The Value of Writing
It may feel like a waste of time, but sharing your thoughts publicly is still worth doing
One important goal to have as a new investor is to start to build your own brand and inbound deal flow. And one way to do that is to invest time and energy into writing.
Writing has always been something that comes quite naturally to me, and I’ve been fortunate to have been able to build a decent following through social and our various publications at NextView. But getting started is hard and it can feel very unrewarding. I can’t tell you how many new investors I talk to about their grand plans to “start blogging” only to see them abandon the effort a few months down the road.
The most intimidating thing about writing publicly is that you feel like an imposter. You fear that nobody really cares about what you have to say. This is then reenforced when your first couple posts get almost no love apart from a few likes and shares by your friends and family.
But I really believe that writing is one of the most powerful activities that you can do as an investor. A few reasons.
One, writing forces you to create. Sitting down to compose your own thoughts removes you from the highly reactive world that we operate in. As a VC, you are always reacting to founders, to pitches, to your partners’ feedback, etc. You need to exercise the other part of your brain that wants to create, be proactive, and push the ball forward. Creating space for that will make you better and happier at your job.
Two, writing helps you to synthesize. In VC, you are by definition going to engage in topics in a way that is an inch deep and a mile wide. You’ll become good at talking about a lot of topics at a superficial level, but won’t have enough opportunities to try to pull the knowledge together to develop a deeper understanding or your own point of view. Writing forces you to try to do this, and I think you’ll be surprised at the long term returns of this effort. It’s remarkable how many times I refer to my own blog posts or ideas that coalesced during the process of writing. At the time, it felt like I might have been wasting my time, but the value of synthesized thinking lasts a lot longer than you’d expect.
Three, writing can help you to carve out your own audience and niche of the internet. This seems super intimidating given all of the voices out there from various investors. But you’ll be surprised at how few people actually stick with it for a long time. The value of writing publicly compounds over many years. To some degree, you need to just have faith that the time you are putting in will have downstream benefits. And even if it doesn’t, the value you derive personally from exercising this part of your brain will more than make up for the time that it takes to do it well.
Writing may not be for everyone, but I do think that the majority of new investors would benefit from the time spent doing it. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:
First, start now. Like, right now. Don’t obsess over the perfect platform. Just get something written and hit publish. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get started. And the more you publish, the easier it is to think about what to write next.
Second, be humble, but don’t be scared. You don’t want to seem like a know-it-all junior VC, so don’t come off that way. But don’t be so self-conscious that you never say anything of consequence. Consider your writing a “work in progress” and always be open to feedback or to changing your mind.
Third, embrace mistakes. If you screw up and someone gets mad at you about what you wrote, address the mistake, but take that as a sign that someone actually read your post and cared. Also, remember there there are just nasty people on the internet, so don’t take things personally. Be mindful that you are representing your firm as well as yourself as you write, but don’t let that hold you back. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
Fourth, once you get into a rhythm, think about building distribution. Spending a few extra calories on figuring out how to get your posts “out there” is worth the effort. But don’t do that out of the gates. Get into a pattern of writing and sharing your thoughts first, then figure out how to increase your reach.
Fifth, pick an angle. Even though I’m a fan of just writing haphazardly about whatever comes to mind, spend some time thinking about how to corner some small part of the internet with your writing. It could be a sector based focus or a certain type of content and analysis that you feel like you are able to do. For example, my partner Lee used to do regular S-1 teardowns or Tomas Tunguz at Redpoint focuses on quantitative benchmarking of SaaS companies. You could also pick a certain up and coming network or under-utilized channel for your work. Perhaps it’s YouTube like Gary Tan or Reddit or Clubhouse. Some of these may not really be “writing” per se, but with any luck, the writing you have done creates fodder for you to use in other channels that might make sense. I think most things worth paying attention to begins with some sort of written script or outline.
And finally, interact with those who engage with your work. Share content that others write that are relevant to yours and engage with the audience that comes your way. Even though content might not yield the most targeted audience, take some time to respond or follow-up with folks who seem interested in what you have to say. If do it really well, this can lead to your own mini community and can help further expand the reach of your efforts.
Hope that helps. If you do decide to push any of these suggestions into action, please let us know and we’d love to follow-you and interact with your writing if appropriate!