This past week I had the opportunity to spend the week with my daughter Charlotte, watching her compete at a horse show. Charlotte, now an adult, has been riding and competing for a number of years and I never cease to be amazed by the strength and beauty of these incredible horses and how the riders can control such powerful animals. In much the same way I feel that being an angel investor enables me to be a “vicarious entrepreneur”, being a “HorseShowMom” allows me to imagine myself in the saddle. Now, in terms of full disclosure, I did take some riding lessons early in my daughter’s riding career which were quickly ended when I flew over the jump (without the horse!) and decided at that point that I was best suited for ground crew!
As I watched the riders last week, it struck me that there are a lot of similarities to early stage companies. We talk a lot about the “jockey” versus the “horse” question, borrowing from horse racing vernacular, – whether it is the person or the idea that is the most important when making the decision to invest in a company. In the Hunter/Jumper world, the riders must execute their course flawlessly to win. Most riders train, practice, refine… (not unlike entrepreneurs at the prototype or beta stage of a company) but then must actually put it all together in real time at the show. A rider may be having a great round and suddenly a loose dog ( or oftentimes a loose child ) causes that one moment of distraction – a rail is down and the round goes from flawless to out of the ribbons entirely. What’s critical is for the rider to be able to not only understand what they did or did not do correctly but to then adjust for it in the next round (sort of an “equestrian pivot”).
Bottom line -it’s all about the execution! A great entrepreneur with a big idea must be able to execute on their plan, making the appropriate pivots when necessary, and having the resilience to keep going towards their goal. There may not be “loose dogs or children” to distract or derail an entrepreneur, but there are always exogenous factors, beyond their control and oftentimes impossible to predict, which will test their ability to stay on course.
Special thanks for this post go to Crackerjack, Charlotte’s loyal and steadfast equine buddy since 2003. Crackerjack has taught her so much about focus, patience, resilience and the most important life lesson – NEVER GIVE UP!