From editor to investor

I tend to avoid telling people I’m an “investor” or a “writer/editor.” The truth is, I don’t know, and suspect a lot of other people don’t know what to call themselves. All the assumptions that come with your professional title can be paralyzing to actually doing. Oftentimes people ask me how my background relates to what I do now. To give a little context, I started out as a writer and editor for my college daily newspaper, and later became a magazine writer and wrote copy for ad agencies. Then I worked for a design startup before coming to Collaborative Fund.

In some ways, great editors do something similar to what (hopefully) great VCs do— they validate narratives, and help them come to life. An editor maintains the voice of a publication (or a brand), and drives its direction. An investor sticks to a thesis, and, if she’s smart, becomes an expert in her market. An editor is a gatekeeper, though this has been largely democratized by the internet. I expect what happened with the rise of User Generated Content will happen to the rise of crowdfunding: There will be a lot more companies, but the most watched will still receive traditional VC support in addition to love from the crowd.

Deciding what will scale is very similar to understanding what goes viral. In many cases, a story or creative pitch is like a company pitch — gatekeepers are human, and want to hear stories. The best writers have editors begging them to publish. The smartest entrepreneurs have VCs knocking. Good writing and good design give life to the most genius idea or technical breakthrough. And they’re worth very little unless they tell us something useful or beautiful.

Instinct is very important in early stage investing. It’s my hunch that Instinct’s sister is Taste — a role traditionally left to the literati and artists. But neither instinct or taste have any value without experience and knowledge. If anything, the time is now to rethink who or what an investor is. She is anyone, now that crowdfunding sites allow most anyone to make returns on a company they back. And it’s time to redfine what a “writer” can do. To quote a piece by software developer and author Rands, “We, as social creatures, often better perform rituals to form understanding one on one, but good writing enables us to understand each other at scale.”

Post image by Danny Chung

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