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What keeps you up at night?

Daniel Burka

The two things that keep me up at night are, one, that I might get complacent. Working at a venture capital company is a very comfortable job. I get paid a lot of money. I don’t work crazy hours anymore. I do worry about losing my edge.

Running a design team and running startups was hard, it’s really hard. I don’t forget how stressful that was, but I do miss that level of stress sometimes. I do get off on that. It’s really fun.

People go to these big companies and they get really comfortable and get used to the high salaries and the benefits and the perks, and then they can’t go hungry anymore. I really worry about that. I don’t think I’m there yet but I’ve been there for three years, it’s very comfortable.

The other one that I worry about is - how much time have we got, generally. This maybe sounds really heavy, but I’ve heard someone describe working with Elon Musk as extremely difficult, because he knows that he’s got limited time on earth and he wants to do as much as possible before he departs. I’m not as his level of urgency but I understand that sense of urgency. I don’t want to be at home watching a movie if there’s something I could be working on that’s more important than that.

Part of the reason I’m excited to go to work every day is that I do get to work on some problems that really matter. I get to work with one stealthy startup that’s doing some really hardcore autonomous vehicle stuff that I think has a chance to really make the world better. I get to work with a bunch of medical companies that are doing things that will genuinely save thousands of peoples lives. More and more as I get older I get interested in those projects that are really epic.

A couple of years ago I got to work on the brand for Calico, which is another one of the alphabet companies. I got to work with Art Levinson, who is the chairman of Apple and used to run Genentech. I sat in a room with him and four of the world’s best geneticists and talked to them about a brand that should be around for decades, that will eventually carry a product that should make people live considerably longer. To work on that stuff, this really truly epic, potentially world-changing things, gets more and more exciting. I could spend all of my time doing that, and maybe I should. That definitely keeps me up at night.

Daniel Burka is a Design partner at GV and Co-founder of Milk Inc., based in San Francisco.

This quote was taken from epidsode 100 of the Design Details podcast.

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