Buyer , User , Startups , Scaleups — 04.11.2023

Why Investors Should Value Mission Over Money

Lately, I’ve been ruminating on the question: Why do people like investing? For several years, I simply dismissed the question due to my own personality; I’m not a numbers guy. But this changed as I grew my sales team in earnest. I’ve realized that while I don’t particularly love the activity of selling, it gives me the opportunity to find extraordinary founders that challenge my team to do excellent work. 

I’m driven not by money or return, but by connecting my team to some of the best work they’ll ever get to do.

This is how I pitch sales to future hires.

As I met with more investors and thought through prior biases against sales, I started to see why people invest in tech. Yes, for some, it’s all about the potential for returns. 

But at the end of the day, investinglike salescan feel thankless and powerless if return is prioritized above all else

My interest in investing led me to Sebastian Mallaby’s amazing book, The Power Law: Inside Silicon Valley’s Venture Capital Machine. Mallaby claims investing transitioned from being a gateway to unlocking innovation to a competitive “moneyball-style” industry dominated by innovations in ways to make money; the innovation receiving investment seems to matter less every year. Originally, VCs funded otherwise un-fundable explorations that would take years to prove valuable. But as technology has improved and democratized, it seems mainstream VC has trended away from covering stories about true innovation and are more enamored by the stories of speculative investments in head scratchers like Clubhouse, or epic failures that anyone could have predicted like WeWork. In this way, the story of VC is a tragedy.

The investors I’ve most enjoyed meeting have cared deeply about the founder, the mission and the product — they invest with soul.

Investing with soul means looking for founders who have a deeper mission than turning a profit and holding them accountable to that mission as they scale. These founders, while striving for profitability, are driven by mission over money. Their pitch deck leads with their product’s impact instead of TAM, and they spend more time with their team than on LinkedIn. 

Investing with soul means investing in products that will leave a positive impact on the industry. It means building products that create new opportunities for users, ve a positive impact on the industry. It means building products that create new opportunities for users, so users are proud to use them and employees are proud to build them.

The tech industry has no shortage of record exits and unicorns that made investors and founders rich. And while these are in the minority, most are still just footnotes in the broader history of innovation — forgotten by all but those involved. Most companies actually just fail. But much like the average artist or musician doesn’t let the astronomical odds of success detract them, I find that the artist or designer’s mentality can be useful for investing. Approach investing with soul, and the returns will take care of themselves. And more importantly, you’ll leave the industry in a better place than how you found it.

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