New Venture Values System
The following note showed up in my inbox earlier this week and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
I’m publishing it here with permissions from the original sender (a well respected entrepreneur and executive):
I picked up the latest Offscreen over the weekend when I noticed that you were headlining the issue. I really enjoyed the read and wanted to send a message your way.
First, a quick analogy. A while back, I read Alain de Botton’s book, Status Anxiety. The central idea, and one that stuck with me, is that we cannot help but take into account the regard of our peers. It’s our nature. We are shaped by the values / world-views / motivations / ideas of those we surround ourselves with. While exposure to new ideas and views are beneficial, anxiety comes from surrounding ourselves with people that don’t share compatible fundamental values, while still trying to earn their approval.
Indie.vc is not simply a new idea; it’s a new value system for entrepreneurs to organize around. Entrepreneurs ideas, motivations, and visions of what is possible is shaped by a pretty homogenous system and set of values. Just the presence of another system can have a profound impact on what ideas are generated, entertained, explored, and pursued. It has already opened my mind as I realize all the ideas I would want to work on put things like growth in scale in the “means” column and put product and customer happiness into the “ends” column.
I’ve found myself anxious in the past trying to reconcile my own values with the stories of success that I was attempt to model in my own life. I’ve made tradeoffs in the past and found myself a bit unmoored from my true values as I attempted to win the approval of the entrepreneur community I was a part of. I’m now seeing the potential for a legitimate career as an entrepreneur driven by a different set of values.
Thanks for making Indie.vc what it has become. The reach is far beyond the portfolio. The message is part of shaping an environment for entrepreneurs looking for a space to anchor their values.
At our Founder Field Trip to Tuft & Needle a few weeks back I was having a conversation with one of the attendees. As they shared their background, company mission and funding history I noticed a profound change in body language when mentioning they were profitable. Like their whole body was apologizing for something.
Like profitability was some form of failure to be shamed instead of celebrated. Like valuations were a value system. Like fundability should be the primary filter for a founders life’s work.
By the end of the day this same founder shared how impactful the trip had been and how grateful they were to have found “their people”. The tense body language of just a few hours prior had softened. There were indeed others who shared, even celebrated, their accomplishments and values. Even if those values ran counter to the current startup status quo.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if we’re creating an entirely new value system so much as shining a light on a path that’s become a bit overgrown and neglected in today’s funding fueled (and focused) startup environment. Maybe we’re simply the stewards to make that path just a bit more visible or viable or the destination that much more valued.
And in doing so, giving founders an alternative route to bring their whole selves to the work they are dedicating so much of themselves to.