Focused and in the Room (or the Value of Being Present)

I’m approaching my fifth year at True Ventures and the ecosystem has changed a great deal since I joined full-time in June of 2010 (and even more since I started spending time with the team in June of 2009) Startups are now cool, the early-stage venture capital ecosystem is flush with cash, and more and more individuals are looking to join a high-growth technology company.

For an individual learning to invest, I was fortunate to join during a relative bottom in the market.  Being able to learn the mechanics (and feel) of the early-stage venture capital market during a quiet time helped speed up learning as well as built confidence in holding unpopular views.  It takes 10+ years to know if you’re truly good at venture capital (real businesses take 7-9 years to build value) – but the “best performing” investments I’ve worked with at True (based on revenue growth and quality of senior talent) were incredibly unpopular when we made the investment.  Sam Altman (now at YC) had the same observation across his angel investments.

As more money and noise enters the ecosystem, I worry less about missing the company I personally don’t see (because I trust the individuals I work with and think someone will hear or see about it – even if not me.)  I do worry about missing the really interesting company that I’m in the room with because its weird, different, or I’m not as focused as I need to be that day to actively listen.

As the activity in the space increases, being increasingly focused on high quality people and new markets – and doing less, in order to make sure I listen better and learn more.  As an individual investor, I can’t control the market (or even the behavior of the companies we partner with) – but I can control who we choose to work with and the types of investments we make.  And if we continue to invest behind that belief consistently (no matter what happens in the market) – we’ll continue to have consistently positive outcomes.  (We don’t have to invest in every great company, but do need to consistently invest in great companies)

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I work for True Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto. We partner with promising entrepreneurs at the earliest stages in the technology market providing hands-on management support to guide our portfolio companies through the challenges of early growth.