I often talk about what I’m looking for when I meet with an entrepreneur. Above all else I’m looking for a genuine passion for what the entrepreneur is doing. It’s even a direct quote in my Twitter bio.
Of course passion isn’t enough. You need a set of innate skills that differentiate you from the thousands of others who set out on your similar journey. You need a great concept in which you will build something that is truly unique and that will be valued by your customers. But without a passion for what you do I am dubious about your chances for success.
If I had to put a number on it I’d say 1 in 20 pitches – maybe 1 in 30 – are by an entrepreneur who comes across as truly passionate about her project. You can sense when it is a “mission” for this entrepreneur to succeed and she will continue the journey even if success isn’t easy or immediate. It is in her blood to see this journey through and try to launch her product or service to the world.
The other 29 pitches consistent of many smart people who “think they have an angle on making a buck” which I know is an unfair over-characterization of the situation but you can genuinely tell when somebody isn’t “all in.” One of my favorite entrepreneurs – one of the people with whom I most want to work – once came to me with business serving young moms. He was a 23-year-old at the time and as much as I wanted to believe he cared about how to get children to eat properly, poop on the potty or sleep through the night – it was a stretch. So we haven’t yet worked together but I’m still hoping. (he ditched that business years ago).
It seems obvious.
Picking a VC is hard. You don’t really have much to go on to decide who would make a good fit. Reputation of firm? Of partner? Deals done in your industry? It’s a bit of all of these.
I had an enjoyable conversation this morning with a young team straight out of college this morning and they were calling to ask advice on how to approach fund raising (angels vs. VCs, how to select a VC, etc.) and I realized that without years of experience it is tough to answer this question.
So I thought I’d write about out with what I would look for in a VC knowing what I know now and why.
Most VCs are book smart. It’s insanely competitive to get into our industry so most have degrees from institutions like Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and University of Chicago (blatant plug ;-). Smart is simply not a differentiator. In fact, book smart can be a negative. The last thing you want is a know-it-all telling you what to do when they are at 50,000 and haven’t had to deal with your exact circumstances.
I call them “VCs Seagulls.” (you know … fly in, shit on you and then fly away).
I’m a cynic by nature. And I think it pays to be so. I sometimes wish I were an unbridled, happy-go-lucky, assume-the-best-in-everybody sort of chappy. Sadly, I’m not.
You know the old Groucho Marx saying, “I would never join a club that would accept me as a member.” I always loved that line. So whenever I get a deal sent my way that is from out of town and seems amazing but seems almost too good to be true, my first thought is always, “Why am I so lucky?”
It’s a standard line I use at our partners meetings.
It’s not that I lack confidence. I’m usually accused of the opposite. It’s just that I never want to be The Sucker at the Table.
I got a call a few years ago from a well-known investor up North. It was the first time he had ever called me. Their firm is one of those that you think of when you think of Silicon Valley. I didn’t remember getting the calls on all of his super big, high profile deals.
Yesterday I wrote a post about “growth hacking” and why I thought it was wrong that people were hating on the term unnecessarily. It’s worth a quick read.
My argument is pretty simple. If you’re a technology startup you need to excel at product, of course. But being best-in-class at online marketing is also a sine qua non to standout from your peer group.
The starting point of product IS marketing, which is what a lot of young entrepreneurs that never studied business don’t realize. It’s building a product that is substantially differentiated, and, as Bill Gross, one of the most prolific tech entrepreneurs of our era says, “
There’s an article making the rounds in tech circles titled “Growth Hacking is Bull” written by Muhammad Saleem. I’d like to make the case that the article is wrong.
I’d strongly encourage you to read it. I actually really enjoyed many of the points Muhammad made about marketing in general and I found myself nodding through the entirety of the article except for it’s core premise.
He believes that the term “growth hacking” is misleading and potentially dangerous and in stead endorses good old fashioned online marketing techniques. Avoid the spin, stay heads down and deliver the goods.
I believe growth hacking is about all of this. Plus. It’s about looking out for and catching the next major marketing wave before others have grokked it.
Happy official New Year’s, all. It’s that time of year where we think about new beginnings.
And there’s none that makes me happier than to announce that Jordan Hudson has been promoted to a Principal at Upfront Ventures. Please help me congratulate him by Re/Tweeting this post (and following him if you don’t already).
I thought this was a good chance to talk about what Associates at VC firms actually do and define what on Earth a “Principal” is.
What is a principal at a VC firm and how does it work at Upfront Ventures?
Most firms have “associates” and “partners” and some have an additional role called a “principal.”
Associates have different functions at different VCs.