Amongst Hedgehogs and Foxes

Inspired by Andrew Chen’s blog post yesterday and as Isaiah Berlin wrote in The Hedgehog and the Fox, in a world where a fox means that you know many little things, and a Hedgehog knows one big thing.

Being a Startup Entrepreneur you need to be a Hedgehog with a Fox’s tail, as you need to know the one thing you are trying to do really well (or rather get to know really well as you build-measure-learn), and you also must know many small things.

I think the twist to this is that if you are part of the support eco-system of Investors and Startup advisors that help the startup founders do what they do best, the best thing you can be is the Hedgehog that turned into a Fox. You need to know many small things, some rationally as well as emotionally (from the experience of having been immersed in them).

The game of investing in startups is a game of extreme uncertainty, and driven by serendipity, chance and luck. One of my favorite quotes are from the Swedish skier Gunde Svan, that told a reporter (on the topic of luck): “Yes, I do have a lot of luck, but oddly enough the harder I work and keep practicing the more luck I have”. And of course hard work really does matter.

I don’t believe any startup investors are able to predict the future, but as startup investor, what you are really looking for is pattern recognition, that can guide and help you to increase likelihood of success (and thus reduce risk) as you make your investment decisions and work to nurture your portfolio companies.

A great startup investor is also running their Build-Measure-Learn iterations to figure out what will work and what will not work, or rather what patterns will increase likelihood of success. These patterns evolve over time just as for a startup, so this is a constant process, and the trick is to gather and look at the right data points. The definitions of what will work and what will not work is neither an absolute it always relates to the investor (or VC firm itself), as each investor is in a unique position (or disposition) to help an investment become successful.

So how do we at BootstrapLabs approach this?

  • We are humble for what we don’t know, might never know or what we need to learn.
  • We have established a large number of “soft” patterns, that relate to people, founders, team etc.
  • We are building software tools to capture and track Startup Metrics in our portfolio in real-time (Scale Metrics).
  • We are building software tools that allows us to follow the landscape of investors, advisors, startups and competitors in real-time (BootstrapRadar).
  • We try to help our Entrepreneurs in any way we can to Execute better and faster.
  • We build-measure-learn.
  • We are Hedgehogs transformed into Foxes!