Random 4: Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose on Y-Combinator, Language Learning and More


This pre-China trip includes the below:

- Personal experiences with Y-Combinator, demo days, and pitching new ideas through avenues like YC.

- Five things you can do as a new startup to get your ideas, app, or product in front of influencers.

- Tweaking your website: per-user metrics, cost per acquisition, lifetime value of the customer, etc..

- The iPhone 3GS, talking some about the new updates and then a short comparison with the Palm Pre.

- Learning new languages and reactivating old ones (in this case, Mandarin Chinese).

The above list is taken from Glenn McElhose’s blog, where you can also find links to all of the sites and products mentioned in the show.


Want to get Random episodes delivered to your iPhone or iPad? Now you can! Just subscribe to the podcast in iTunes (or get the audio-only version here).

Posted on: August 12, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

152 comments on “Random 4: Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose on Y-Combinator, Language Learning and More

  1. Hey Tim,

    Great post!

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m getting error when loading some of your older posts. The background does not load and I get the greates color scheme ever… black background and dark grey letters…
    This is happening on Firefox (3.5.2).
    However it loads great on Internet Explorer (8.0) and Chrome (2.0).
    It’s on Vista H.P. all of them.

    It’s been hapening for a few days.
    It only happens to a few of the posts, here are the ones I’ve found:

    Pavel: 80/20 Powerlifting and How to Add 110+ Pounds to Your Lifts
    Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too
    The Prescription for Self-Doubt: Watch This Video

    Hope I’ve helped ya!
    All the best.


  2. Tim: one question for you:

    Do you believe that Sir Richard Branson’s work and management styles are that of the New Rich?



  3. Really enjoyed the “work” and “productivity” blogs much more. This is more of what you do now that you don’t have to work.

    Not really that productive or useful. I like to play golf, but I wouldn’t tape that and put it up for people to watch as it’s not worth it.

    This is not getting me closer to 4hr per week…would love more of those!


  4. Hey Trevor… if that was Tim in that picture he would probably be wearing his Vibram shoes. :-) By the way Tim, I bought those shoes because of you and I really love them. My calves were killing after my first run with them but I love the feel of them. I wonder if Vibram shoes have reached a ‘Tipping Point’ thanks to the 4HWW?

    I find ‘Random’ to be a unimpressive name for this segment but I’m not complaining; you guys are doing a great job. Thanks and keep up the good work. Found the comments about the ‘hot girl’ quite funny.


  5. Hi Tim

    I found this in your how to learn languages really fast section:

    They should be able and willing to explain, for example, how
    Konjunktiv I is generally used in place of Konjunktiv II in German, even though it is technically incorrect.

    It is actually the other way round. Konjunktiv I is used in reported speech only but when the Konjunkiv I-form is identical to the Indikiativ-form, we use
    Konjunktiv II instead. In spoken or informal German this has led to a usage of Konjunkiv II in reported speech when Konjunktiv I would be quite possible and more and more people use Konjunktiv II (sometimes now even in written German).

    Not sure whether anybody else has pointed this out already but I thought you might want to change this.


  6. Tim,

    Your book is great! I have been reading it again and again since I bought it a month ago, I always get a lot of good insights that I apply in day to day life. I am unable to somewhat implement your overall principles or lifestyle because I am in an 8 hour job (and happy) but certainly I pick tips here and there that have really improved my performance at work. I have since endorsed your book to many of my friends. I even bought some and shipped them to friends who recently lost their jobs (It has helped them a lot!). You have inspired me also to start a blog to express my interest in processes and IT and my passion for writing articles. I have wanted to do this for a long time, you helped my breakthrough. Thank you and keep up the good work. Please visit my blog if you have time.



  7. @ Bruce

    Perhaps a better name like “The Adrenaline Show” sounds better. Tim’s show has tons of value and a catchy name will suit it well.


  8. Really like the marketing ideas. Really useful for someone thinking about projects and getting the word out.

    I’ll echo the video length sentiments. I’d like to see shorter videos more often or perhaps placing markers in the video and then having links to points in the video. I’ve done this in Silverlight and imagine this is very do-able in Flash.


  9. Tim,

    Do you or does anyone else know where I can find a list of sites similar to Y-Combinator where people can listen to your business ideas and help you find investors?

    Thanks in advance!


  10. Hi Tim,

    I bought your book when it first came out, read it all and then stuck wondering what I should do next.

    I got a job which (in my mind) do not lend itself easily to the system. It is in heavy civil construction (highways, bridges, and stuff). And when you add family in there (wife and kids), the equation gets a bit complicated. I know there is a way to make it work and I just can’t think of one.

    And then I realize why don’t I just post here and you can probably give me some ideas (since you are the smart one…lol).

    Anyway thanks for having your blog. It sure is a great way to live the life of fourhourworkweek.




