My guest this week is Trae Stephens. Trae is a partner at Founders Fund and co-founder and Executive Chairman of Anduril. Trae’s philosophy can be boiled down to finding good quests, which has led him to investing in businesses that work closely with the government on societally important issues. Clearly, that extends to co-founding Anduril and I would highly recommend listening to my Business Breakdowns episode on Anduril if you haven’t already. In this conversation, we discuss the importance of lobbyists, why the high-tech defense firms of the past became stale, and how he hunts for disagreeableness in founders. Please enjoy my conversation with Trae Stephens.
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
Listen to Founders Podcast
Founders Episode 136 - Estee Lauder
Founders Episode 288 - Ralph Lauren
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[00:03:17] - [First question] - Why Trae thinks most high-margin businesses are bad for society
[00:04:28] - What would he change to impact energy technology most if he were in charge
[00:06:18] - His investing focus on dynamism and mission-driven tech companies
[00:09:42] - Analyzing why relatively few people strive to make society-level advancements
[00:11:35] - What he’s done as a parent to enable his kids to develop passions
[00:12:41] - The most noteworthy adventures in his career
[00:14:41] - Founding Anduril and what it taught him about the tech industry
[00:18:40] - The cutting-edge of defense technologies today
[00:21:29] - What Shyam Sankar of Palantir taught him about defense tech
[00:23:34] - Why some of the biggest defense tech companies have stopped innovating
[00:28:29] - What he and Anduril have learned about sales and scaling in the public sector
[00:32:12] - Where lobbyists and decision makers play in to defense tech business models
[00:35:22] - His take on Peter Thiel’s notion that competition should be avoided
[00:38:24] - The importance of being psychologically disagreeable when building a start-up
[00:39:54] - The origin story that stands out the most from companies he has interviewed
[00:41:12] - How he developed an investor mindset on his unorthodox path to the venture world
[00:43:57] - What he has learned from playing supporting roles and aligning with great leaders
[00:46:11] - Important but uncommon lessons about entrepreneurship
[00:48:21] - Venture investing lessons he’s learned from Lauren Gross
[00:50:00] - His first VR project and aspirations for the future of VR
[00:54:50] - The role of religion and spirituality in his business philosophies
[00:59:13] - Why he tries to capitalize on morality as opposed to sin
[01:03:57] - The kindest thing anyone has ever done for him