As a VC, it isn’t possible to be an expert in many fields. There is simply too much innovation taking place at once to have a deep understanding of each individual underlying technology or business model. As a result, if I’m intrigued by the general theme of what a startup is working on, I reach out to experts in that field to get their thoughts. This helps me develop a deeper understanding of the specific subject.
Getting feedback from experts is a double-edged sword. On one hand, their experience and knowledge can help you better understand the dynamics of a specific subject. This can help you better evaluate the pros and cons of a startup’s approach to the domain, and their resulting likelihood of success.
On the other hand, experts can be blinded by their experience. They’ve often dedicated their lives to a specific field and developed strict views of what works and what doesn’t in that field. This can make them dismissive of technologies and business models that threaten the status quo in which they’re heavily invested.
I keep both these facts in mind when speaking to an expert. I learn from their domain knowledge which is greater than mine, while trying to evaluate each of their statements based on its underlying merits rather than accepting them as unconditional truths.
Whenever an expert makes a blanket statement that they believe to be a generalizable truth, this is usually a good sign to question them. There may be specific assumptions and a set of conditions under which the expert’s truth is correct, and changing these fundamental assumptions may present a big opportunity for a startup.
Also published on Medium.