A VC’s Biggest Flaw: Arrogance

I’m really enjoying writing my print column for Entrepreneur Magazine.  It’s a different kind of writing than my blogging and exercises different mental muscles.

This month’s article A VC’s Biggest Flaw: Arrogance is out (both on the newsstands and the web).  Amy told me this is her favorite one so far as it includes a number of people she’s met: Mr. Know-It-All and several of his cousins. 

I hope you enjoy reading the articles as much as I enjoy writing them.

  • Your post is spot on and can be applied across many industries, medicine and doctors, to education and researchers etc. Arrogance closes the door on learning and acceptance. Once that door is closed little good can happen.

    As a an entrepreneur and being in leadership positions, information like this challenges me to evaluate myself. It forces me to look to mitigate my blind spot(s) "Johari's Window" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window

    As a VC what do you think people would say about you?

  • Re: “What I think people would say about me”: Hopefully positive things.  I’d like to believe that I’m never arrogant, easy to deal with, straightforward, forthright, honest, constructive in all feedback, and helpful to everyone I work with.  However, I think what’s more important is what others say about me which is pretty easy to find out if you ask around.

  • Jerry Colonna

    Great column, Brad. I remember crossing those lines between entrepreneur and investor early on. It was Bill Kaiser at Greylock who took me out to the woodshed and smacked some sense into me.

  • "The great venture capitalists recognize that their existence is dependent on entrepreneurs." So true! I believe one of the greatest roles an investor can play in my development as a younger entrepreneur is fostering my growth. I understand I have a lot to learn, but I also believe I know more about my business and the direction it can take that anybody else.

    IMO, The best-case scenario would be a great balance between the investor/entrepreneur where each had an equal opportunity to describe their role/knowledge of the subject. There's a lot to learn from each side of the table!

  • i would say that this character trait is a negative in any line of business. It may be amplified sometimes within the VC business, but there is nothing worse than arrogance – you think you have some colleagues in the VC world – go hang out with private equity! its sickening.

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  • David H

    There is no place for arrogance in startups, when you are working hard to build a great company (quite often with limited resources). If you have a team of people who are all on the same page it breeds success, egos and arrogance definitely gets in the way and can limit the potential of success. Well written!

  • Another category of VC – Dr. No. The type who (a) is not bright or willing enough to peel the onion and smell a creative solution, (b) has a title but lacks "roll up your sleeves" experience or (c) has negative reflexes due to insecurity.

  • tim

    Good post/articlle. I’ve recently been talking to a few more junior CEOs and may be falling into this trap. When I’ve thought about a topic deeply for years and a new CEO first encounters the issue I struggle not spewing out all sorts of data often overwhelming the CEO. How do you balance sharing experience with sounding like a know-it-all?

  • Great article. A friend pointed me in it's direction. We're lucky (in angel rounds) to have great investors and board members, but also still looking for investment – and hoping on the next round to have the same supportive team.
    Good insights.

    (and I got that same google block too, from the link tweeted to me)

  • Great observation and self critique Tim.

    I have found asking leading questions helps the person I'm coaching/leading get their on their own. Questioning does three things, one it clarifies if my interpretation of their point is accurate, two it forces the person to think more deeply and possibly about things he/she didn't take into consideration and three, most importantly, I don't have to "tell" them anything. I can share to support the conclusions they come to on their own.

  • Re: What would people say about Brad Feld? "He walks the talk"

    I met Brad at Tech Cocktail in Chicago a few months ago and spoke to him at length about my startup. He didn't have a bit of arrogance and was eager to help. He also responded to follow up questions via emails promptly.

  • As an experienced leader, one must consider themselves not only a leader but think that they are also a member. Superiority comes only when a leader trained for the benefit of a thing, but he must follow what his members suggestions and comments.

    A great article!

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