* Note: I invest in seed/pre-seed-stage frontier tech companies and this blog post is to some extent biased toward such thesis.
As a founder, you must have heard the word pain-point so many times. And I do think it’s a very important word – as sailors say, “without knowing where you’re headed there’s no favorable wind.” The downside, however, is that I think the mighty word can be dangerously misleading.
Why do I think it can be a misleading and why could it be dangerous?
First and foremost, the word pain-point more often than not refers to the inconvenience that people feel “Today.” But when you build something – be it a product, technology or a character, it takes time (== money for business) – sometimes much more than you think. Now what that means is if you’re building something in response to the pain-point of today, when you actually have the product or technology you’re likely to be DOA (dead on arrival). This risk of being DOA cuts deeper if you’re a deeply technical company because the feedback cycle for such deeply technical companies tend to be longer than those of a less technical or a consumer companies.
The best founders are time travelers.
(Image courtesy of Pixabay)
The best founders in most cases are time travelers. They have their knowledge, experience or insights and based on them, they foresee a unique future other peoples don’t see and what problem would “have to be solved” in that future. Then they travel back to the present and start building something toward that future.
I call this time-traveled vision a “vision horizon.” And I most appreciate the founders who have a vision horizon that spans three to five years out from now (anything longer than this seems a bit too far-fetched and anything shorter than this doesn’t seem to allow a sufficient time for the company to develop the tech and get ready for the opportunity). The vision horizon (or whatever you call it) is important because it will align your company with the market opportunity right before a massive inflection point and let you preempt the opportunity. Having a vision horizon can also allow you to fine tune your strategy and technology as you learn on the go. It will also allow you to commercialize parts of your technology along the way as you find opportunities.
How do I know if I’m right?
So how do you know if you’re right about the future you’re seeing? The short answer is you don’t. It is simply impossible to be right all the time. However, while you can’t be right all the time, you can very well be logical all the time. If you’ve been logical all the way to arrive at the future that you’re seeing and if you have the conviction that what you have is the logical forecast, you have all the right and liberty to go ahead and make it happen.
What this means on my side is, if you have the ability to think logically while not being dogmatic about your own bias, so you learn and adapt as you go, and if that future logically inferred is unique and big, that unique future of yours is venture backable as our job as an investor is to acquire risks for such unique future that founders see.
There are certainly more than one way to build a great company. Yet, if you’re a deeply technical company that is to build a fundamental technology that everyone will have to use (if you’re right 😉 ), I encourage you to time travel and build something the future’s going to need, not what today needs, because in my bias that is the best way to create the future and build a great company. Now, are you a time traveler?