When I first started in venture almost 7 years ago (ouch, time flies!), I was fresh out of a startup job and had no real brand in VC. As a result, I took to blogging in order to think through new investment roadmaps, used my website to reach out to entrepreneurs, or used my blog to think out loud about the current market. Sometimes I talked about mobile (which was a fairly new medium back then), or how the social media measurement space reminded me of my operating experience in mobile ad tech, or just about the current state of the market economy (man, I was a nerd.)
I still do this when I get really excited about a topic, but with the demands of my current schedule (and a focus on content like the State of the Cloud) — definitely not to the extent I once did.
So yes, blogging (again) is a new resolution of mine this year — but on a less trite note, I hope to connect with the tech community on a more personal level through this blog and talk more about some of my ideas. I’ve always seen writing as a kickstarter to dialog, so PLEASE leave questions, comments, DMs, tweets. I will answer them all.
Today, I want to share a few of my learnings from 2018:
- VC is a team sport: As investors, we always ask founders about their team dynamics (why did they recruit who they did, who can grow into an exec role and who can’t, and how they can keep on hiring ahead of the curve), but we rarely show founders how our own team dynamics matter. When I first became an investor, I was always told it was an independent sport. You built your own portfolio, served on boards alone, and had your own relationships with founders. To a certain extent, that is still true — but VC is evolving into more of a team sport. Partners tag team boards, share expertise across portfolios, and learn from each other. I hope to show more founders how investors, too, work in teams, and how these dynamics can make our firms better funds to work with.
- It is a much smaller world than you think: When young college grads ask me what the most surprising thing about VC is — I always say “its how often I have to say no.” This hasn’t changed since I became an investor, and every year it becomes harder for me because I know (even more than before) how hard it is being a founder. Writing pass emails is not fun, calling a founder or telling them in person is even worse — but those extra minutes matter. Honesty matters. That same founder you passed on politely, told them what they could do better, and offered to introduce them to a potential hire, will always remember you. And if/when their company succeeds, or they move on to start another company — they will remember that kindness and reach out again.
- Price matters, but not always: There are more large VC funds today than there were a decade ago and lots of them can get to a certain valuation. Offering far below a founder’s target valuation will never serve you well, but even if you hit a price target — know that for the best companies, several other funds have gotten their too. Today, you can’t win on price alone and founders really care about relationships. Investing time early in a company’s lifecycle pays enormous dividends, because it gives the founder insight into the biggest variable they have to think about in making a fundraising decision: the board member.
- Protect time to think: Some of my favorite days last year were when I blocked out several hours in the day and thought about where I wanted to invest. I wish I did more of this. Examples include: this (and one that I haven’t published that I’m really excited to share. Stay tuned!)
- Share your theses with founders and get them to ask you questions: This realization is a funny one but the more I test I out, the more I realize its essential. Some of the best conversations I had last year were with founders who were building in areas I had thought a lot about: the unbundling of Intuit, software for product managers, human-assisted AI, or the rise of the new consumer web (eSports.) I always want to hear from the founder when I meet him/her for coffee — but I found that when I shared my thoughts about their areas of expertise, they lit up in a different way! They taught me things I didn’t know and it served for a much more memorable conversation. So for the founders out there — ask me questions about your space, poke holes in my arguments — its the best way to learn from each other!