and a founding engineer may be building a country.
  • Build your wealth, then help others build theirs.


Maths and Science:

For Founders:


Scroll to Top