What makes a good VC? What’s important to venture firms, limited partners and founders? Who are the best VCs and what makes them special? After considering those questions, I grabbed my notebook and wrote down the attributes that I felt were essential.
Curiosity — thirst for knowledge and learning.
Expertise — business, engineering and/or product chops developed through experience.
Passion — genuinely excited by new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Focus — ability to drown out noise and spend time on what matters.
Network — authentically develop and maintain relationships at scale.
Sales — ability to sell and build consensus internally and externally.
Emotional intelligence — empathize and assess motivations, desires, needs and intangibles.
Conviction — ability to maintain excitement in the face of opposition and skepticism.
Rather than sending Parker an email with my thoughts, I decided to share the list on Twitter, cc him on the post and participate in the conversation that unfolded. Several founders and investors chimed in publicly and privately to share their views and expand the list I started. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of the suggestions, the other attributes that were mentioned included:
Quick learner — ability to quickly consume, learn and absorb information about a wide variety of topics.
Friendly — generally pleasant to be around and likable (while I try to respect everyone, I’m not sure this is a prerequisite for being a great investor).
1st principle thinker — someone who can boil complex ideas and phenomena down to their fundamental truths.
Stoic — remain calm under pressure and turbulence.
Humble — modest in behavior, attitude or spirit.
Vision — can see where the world is heading.
This combined list of fourteen attributes is far from comprehensive but I believe it captures many of the important ones. I wonder how the world’s best VCs — investors like Michael Moritz, John Doerr, Marc Andreesen, Shana Fisher, Fred Wilson, Bill Gurley and Chris Sacca — would describe themselves and their most successful peers. I also wonder if their institutions have developed a system to identify the next great generation of investors based on a set of attributes and experiences. Their firms have managed to stay on top for multiple cycles and I don’t think it’s by accident. Given people and networks are at the center of the VC business, perhaps they’ve discovered the hidden answer to the talent equation through identifying, hiring, training and retaining remarkable people.