Attributes of a good venture capitalist

When I was interviewing for my job at Mobius I asked Dave Jilk interview not only with MDs and other associates, but also with portfolio – who had briefly been an associate at Mobius and was then (as he is now) running a portfolio company – what he thought the most important attributes of successful VCs were (as an aside, I don’t know that I appreciated at the time what a good sign it was that the VC I was interviewing to joined had me company CEO’s to get their take). Without hesitation he said that in a nutshell good VCs need to have attention deficit disorder. I laughed about it then, but I think its time that I acknowledged to Dave (and the world) that he was right. There are lots of attributes that are required to be good at this job, but the core of being a good VC is the ability to move from one thing to the next, often completely disconnected thing, quickly and without slowing down Rare is the time when I sit down and spend a few hours doing something (anything) without interruption.; so much so that I generally interrupt myself these days if I’m spending too much time on any one thing, but mostly because in any give day things just seem to come up constantly. With something like 8 companies that I actively work with these interruptions are all over the map – I may be helping one company sell its business, another raise capital, another plan for a strategic offsite and another with an executive search. Keeping all of this straight in my head is a bit of a task, as is shifting gears from talking about the tax considerations of a particularly merger structure with one company to looking at moving into a new vertical market for another. Its different than the jumping around I did in banking (where I would typically be working on only one or two projects very intensely at any given time) or when I was working for an operating business when my days were much less varied (and much more similar to every other day).

I love it, of course. And thanks to Dave I was at least forewarned about it. Now you are too . . .

  • When I first interviewed for my job, Bessemer partner Neill Brownstein asked me that question about VCs. I stumbled around with different answers (though I hadn’t thought of the very good answer my old friend Dave Jilk gave you). Finally Neill stopped me and told me the right answer: the one most important quality of a successful venture capitalist is LUCK. I have since learned first-hand how accurate he was.

  • I learned today that ADD is strongly correlated with high IQ.
    I once told Brad I (or others, maybe) thought I had ADD and he said “total bullshit.” There you go.

  • I’m mixed on this post. First I think you describe something useful that is something different than ADD, which we can put in the necessary but hardly sufficient category. ADD is typically the worst quality I see VCs as having (and I’ve seen it in action in prior situations – these are the guys that look up from their blackberry when they hear the IPO has been pushed back a month). I prefer those VCs who can give total temporary focus on an issue or problem, which is what I suspect you strive for in all your jumping around.

  • Yeah, it doesn’t sound like true ADD which my Dad has. The sort of variety you talk about sounds wonderful; it’s too bad that entry-level jobs don’t offer that. Dave Cowan wrote a post recently about the loss of serendipity in the modern world. I think there’s another one to be written (perhaps by me) about the vanishing role for the generalist with wide-ranging interests.
    We seem to live in a society which equates competence with expertise–really thorough knowledge of a very narrowly circumscribed domain. That sounds awfully boring to me.

  • Ode to A Short Attention Span

    When I was a child, I had a fleeting glimpse of my future. My mother used to tell me to pay attention as my brainwandered off to something else. Little did I know that according to Dave and Seth I was training …

  • What sort of background would one need to get a job like that?

  • Attributes of a good venture capitalist

    But imagine where we would be if someone prescribed Ritalin to Einstein when he was a kid? Link via Brad: VC Adventure: Attributes of a good venture capitalist. Without hesitation he said that in a nutshell good VCs need to

  • Dave Jilk

    Seth: Glad I could be of service. As you can see, I have been focused on other things than reading blogs…

  • ADD is a good anology, but it’s a trait much closer to “hyper-focusing”. It’s like talking to someone who makes you feel like your’re the only one in the room for ten minutes. After ten minutes, he looks around to see who else he should be talking to next. That’s what a VC needs do – always look for the next deal, while at the same time working on the deal that he’s already done.