In search of things new and useful.
The Path to Victory
I’ve been using this phrase quite a bit in meetings. I’m quickly realizing that I find myself able to get the most conviction around an investment when I feel like I have a strong sense for what the “path to victory” looks like for the business. I think it helps me be the most effective board member I can be, and also helps me realistically assess an opportunity and my ability to help.
What exactly does this mean? In purely short-sighted, seed investor terms, the “path of victory” means the inflection points that can be hit in the next 12-18 months to attract other financing to the company at a meaningfully higher valuation.
In a longer-term business context, this means having a very strong point of view on what needs to get done, at the exclusion of many other things. It’s also about having a mental map or strong hypothesis of the path of the business – not necessarily knowing what’s important in 2-3 years, but at least knowing what’s definitely NOT important in the next 6-12 months to create the most value for the company. It’s about having conviction about stuff like:
- Do we focus on revenue now or not?
- Do we focus on top line user growth or % penetration in a more narrowly defined market segment?
- Do we try to get dozens of small paying customers, or one or two flagship accounts?
- Do you hire more sales people or more engineers?
- What does the product need to be able to achieve to get the right customers sufficiently excited soon enough?
- How will we know if this product is delighting customers or if we need to pivot or start over?
- etc. etc.
I’m increasingly finding that I can’t get excited enough about a company if I don’t feel strongly about their path of victory. Sometimes, it’s because of ignorance. Also, sometimes, I have invested in companies that are more of the “really great team, promising market, they’ll figure it out” mold. But that’s really pretty few and far between. There have also been times when the path of victory that I felt strongly about was wrong and the team has been able to figure that out and adjust accordingly.
Not sure if other investors think this way, but I think that’s increasingly important to me. Team, product, and market is important to everyone. But when I think about the practicalities of what’s likely to happen post investment, feeling aligned with founders around their proposed path to victory is really important.