Founders: Are you Leaning far Enough?

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: startups, venture capital | Tags: , |

I don’t write very much about my relationship with my partner Kenny Lerer, mostly because he’s not really one for the spotlight, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I’ve absorbed from him over the past 10 months or so.  Yesterday at a breakfast I caught myself advising a young Dartmouth graduate with words that were not in my vocabulary before Kenny became my partner at Lerer Ventures and Hyperpublic.

This particular breakfast, I found myself listening to a relatively analytical young guy who had obviously spent a lot of time thinking about his next moves.  For some reason there was friction between his decions and subsequent actions.  What I told him, which is advice that Kenny has given me and other founders I know repeatedly, is that he really needs to “lean into” the direction that he’s decided to go in.

It sounds like a minor point, but I believe that this mentality is the difference between grounding out to the short stop and hitting a line drive into left field.  Many good entrepreneurs and strategists are able to assess a situation and make a good decision (let’s call that “pitch selection”), but that is only part of what makes you a great batter.  I’ve always been good at deciding what pitch to swing it, but there’s another decision after “pitch selection” that is extremely important.  Let’s call that decision “commitment to the pitch.”  If you decide to swing but sit on your heels and slap at it, you’ll poke the ball through sometimes, ground out frequently, but often make contact.  I’ll call that low commitment, low risk.

On the other hand, if you “lean into” the pitch, get on the balls of your feet, and swing hard and all the way through the ball without hesitation, your contact and results will be much stronger when you connect.  Granted, you’re going to whiff more often, and that curve ball is going to leave you on your ass in the batters box, but generally speaking, I believe you’ve got a better chance of putting the ball where you want to with this approach.

What I’m seeing is that despite much nuance in the course that you charter for a go forward strategy, exaggerating the most important aspect of your ultimate destination sets a tone and point to drive to that may be a simplification of the vision, but a necessary means to landing where you want to land.

So Kenny would say, and I think I agree, if the most important thing at Hyperpublic is that we end up achieving hyperlocality, despite an incredibly complex path to get there, we as a company really need to “lean into” that aspect of our product and our future.

Isolate the goal, exaggerate it, and don’t be afraid to commit heavily to what you’ve decided is correct.  Are you leaning far enough?

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5 Responses to “Founders: Are you Leaning far Enough?”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

Ah, so this is the “leaning startup” movement of which I’ve heard so much recently. It all makes sense now!

🙂 sort of the opposite to be honest…

Great post. I love your angle!

I’m also really glad I don’t play baseball anymore. :-p

Super high quality post, loved it Jordan. The baseball analogy is bang on.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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