Long-time listeners will have heard me joke before that this podcast should really be called “this is who are you up against.” I’ve been waiting for the right episode to deploy the joke as a title, and this week we have it.
The joke is meant to convey how incredibly impressive these people are who we get to hear from every week. My guest this week is Josh Wolfe, a founding and managing partner at Lux Capital in New York City. Lux is a venture capital firm, but a highly unique one. They’ve spent more time in hard sciences and interesting nooks and crannies of the market than the typical VC firm.
Some of investing is zero sum: my outperformance is someone else’s underperformance. Sometimes, though, investing is positive sum. The combination of capital, ideas, people, drive, and raw energy leads to amazing new things.
I think the best investing and best investors of the future will be more collaborative than competitive. After finishing with Josh, I couldn’t stop thinking “god, do I want to be involved with whatever he’s doing, if only just to learn.”
This conversation made me rethink my joke “this is who are you up against.” Now I won’t think of it as a zero-sum joke, but instead as a reminder: this is the kind of person who is out there. You better find your niche, and still be the absolute best you can within that niche.
Please enjoy this killer conversation with Josh Wolfe. We cover just about everything.
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2:35 – (First Question) – Lux Capital and the kind of investments they have made over the years
5:42 – The formation of the investment philosophy for Lux
8:17 – Why randomness and optionality are important cornerstones to the philosophy
9:52 – Investment philosophy 100-0-100 (ambition, arrogance, intellectual humility)
10:40 – How Josh manages his time and attention
13:29 – Obsession with nuclear
15:15 – Investment in metamaterials
18:28 – Focus on autonomous vehicles
21:02 – How all of these gambles are viewed by Josh’s investors
22:56 – Tattoo technology
24:20 – Ali Hamed podcast
24:36 – How Josh evaluates people when considering early stage investments
24:45 – Alex Moazed podcast
28:10 – Why the minority opinion tends to lead to the best outcomes
29:50 – Memorable experience investing in a founder
30:44 – The idea of thesis driven approach to private investment
30:56 – Andy Rachleff podcast
32:38 – Crazy thesis – understanding the emotional needs of our pets
34:59 – Crazy thesis – Turning genetic abnormalities into treatments and cures for common conditions
38:03 – Josh’s learning process through these theses
38:34 – Popplet
39:56 – Understanding rebel scientists when it’s impossible to predict what is going to happen
40:03 – new book on crisper and gene splicing
44:35 – Can the charge forward mindset be cultivated, or does it have to come naturally
45:49 – Investors that Josh has learned the most from
47:37 – Josh’s comfort investing outside of his usual asset class
49:03 – @wolfejosh
50:56 – What is the thinking with the short strategy at Lux
52:31 – SpaceX vs Tesla, good business vs bad business
53:42 – How Josh approaches the quality of a business
54:15 – World After Capital
55:16 – How does Josh evaluate competitive advantage
56:45 – Where are we in the venture capital landscape
1:01:42 – How does his outlook on venture capital affect the way Lux is run
1:02:48 – thoughts on cryptocurrency
1:05:28 – An overview of Santa Fe Institute
1:07:22 – What is the most memorable conversation Josh has ever had
1:09:34 – What is Josh’s objective function in life
1:12:43 – Are there people that Josh disagrees with but deeply respects
1:13:32 – Kindest thing anyone has ever done for Josh