Mental Toughness

by Ben Perreira

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a talk with David Lee, a venture capitalist who has invested in some of the most successful technology companies to date.

People in the tech startup scene have been known to suffer from irrational exuberance. They think technology can change the world. History has shown that at least a few of them have been right. 

Lee’s take was that Silicon Valley owns the technology-as-differentiator model and that other cities should focus on their own uniqueness. Because it is so cheap and easy to create a website and an app, companies outside of Silicon Valley are better off using technology to enhance an offering rather than being the lynchpin in their business model.

SV Angel’s model is to invest in many companies and only step in when needed, “like a doctor or lawyer,” according to Lee. Doing this means they’re investing in the people who will execute an idea. A fellow audience member asked what Lee looks for in terms of personality. His answer, citing Bill Belichick – “mental toughness.”

Entrepreneurship is uncertain and full of hardships. Lee has found that successful entrepreneurs tend to be able to get knocked down and get up to keep getting the job done.

I sum up business as “getting people to buy stuff.” In the technology world, you either invent that “stuff” (really hard), or you figure out what people need and make it great using existing technology (less hard).