Concretizing the Producer's Mentality
Though there's nothing wrong with enjoying the material benefits of one's work (indeed I think there's something right with it), it's really not the driving force behind most producers' love of their work. This story is another illustration of the type of mentality possessed by the true and typical producer. A few excerpts:
That’s the way Cheriton prefers it. He still drives the same 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon he had before he made his money, lives in the same Palo Alto home he’s owned for the last 30 years and employs the same barber—himself. “It’s not that I can’t fathom a haircut,” says Cheriton. “It’s just easy to do myself, and it takes less time.”
For a man who works 10 to 12 hours a day, Cheriton understands that time is everything. His investment in Google allowed college freshmen cramming for exams to cut through the junk that had flooded search engines like AltaVista. His newest company, Arista Networks, makes a data switch that cuts down the delays between servers, allowing bits to be transferred in less than 500 nanoseconds, nearly twice as fast as Cisco’s fastest switch and Juniper Networks’ best. That gives traders on Wall Street the ability to submit their trades nanoseconds before their competitors and gives doctors the capacity to sequence a patient’s genome in real time. Cheriton has been working on the guts of its operating system since 2004, when the company was founded. Arista, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is adding at least a customer a day. The company says it is operating at an annual revenue run rate of $200 million. “Imagine if cars going 50mph speed up by a factor of ten,” says Cheriton. “It qualitatively changes what you can do.” Arista is that vehicle.
While Bechtolsheim describes himself and Cheriton as “accidental investors,” others have downplayed the role of sheer luck. “It’s not accidental at all,” says Ron Conway, Silicon Valley’s ubiquitous angel investor whom Cheriton introduced to Google for a later investment. “It’s because of the environment that they’ve built around them. They’re such smart and astute engineers that they attract other engineers to share their ideas with them.”
Cheriton says he avoids pursuing market whims—he considers social networking one of them—and stays focused on breakthroughs that make measurable improvements to human life, such as the way Google helps a college junior complete a research paper at 3 a.m. He says he has “a belief that if you are providing real value to the world and doing it in a sensible way, then the market rewards you.”