Driving down 101 on the way to one of three Seed Fund events NewSchools hosted yesterday in the Bay Area, my colleague Michael Staton (@mpstaton) demystified the allure of start-up culture: “Caitlin, it’s 14-hour days staring at a Mac with headphones on.” There it is. And when you multiply those long days by the coefficients of persistence and grit seasoned entrepreneurs like Alex Grodd and Bill Jackson relied on to build BetterLesson and GreatSchools, that’s a lot of headphone time.
Given that reality, yesterday’s round of speed networking across our portfolio of current and potential ventures was powerful because it afforded mission-driven entrepreneurs a chance to meet one another, troubleshoot technical and strategic challenges, and think out loud about ways to work together. Vinay Bhargava (Mytonomy) and Alex Bernadotte (Beyond12) have strong overlap between their visions to widen and smooth the path to college for all students; it took only 10 minutes together in the same room for them to figure that out.
Later in the day, Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, emphasized the importance of maximizing communication with customers. To do that, you have to take the headphones off and float your product their way as early as possible. These early iterations are a key way to catalyze learning and improvement, the underrated value of entrepreneurship. In fact, Ries claimed that the number of input hours spent building a high quality product may be inversely correlated with a startup’s success. For more nuggets of Ries-osophy, check out @nsvfSEED.
So, although Michael is right that every entrepreneur needs heads-down time to execute, yesterday’s events suggest that looking up to connect with new people and ideas is more of a boost than a break.