Paraphrasing Goldman Sach’s Gus Levy, this has been my hard learned attitude from being in the tech industry & business in general for the last 2 decades. Growing up in Canada, my experience of the general culture was that it was pessimistic, parochial, cynical & small minded (thank you British Empire). It was culture shock for me when I first moved to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 90s.
The Tech industry was fast emerging and the culture was optimistic and cooperative. “Pay it Forward” was the dominant culture. You also learned to not cut “winner take all deals”, basically you always leave something on the table in business negotiations. It might sound utopian but there were very practical reasons for this.
The tech industry is incredibly dynamic and yet somewhat small despite its massive growth. So someone who is a nobody today, could be a billionaire tomorrow. Someone who is working at a startup, which would usually be acquired by Google or Facebook or Salesforce and then end up running a key part of their business. The person you end up screwing in a deal, will most likely end up on the other side of the table down the road. And with way more power and leverage over you, plus a long memory. So it just does not pay to purposely screw someone over if you intend on having a long career in the tech business.
As an early stage investor, you are always surprised. What attracted me to the pre-seed and seed stage is that you are basically in the human potential business. You are investing in the arc of the entrepreneurs career. I used to be very judgemental on someone’s potential: the reality that I’ve learned over the years is that you really never know. The winners turn in losers and vice versa. But most folks who stick it out never stay down for long and this is why this industry is so challenging and encouraging at the same time.
The key Lesson: Never ever write anyone off. Think Win-win. And probably the most important point: It really does pay to be Optimistic ie. Be Long term Greedy.
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