VCs are (Still) Not Your Friends

A typical startup investorI’ve written about this before, but the problem persists.

Japanese society is unquestionably hierarchical. True peer relationships, either social or business, are rare. Advice and instruction from higher up is to be respected and trusted. To be successful, Japanese entrepreneurs need to reject this pattern of thinking, but it’s hard. It is so pervasive in Japanese society that it is almost invisible.

This attitude frequently hurts startup founders in their relationship with VCs. Since the money is coming from the VC, the VC is more senior in the relationship, and Japanese entrepreneurs defer to the opinions of VCs far too quickly and far too often.

Of course, some individuals in Japanese venture capital firms have real world experience, industry knowledge, domain expertise, and mentor new founders. However, such people are rare ― and extremely busy. Ironically, the VCs with the least real-world experience seem to be the most confident and prolific in their advice.

If you, as a founder, need advice on raising funds, listen to everything VCs have to say. In this area they are truly domain experts. If you need advice about market direction or growth strategy, listen politely and attentively. Thank them, then get three more opinions from other entrepreneurs or someone in the industry. Then make up your own mind.

A fellow entrepreneur who had some successes or even failed completely in the market will probably provide you with far more valuable insight.

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