Founders First: Why People > Ideas

Founders First: Why People > Ideas

Founders First: Why People > Ideas 1600 900 33Voices

Mo Koyfman is a burger making champion. Three-time winner of the Burger Bloodbath, he credits the success of the legendary Mo Burger to “simplicity and uniformity.” 

“It’s just the right balance of salty, sour, savory, and sweet – The Unami, so to say,” he explained.  

When he’s not winning summer grilling competitions, Mo’s investing in startups that are surprisingly driven by similar principles. 

“It’s about being able to deliver an [experience] consistently and repeatedly…Delighting people and training them to expect that you’ll delight them.”

“They sound the same, but they’re actually different. One is about the power of an initial experience and the other is the power of the brand.”

Since joining Spark Capital as the firm’s New York Partner in 2008, Mo’s invested in companies like Bond Street, Work Market, and Kitchensurfing.

Prior to our conversation, I believed there were guidelines for VCs. A checklist about how to make investments with specific traits to identify in founders and metrics to understand the market.  

However, similar to the way you judge a burger, making venture capital decisions is all about gut. The sandwich hits the spot, or you’re on to dessert. 

Mo’s description of his day-to-day, as well as venture capitalists’ never-ending quest to develop pattern recognition, intensified the roles investors play for me. After speaking with Mo, I have a newfound respect for their conviction.

“There’s a lot of work that can be done, but the truth of the matter is that work in this business can only get you so far,” he shared. 

At the end of the day, you have to make a judgement call.

The intuition to identify world-class entrepreneurs is a core tenet in developing pattern recognition. It requires presence, experience, and taking risks.

People are the pinnacle; The most crucial element of what I look for when I’m investing.

“You have to see it again and again to get a great sense for it…Pattern recognition informs your gut so that when you’re making a gut call you’re making it based on inputs that give you a little more confidence.”

That confidence helps the best investors cultivate a deep understanding of people and the impact a founder believes he or she can make on society. 

“You have to understand the cues that they give off, the ways that they approach the world; The combination of humility with the necessary arrogance and naiveté to be successful,” he explained.

He credits Zach Perret and William Hockey, founders of Plaid, a Spark Capital portfolio company, as exemplifying these traits. 

They have a “dogged, naive determinism of their ability to build something of value and to win.” 

“However, at the same time, they listen to people around them, they aren’t afraid of hiring terrifically talented people and taking their time with how they approach things.”

The core lesson from Zach and William is: “Think big. Operate deliberately.” 

Once he partners with founders, Mo strives to act as a strategic thought partner. 

It’s like being therapist – You want to be extremely helpful, but when needed.

“The only difference is people can know about your relationship,” he shared.

Each of these experiences contributes to Mo cultivating pattern recognition, which makes these decisions easier. 

“The thing that has really run true to me about venture is that it’s a long-term business. 

It takes a lot of time, energy, effort, and patience.”

To stay up to date with Mo’s work follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and tune into his episode of Beyond the Headline

Images retrieved from Spark Capital and Forbes.