7 Lessons NBC’s The Voice Teaches You about Venture Capitalism

Preet Anand
Oct 17, 2015 · 5 min read
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Blake Shelton is a venture capitalist — so are Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, and Pharrell Williams.

But instead of betting on companies, they’re betting on singers. Instead of getting 10x financial returns, they win trophies and greater fame.

Even though show business often seems the opposite of tech, The Voice can teach you a lot about venture capital.

If you’re not familiar with The Voice, here is a quick rundown:

  • Contestants go through a 90-second blind audition process to impress the coaches and get a spot on a coach’s team. If any of the coaches likes what they hear, they slam their buzzer that implicitly makes an offer to the contestant to join their team.
  • If multiple coaches buzz for a contestant, the coaches pitch the contestant and fight to have the contestant join their team in hopes of winning The Voice. If no coaches hit their buzzer, the contestant goes home.
  • This process repeats until each coach has 12 singers on their team.
  • The singers then go through a series of battle rounds where they go head-to-head with another coach’s singers and are eliminated by their coaches.
  • As the show progresses, the audience then votes and eliminates singers one by one until a winner is named.
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Let’s translate that sequence into pitching and fundraising terms:

  • A risk-seeking entrepreneur gets all but a brief moment with venture capitalists (VCs) to convince them the entrepreneur is worth the investment. The VC, having very limited context, chooses whether to make a funding offer.
  • If more than one VC makes an offer, the power shifts from the VCs to the entrepreneur who now has the luxury to choose who will fund the company. The VCs pitch who can do the most for the entrepreneur and their company.
  • However, securing the funding is no guarantee of success as some entrepreneurs will fold before they even enter the market.
  • The market will slowly wean out similar companies over time.
  • The market will crown one company the biggest winner out of the many who get invested in and that VC will return their fund many times over.

I’m sure you can see some parallels between competing in The Voice and pitching VCs. While The Voice is a singing competition, its coaches are a great representation of the challenges and motivations of venture capitalists.

What You Can Apply from The Voice

Lesson 1: Blake was mesmerized by the potential opportunity to win The Voice with this specific singer and he recognized that he could also make the singer bigger and better. Find the partners that get excited and recognize that your partnership is an unquestionable win-win. Don’t settle.

Lesson 2: It regularly happens on The Voice where the coaches will be uninterested in a contestant until they hit a powerful note, then all of the coaches pile in. A single ‘wow’ moment can catalyze action — craft your story and find that defining moment.

Lesson 3: When Blake especially wants a country contestant on his team, he will undoubtedly pitch them from his position of strength. He will talk about his relationships, his deals, and his number of wins. Just like Blake, you should speak from strength and don’t be subtle about why you’re the winning choice.

Lesson 4: Gwen has a particular type of singer she’s drawn to — someone with deep soul and emotion. On the other hand, Pharrell is drawn to singers that don’t quite fit in a box. People have patterns of what they’re drawn to; find who they are and connect with them.

Lesson 5: The coaches become more selective as their teams fill up and will pass over singers that they would have picked earlier in the competition. It takes more to get an offer when there is less capital and the opportunity cost is higher. Do your homework on someone’s fund and how many checks they are open to writing.

Lesson 6: Pharrell felt that picking this particular singer would have caused unnecessary competition or potential conflict within his own team internally. The coaches like to have a good mix of genres to maximize their chances of winning. In the VC world, you may get declined because of a portfolio conflict, not because you’re specifically unworthy.

Lesson 7: This particular singer was only 16 years old and needed some more experience, but Pharrell saw the potential. Just because someone is saying you’re not quite ready yet doesn’t mean they are saying ‘no’ forever. Persevere even when you get rejected — or take a look at Brian Chesky’s post on rejection for some inspiration.

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Gwen wants you to know she’s a venture capitalist

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