  11. Hi Tim, been following your blog for awhile bc of the pieces you wrote on barefoot running. Since I moved out of the city, I only wore shoes when driving a car or meeting clients. The rest of the time, I’m barefoot, be it asphalt, sand or forest trails. My soles have grown accustomed to a lot in this short period of time (about 2 months).

    I’ve been meaning to check out your book, but I have a rather bad history with this kind of self-motivational material. Reading about relaxation wasn’t really what I needed during my burnout last year, and I’m kind of weary the easy peace I have found for the moment may be disturbed. Once I feel comfortable again (working 9-5 right now), I’ll definitely check it out.

    3 paragraphs in and I’m finally getting to the the video. Kev really needs to step out of his diggnation role here. I enjoyed that stuff a while back but haven’t watched in months. I’m not really missing it, either, but I can see how it may substitute real interactions for a while. This may sound harsh, but it’s really the impression I’ve arrived at. And while I’m piling it on, Mr. Rose does need a haircut badly. And I wonder whom he insulted when he read that chinese. Also, this Apple stuff is really boring. Keep it on a tech-oriented show, not like you’ve any shortage of those, right? Man, I’m jealous…

    Tim: Keep doing what you’re doing, it works great.


  12. Question for Tim:

    I agree with Peter Schiff in that the U.S. is going into an inflationary depression. In that environment I don’t think selling informational products online would do especially well.

    Is there anyway to set up a business remotely in a different country where demand will be better?

    It could still be online but I am sure there is still more to it then I realize.

    Oh and I only speak English.


  13. Hi, I’m in Xiamen, China. And I’m having a hell of a time getting to the end of this video where they mention some Mandarin learning products that I’d like to send away for. I’m using a vpn so I can get through to Vimeo, which makes it possible,…sort of. If you happen to know what products are mentioned near the end of this video I’d sure appreciate your posting it! Thanks!


  14. Very interesting stuff guys, especially about “budget” ways to get the word out. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a video about how to use advanced tools in Google Analytics, but here’s a great post from Avinash Kaushik that gets into some of the nitty gritty of using the tools along with some strategies.


    In fact, his latest post gets into more analytics for branding campaigns. Very good stuff.


  15. Thanks for the review of our Complete Chinese course. You had great feedback, and very fair criticisms. I’d love to hear more if you have the time; we revise based on thoughtful feedback. (I also left a comment on Dirt Salad, but then realized that this was your blog… sorry.)


  16. Tim,
    At one point you threw out “read in other words by ????”. I’m really interested in the cognitive aspects of language learning and would love to track down that resource. Can you elaborate?


  17. Hi Tim,

    I wasn’t aware of Y-Combinator until you mentioned in this post, I just put in my application! This will be interesting, fingers crossed!

    Lastly, I wrote to you regarding a call out you made about interesting things people have done with the knowledge from the first book – and I received the following response: ‘ You’ll Be Featured in the Next 4-Hour Workweek!’ – I signed my waiver and received a follow up that it had been received – however I haven’t heard anything since? Did it make the cut?

    Keep up the good work!



    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment! I will assume that it has, but the publisher makes final cuts. It will certainly be clear when the book comes out on Dec 15th. I hope you’re in it.

      All the best,



  18. Hi Tim,

    I realize I’m a big late to the game for this post originally made back in August, but I have a specific question about something you said in the Chinese language book review portion (around the 25/26-minute mark). You talk about wanting to train recognition and not necessarily comprehension and that you believe the English word/phrase should come before the language you are learning.

    I am a Thai language learner and would someday soon like to publish a book on Thai language. I’m very interested in getting more information on the research – or just your expanded opinion – on why you think the English should come first. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you at all, but the information would be most helpful.




  19. Hi Tim and others who may also be able to answer this question!

    I am currently living in Italy, studying Italian, writing a book and working on entrepreneurial ideas. And, thanks to your book Tim, I have just found my muse! However, now the logistics seem tricky. I would like to create and distribute an educational English learning product specifically for Italians. These are my questions:

    1) With my student visa I can only “work” 20 hours a week, which I already do. Although I plan to create a web based company, if I use Italian manufacturer’s and distributors will I have to apply for an Italian Work visa or is there someway to get around this? I.E. Produce the product from America and ship internationally to Italy? (However, this seems like a large waste of $$ on shipping fees…)

    2) My second muse is to create instructional DVDS. However, I run into the same problem here….if I make my product in a foreign country (italy) using, manufactures, vidographers etc. then when I sell this product will I get in legal issues for “working” in a country where I don’t have a viable “work visa”?

    Thanks you Tim and others for your input, I am sincerely grateful!

    Cindy Swain


  20. Just a very good recomendation of where to get Chinese movies for free. You only have to downlaod the application http://www.pps.tv from the Internet. There are millions of Chinese, Japanes and Korean movies for free and you can watch them online (streaming). For me the best way to learn Chinese by “only” watching movies.

