I read a blog post the other day from a well respected VC. This is someone whom I know and whose blogging I have been following religiously for years at this point. Nevertheless, I was for the first time turned off by what they had written. The reason is that this VC was quite wistful in his thinking and honestly was completely off. Were you to go to any VC nowadays and exhibit behaviour as recommended in this post, you wouldn’t come far. Your employees would too question your strategy and you’d have trouble motivating your managers. The advice seemed “spot on” and you could easily mistake it for sound advice. It was almost romantic in it’s nature, alluding to the “good old days” when things were done right. Yet it sounded like a dad talking about cars of the past which you could still work on with your own hands. Sure, those engines were simpler and you could repair everything yourself with a hammer and wrench. Yet, you know what? Those cars wouldn’t even be allowed on the road today were they not classified as antiques. The same goes for companies and some of the advice floating around out there. Remember, we now have airbags and electronics and you need a computer to repair a car…not just a wrench and hammer.
I’m not going to name names since this person happens to still be a hundred times smarter than me and crazy successful. I also genuinely like the person but I do have to admit that they are getting older. Hence, we have a problem. This person is not alone in looking at the world through rose-colored glasses brought about by age, success as well as financial freedom. They are of a generation which included a ton of folks with great success as VC’s, who all are reaching a certain age together. Further, they all were around early enough to get into blogging and create a long history of posts. Unfortunately, I am now seeing the trend and maybe only because I too am getting older.
The advice they are giving may have worked in the 80’s or 90’s yet it no longer is prudent to follow it. Many things never change and we all know that. Fortunately, some things do and I’d posit that certain things about management, especially at start-ups have adapted to the times. You have to take a different approach when building a business now and manage accordingly. Startups themselves have far more sophisticated tools available to them. Founders are coming in with extensive experience and deeper segment knowledge than 10 or 20 years ago. Change and evolution of a business happens significantly faster. Customers and partners too have adapted and aren’t necessarily stuck in the past. Some corporates even are as agile as startups and definitely don’t behave like the slow moving cargo ships of the past. Cycles are coming to an end and new ones are kicking off.
What I don’t mean to argue is that advice of older VC bloggers is wrong. They still have a lot to offer and some of these bloggers have a body of work on their sites which every founder is recommended to read. Nevertheless, be careful about blindly taking advice and adapting your mindset and strategy to everything you read on a successful VC’s blog. Just as they were the young guys ten, twenty or thirty years ago and broke things, you too have to at times forge your own path.