No silver bullets

I caught up with a good friend that is also in venture capital. We were chatting about a company that he had backed early and that is on track to be quite successful. 

When I asked him about some of the key decision points in the company’s history, he said, “You know, there really were no silver bullets.”

His point as he elaborated was that the company did nothing that isn’t commonly accepted wisdom in building successful technology companies. The only difference, he mused, was that many companies try to skip steps.

He mentioned that it’s a lot like doing well in school. You put in your time. You do the work. You get a base of knowledge. You build on that knowledge. You’ll get some things quickly. Other things you might need to work on more or ask for help. You progress forward doing all the right things.

That really resonated with me. Partly, and this is coincidental, it was an interesting analogy given Peter Thiel’s recent efforts to encourage bright students to skip college and pursue entrepreneurship (The 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship.) 

More so, however, his perspective jived with something I’d been wondering lately: there are no secrets. Wisdom is there for the taking. There’s more good writing on the web than one can digest.

Most people in and around the Valley ecosystem of entrepreneurship can articulate the key lessons of building a successful company: target a big market, build a great product, get a product in front of customers, learn what customers want, build a great team, find product-market fit, articulate benefits, establish a strong culture, work well with your teammates, find a revenue model, raise capital, scale distribution, scale marketing, scale recruiting, raise more capital, make the product better, etc. 

But it’s amazing how many companies I see that are quite far along (in terms of capital raised more so than revenue) that, for example, haven’t found a compelling product-market fit. 

There are no secrets. Just the conviction that you’re doing what needs to be done and the grit to do it day in and day out.