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Companies die when they’re afraid to fail, Quip CEO Bret Taylor says

Taylor also discusses being a Twitter board member and why Silicon Valley struggles with diversity on the latest Recode Decode.

Quip co-founders Bret Taylor, left, and Kevin Gibbs, right.

"There’s a joke at Google: You can make the worst product in the world, but you have a link from the Google homepage, so you’re gonna be successful by any objective metric."

So says Bret Taylor, the CEO and co-founder of Quip who just sold his company to Salesforce for $750 million. Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher and Kurt Wagner on the latest episode of Recode Decode, he explained why disruptive startups emerge, what prevents big companies from out-innovating them and why it’s important for CEOs to recognize when they should hitch their wagons together.

"Every entrepreneur is lying to you," Taylor said. "They want to create the next Google or the next Microsoft. ... In the grand scheme of things, creating the next Google is awesome, but you also have to weigh reality into it, and this is a way that our product can thrive and grow faster."

Taylor speaks from a lot of experience. Recruited out of college to Google by Marissa Mayer, he sold his first company FriendFeed to Facebook in 2009. As Facebook’s CTO, he learned to appreciate the nuanced art of making and correcting mistakes at scale.

The most famous mistake of Taylor’s tenure was Facebook’s initial commitment to HTML5 for its mobile apps, a decision he stands by as correct because Android and iOS had not yet emerged as clear winners.

"The thing you learn at a larger company is, even if your decision was good before, it's not just your decision," he said. "You have to bring everyone along with you. You have all these engineers who are committed to one strategy."

On the new podcast, Taylor also discussed his ambitions for Quip in the crowded enterprise space; how he evaluates the broader Silicon Valley landscape in a year of several mega-acquisitions, including Microsoft-LinkedIn; and why he joined the board of Twitter as it is struggling with issues of both diversity and rampant abuse.

While mistakes in tech products may be undone, he said it’s harder to undo an early failure to commit to employee diversity.

"If you don’t source aggressively enough early in your company’s life cycle, and you end up with a team that is not diverse, it's harder to fix that issue later," he said. "You don’t want to be the only person from your minority social group at a company."

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