Ross Baird is the President of Village Capital and author of The Innovation Blind Spot: Why We Back the Wrong Ideas and What to Do About It. In this interview, we discuss his unconventional career path, how to fix venture capital, and the experience of writing and promoting a controversial book.
- Ross’ first book proposal was rejected. The publisher explained that unless you’re a top 1% author, no one will care about your ideas. However, people are interested in stories, personal narratives and surprising discoveries. So, write a book about the journey of answering a question you’re passionate about yourself.
- As an entrepreneur in a blind spot, give yourself permission to aim high. You probably have fewer people encouraging you, and fewer role models validating that you’re the kind of person who can do something big. So, you have to be the first one to give yourself permission to take a big swing.
- Use your “non-traditional” entrepreneur background as an asset, not a weakness. Ross told the story of a stellar entrepreneur who received a citation for dealing drugs when he was 15. One investor passed him over after digging this up in a background check. If you have a “colorful” history, own it. It’s almost definitely part of how you became who you are, and it’s an advantage you have over the competition.
- The venture industry is based on the whaling industry in the 1800s, so it’s ripe for change—and not optimized for identifying the best opportunities! Whaling expeditions were expensive and had a high risk of failure, so investors pooled resources, sharing the risk across a portfolio of expeditions. It’s an outdated model. If you’re an investor, consider innovating in your process, to help you discover and select deals others miss. Your process predicts your outcomes.
- For example, Ross’ firm Village Capital combines ideas from micro-finance with venture financing. In micro-finance, entrepreneurs vet one another and are accountable to each other. At Village Capital, batches of entrepreneurs select who amongst them will receive investment. This innovative process helps Village Capital see opportunities others have missed.
Links and Resources