Thursday, June 7, 2018

Silicon Valley (and ProfessorVC) is Lazy

I taught a class yesterday afternoon to a group of 25 Italian executives, managers, and entrepreneurs participating in the TVLP Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation.  I always enjoy teaching these types of groups because it makes me realize the bubble we live in here in Silicon Valley.  While a lot of what is done here is clearly cutting edge and best practices, some of what we do doesn't make any sense to those visiting from other parts of the world.  And when I think about, it shouldn't make sense to those of us here.

For example, many visitors are surprised that nobody prepares business plans to raise funding.  I am a strong believer in the new school of entrepreneurship education (lean startup, customer discovery, etc.).  However, a 4-slide demo day pitch deck showing the market (Venn diagram with giant TAM), team (4 pictures with logos of universities and unicorn startups), product (3 screenshots), and traction (hockey stick chart showing 11 days of growth) has gone way too far the other way.

In the session, I used a classic video from a talk that VC Mark Suster (Upfront Ventures and the great startup blog Both Sides of the Table) gave at Stanford in 2010 that remains spot on (video embedded at end of post).  In the video, Mark calls out Silicon Valley as lazy for not doing basic research around markets.  You can get the gist from the following excerpt:

"What have the people that have come before me done? What worked? What didn't work? When people come to see me and they don't know the history of the industry they are choosing, I pass always.  Because if you're not going to that research it tells me that you probably aren't the type of person in my opinion who is going to do big things."
Mark got me thinking about my personal laziness in not writing a blog post in over a year.  I realized that rather than spending the time to write a thoughtful blog post I was writing quick responses to questions on Quora.  I promise I'll be back with a fresh blog post soon, but for now, in the continued theme of laziness, here are a few of my "best of" Quora answers:

Read Steve Bennet's answer to Why is a "large overhang of convertible debt resulting from numerous convertible note rounds" bad for startups before a series A round? on Quora

Read Steve Bennet's answer to How do I invite venture capitalists to invest in my small company? on Quora

Read Steve Bennet's answer to What is an example of an associate at a venture capital firm that went on to become a successful founder? on Quora

By the way, here is Mark Suster's video on research and prototypes: