I never cringe more than scrolling through instagram or twitter and seeing the ‘follower’ culture that is being formed today. Everyone follows markets, deals, trends. By the time good advice is doled out on a podcast in the form of a startup success story, the advantages mentioned have almost always been competed away.

VC Twitter

I have read a large number of VC posts, listened to podcasts and generally consumed discussion on twitter. I would say about 80% of all posts are centered around these notions:

  • Hire great people, do this starting day one and never stop
  • Build something tangible while also connecting with people
  • It will be really hard / it was hard for me too
  • Remember to measure and test everything, quitting things that don’t work early
  • Always be raising || Only raise a certain amount
  • Discussions and anecdotes about unicorn startup success/exit stories (Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, Slack, DSC, Casper, etc)
  • Learn to say no to *
  • Self Improvement
  • What is your favorite
  • I hate || love
  • Talk on how round pricing has increased || doesn’t matter
  • Congratulations to * (partner/founder) for * (raise/hire/acquisition)

This is all generic advice. It really doesn’t help at a practical level. These generalisms do tend to spawn more specific talking points with much more context, which is a positive. The issue with generic advice is that the poster almost always has much more backstory than the reader and therefore will be innocuously making hidden assumptions about what the reader understands. All nuance is lost on Twitter.

Very few companies are or could be worth a billion dollars. Suggesting like they all should act a certain way because that is what does is easy to say, but harmful in practice. DTC is a good example. Branding is very important, but that cannot carry a full company in a market with strong incumbents.

On the flip side here are some topics I think are underemphasized:

  • Great design is essential. This isn’t 2008; Getting early traction with an ugly MVP is harder now unless it solves a very obvious pain point. Companies need to have a stable brand identity from the start. I predict VC firms will start creating exceptional in-house creative groups (a la Gin Lane, Red Antler) that act as an attractive value-add while also giving them more insight into brand formation.
  • Launching well is important. This distinct point sets the initial growth trajectory of a business. Lean model works, but a true launch should be distinct.
  • Just how many startups and people fail. For every unicorn there will be ####’s of companies that fail to capture market share. Most people agree there is more to learn from failure to success, but we still largely ignore the topic. A fallout consequence from the always be raising mentality is being scared to ask for help, fearing the negative signal.
  • Not putting everything into a company. Many entrepreneurs have sad stories, what is posted about online is heavily biased by survivorship. Spending your entire youth in search of a unicorn is rarely the path towards feeling fulfilled.
  • Risk mitigation, hidden assumptions. What are you assuming to get to an assertion. What makes up the ground truth to an argument?
  • Building small, early profitability, selling early.
  • Businesses that create businesses.
  • Alternative funding models, ROW access to funding