EP 37: Silicon Valley’s best deal-maker Emil Michael on Uber and their biggest mistake, building in China, being an immigrant in Tech, working with Obama administration, and more | EP 37
“I make deals that should happen, happen and I make deals that shouldn't happen, not happen faster.”
It is rare in Silicon Valley to get the epithet “the best” - there are so many accomplished, talented people that it is hard to be easily seen as one of the greatest.
But one name always comes up when you ask about the “best deal-maker” or even best business mind - Emil Michael. Even on paper, his track record is one of legend: former Chief Business Officer of Uber, COO of Klout, Senior VP of Tellme Networks (acquired by Microsoft for $800M in 2014), and Office of the Secretary of Defense under the Obama administration. But that doesn’t begin to capture the stories and experiences of being at the center of some of the most fascinating business stories of the last two decades. This one is a certified banger episode as they say.
Listen: Apple Podcasts or Spotify
In this episode, we cover:
Uber’s #1 mistake (hint: Instacart)
Relationship with Travis Kalanick
What businesses today need to know
Building in China: Didi vs. Uber
How to build trust
Negotiating a deal 101
Behavioral economics 101
Why Emil hates doing business with Google
Negotiating for employees
Advice for founders: valuation vs. structure
Advice for founders with no product-market fit
The great reset of Silicon Valley: lay-offs, talent, MAMAA
Are companies going secretly bankrupt?
Should founders take secondary off the table?
Impact of regulations on M&A
#1 attribute of a great startup founder
Why immigrants succeed
Has being a parent changed anything?
Lessons from the White House
Is this a good time to start a company?
What’s Emil’s legacy?
“When you find the best idea you've ever seen and you've ever been involved in, you go all the way as fast as you can go because other people are going to figure out that this is a great idea too.” on Uber
“What would I have done differently? Number one, we would've gone into Instacart's business right around when Instacart did.”
“We raised $3.5 billion dollars from the Saudis in May 2016. I'll never forget the day that I was like, "send me the wire confirmation because it was the largest cheque I’ve received.”
“That's what good deal people do. You show that you can get shit done. You prove it with small actions.”
“When your startup is small, you're running a tribe; people think like you, they act like you, they're motivated as you. When your company gets big, and it has all these other stakeholders, it's a civilization. Civilizations, there's a reason they can't move as fast because they have to build consensus.”
“I built relationships with all of our competitors all over the world.”
“A part of deal-making is actually not spending time on deals that shouldn't happen.”
“What I endeavor to be when people say one of the best deal guys is actually I make deals that should happen, happen and I make deals that shouldn't happen, not happen faster.”
“If you are in control of your emotions, you have an advantage over people who are not in control of their emotions.”
“I hated doing business with Google. I found dealing with Facebook way easier than dealing with Google when I was at Uber.”
“The companies that have way more cash than they need because they were lucky or smart enough to raise money at the end of '21 and have this massive cash balance, they have a little bit more flexibility.”
“Elon Musk proved that you could do things with a little bit less people.”
“Everyone thinks they're stocks worth more than they know it is.”
“I think that my parents would've been more thrilled if I was a doctor.”
“My parents didn't have hobbies. All work, that was the hobby.” - on being an immigrant
“If I'm going to take another risk after my stock just went down 90%, I'm going to be more careful about what I suggest and sign on to.” - on building in a bear market
“I'd like to have built something that's more important than Uber.”
Instacart, grocery delivery service
Travis Kalanick, former CEO of Uber
Tellme Networks, leading provider of voice services acquired by Microsoft for $800M in 2014
Klout, influence based social media rating app, shut down in 2018
Didi vs. Uber in China
Liu Qing, President of Didi China
David Marcus, Dan Rose, former facebook employees
Stewart Butterfield, founder of Flickr & Slack
Alfred Lin, Sequoia Capital
David Weiden, Khosla Ventures
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