Countless times over the last decade, I’ve heard other venture investors refer to their investments as “bets.” Earlier in my venture career, I was absolutely guilty of this because I wasn’t being mindful and probably lacked some necessary empathy. At the time, I don’t think I truly appreciated what it meant and took to be an active investor and support a company over the long haul. A few years ago after a conversation with my wife, I began to question that vernacular.
Regarding an investment as a bet certainly makes sense on the surface. According to Merriam-Webster, a bet is, “something that is laid, staked, or pledged typically between two parties on the outcome of a contest or a contingent issue.” The more I thought about labeling venture investments this way, the more I began to realize it was a bit lazy, potentially insensitive and didn’t necessarily align with my values. Simply put, this label didn’t feel right to me.
In my role as a venture investor, I don’t make bets. Bets tend to be passive unless you’re playing the hand. When I put a friendly wager on a game such as the Super Bowl, my involvement has zero bearing on the outcome. My job as a venture investor is to actively partner with and serve founders. There is nothing passive about this. Professional venture investing shouldn’t be confused with gambling even though a lot luck and a little bit of skill are required for success. Essentially, betting implies gambling and investing implies taking calculated risks.
After a founder has trusted me to serve his or her company and the investment closes, I do not passively wait for and expect a positive outcome. This is when the real work begins. Every company regardless of the stage requires a shit ton of patience, support and effort by everyone around the table. I felt characterizing an investment as a bet mentally excused me, the investor, from the real work ahead.