I recently watched the fantastic two part PBS documentary on Woody Allen. If you’re a fan of his work, or even if you’re not, I highly recommend it. The thing about Allen that I found most intriguing is his hands-off approach to directing. One would think that such a renown and prolific director as Allen would be a notorious micromanager, wanting everything just so. But it is actually quite the opposite.
Woody Allen is famous for giving his actors room to breath. So much so that actors typically used to much more direction can find it incredibly unnerving to work with Allen. But Woody operates under a very simple principle: Find the best people, help put them in a position to succeed and get out of their way. Coach, guide, but don’t interfere.
As I was watching the film, it struck me how closely this mirrors the venture capital business. Find the best people, help put them in a position to succeed and get out of their way. Coach, guide, but don’t interfere.
I recently read a great post from John Lilly at Greylock reflecting on his first year in VC. Whether you’re an investor or entrepreneur, I highly recommend reading it. The post rang very true to my own experiences, and it was frankly comforting to read. I’ve spent so much time thinking about how to meet the best entrepreneurs and how to connect with them when I do. And the idea of connecting with an entrepreneur as having the potential to become a world changing relationship is a beautiful one.
But as I enter my next phase in this business, I’m also increasingly focused on what happens after that initial connection. Having that spark of shared perspective is critical, but even the best relationships require a lot of hard work.
There is much to learn from Woody Allen in this regard. The best investors I’ve had the privilege of working with over these past few years walk that beautiful line of empowering entrepreneurs to do what they do best, while offering sage counsel, guidance and help when they need it most. I try to walk this line every day and will continue to try and do so moving forward.
So here’s to world changing relationships: discovering them and nurturing them. I look forward to deepening the ones I’ve already made and enjoying the new ones that are hopefully to come.