What I Learned from Ding Dong

I’ve been at betaworks for over a year now. With Josh and John’s guidance, I oversee our seed investing activity, where I’ve gone from complete noob to moderate noob. Since I started we’ve made 21 investments in new companies. The transition from builder to investor has been fascinating, damn fun, and at times downright bizarre. For the first six months, for all sorts of reasons and biases, I basically had to dismantle how I have traditionally viewed products and people (another post). Only recently have I begun to rebuild a more productive process through which to formulate opinions on the products, companies and entrepreneurs we meet. My goal is to share these views more often, mostly so that we may have constructive discussions, which I hope will continue to force my learning process.

As you might have guessed, this post is about what I learned from Ding Dong and other products like it. We are not (yet) investors, but in the time I’ve known the founders I’ve learned more from them than they from me, often the case in my job, which is why I love doing it.

Ciaran O’Leary, a friend and investor in Berlin, showed me the app a few months ago, the conversation went something like this:

@ciaranoleary: hey check out dingdong in the app store… real time social / sharing networking… kinda interesting… good guys from the netherlands moving to berlin

@nchirls: Just tried it, but I don’t get it?

Two months later, I get it. And the road from there to here has been a slap in the face. A few things I’ve learned along the way and have since vowed to protect … really these are lessons I constantly remind my future self:

I’ll be the first one to say that in my first few months at this, I operated scared. What will John or Josh think about it? What do other investors think about it? What will my father think of it (sorta kidding, but not really)? This is the worst and most debilitating way to operate and invest.

Don’t get me wrong, having good partners as co-investors is crucial, we couldn’t do what we do without them. But ultimately, forming one’s own opinion is everything. Conviction is everything, and not many investors have it. I’m working on it. If in the end people think you’re crazy, you’re probably doing a bunch of things right.


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