Season 3, Ep. 13: Investing in Thunder Lizards to Build Compounding Luck with VC Mike Maples of Floodgate

The startups that become really big, really fast are capitalist mutations or ‘Thunder Lizards’ that force the world to react to their agenda. Their founders refuse to accept the world as is and write their own rules, rather than conforming to the systems in place. This is how VC Mike Maples identifies the entrepreneurs he wants to support, the Prime Movers he can serve as not just an investor but a coconspirator.

Mike is the founding partner at Floodgate, a venture capital fund focused on backing Prime Movers before others believe. Mike has been on the Forbes Midas List since 2010, and his investments include Twitter,, ngmoco, Weebly, and Lyft, among many others. Prior to his career in VC, Mike founded two successful startups of his own, Tivoli Systems and Motive. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Today, Mike joins us at Boost to share the concept of the ‘Thunder Lizard,’ and explain why he prefers to work with Prime Movers. He discusses how he got involved with venture capital, who he goes to for advice, and his approach to cultivating humility. Mike offers insight around the time value to decision-making and the idea of progress by way of competing alternatives. Listen in to understand cryptocurrency’s potential to make trust free and get Mike’s advice for aspiring VCs.


Topics Covered

The concept of the ‘Thunder Lizard’

  • Great startups = capitalist mutation
  • Force world to react to their agenda

Why Mike prefers to work with Prime Movers

  • Don’t accept world as is
  • Serve as coconspirator (vs. investor)

Mike’s path to venture capital

  • First job as professional calligrapher
  • Involved in two successful startups
  • Visit to Sequoia Capital inspired move to Silicon Valley

Who Mike goes to for advice

  • Father (think big, create value)
  • David Marquardt, Kevin Compton, Bruce Dunlevie & Mike Moritz

Mike’s approach to decision-making

  • Two kinds: 51/49 and 70/30
  • See as product with ship date

Mike’s advice for aspiring VCs

  • Must find top 10 companies in given year, add value
  • Put self in places with high probability of getting lucky
  • Adopt emergent strategy as opposed to deliberate

How Mike cultivates humility

  • Pass on company that succeeds, take founder to lunch
  • Seek opportunities not to ‘breathe own fumes’

Mike’s take on the crypto space

  • Potential to make trust free (vs. expensive intermediary)
  • Decentralized business creates ‘wealth of the commons’

Mike’s insight on the job of technology

  • Bring ‘undecideds’ forward
  • Make case for abundance

The current problem with currencies

  • Manipulated for political reasons
  • No ability to exit = no power/voice
  • ‘Forward progress involves choice among competitors’


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