I’m often asked about the differences between being at a VC and being an entrepreneur and whether I prefer one or the other.
The biggest difference I cite is that Venture Capital often feels like an “individual sport” while startups are a “team sport.” The reason is that at a VC you have a group of partners who often have different focus areas of excellence, each pursues deals in their respective field, each makes investments and sits on boards and each spends their most difficult hours tackling problems at portfolio companies vs. solving the challenges at the VC itself. You come together as a team one day per week (the “Partner Meeting,” which for most firms is on Mondays) and mostly share the news & information from your portfolio companies or evaluate new deals.
Startups are team sports because you’re all working on the same shared objective of the company. Startups often have mission statements, goals & objectives and the best roll out company wide processes to align the CEO’s goals with the executive management goals with the next level staff goals all the way down the organization. The top-line results are shared because every member of the org ought to be contributing to the same goal.
As a result many VCs feel like amalgamations of individual contributors and don’t necessarily have a shared “core.” This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. The best firms I have interacted with over the years seem to have more of a sense of shared mission & values. The truth is that the newer the firm the easier that shared mission is. When you’re on Fund I or Fund II it is often a founding team that all started together, knew each other before and went through the trenches together to get a fund raised.
I had a bunch of topics teed up now that I’m back in LA after 2 weeks of constant travel. I felt excited to write because it’s a cathartic outlet for me and saves me from doing email.
But no words would come out this weekend.
After watching the terrorist activities in Beirut and Paris and blog post seemed trite. It’s terrible that a group of Islamic extremists is having some success in perverting the Muslim religion in an attempt to divide the rational world of moderate people. But I feel equally confident the silent majorities in all places will rally back. I lived in France for a couple of years and love the country and its people. I was deeply saddened to read about friends who had lost dear friends and my other French friends who feel victimized by the brutality of last week. I was in Paris 9/13/01 and the outpouring of sympathy from the people of Paris was comforting and I feel the need to reciprocate.
I lived in London on 7/7/05 after the bombing and remember vividly the emotions the first time I got back on the Tube – being more vigilant of those around me until one slowly sinks back into a routine of realizing that life goes back to normal for the majority of us as we endure.
In our industry we always talk about funding big ideas or funding things with more meaning. It’s something Yves Sisteron & I have been talking about for years at Upfront Ventures. Today we’re proud to talk more about Grove Labs – we really hope you’ll quickly check out this innovative product and we think many of you will be as impressed with Grove as we have been.
Their goal simply stated is to make growing low-carbon-footprint, zero pesticide fresh fruit & veg in your kitchen as ubiquitous as owning refrigerators. If they’re successful in the long run they will also help reduce water consumption and will help create healthier lifestyles.
It’s true that we also fund more mundane stuff like B2B software aimed at productivity improvements but we want some big bets in every fund where we feel we can contribute to “making our own little dent in the universe” as the saying goes – by backing ambitious entrepreneurs with that same goal.
Let me start the post with three statements
1. I have attention deficit disorder, it is a real condition, I have been diagnosed including having radioactive isotopes through my brain to map my development and yet I’m a leader, I have accomplished much, I did well in school and went on to earn a master’s degree and I can actually concentrate when I want to. I wasn’t even aware that I had ADD until I was 40 (I’m now 47) and knowing it has changed my life for the positive. I don’t believe it’s a disease – it’s simply a slow-functioning prefrontal cortex. Essentially – it’s just the way your brain is wired. It’s both your curse and your secret sauce. Embrace it.
2. I believe many entrepreneurs have ADD. I believe the condition actually is conducive in many ways. Many people with ADD don’t work well in corporations & with bureaucracy, people with ADD have a bias towards action, people with ADD often speak up & take action and have strong bursts of creativity. So suck that every teacher who scolded us for not paying attention to boring classes or making people with ADD feel less accomplished
3. If you DO have ADD you are highly unlikely to finish this entire post in one sitting.
This morning Clutter.io announced they raised $9 million from Sequoia, arguably the best venture capital firm that exists. Congratulations. Sincerely.
Conventional wisdom says I shouldn’t tell you this because I invested in their main competitor, MakeSpace. I know my MakeSpace friends will forgive me because I just don’t believe the conventional wisdom is right. And it’s part of what can go wrong in startup land.
For starters – the co-founder of Clutter.io, Ari Mir, is a friend and 6 years ago I backed the first startup he co-founded with Ophir Tanz, GumGum. Ophir was and is the CEO and is running what is now a spectacularly successful business. Clutter is LA based and many of my friends invested. So why would I want to damage a bunch of friendships for no reason?
But the bigger truth is the competition is important. We will have two well-funded companies educating the market on why this