‘Ignore the Noise’

The Ellen Pao-KPCB trial has been surreal to observe. I don’t know well the players involved but have interacted with them.

John Doerr had recruited me for Amazon.com. Two of my previous investments have KPCB as investors.

Ellen, who knew the Bit9 CEO, helped the company navigate the KPCB process. The firm led Bit9’s Series B. As part of that, I had dinner with Ted Schlein and later met up with him at his offices. I had lunch some years ago with Ajit Nazre. I introduced Vertica to Ray Lane, and KPCB invested in that Series B, too.

So, I’m not friends with these folks, but I’ve interacted with them. So, they are more than just new names in news articles. I have some context.

I periodically followed the trial’s proceedings. Honestly, I felt the verdict could go either way. Regardless of the verdict, here’s what I do know:

Bias exists. Bias is not the same as discrimination. Bias means that people are “type cast” based on external appearances. Numerous studies confirm this. It is a fact of life.

“Reverse bias” exists, too. If you’re Asian-American and applying to college, that goes against you. And, if you’re an unhooked female applying to college, that hurts you, too, as there are fewer males applying overall.

You just have to deal with it. Whether you’re white, Asian, male, female, etc., some situations will be in your favor. In other times, it won’t be.  You just move on, IMO.

Dealing with adversity is good. Not too many years ago, for example, I was at a conference in Steubenville, Ohio, an economically depressed town. I went to a TGIF for dinner and sat at the bar.

As soon as I sat down, one of the customers nearby quickly and repeatedly challenged me to a fight. I tried to ignore him–he was so drunk he literally was about to fall off the bar stool.

He stopped challenging me after he overheard a conversation I was having about the NFL. He couldn’t believe that a non-white could know so much about football. In fact, he then proudly stated that he was Joe Namath’s nephew and proceeded to share photos and talk about his job painting houses. I guess I won him over.

Honestly, I was pretty disgusted, but I ordered a meal, ate it unhurriedly, and said goodbye to the other patrons, who kept ordering drink after drink after drink.

I felt pretty good that I had neutralized a difficult situation.


As I get older, and theoretically wiser, I’ve come to realize this: control what you can control, and accept what you cannot control. The New England Patriots have this saying printed on the exit doors: “Ignore the noise.”

I really like that saying. I think worrying too much about other people, what they think, and how they “should” think is fruitless.

Honestly, I have beaten the odds. We arrived, as immigrants with little money, to a poor part of Brooklyn. I was the first kid in my high school to go to Yale. My guidance counselor was one of the freshmen football coaches.

I’ve had the benefit of having tremendous teachers at school and mentors at work, to the point where I was able to start a new VC firm that has raised two funds with relatively little pain.

So, if people secretly don’t like me because of my race, they’re entitled to their opinion.

And, I’m entitled to ignore their noise and out-work them….

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