Though I’ve worked in venture capital for the past four years, I still identify as an outsider. The majority of grand VC musings today from the industry’s most visible figures don’t align with my values. Investors have become known for funding products and services that create more systemic problems than the conveniences they provide.
But today, I’ve never been more optimistic for the future of venture capital. With high-flying valuations vanishing, we must engage earnestly with companies around resiliency, durability, and purpose. With gig workers providing for our basic life necessities, we can’t help but imagine how technology could remove them from harm’s way. With loved ones dying around us, we have no choice but to consider every aspect of our collective health, and how we care for it.
With history watching, now is the moment for our industry to step up. And if we succeed, the returns will follow like never before.
Big vision, creative thinking, and huge risks
Venture capital’s past — more creative, visionary, and risk-prone than much of what we see now — is instructive for anyone in the business today, especially given how little attention it seems to get in 2020. Much of its history is well-chronicled in the film Something Ventured, a documentary about the origins of the industry that features interviews with modern progenitors like Arthur Rock, Don Valentine, and Tom Perkins. Venture capital was far from perfect then as it is now, and was born during an even more homogenized era in business with dramatically different social norms than today. But if you listen to the words from the veteran VCs in this era, their rhetoric is all about vision, purpose, and impact. One might even mistake them for impact investors or even philanthropists today. Take this quote by legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist Don Valentine: “I’m not interested in entrepreneurs who do it our way. I’m interested in entrepreneurs who have a vision of doing something consequential.”
Or this quote by pioneering VC Tom Perkins: “Isn’t it great if you can make money and change the world for the…