I’ve talked with many VCs over the past couple years that describe themselves as “data-driven.” That term has always confused me a bit. I’ve never thought of myself as data-driven, but obviously I look at lots of data about every potential investment we consider - CACs, LTVs, NPS scores, Cohorts, Marketplace Liquidity, etc. Does that mean I’m data-driven or not? I’ve now realized there are 2 subtle, but very different ways to approach the data that’s available.
Data-first vs data-second.
Another way to frame this is “data-driven” vs “data-informed.” Data-driven investors ask questions about data first, while data-informed or data-second investors look at the data, but it is second to their intuition and common sense. Wikipedia has definitions for data-based (or data-driven) vs data-informed decision making as it applies to education. I believe data-informed to be a much better approach. In doing a bit of research, I stumbled on this gem – a couple years ago, a test showed that combination AI and human “data-informed” chess players regularly beat the pure data-driven players. Andrew Chen made a nice post about how data-driven decision making can lead to local maximums and weak decision making. I choose to modify the labels to data-first vs data-second because the data acts as either a first or second pass filter.
In the VC world – data-second investors will always beat data-first investors.