The Serial Entrepreneur/Venture Capitalist Paradox

Some VCs and serial entrepreneurs look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that I am looking for patterns in the startup process.  This always strikes me as strange because the same people that tell you that every problem is esoteric, every situation unique, will, in the same breath, tell you that the reason they are good at their job is because they’ve seen or started 000s of businesses.

The obvious question is: if every startup is unique, why would the seeing first 1,000 businesses help you create the 1001st?  Clearly there are patterns of things that work and things that don’t.  Startups may require both art and science, but many of entrepreneurs and VCs would have one believe that they pull rabbits from hats for a living.

To paraphrase a professor I once talked to: “Perhaps some parties are loathe to reduce to science their self proclaimed ‘black art’ of getting early stage organizations off the ground because to do so would take the mystery out of it and, of course, the money too. As the saying goes, ‘Where there’s mystery, there’s margin.’ “

I spent the past two years interviewing CEOs and VCs with the goal of articulating the lens that experienced VCs and entrepreneurs use to evaluate early stage opportunities and the general principals they apply to the creation of early stage processes.  I’ve found a host of reassuring similarities that I look foward to sharing with everyone here.

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