THE MIND OF VENTURE CAPITALISTS: Investing is About Passion

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Entrepreneurship is about passion. Great entrepreneurs are not driven by a simple desire to make money. They are driven by a need to change the world. They may change the world by building a better operating system or a better search engine or a better social network. But whatever it is they are building, great entrepreneurs are driven by passion.

The same is true of Venture Capitalists. It is not enough to simply hope to make a buck. The best Venture Capitalists fund companies about which they are truly passionate. Building great companies takes a long time. And it is never a straight path. But a shared desire to create something great — something important — will carry entrepreneurs and VCs alike through the tough times. Anything shy of passion will fade away, leaving the entrepreneur or the Venture Investor vulnerable to fatigue. Passion, however, will transcend the challenges.

I’m often asked about my decision-making process. There are lots of factors that go into any investment decision — team, market, product — but in the end it is all about passion. Am I passionate about the company or not? Am I passionate about the team? Am I passionate about what they’re building? Am I passionate about the problem they’re trying to solve?

I tell entrepreneurs all the time that a first meeting isn’t about convincing a VC to invest. The first meeting is just about getting a Venture Capitalist excited about what you are doing. Passion is infectious. My rule of thumb is that if I’m not more excited about what you’re building at the end of the meeting than I was when the meeting started, I’m probably not going to fund your company.

The best test of my enthusiasm for you and your company comes when I go to bed the evening you pitched me. I have learned that the companies about which I’m the most passionate take over my subconscious. I’m serious about that. They literally occupy my brain. When I lie down to go to sleep that evening, I won’t think about my schedule tomorrow or my daughter’s soccer game or the latest episode ofGirls, I will be preoccupied with your company. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, it is really exciting.

Falling in love with an entrepreneur and his or her company is a building process. The more excited I am, the more I think about you and your business. The more I think about you and your business, the more I dig in and learn about your product. The more I dig in and learn about your product, the more I focus on your market. The more I focus on your market, the more I contemplate your competition. The more I contemplate your competition, the more I reflect upon your opportunity. The more I reflect upon your opportunity, the more excited I get about you and your company. And, of course, the more excited I get about you and your company, the more I find myself lying in bed thinking about how you’re going to change the world.

If I’m passionate enough about your business to roll around at night thinking about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of you, you can bet that I’ll be advocating an investment in your company. That kind of zeal is rare, but it is unbelievably exciting. It is the very reason that I so love the venture business. And the very reason that I so love great entrepreneurs. I consider myself incredibly lucky to work in an industry that is, above all else, powered by passion.

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