Who had I become? Just another shark in business casual wear? Two days later after yet another demo day from yet another accelerator, a breakthrough. Breakdown? Breakthrough. I couldn’t escape one simple thought: I hated myself. No, no, no, here’s what it was: I hated my place in the world. I had so much to say and no one to listen. And then it happened. It was the oddest, most unexpected thing. I began writing what they call a mission statement. Not a memo, a mission statement. You know, a suggestion for the future of our company. A night like this doesn’t come along very often. I seized it. What started out as one page became twenty-five. Suddenly, I was my father’s son again. I was remembering the simple pleasures of working at a start up, how I ended up here after hating investment banking, the way you feel when someone tells you that they love what you built. The way we are meant to feel when creating something new and adding value to the world. With so many deals, we had forgotten what was important.
I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and I’m not even a writer. I was remembering even the words of the original NY angel investor, my mentor, the late great Dickie Fox who said: ‘The key to this business is personal relationships.’ Suddenly, it was all pretty clear. The answer was fewer portfolio companies. Smaller funds. More attention. Caring for them, caring for ourselves and the industry, too. Just starting our lives, really. Hey – I’ll be the first to admit, what I was writing was somewhat touchy feely. I didn’t care. I have lost the ability to bullshit. It was the me I’d always wanted to be. I posted it in the middle of the night and tweeted about it, facebook shared it and even instragammed the post. I even photoshopped an image that looked like the cover of The Catcher in the Rye. I entitled it ‘The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business.’…Everybody could see it…I was 39. I had started my life.
The truth about the Venture Capital industry……it is broken. There, I said it. For those of you think VCs make a lot of money…..think again. Almost all VCs really don’t make that much money because the performance has been lousy. Don’t believe me? Look at this post by Fred Wilson. Venture Capital has been a shit asset class. Why is this? It’s pretty simple. Venture Capital provides little more than money. Start ups are begun primarily by first time entrepreneurs who face immense challenges and need tons of help and frankly VCs really don’t offer it. I was asking a well known entrepreneur turned VC what he thinks. He said that “VCs go at their jobs like they are chasing pu**y”. All they care about is getting the next hot deal. I knew this. I raised $20 million for my company that I started and couldn’t believe at 23 years old I raised all this money and left to figure out what to do all by myself. I would be lucky if I spoke to my VCs for more than 5 hours a year. And when I did, they weren’t thinking about me after. They were out chasing the next deal. As a fellow entrepreneur once said to me “The CEO job of a start up is the loneliest job in the world.” Why are entrepreneurs not demanding more help? Why are VCs not insisting on being more helpful? We only have ourselves to blame. We have come to accept this behavior and our industry will crater beneath our feet.
I want to change this.
3 responses to “The Things We Think and Do Not Say”
Ben, this is very powerful. Thanks for your honesty. The first way to fix a problem is to acknowledge it, the second is to share the insight. You’ve done both now its time to act upon it.
Thank Jak. It will happen!
Ben, the most cogent thing I have read in a while