The pioneering co-founder of Cisco and founder of Urban Decay knows how to get mad as hell--constructively--about software, makeup, and, now, agriculture.

--As told to Scott Gerber

How has the tech industry changed since you co-founded Cisco in 1984?

I don't see much actual technology today, which is disappointing. People think that because they have some new app, they're the next Google. But Google had real technology; these people just aren't that smart. In a mature marketplace, it takes so much more money, and you have a huge barrier to entry. When we started, it was possible for the best technology to win. I don't think that's true anymore.

You've started many different kinds of businesses. What's the common thread?

Generally, outrage. With Urban Decay, I was outraged that the large cosmetics companies were putting most women in a no-win box--it's not about pink, or about looking like Christie Brinkley. And now, factory farming is a disgrace that appalls me. But you have to separate outrage from tantrum--and if you want to have a business, you have to have a real product that fills a real need.

What's your opinion on the state of venture capital today?

It's a mess. I always think that a business is a much better thing when I don't have to listen to anybody else, particularly when they're wagging their wallet at me. But if your business is going to fail--which would have happened at Cisco if we hadn't taken the money--you have to choose the devil you want to work with.

Farming is a particularly hard business to scale. What would you tell other entrepreneurs interested in organic agriculture?

You can make a good living producing good food. But farming is the hardest thing I've ever done, mentally, physically, strategically, logistically. And you can't get out of it--it's extremely difficult to find someone willing to take over a midsize farm, especially one devoted to maintaining humane treatment of the animals. So there is no exit strategy for farming.

From the October 2015 issue of Inc. magazine
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