10,000 Hours To Become A Good VC? Start Younger?

By Peter Vu

First off, I must alert readers that I have no firsthand venture capital experience, never having worked at one, but I’ve been an avid learner of their experience model through my interactions with them, reading their publications, and learning from my Launching Tech Ventures (LTV) Professor, Jeffrey Bussgang @bussgang. Therefore, please take this post with a grain of salt.

Anyhow rockstar VC, Fred Wilson @fredwilson, recently attended our LTV class and remarked that it takes about 10 years to become a good VC (echoed by Prof. Bussgang as well) and they usually arise in their later years—forties and fifties. This observation got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours rule” as displayed in this stellar infographic and how it takes on average about 10 years to become an expert within your field. If we agree that the VC observation and Mr. Gladwell’s rule don’t contradict one another, then maybe aspiring VC’s should start younger in order to not limit their successful years until they are middle-aged. Below are some recent examples that I thought may offer an indication of how the next generation of VC’s may climb the “expert” ladder.

·         Rough Draft Ventures  
Peter Boyce II @badboyboyce and his team of Boston undergraduates have started a venture fund to invest in promising young entrepreneurs. If the VC business is learning about how to do deals, then does doing them when you’re in college not only start your VC learning curve earlier? Will we see a crop of these young VC funds crop up in the future?

·         Crowdsourced Funding
With the advent of Kickstarter and other crowdsourced funding models, it seems that anyone can invest in a new product or business. While these fan investments may not necessarily seek to garner a 25% annual IRR, their qualities do let young individuals take a crack at injecting uncertain ventures with capital. Can we identify promising investors from those funders who have picked highly successful Kickstarter projects?   

·         Younger Entrepreneurs
Steve Blank preaches that VC’s should be Startup CEO’s, but if our IT-led economy is siphoning more kids into the entrepreneurial realm, then this increases the funnel for potential VC’s who can start deliberately practicing those “10,000 hours.”

·         AngelList Scout
Scouts get to source deal flow for VC’s, but recruiting for this role seems that young people could potentially contribute. This is also another way for younger individuals to source deal flow and mimic part of the VC business.

While these examples are just a small sample of the emerging opportunities that may foreshadow a new trend for the younger generations looking to master the VC game (different from Jeff’s book…shameless plug), they don’t discount the widely held belief that good VC’s will still need to attain a ton of operating experience and spend time doing deals. Furthermore, this trend doesn’t indicate whether you can be a “great” VC as opposed to a “good” VC as most industry mavens will pronounce that your business card must be tied to a top quartile VC firm (per Fred Wilson) for you to be anointed that label. And it also doesn’t account for the sentiment that it may take longer than 10,000 hours, incorporate factors outside your control that may trivialize this hours rule according to Cloudflare’s Matthew Prince, or even ways to minimize that number.

In conclusion, the “10,000 hours rule” may apply to the VC business, but it doesn’t mean that practitioners have to wait until they have an MBA or reach their early 30’s to start. In the ballyhooed spirit of “lean,” aspiring VC’s should seek to receive customer feedback or coaching as soon as possible.


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