Learning as a VC

It should be obvious that it is totally cool to accept there are things we don’t know enough about — if for no other reason than to be honest with ourselves so we can actively seek knowledge and learn from those who know more than we do. There is no reason to ‘fake it’, especially for VCs who have so many resources readily available to help them learn.

There may not be many textbooks on how to be a good VC, but professors, academics, students, entrepreneurs, startup execs, journalists, pundits, lawyers, accountants, other VCs, all are often eager to lend their expertise to VCs to help them learn about new technologies, new business models, new learnings in management sciences, complex corporate or IP legal matters, etc.

Which is why I am quite surprised why I still feel so many VCs keep ‘faking’ it. Maybe its because VCs unfortunately get put on high pedestals of startup scholarship very quickly, regardless of their backgrounds. And then they feel they have to keep up the appearances instead of exposing a more vulnerable/imperfect side.

Some VCs come up the apprentice model and get more exposure along the way, but many join as one-time entrepreneurs, become VC as first job straight out of school, after a mid-level startup job, or join from careers in management consulting or investment banking. No matter the background, unfortunately once you add the term VC to your business card people expect you to suddenly know all there is to know about startups: what to invest in, how to set terms of investment and form syndicates, how to be good Board members, how to hire/fire CEOs/CFOs etc. You are supposed to become an insta-expert, and many give in to the temptation to play the role.

There are many things in the broad startup land that I want to become more familiar with, and learn more about. I am on a quest in 2018 to learn more and make use of all the resources that are available to me, especially the incredible startup community that is always willing to share and teach. I am eager to learn, and give back where appropriate. For example, in addition to learning about new breakthroughs and startups in ML/AI or crypto-tokens, I believe we can all learn more about things like:

  • Investment terms for early stage investors that protect the founders and investors; what about SAFE & SAFT?
  • Board responsibility/fiduciary role
  • Board composition and role of independent board seats, including diversity on Boards
  • Recruitment and retention of senior executives into companies, transitions within management teams, managing broken founder relationships, firing/hiring CEOs etc.
  • Cap-table management, including secondary transactions etc.
  • Financial planning and modeling, esp for complex hardware/software/subscription business models. Managing audit functions esp as Board members.
  • Management of corp dev relationships, assisting M&A processes for portfolio
  • Acquiring companies into portfolio, integration processes
  • International expansion and associated legal/business issues
  • Differences in how early stage investors think about investments vs later stage growth investors, vs Wall Street investors. Our world are colliding more often these days than not.

I am looking for people, writings, other resources that can teach such things, or if you have other ideas how to get more depth in these areas please do pass along. More you share, more we will all learn, and hopefully grow together.

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