David Sacks: VCs now compete to see who can be the most pro-founder. They don’t want to tell founders they’re doing something wrong or give them any tough love.
Founders of fast-growing companies get to pick their board members. The whole ecosystem is pro-founder—and that’s as it should be. But smart founders go out of their way to ask board members and advisors what they really think, especially if they’re reluctant to speak up.
Founders want total freedom from VCs
So many founders are starting from a position of distrust with their board. It’s like Hollywood, where the talent became incredibly suspicious of the business side. Every director wants final cut—complete creative freedom. That mentality has spread to Silicon Valley. Enough founders have been burned by VCs that they just want total freedom.
Founders should make the ultimate decision in their companies, and smart ones will seek out experienced advice. This auteur mentality that’s spreading will only harm the founder if they don’t go out and balance their psychology and get good advice.
Startups often pick cheerleaders for their board
Founders are often tempted to pick board members and advisors who are either cheerleaders or mirrors of themselves. They’re either rooting the founder on—completely compliant—or they’re exactly like the founder. If you go for the mirror image, you will square the insanity. You’ll end up feeding off each other, going faster and faster without asking deeper questions about the business.
Founders need to be self-aware enough to balance their own psychology. A lot of founders don’t see the value of that. They believe that board members who balance them would only thwart what they want to do. And it’s not true.
Founders can find board members, advisors and mentors who are aligned with them and won’t seek to thwart them—but still provide good advice that helps them maintain perspective.
Crazy doesn’t listen to sane
One of the problems with crazy is that crazy doesn’t listen to sane. Companies try to compensate for a founder’s psychology by surrounding them with sane people. This approach often fails because the founder won’t listen to sane.
My advice won’t help if the founder truly is psychologically unbalanced. But there are a lot of cases where the founder can become self-aware and balanced enough, if they get the right advice.