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Being a VC is like watching a car accident
If you drive long enough you are likely to have an accident. Your accident is also likely to be similar to many that have happened before and probably could have been avoided if you knew. If you lead a start-up long enough you are likely to have challenges and make mistakes. Your challenges and mistakes are likely to be similar to many that have come before and probably could be avoided if you knew.
One of the ways VCs can add value to the founders they partner with is helping them learn from the experience of others. We see the experience of one founder we work with and we translate that into stories and guidance for one or more others. It is helpful.
Last night I got to learn from someone else’s experience and it got me thinking about the power of this type of learning.
My weekly date night with Carrie was last night. Right after our entrees came a taxi jumped the curb and crashed into a light pole on the corner in front of the window where we were sitting. I would guess he was going about 30 MPH when he hit the pole. Lots of smoke and broken glass, but no serious injuries.
As the people got out of the cab, the driver and one passenger were fine and one guy had what looked like a broken nose. The one who got hurt had not been wearing a seatbelt in the back of the cab.
I don’t think I have ever worn a seatbelt when I ride in cabs or take Uber. This morning on my way to the airport, I buckled up. I am not sure how many other people who saw the crash also picked up on the seatbelt lesson but I was glad to learn from someone else’s experience for sure.
I bet that this post may change some behavior as well — some of you will remember to wear a seat belt next time you get in a cab because I am telling you this story and advising you to buckle up based on what I saw. This type of advice can be very helpful and is VC 101.
But, the lesson would be more valuable if taught by the person who experienced the event or faced the challenge. I do my best as an observer but imagine if you were connected to the guy who got hurt and could hear the story directly from him. What if you could also talk to the driver or the other passenger? Imagine understanding the context from these first person accounts of the decisions that led to the crash and the broken nose…hearing about what happened next and how they had to deal with EMT and emergency rooms, police reports, insurance and tow trucks.
When you engage directly with the people who lived it, the story is more memorable, the impact is greater and you are much more likely to learn from it. The power of this type of direct connection is why we focus on Community at First Round and one of the reasons I am proud of the product we are selling.
If you lead a start-up, don’t forget to buckle-up.