Entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, best known for his role in a series of Internet communications companies including Vonage, spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.
When discussing his involvement in the Israel tech scene he recounted a personal story about ageism in Silicon Valley:
What I like about Israel — in many cases — there’s no age discrimination. I could be in Tel Aviv in two week and be pitched by a 72-year-old person, or their 16-year-old great grandson. They can even be together. It doesn’t matter. There’s no concept that if you’re old you’re useless.
I personally with my current start-up, I was in Silicon Valley two years ago meeting a partner of one of the most famous VCs in the world and when he told me to my face, told me “Jeff, look, you’re not 25 years old having just left Facebook as a product manager, because if you were I have $5 million for you.” He looked at me and said I was worthless.
During the talk with AEI fellow James K. Glassman, the 52-year-old also explained the parallels he sees between start-ups and rock bands:
When I meet a start-up I always ask them who is the lead singer. Because in a band the lead singer doesn’t have to play an instrument. They just have to lead. They have to have stage presence they have to have that wow. So with my start-ups I don’t care whether or not the CEO can code or not I just want to know if they’ll lead.
I always ask them who is the drummer. Who is the COO? Who is the one responsible for keeping that beat? If they’re still in the room with me, I then ask are they a cover band? Do they play original? What genre of music are they playing? I meet start-ups that want to be just like somebody else, or others that are completely original and pioneering.
The one benefit of being a record label was that if you find an artist that makes it, usually it’s by the time of the third album comes out you make your money back. In the case of an investor in a start-up, you hope the team stays together long enough so they make their third pivot. They figure out what it is they’re going to do. So when I invest in start-ups I invest in people, the ideas, but really in my belief that these people can figure out what they’re going to do.
You can watch the entire conversation here: