Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adventures in Venture Capital - The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

I'm pretty sure Gideon Lewis-Kraus's piece in Wired tracking one startup's quest to make it in Silicon Valley was intended to describe life in the latest tech bubble. For me, however, it was eerily similar to the dotcom boom of 2000. In fact, the whole thing felt like I was embedded with a group of naive guys heading to Vegas to strike it rich. Slowly but surely, everyone figures out that the games are rigged: the casinos may have been flashy and inviting, but the guys are the mark.

Can you tell I'm a little jaded? What can I say, from my experience, the Venture Capital based start-up world is like a house of cards. I'll be generous and say that everyone's putting forth their most optimistic picture (versus, say, lying): the tech team is talking about code like its written, the business dev team is talking about prospects like they are customers and the VC's are promising rock solid support when it's shaky at best. Everyone's walking around with a Happily Ever After scenario that just might happen. Or, the whole thing may just fall apart tomorrow. Promises, even signed agreements, don't mean much in this world.

Still, the article is right when it talks about how different techies seek different paths. For some, having a sexy title at Google or Microsoft may be the dream, while others get excited about stepping into the ring with Silicon Valley VC's. Sure, the VC's have experience on their side, and they've got self preservation down to a science. But, no VC can resist the next epic idea, and plenty of entrepreneurs think they can beat the odds. As for me, I play on the smaller scale of things, helping folks change the word without first raising millions of dollars (and selling their soul in the process). I recognize that works for me, but not for everyone.

Go read the piece: One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the Silicon Valley Gold Rush, and more importantly, remember this is the rule, not the exception in the Venture Capital world. I know those casinos are tempting, but play long enough and the house always wins.

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