start-ups

Fire Power and Artillery

There are two oft said, contrasting adages in early stage investing. Both of them may be true.

The first adage is “The only thing that matters is the people.” Start-ups are malleable forms, especially in their earliest days. The product plan is immediately dated as soon as it is drafted. The first user tests will do nothing, if not show how far off the mark a company’s original assumptions were. The product and direction of any start-up is bound to change. The constant is the people. If you invest in the right people, they will know how to continually revisit, reshape and adapt their original vision to build a great company – even if it ultimately is very different from the one they originally set out to build. These people are heat seeking missiles.

The second adage is “Bet on the racetrack, not the horse.” In other words, find a large, fast growing market and you are bound to have a good outcome. If the team is just mostly right about the product, the product will at least be good enough to build a business around it. The rising tide of a new and growing market will create value. The market will have a greater impact on the outcome of the business than the individuals behind it.

There’s an obvious tension between these two viewpoints. More often than not, I find myself leaning towards the people part of the equation. The primary thing that matters is people. The best people find great markets in which to build products and companies. This is what unifies the two opposing adages.

If you could find a team that included Facebook’s first Partner Engineer, someone who has carried the beeper for Google.com, and a stud Google engineer coming off of his first start-up exit, you’d know that they were working on something big. And that’s why I’m so excited to welcome Artillery to the First Round portfolio. Ankur Pansari, Mark Logan and Ian Langworth are turning every browser into a game console. If you have followed Valve, you know about the power of simple discovery. If you have followed Nexon (remember the EA rumors?), you know about the power of free to play. The team at Artillery is working to to combine simple discovery and free to play with instant play. A game console in every browser.

Artillery is a big idea. I’m not surprised that a team with so much fire power is working on it.

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One thought on “Fire Power and Artillery

  1. Great blog post Kent! If you invest in the “right people” and “right space” the people should (one hopes) develop the right business model, through a series of pivots, to exploit the space. Although, it seems that sometimes you might invest in good people and a good space, but the business ends in a temporary setback (aka “business failure”, if you’re not an entrepreneur)…I suspect that positioning, timing, and taking the right opportunities when they present themselves also have a lot to do with the success or failure of a startup. What do you think?

    FYI: I’m the founder of Xper.com, a startup focused on helping people have better, more meaningful experiences. Please take a look at Xper.com or http://www.crunchbase.com/company/xper for more info. Please reach out to me when you have a moment. I would like to have a brief discussion with you.

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