Lux Capital annual dinner notes

3 minute read

I’ve been following Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital for a while now, as he’s sharp and also unafraid to call people out. Lux recently gave a short presentation at their annual dinner, youtube link here:


And my notes on the talk are below:

  • We lie all the time, whether benign white lies or more serious ones. If someone deceives you without you knowing, they benefit at your expense. There’s an evolutionary advantage to lying without getting caught
    • I try to avoid lying, since I want to be known for reliability. However, I definitely still lie. Sometimes it’s to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Sometimes it’s for selfish desires. Sometimes it’s so that I can dodge confronting an awkward truth. I’d assume everyone else is also lying sometimes.
    • However, this doesn’t mean that we should distrust everything that is told to us. Doubting all of the information that we get is unfeasible. Can you imagine checking if every single sentence said was true or not? “You said you were born in England, so I’m going to take a flight there and interview everyone that knew you to fact check that”
    • If you start believing everything’s a lie or a conspiracy against you, you quickly sink into strange situations
    • A compromise then seems to be initially trusting of people, but quick to filter when they tell you something questionable, and also have a higher burden of proof for bigger claims. Would be interested in hearing Josh’s take here.
    • Lying helps in the short term, and might hurt in the long term. People make a decision on whether to lie or not based on whether they think they’re playing a repeated game, the chance of getting caught, and the consequences of doing so.
    • Startup founders definitely consider lying and might even get advice to do so. There’s high incentive to do so.
    • From experience, management of public companies also do the same calculus when interacting with investors.
    • When people feel they’ve found duplicity, they’re quick to turn against you
  • Self-deception and acting overconfident against the odds is key to survival
    • Jason Zweig just wrote a fantastic article on overconfidence that’s worth reading as well
    • This is something I’ve personally struggled with, especially coming from an Asian background. I’ve found living in the US to be helpful in slowly gaining that confidence to express my opinion
    • If you don’t believe you’re going to succeed, who will?
    • Of course, you still need to have some amount of self-awareness and realise when confidence veers into foolishness. When Softbank tells you you’re not crazy enough, what should you do?
  • When you have competition, you have a race between discovering the truth and evading the truth. This is an ever improving game, and leads to better technology.
    • The parallel here is of course to investing, where companies that engage in deception find new ways to inflate their results, while serious investors try to investigate the authenticity of their numbers
    • Accounting standards were created to improve clarity of a company’s financial situation. However, as Goodhart’s Law would imply, that’s led to companies and investors blindly chasing single metrics as proxies for truth.
    • There was a research paper I’ve seen once about how the dispersion of company earnings results is unnatural, because companies prefer just hitting their earnings target rather than missing. So you get some large misses, no small misses, and plenty of small beats.
  • The desires to deceive and to seek truth are both innate.
    • Seems to be the same point as the first
  • Everyday an entire industry of advertising exists just to deceive us
  • We love the ‘honest lie’, when we consent to being deceived e.g. acting, magic, technology. Otherwise though, we’re truth seeking and want to find the fakes in our lives.
    • I wonder where ads fall in this, they seem to be a blend of the ‘honest lie’ and the truth.
    • There are truths that are widely known but some people just don’t want to believe in, and you can never convince them otherwise e.g. flat earth believers
    • There are also truths that are less widely known; I wrote about public secrets a while back

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