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Why being an early stage VC is like being a college football coach

I was listening to a sports call-in show the other morning and the host made an interesting point.

In the NFL, the coaches pick the players.  In college, the players pick the coaches. 

He tried to generalize and say that's why all the college coaches are the fresh-faced energetic types and why the NFL coaches look like they've been doing nothing but pouring over video at a desk for 90 hours a week with coffee and a donut.

I don't have the stats to prove or disprove that particular point, and I try to avoid generalizations, but what is certainly clear to me that the most important thing in college football as a coach is being able to recruit the talent.  You have to be able to walk into someone's house, meet mom and dad, garner trust, and shake hands to close the deal and bring a wary high school kid to your program.  If you can't recruit, you're dead--because at the end of the day, the best kids are choosing the schools, not the other way around.

It's the same in venture capital.  It's not about stock picking, like in the public markets, where everyone has the same access to opportunities and everyone can buy a stock. 

Actually, it's about VC picking.  The investors get picked, not the companies.  The best opportunities will get funded by someone, and it's the entrepreneur's choice as to who that will be.

Furthermore, you also need to be able to recruit talent.  The most important way that you can help a company is to help recruit employee #1, #2, #3, etc... be it a developer, marketer, salesperson, etc.  In that case, too, you and your investment are the ones being picked, because the best talent has their choice.

So over and above everything else, things like personality, energy, trust count for just as much as ability to call plays, manage the clock, or pick out the right technology trend.  If you can't get the talent, your program is toast.

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