As an operator who moved to venture capital I’m often asked “Why are you a VC? Why venture?” Historically, my answer has been something along the lines of:
It’s intellectually fascinating to learn across a breadth of markets and organizations; from the multi-company vantage you collect wisdom and facts which you can use to help people build businesses that matter.
or if I’m being more methodical,
1. Acquire wisdom from one area which is a competitive advantage in another areas. What Mitch Kapor calls one of his super powers, “Seeing around corners”
2. Be uniquely helpful to companies across markets (and thereby impact more of the world)
These are fine answers, but they are pretty bland, static, generic, and mostly miss the point of the job.
The right answer has to do with an old Chinese proverb which says, “Two tigers cannot share one mountain.” The “tigers” in the technology world are the founders and CEOs. And the reality is, I want to spend my days hanging out with as many different tigers as I can.
No single startup can contain many company-creating tigers. In fact, a failing in a company can be having two tigers who will war (actively or passively) with one another to define the direction of a company. (Caveat for the careful reader: Exceptions exist in co-CEOs and long time partners, but they are just that, exceptions)
Professionally, I want to be surrounded by the most driven, smart, wily, persistent, I will not let this fail, this is my mission, you should work here, category-changing, money-generating, people-impacting individuals in the world. Many of these people are drawn to creating companies, and they can’t all be on that same mountain.
Being the tiger in the company is lonely work. As the CEO or founder, your success is tied to the success of your team. You can’t seem to be stressed (except where it’s motivating others), you can’t show tired, and you can’t share the emotional weight of which comes from making up the answer — when there aren’t enough facts to know if it’s the right answer.
As a board member, advisor, and VC you get to work with many tigers. Done right, you can uniquely partner with tigers. Working with tigers, I get to hear the true challenges, help each of them tear the crap of our their respective mountains, and eventually, shape the earth.
(And because it seems cruel to write an entire post about tigers without sharing a picture of an adorable tiger cub, because the Internet, cats, etc., here you go.)
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