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Friday Funism – “Assuming Success, Which I Always Do”

David Beisel
October 18, 2019 · 2  min.

As our fundraising month focusing on the seed pitch deck recently wrapped up, we’re returning to our “Friday Funisms” series – fun & quirky sayings which one can repeatedly hear around the NextView offices that have become part of our culture over the years.

This week’s phrase is often said when talking about the future.  When the outcome of a process, an investment, or hypothesis is uncertain, we intentionally will say: “Assuming success, which I always do…” then followed by the most optimistic scenario.

Yes, it’s just like saying, “In the case a successful outcome…” or even a more typical, “Assuming success…”  But, this phrasing emphasizes that not only do we presume a positive outcome in the face of uncertainty in this case, but we always presume a positive outcome regardless of adversity.

Part of startups, and subsequently venture capital, is thinking through the scenarios of what could happen on the upside as well as the downside, and what to do in all of those cases.  There is a multi-branched decision tree implicit or explicit growing with the results of each decision test we make – the launch, new marketing campaign, product rev, etc.

When we use this phrase internally, we’re deliberately creating a culture at NextView of acting “as if” a positive outcome will result.  The positive attitude doesn’t preclude that there are risks on the downside.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  With the power law distribution of outcomes in startups (and resulting venture capital), failure (and losing capital) is actually the most likely outcome.

 

How do we reconcile those two conflicting ideas of acknowledging failure is the most likely outcome but acting as if it weren’t?

When we presume success, we’re holding to two seemingly contradictory truths together simultaneously, the two definitions of “presume” that Google returns:

1) suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability.

2) be audacious enough to do something.

We’ve blogged before about valuing founders who have determinist thinking (particularly with respect to product designers & managers).  They’re audacious, showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks, because they can see the vision of what they’re creating even before it’s constructed.

Repeatedly & intentionally uttering the phrase “assuming success, which I always do” when talking about the future acknowledges that there are indeed many possible outcomes of varying suitability.  But it intentionally emphasizes that the positive outcome is the expected one.  That the bold goal is actually achievable and in view.  Here at NextView and within our portfolio, that’s the expectation until circumstances tell us otherwise.  Always.

Startups are difficult.  But assume success?  I always do.

 

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Author
David Beisel
Partner

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.