On my way to SF this week, I stopped over in Boulder, visited Techstars and then had dinner with Brad Feld, where got to talking about the dynamics inside and around venture firms. He has obviously been doing this for a long time, and for me, less of a long time (3-1/2 yrs at this point).
I was remarking about the working dynamic at USV, and in particular the way — that I’ve never experienced before at another workplace — that we are able to have pretty serious conversations about a lot of complex issues, including divergent opinions, and yet still do it in a way that is shockingly respectful and seemingly apolitical. I give the USV team a whole lot of credit for being able to work this way, and it’s really a joy to be around.
Same goes for the dynamics I witness between partners and founders. We deal with a lot of hard shit — something, somewhere is often badly broken and requires hard choices as well as creative and tough deal making — and getting to the bottom of it means staring it in the face.
Another way of saying both of those things is that I’ve been impressed by the way folks on our team are able to be tough and smart but also kind. And the more I see difficult situations come and go the more I appreciate the importance of empathy in this business. It’s fucking hard and stressful and things break and go wrong all the time, and that’s just the way it is. And getting through that — either succeeding, failing or some combination of both — takes a combination of brain and heart.
Brad said that he and his partners have a mantra for how they think about this: brutal honesty delivered kindly. No dodging or glossing over problems and challenges, but also no being a dick.
I like that way of thinking about it.