What’s Up the Road and Around the Corner?

I recently caught up with a friend who happens to be an investor at a large, Silicon Valley–based venture capital fund. His firm focuses on the seed stage, so they’re used to being the first check into a company before the incorporation papers are completed. He said his firm reviews over a thousand deals every month and he attends countless pitch meetings. 

I was fortunate enough to sit in when a seed-stage founder pitched him. At the end of the pitch, he gave the founder great advice on how to improve his pitch by communicating the company’s potential and his vision unapologetically (i.e., with extreme confidence). He left the founder with a quote that stuck with me:

Good founders help you see up the road. Great founders help you see up the road and give you a peek around the corner. What’s around the corner—IPO, big exit, big impact, etc.?

Seeing what’s ahead on the current path is easy because everyone can see it. No imagination or convincing necessary. But to help people see around the corner, you must paint a picture of what can’t be seen and get people excited about the possibilities. A great founder can do this, and it helps with raising capital, recruiting, and closing deals with customers and partners. My friend’s firm believes that the ability to help others see around the corner is a superpower that great founders have. Building a company is hard, but this superpower increases the chances of outsize success.

If you’re a founder or aspiring founder, ask yourself, “Am I helping people see up the road and around the corner?”