You can’t teach humility

humility can't be taughtIt’s very important to me that we hire humble people at CB Insights. Humility is one of the attributes of our culture I’m proudest of and most keen to maintain.  It’s not something we’ve worked on. We’ve just hired people who are humble.

And so when recruiting now for our many open jobs, there are 3 things I look for

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The Mighty Ducks


A good data company is like a duck. Calm and beautiful above the water but furiously paddling below the surface.

There was an interesting article about data science in the NY Times yesterday about data wrangling and data janitor work.  The article talked about the unsexy below the surface paddling.

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Well done is better than well said

I watched Johnny Manziel last night in a pre-season game. Yeah – I’m that bored. He didn’t do all that well on the field, but he did give the finger to the Redskins bench. I saw an analogy online afterwards comparing him to Brian Bosworth (Boz) who was another big talker from back in the day who bombed in the NFL.

I’ve always been partial to people (and organizations) who get isht done vs. who talk. I wonder how this guy will do.

Don’t Waste Your Content

In our newsletter, I usually lead it off with a “blurb”.  It’s usually about something in the news or something contrarian or just something that has been on my mind related to VC, startups, etc. We often try to stir isht up by asking questions that we don’t see others asking or that we see others asking that are worth bringing up.

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What Can We Learn From Square’s Growth – Maybe Nothing

Square grows in the wrong wayThere is an interesting article & comments on GrowthHackers (one of my favorite sites – thanks Sean Ellis) about how Square grew so quickly? And it’s sustainable edge.

While there are undoubtedly a lot of smart growth tactics in there, Square’s growth also highlights the perils of going 100 MPH in the wrong direction.  I’m also not sure how much their tactics are transferable to other companies unless of course, those companies have the benefits of hundreds of millions of dollars of capital and the notoriety of a famous founder. 

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Venture Capital Performance Data Is a Blackhole

venture capital performance dataLots of hullabaloo about VC performance data recently. Saw this stat from Fortune’s Dan Primack, which is eye opening about how suspect many of the VC performance stats we often see quoted are.

“Cambridge Associates, for example, only includes a total of 93 U.S. VC funds in its samples between 2009 and 2011 – or less than 18% of the 525 U.S. VC funds that were raised in those years. That figure may be considered statistically significant in the abstract, but is that 18% representative of VC fund sizes? What if it includes a majority of the multi-billion dollar funds? Or almost none of them? Is there reporting bias – either via the ‘best’ firms holding their data close (since they don’t really need Cambridge’s recommendation) or via the ‘worst’ firms not wanting to air their dirty laundry?”

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Celebrate the non-unicorns

not a unicornAustin Carr has a great profile of Jack Dorsey and Square. It goes into the fact that Square has not lived upto the hype and is now searching for a business model and it’s big hit.

One of the interesting points Carr makes in the post is about the perils of not going big. He writes:

Next to the graveyard of overhyped startups, there is a purgatory where companies like Groupon and Zynga toil–successful but not relevant, almost (or barely) profitable yet inconsequential. These are firms that, despite their promise, were never quite able to escape the clutches of mediocrity. Does Square now face the same fate?

In other words, it’s all about going big. This perhaps only makes sense for Jack Dorsey who as one of the founders of Twitter must level up in his next endeavor.

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Always Punch Up

punch up vs competitorsMike Maples Jr of a Floodgate Fund recently tweeted that all the underhanded tactics Uber maybe using against Lyft just end up validating it as a competitor.

I talked about their tactics as competition vs sabotage but I think this point is equally important.

Lyft in this case may be a credible competitor (funding disparity aside) but it reminds me of the “always punch up” mantra a friend of mine talked to me about before we began CBI and it’s one we’ve adhered to.

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Founder & VC Compensation

mo money mo problemsJonathan Abrams of Nuzzel set off an interesting conversation on Twitter about founder and VC compensation recently. It’s not a topic you see discussed often so I thought some elements were worth highlighting.

The conversation began due to a line from this article in Harvard Business Review titled “VCs get paid very well to lose money” (holy clickable title):

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