Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Pattern Making" And Success

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?  Or, should all venture capitalists actually have experience at starting a company? 

In a recent blog post, Want To Be A VC?  Start A Company, Fred Wilson, who in my humble opinion is truly an "outlier," which is a complement of the highest degree that I bestow on few people, wrote about how he agrees that successful VC's need to have start up experience.  He has also written, in another post, Program Or Be Programmed, that one needs programming experience.

If you calculated the years it would take to acquire all the skill sets necessary to be successful then you would realize that no one under 50 could ever dream of starting a company, being a VC, or being successful.  Its like teaching entrepreneurship in college; exactly what classes would you have to add to your curriculum to truly prepare students to be entrepreneurs?  If you ask successful entrepreneurs they would tell you that success is due to "passion," "vision," and "people skills."  Yet our colleges come up with required classes like this.

Not real sure, within that curriculum, where a student of entrepreneurship would learn how to be passionate, or visionary, or come to understand how to motivate and lead people, oh, and shouldn't a class on "Ethics And Critical Thought" be taught by the Philosophy department rather than the Management department?

That then brings us to the concept of "Meritocracy" and the recent special by CNN:  Silicon Valley Is No Meritocracy For Minorities.  In the article the author states:
But I firmly believe, based on my 25 years in this industry, that market makers, both investors and the people who help you get ready to approach them, seek out entrepreneurs who appeal to them on some less than objective, visceral level, who feel "comfortable" to them. They don't need to actively filter out undesirable profiles. They just focus on what does appeal to them. They focus on the "patterns" they find appealing -- age is arguably a part of many investors' ideal pattern, but so are perhaps unacknowledged criteria like race, gender, cultural affinity, etc. On some level this should not be shocking, as it reflects socialization that all of us must work hard and consciously not to act on.

Yes, we all seek out "patterns" that reaffirm our own biases.  Of course a 20 something tech start up founder is going to believe that success is tied to being 20 something.  Just like an MBA is going to believe that success is tied to earning an MBA; and I have yet to meet a CPA who didn't believe they hung the moon!  The idea that taking up golf as a great way to move up in the world or the old saying, "...its not what you know but rather who you know that makes all the difference" is all socialization, its all bias', and its all about patterns.

The reality is that success may come from questioning ones own bias more than seeking out that which reinforces them; there may be safety in seeking reaffirmation but not necessarily success.  If skill set was all that was required then we could easily clone or program our way into success; but what if knowledge, experience, and success were more of an art than a science?



Anonymous said...

I am a former one. I don't even know what 'hung the moon' means so now you have met one Carl. ~ Geoffrey

Anonymous said...

"what if knowledge, experience, and success were more of an art than a science?" It is isn't it?