“Fuck it ship it” and the path to reality
I had a familiar feeling at the end of last week that I haven’t had in a while. One of the many things I’ve been focussed on lately is creating some collateral against the opportunity I see for this new fund I’ve been designing. The process of designing a fund is not that different than designing a company or a software product. In everything I’ve ever created, a vision starts in my head, and then I start to put words around that vision, and then I try to explain it to other people, and then I find better words, and then people start to understand it, and that let’s me amass human capital in the form of early partners and employees who see it as well, and then we work together to further define it with some combination of visual, textual, and programming language, to the point where outside capital can see it too, and then with capital resources in place, we keep working to turn the early language into a real, full fledged product that customers or users can see and understand also…you work and work and work to help decreasingly openminded parties to see your vision, and then before you know it, that thing that started as just an idea in your head has become a real and existent thing living in the world.
It’s kind of an amazing process. Most people when they have an idea or a vision get caught up in it’s “unrealness”…because it’s so far from being visible and living and breathing. They can’t see how the incremental steps of putting language and resources around it lead to it becoming reality, and as a result…most people don’t try to create stuff from thin air. It’s not easy to understand how just committing to talk about an idea with anyone who will listen is a totally reasonable first step to making that idea reality…for someone who hasn’t done it before, talking might not feel like progress, but the steps to reality are subtle and require faith.
Beyond faith in the small steps that pull an idea from the ether into realty, I’ve found it necessary to accept imperfection along the way. Your first description is going to be rough, your first conversation someone isn’t gonna get it, and your first visualization, be it graphical, textual, or programtic isn’t going to fully reflect the notion and the feeling that you have in your head. But the only way to advance, is to put imperfection out into the world, and refine and improve in public and collaboratively with key stake holders along the way…Those people might be your partners, or employees, or investors, or early customers…at each step, some small segment of your addressable market will be able to see your vision through the imperfections you put into the world, and they are exactly the people you need on your side to help reach the next group who still can’t see it.
In software development, specifically, you might have heard phrases like “fuck it, ship it” or “ship early and often”…these are applied mantras reflective of this more abstract sentiment. If you’ve ever built a software product, you will know the feeling of a Friday afternoon at 5:30PM where the thing was supposed to ship yesterday, but it wasn’t quite ready and there’s no way your leaving for the weekend until 2 weeks of development get pushed out the door TODAY. In those moments, the product is rarely perfect. Often some small nice-to-have get’s left on the cutting room floor…some edge case bug makes it through the QA process to your users or customers…and you just make a business decision to get the thing out the door…imperfect…but meaningfully more real and visible and valuable than it was in the cycle prior.
So back to this familiar feeling I had last week. It was Friday..5:30…and I had just completed two important pieces of collateral in the path from vision to reality for this new fund vision. One was an offering memorandum, which is like a 20 page document putting textual language around the vision of a fund…the audience there is prospective Limited Partners (investors who invest in venture capital funds), and the other was a pitch deck…which is very similar to what you would use to raise money for a startup…but again the audience is LPs not VCs…
I had spent almost two weeks building the first versions of these documents…my very first visualizations beyond the spoken language I’ve used in friendly conversation. I had set a goal of “shipping” these to a friend who I think would make a great partner in this fund, and despite their rawness, despite not fully expressing everything I have in my head, and despite a sorely needed design pass that hadn’t yet happened, I got that familiar feeling I’ve had so many times before… “this thing is going out the door no matter what…” And I sent it, confident that imperfection is the path to reality…After that I went to a yoga class, and then slept well knowing that last months vision had become last Friday’s visualization, next quarter’s team, and some future time’s reality. Feels good to ship 🙂