Insightful words from Stu Ellman of RRE VenturesSys-Con Media Jan 06, 2012 Back to press
So, what does all this mean for venture capitalists and limited partners, and what relevance, if any, does it have for entrepreneurs?First, for Venture Capitalists, recognize that an overwhelming number of people and firms in our industry are trying to succeed conventionally and that an enormous amount of capital will flow to companies that represent what has recently come into fashion. If you are doing a deal, do you really KNOW that it is the best company in a given market space? Do you really understand the sheer number of competitors that already exist? What do your best entrepreneurs, particularly the young ones, think about this deal? Above all, do not fear the unconventional.Secondly, for Limited Partners, recognize that success in the future will not necessarily look like success in the past. Outsized returns come from unusual risks. You want your general partners to invest in and build the next generation of great companies; recognize that those opportunities aren’t necessarily going to be in “hot” spaces when they do the deals. Instead, listen for the tension, listen for the controversy, listen for how your GP’s expect value to be created in non-standard ways.Finally, for entrepreneurs: Be bold! Be original! See where the crowd is going. Understand the “new” conventional wisdom and the extraordinary flows of capital that gravitate toward it and do something different. Be determined and, most of all, do not fear failure.In the end, it all comes down to how you think about failure. I tell my companies not to fear failure. I tell my students not to fear failure. I tell my children and myself not to fear failure. I would rather fund someone who has failed for the right reasons and is hungry than someone who was successful and either complacent or lucky. For venture capitalists, failing conventionally is not really taking a risk. It is just doing what the rest of the industry is doing and dying a slow death. The only way to really fail or succeed is to take big, unconventional risks. To do less is to condemn yourself to mediocrity.