    Again the little gadget is called: pps.tv


  21. Hey Tim + Kevin,

    I’ve read much of your material on language learning and have one simple question I can’t seem to find the answer to.

    Can you learn a computer programming language using the same techniques and if so how?

    Looking forward to your response and thanks in advanced ;)

    Stephen Lew


  22. Just wanted to say that watching movies is a great way to improve foreign language skills. You learn about culture and the language in a very distilled form very quickly. I have always been very weak when it comes to grammar but listening to Germany movies and to people in Bavaria I have been able to increase a mental understanding of German and teach myself Bavarian. I speak it every day now and understand Bavarian better than native Germans. I feel like the 13th warrior. The mind is a very powerful tool. challenge it!

    I do have to say that I haven’t known about Tim Ferris too long but becoming a big fan of him quickly. Keep up the great work.


  23. Hey Tim,

    I’ve been teaching English in Japan for about 10 years now and love your stuff about language acquisition. Just wondering why you recommend “In Other Words” out of all the linguistics books out there? I just picked it up and will dig into it very soon.

    Thanks for all the inspiration and we definitely need to get these “salarymen” on the 4-hour workweek program! (although we know they could start by just cutting down to 40;))

    Al in Tokyo


  24. As a native Mandarin speaker, who learnt to speak English quite well, I’d like to say these things:

    In a conversation with Kevin Rose, Ferriss was critiquing a textbook for mandarin. He disapproves the book’s approach because ‘it places too much focus on comprehension’. His ideal text, instead, would be all about utterance – to speak it (in order to carry out daily functions).

    By the way, one must laud his serious effort in getting the pronunciation and the tones right – few can do it well and naturally.

    But his phrasebook approach is definite not learning a language. It’s like this machine that you can carry around, that can produce certain sounds to help satisfy your needs. Flip to page 18, line 35: “Where can I find the toilet?” flip to page 23, line 20: “Two beers, please.” This is Ferriss’s ideal: to traverse through another culture/society without any immersion, saturation or understanding of it. Colonial imperialist! His approach is but internalizing this device into his brain, so as to conveniently carry it around.

    In contrast, I highly recommend the learner start from comprehension. Language, this phenomenon of language, universal throughout all human societies, itself, is marvellous. [Insert citation] evidence suggests that a few children, within one generation, can invent a language of their own, complete with phonology, morphology and syntax. It is a wonder of the human brain.

    The beauty of a language is in its richness, its expressiveness – its ability to elucidate ideas – and have other humans understand them. Language necessarily involves ‘theory of mind’. The most important thing about usage, is how it would be perceived and understood by the recipient. When I say something, what does the audience think I’m saying? It requires the ability to model the thinking of other, inside our own mind.

    A language has richness in its freedom, you can make up your own sentences – and it can still be understood – it does not have to come from a set phrasebook. And poetry, metaphors, stories, indeed a large part of human culture, derives from this free association and creative process. You can say something complete new, that no-one on this planet has every uttered before, yet, it can be understood. This is the source of the beauty of literature. Each creation is unique, yet universal.

    This relies on the capacity for ‘theory of mind’ – one must be able to understand – then to make some expression understood by others. It is exactly this capacity for empathy (You misanthrope, Ferriss!) that propels language and its dynamic growth (as being learned, used and enjoyed by the learners). That ideas can be ‘grasped’ by one mind – then conveyed to another – this is the most magical phenomenon.
    For this very reason, comprehension is essential. Without comprehension, there is no language! You might as well press a button with the image of two beers on it. Yet, of all the poetic or heroic things sprung from, or said about, two beers, can never come from set images, or from buttons.


  25. I will add another vote for Michel Thomas. I have recommended and even gifted them to many folks over the years, but now that I am starting another new language (Spanish), I decided to give it a try myself. Simply amazing. I really wish I would have used this when starting Japanese and Mandarin. The best part is that it fosters the same high-retention rate as Pimsleur, but without the monotony.

    @David Rosson,

    I don’t think Tim is suggesting that one ONLY stay with a phrase book, and just flip to pages as needed for immediate communication (though that is certainly necessary when traveling to a country without yet learning the language). Phrase books are, however, a great source of authentic, practical language, something seriously lacking in most textbooks and language programs.

    @Josh Sager,

    It is more effective to place English before the target language because it is far easier to recognize a foreign language word than to produce it from memory. If you can recall the target word or phrase when seeing the English word, it shows that you really have it. This is especially true when learning kanji/hanzi. It is far easier to recognize a given character, but the real test is to be able to write it out when given the pronunciation or English equivalent.


  26. Have you done research on how the brain ages and its correlation with learning ability. Lastly how have you overcome this obstacle?