Notes – Bob Metcalf on Tim Ferriss Podcast

I took Notes on this episode with Bob Metcalf (founder of Ethernet, and cool dude that speaks to entrepreneurs here in Austin all the time):

Bob Metcalfe — The Man (and Lessons) Behind Ethernet, Metcalfe’s Law, and More


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notes on Bob Metcalf Tim Ferriss podcast
notes on Bob Metcalf Tim Ferriss podcast

@Bob Metcalf
  •  MIT. Harvard Engineering, PhD
  • 1973 invented ethernet
  • 1979 started 3 com corporation, Now acquired by HP
  • Lived in Austin, TX. Lived here for 7 years
  • Polaris Venture Partners for 10+ years
  • Started playing tennis early, Peak was 1972, near end of PhD
  • Was captain of MIT Tennis team
  • Doesn’t play at the moment, want to leave 50 lbs first
  • Learned lots of this from tennis especially how to compete
    • Likes to compete. Likes to win.
  • “What makes a good competitor?”
    • some people will throw rackets or stomp around. Made it a point to stay calm
  • His coach would always say, “You only have to get the last point!.”
  • His parents weren’t very competitive so he thinks he got it from tennis.
  • Specialty was doubles. He liked playing w/ a partner.
  • In tennis hitting hard is good, but accuracy is far more important.
  • From tennis he learned the value of getting a coach


  • May 22nd, 1973 = Important date. He was in his office @Xerox in Palo Alto, he typed a memo outlining Ethernet.
    • used 1/2″ thick coaxial cable
    • “Ether” was medium thought to carry light, used that word because no one was using it anymore.
  • Ethernet is the “plumbing” of the internet. Its job is to physically carry packets around the world.
  • Google and Facebook play on top of ethernet
  • Previous transmission of bits was 300 bits/second
  • When he built the first Ethernet, it ran at 2.94 megabits.(2,940,000) (10,000x faster)!


  • At MIT ’64-’69’, became an engineer, did a small stunt at Harvard but realized Harvard didn’t like engineers.
    • Rig hot CS research project was apparent. It was a well funded version of the internet for the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense.
    • They got tired of buying new computers for each campus, so they tried to figure out a way to do resources sharing.
    • Resource sharing was the first “app” Lol!


  • Initial packets switch sent bits one at a time down a wire.
  • A “packet” is a group of bits, into bytes, and then it has an address in the front. The “packet switch” then sends that packet to that address.
  • Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Packet = TCP/IP


  • “Metcalf’s Law” = The value of a network is N2
    • Originally developed this guide to promote his 3-node network packets. And to sell more nodes, he used  equation N2
    • Was later written about in a book and dubbed Metcalf’s Law in 1995
    • Could send email through this 3 mode network, but far more useful with way more nodes
    • Cost of the network goes up linear, but the number of possible connections went up squared. (actually quadratic).


  • At MIT was first exposed to entrepreneur.
  • Met Steve Jobs, Bob Noyce, Bill Hewlett etc in Palo Alto, and took away! “If this person can start a company, then so can I.” You can see their limitations.
  • Xerox had a “charm school” that taught classes on business skills.
  • Learned from Steve Jobs you need adult supervision. Steve Jobs wasn’t CEO of Apple till 20 years later.


  • “You’d be surprised how many more order you get when you ask for them.”
  • People often “redline” at certain stages.
    • Bob went from $0- $1 mil/mo
    • Another person $1 – $5 mil/mo
    • Another person $5-billion
  • People who operate on a different level. Different skill sets. 1 mil company different from $1 billion company. Some people have broad operating ranges some are narrow.


  • Never fire anyone alone. Always have someone [like HR around] w/ you,
    • Just tell them, It’s already been decided. They either switch roles within the company or leave.
    • Don’t give too many reasons, Preferably 0. “If you give a reason you have a pen pal.”
    • We’d like you to succeed and move to a different role.
  • He doesn’t like the word “hiring.” He “recrafts.”
  • The best people almost always have lots of options.


  • Have 3 qualified candidates (and if you’re rapidly growing) hire all 3.
  • Let them talk. Good salespeople often reverse conversation and make you like them, but then you learn nothing.
  • In beginning no one knows what a personal computer was, or what internet was. So was hard to recruit. As time went on it was easy.


  • Steve Jobs was enormously persuasive. Could win most arguments.
    • Persuasiveness is about credibility, You can talk about missing and such, but they have to Belive you.
    • Push recruiting to the people who will be working with that person.
    • Tim’s example! “you can rate them 1-10, but not a 7 (it’s a lukewarm rating)
    • Check references deeply. Backdoor references.


  • Steve Jobs went to Bob’s wedding, everyone fanned our store.
    • Most of what he said was defending his high standards.
    • He was amazing at gratitude, made Bob feel special by sending a limo and saying thank you and photographs with huge flash attachments, for Pixar toy story release.

Network Effect” N2— It’s quadratic, not technically exponential.

  • People confuse testimonials and word of mouth with network effect.
  • It’s in my interest to get you to sign up.


  • He likes saying “Ahoy” to greet
  • Owns an island camp in Maine. w/ boats

Favorite book

  1.  Altas Shrugged
  2. The Selfish Gene


 To do list ranks by:
  • Urgency and Importance
  • Absolutely must do now
  • Stuff you forget — throw this list out


  • Used to have an assistant, and they would schedule him for his meetings.
  • Now he got rid of assistant and it naturally screens out tons of useless meetings


Download these notes (and transcription) as a Google Doc:

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