Lately I've had the opportunity to look at things from a very different perspective. Rather than looking up all the time, I have been looking down more often than not. I don't mean this as a statement of arrogance - I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities for me to look both up and
down in the coming months and years.
I only bring it up as part of a larger point. I have found a lot of people fail to see opportunities. They look down when they should be looking across. What do I mean? I mean most people fail to think laterally. They head in a given direction with blinkers on (the type horses wear, not the type cars have) and they fail to understand that people - community, relationships, like minded friends - are what really matter.
As an example, I have seen VCs ignore opportunities due to the most ridiculous of reasons and criteria - criteria like geography or how polished a 'pitch' is. You know what? If you have such a failure of imagination that you think geography is a limiting factor then you really shouldn't be making decisions about betting on companies. I'm so glad we are not looking for money.
I have seen start-ups ignore a helping hand from other start-ups who are further along than they. They fail to listen to the marketplace, to trends or opportunities and instead decide that they can do everything on their own. They think their product or vision lives in a vacuum. They forget that 100 other companies are trying to do the same thing.
Companies are not about a feature, or a product, or a business - they are about an ecosystem. Suppliers, staff, partners, customers, evangelists, advisers, friends, advocates and passionate users. And most of all, they are about a culture of change - of finding opportunities.
I have also seen sharks - people who approach with the hand of friendship but are really just sucking you for information. They have a 'not invented here' attitude - if they didn't think of it, or they don't control it, then they think it isn't worth supporting or adopting. You can only leach off people for so long before your name looses all credibility.
They also make a lot of claims. They claim that they can make things happen, but first they want to take over your company or charge you a bunch of money. If you can make things happen, then go ahead and start. If you actually deliver something then we can talk about formalizing your involvement. If you really believe in my work then put in some work of your own.
And finally I have seen talkers. People who constantly talk but fail to act in any meaningful way. Not even on their own projects. They throw their weight around, bluster around loudly, argue the academics and semantics of a subject endlessly but never quite deliver their own version of the perfect reality they claim to uniquely see.
To all these people - and the others I have failed to describe - take your blinkers off. Wake up. Reach out. Make friends. Understand that, in the end, we are all just part of a living, breathing ecosystem. Someone you underestimate today may, in fact, control the conversation tomorrow. A company you dismiss because they are missing a slide in their presentation may become the next Facebook.
How do I know? Because I have seen those things happen - and they are still happening.
I have recently had the pleasure of getting to know people, companies and investors who understand that people are the most important resource of all. That co-operation is more important than capital. That giving people a chance, and contributing real substance over bluster is more valuable than track record or geographic location.
To those people - and you know who you are - thank you for showing me what can really be achieved when people put aside ego and politics to just get things done.
If you would like to join such a group - drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
End of rant