“After passing on Twitter and Zynga, I invested in Thumbtack and Uber. Looking back, I knew Ev and Mark were winners, but I didn’t think their ideas — for “updates” and “social poker” — were winners. I was wrong about their ideas, but I was right about them. When Travis and Marco came along with their ideas, I didn’t even try to judge if “on-demand drivers” and “a better craigslist” were winners because I knew the individuals were winners. That’s enough information to make a bet.” Said Jason.
“Jason’s Law of Angel Investing,”
“You don’t need to know if the idea will succeed — just the person.”
Just like Elon hit SpaceX on his third swing at bat and Tesla on his fourth, and Travis hit Uber after Scour and Red Swoosh. Great founders grind it out and figure it out, so as angels you really don’t need to overthink if electric cars will work, whether on-demand transportation will scale, or if Medium.com is a platform or a publication (hotly debated) — you just need to know if someone is a winner.
“Jason’s Second Law of Angel Investing,”
“Your success is correlated to the amount of time you give to founders.”
The more time you spend with folks, the better you’ll know if they’re winners or not. Most folks are not winners, but everyone has the ability to become a winner if they apply themselves and stop being victims.
Here are the things I look for that tell me the person is a winner:
- Resiliency: the #1 trait in winners.
- Relentlessness: the #2 trait in winners.
- Debatable: people with big vision love to debate their ideas and every aspect of their product.
- Intractable: If you’ve been called “difficult” your whole life that could sign that you’re a great entrepreneur (“could” is a key word in that sentence).
- Curiosity: can this person suck up all the information on the planet, process it, and incorporate it into their strategy.
- Networkability: can you get to anyone or do you need me to walk you into the room?
- Product vision: do you know what you’re building, why you’re building it, and how to make it exceptional? Do you even know what makes products exceptional?
- Fearlessness: can you take on any project in any vertical without any prior knowledge?
- Resourcefulness: Do you find ways to turn nickels into dimes and dimes into dollars? Can you find the best way to solve for X with the least amount of effort?
- Charisma: There is no substitute for a founder’s ability to get people to embrace their vision.
One thing to keep in mind is that not everyone has all of these qualities, and people frequently succeed without many of them. These are just the signals that one sees most often — but not exclusively — in a successful founder.