Operational Experience

A Valuable Perspective

BTW- building is super fun, that’s reason #1. and if it’s not fun to you, don’t read this.

It is hard to empathize with someone if you have never “stood in their shoes.” And in order to give the best advice, you must be able to empathize. You must be able to best understand the advisee’s emotions and figure out what is going on. Of course, you have never been in another’s shoes. So you do your best to take your experience with life: thoughts, relationships, whatever — and imbue an opinion on another — call it advice. The best mentors are able to understand that advice is not always prescriptive. The best mentors don’t think about what they would do, but rather what the individual should do.

Now expand this scale, you’re not giving advice to a person anymore. You are giving advice to a company. You want to help them grow. You want to accelerate their growth quickly and you are investing money, but more valuably, your thoughts on these people (for some crazy reason or another). Now call this the role of a Venture Capitalist.

Again, it’s hard to empathize with an entrepreneur on a mission to fundamentally change the world unless you have been in their shoes.

A good example of this is in terms of ups and downs within the company. From the public’s perspective, all news is breaking news. It all deserves a headline and some clickbait title. But in a startup, breaking news is just tuesdays. And it comes back on Thursdays also. News happens by the hour. Because when you are moving fast and breaking things, shit happens.

But there are times when shit really happens. And you have to rebound. And that is when advice can be a make or break. People can advise you to pivot and change everything. Or tell you to stick to your guy and power through. This is a potential inflection point, for better or worse.

Besides the experience that I’ve had of growing two companies of my own, I’ve also done my best to help as many early-mid stage companies as I can.

I love the thrill of growing exciting and interesting things. But I am also gaining valuable experience essentially “investing” my time and energy into things that I think will blossom quickly.

I view my time (like money) as gasoline — I hope that if I pour it into companies I will get a huge fire out.

And of course, I’ve mitigated my risk by just being an employee, intern, helper, whatever — but I am still experiencing the ups and downs of operational experience. And that is valuable.


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Let’s continue this conversation

twitter — @jrdngonen

email — jordangonen@wustl.edu