What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
I spoke with a founder who’s smart, and the solution he’s looking to build could bring real value to customers. He wants to raise capital but isn’t familiar with the venture capital process and doesn’t know anyone who’s been through it. Recognizing his knowledge gap, he wanted some pointers.
This founder’s approach is a good one. Try to fill your gaps and build a network of people who are knowledgeable about raising venture capital before you begin trying to do it. I suggest getting as many perspectives as possible. Socialize your idea with investors and ask for feedback. During those chats, you can ask them how their firms’ investment processes work and what they’re seeing in the market. Founders are a great source of knowledge too. They can give you their takes on current market dynamics and valuable insights gleaned from their experiences.
Maybe you don’t have physical proximity to any of these people, but you always have digital proximity. Blog posts, Twitter threads, YouTube videos—investors and founders have put out a lot of content about fundraising.
In the end, you want to avoid being in a situation where you’re at a disadvantage with respect to information or knowledge about the process and current market when you start raising. Not knowing can have a big impact on the outcome of your fundraising.
New Year = Opportunity for New Routines
Today is my first workday of the new year. I spent part of the day talking with founders about their plans for 2022 and what they plan to do differently. I told them that I view the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of it.
Most of the year, I have a routine. I go from week to week doing the same things (good or bad). The Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays give me a significant break in the routine. When the holidays end, it takes a bit of energy to get back into a groove—it doesn’t just happen like it does after a weekend.
This window of time when I try to get back into the groove is an opportunity. I like to think about what worked and didn’t work and the new routines I want to establish. I then spend time establishing a new groove instead of just jumping back into the old one. Once I’ve entrenched my new routine in the first few weeks of January, I’m likely to maintain it for the rest of the year.
Looking forward to establishing my new routine for 2022 over the next few weeks.
The Shift from Reactive to Proactive
Since March of 2020, we’ve experienced massive change, and some companies were perfectly positioned to benefit from it. Consumers and businesses were forced to quickly seek new solutions to existing problems. And new solutions—many of them digital—were rapidly adopted. Some tech companies saw more growth in a few quarters than they would have seen in five years without the pandemic.
When you experience unexpected hyper growth in an uncertain environment like a pandemic, your strategy changes. The five-year plan goes out the window. You go from being proactive to being reactive. You focus on trying to keep your head above water on all fronts.
As we enter 2022, U.S. companies are approaching two years of navigating a pandemic. Most teams have gotten a handle on managing hyper growth and navigating macro uncertainty. The seas are still rough, but they’ve gotten used to sailing in rough waters.
I foresee that 2022 will be another important year for companies. Many have spent time adjusting their visions to our new reality and developing new strategic plans to turn them into reality. I’m looking forward to hearing where companies see themselves going and seeing them begin executing to get there.
Today is the last day of 2021. I’ve spent some time thinking about the last 364 days and how they compared to 2020. This year was busy and fast-paced. It went by in the blink of an eye (unlike 2020, which seemed to drag on forever). Lots of new norms were established, and I learned how to thrive in an environment of macro uncertainty.
If I had to sum it up, 2021 was a year of growth for me.
I’m glad to have made it through another year, and I can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store.
The Founder Trait
In a chat with a friend today, he asked me a great question: Is there a trait founders consistently have? I had to think about it a bit. There are many founder traits, but one that’s common to all? That took more thought. Finally, I said that founders are problem solvers at their core.
Every founder I know is always thinking about and working on solving some problem. They’re not the sort of people who sit around and do nothing. They’re always looking for something they believe needs to be solved—and then trying to solve it. This drive to solve problems is hard-wired in them, I believe. Not all the solutions they work on will be successful, of course, but that doesn’t stop them from trying!
The First-Principles Approach
A friend shared with me a recent Elon Musk interview in which Musk explained his views on first-principles thinking:
To create a new product, many people start by understanding the available tools and methods. Then they use them to create the product. This is a flawed way of going about it. Existing tools and methods act as constraints, limiting our thinking about what’s possible. If something can’t be built with existing means, most people think it can’t be done. So, they create what’s possible given the available tools and methods, not what’s ideal.
To apply a first-principles approach, begin by imagining the theoretical perfect product. Then try to figure out how to build it. If existing tools and methods can be used, great. If not, create the necessary tools and methods!
First-principles thinking isn’t new, but it was interesting to hear Musk’s take on it.
Personal Operating System
I listened today to a great interview of a successful entrepreneur and investor. One part of it especially stood out. He was asked how he manages to relax even though he’s constantly engaged in high-output activities, and his answer was enlightening:
- Simplify life – He doesn’t want more things in his life that he must think about or do. He minimizes the number of daily decisions he has to make and the things he does regularly. He constantly downsizes to further simplify his life.
- Avoid mental chaos – He could do lots of things, but juggling too many things creates mental chaos and stress. When he’s stressed, his energy changes, he’s not in a good place, and he’s not effective in his work. To avoid this, his default response is no.
- Hyper focus – He says yes to something only when he anticipates massive output for a decent amount of effort. He will hyper focus on that project, blocking out time on his schedule to do so. The rest of his time is unscheduled and used for relational activities and learning.
- Optimize his “personal operating system” – He knows what he can handle and how he operates best. He doesn’t want to overload his personal OS by taking on too much. Instead, he optimizes for a few things that have the potential for a big impact.
This approach is unique. It’s counter to what I’ve heard from other successful people. I really like how he is so self-aware that he’s able to optimize his approach to what works best for him while ignoring how other people manage their work and lives.
Will Supply Chains Return to Normal?
During the holidays, chatting with friends and family, I heard about challenges with buying goods. Furniture, appliances, cars . . . people are looking for specific items but can’t find them. Many things are on back order and delayed. This is affecting people’s plans and forcing them to seek alternatives, many of them costly.
Supply chain issues have been pervasive all year. The impact on the availability of goods and their prices has been significant. I met with a few founders during the year who are running product companies. Their businesses were seriously affected by these issues. They figured out temporary work-arounds but planned for the issues to be resolved by EOY. Things would be back to normal going into 2022, they thought.
I’m curious to see how the supply chain looks in 2022. If there isn’t a clear line of sight to normality, I think companies will develop new strategies and seek out new solutions to get goods in the hands of their consumers. They’ll be thinking more long-term this time, not about temporary work-arounds. If that happens, we could see rapid innovation in supply chains, which could have a big ripple effect on other industries and the broader economy.
What I’ll Be Working on for the Rest of 2021
Yesterday was the finale of the holiday season for me. I had a great time celebrating Christmas with friends and family, and I’m appreciative of the opportunity for food and fellowship. Admittedly, I’m still a little in holiday mode, but I’ve started thinking about what I want to work on during the last few days of 2021.
I’ve got a book I want to finish reading and a few YouTube videos I want to watch. The most important thing, though, is finalizing my 2022 habits. I want to start the new year practicing small daily habits that align with where I’m aiming to be long-term.
Looking forward to perfecting my list of habits and sharing them with people close to me!