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> "I mean, I literally don't think there's anything to be learned from other people's stuff." That is exactly what happened with Color, which Nguyen never even bothered to test. "I'm not here to practice. I'm here to play," says Nguyen[...]

I don't think there's any other way to read that.




That pull quote blew me away. This guy comes across as totally arrogant, plain and simple. Even Steve Jobs, who Nguyen apparently worships, got inspiration from other people's products. If nothing else, this article is a great warning against ever working for this guy.


I'm naive when it comes to anything related to VC's and funding, but I'm pretty sure if I had a ton of money to invest, it wouldn't be anywhere near someone like that. Even after reading the article, I don't think I fully understand why he can secure funding so easily.


VCs know that most of their investments aren't going to pan out. When they evaluate companies, they aren't worrying about whether they'll fail. Even the good companies fail. What the VCs are worried about is that they're going to say no to Facebook, and then have to explain 5 years from now how the fuck they possibly could have said no to Facebook.

What that seems to mean is that if you:

* have a persona that at least superficially seems driven, ambitious, likely to succeed, and

* you tell a convincing story about a market that might experience explosive growth, and

* you have any kind of track record of any sort to make it hard to write you off as a total bozo, and

* you have some sales skill, so you can manage the pitch process and create pressure to VC firms, then

you're probably fundable even if you think testing means "practicing instead of really playing".

These kinds of pitches seem very different from the kinds of things people write in Show-HN: postings. In particular, these pitches aren't meant to be reasonable.

This is way more of a response than you were looking for; sorry, I just had to get this out, since all I can think of when I read about Color is how good an illustration it is of VC cliches.


That is why VCs never really say no, because if you do start turning into the next Facebook in the months after you meet them, they want to be able to come back and say 'ye, remember us, sure, we would love to invest!'

I had this happen to me first hand, more than once. When raising money ~5 years ago a high profile VC stopped replying to my emails. Around 2 years later when I was associated with a high-profile project he emailed me out of the blue and asked me up to lunch. As we sat down with coffee, I said to him 'I haven't talked to you in a while, this whole time I thought you thought that I suck'. He laughed and said 'ye we decided not to invest in that'.. urgh. I found it funny and we talked about VCs not saying no for the first 10 minutes.

I continued to make light of it and at the end of that meeting after talking about a number of projects, I said 'I will take 7 days of no email as a no'.


Life note for HNers: Like almost any other market failure, this is profitably exploitable.


Can you elaborate?


I think what he's saying is that if you can act like this guy does, you can probably make a lot of money without ever having a decent shot at providing the value. And that VCs will continue paying you for the act.

Or he could be saying that if you can come up with a move clever way of investing that avoids projects like these you may be able to be a better VC firm than the ones that currently exist.

Or maybe something else.


Let me sketch the exploit, assuming you are not that guy.

Find someone who has done more than one highly impressive thing, prefereably in approximately the same line, who seems high energy and sociable. If they have anything resembling sales experience that's a big plus. One of the best hunting grounds will be in and around universities, as they're full of people with not much money and confidence that's higher than is justified, and some of them will be much more impressive than their age mates. Find one.

Harvest startup ideas by say, looking at previous Show HN posts, or doing a Madlib generator on the Crunchbase DB for X of Y, and look for something that you can build a good story about explosive growth around, or have what you think is a good idea already.

Sell your ambitious young go-getter on your idea, or on you, somehow, and start pitching VCs with your incredible story of wild growth and fantastic riches. Meanwhile iterate on your idea. Pivot if it looks like a good idea, and hope and pray for growth while pitching VCs all the freaking time.

Basically, have an idea that could conceivably grow explosively and have a business guy with previous record of Impressiveness, capacity to Believe in your Great Idea, and the ability to Sell Stuff, including your Awesome Idea.

If you are that guy, and you can program your own mockup and iterate you might be able to get into YC as a single founder.


I believe that you have just managed to generalize Poe's Law. Congratulations


I would appreciate a much expanded version of what you just said. I am aware that Poe's Law states more or less that no parody is so extreme that it cannot be taken seriously by at least one person in the faction the author is atempting to parody.


I always felt that extremeness (extremity?) is not necessary in the statement of Poe's Law but I could never find a good example. What you said sounded like a mockery of the YC process, but I'm not sure. The 2 have something in common... attention to detail? (Poe's Law: the parody and the parodied are both outrageous in their own ways.) In light of your discovery, I might restate Poe's Law thusly: no parody can be so ardent that it cannot be mistaken for what it parodies. What do you think about punctuation to indicate the state of being serious?


I think that punctuation to indicate seriousness/sarcasm would never catch on because it would interfere with deniability, deliberate obscurity, signalling and (im)plausible deniability.

I wasn't really joking at all with my description. I mean there are almost certainly groups that fit that description perfectly among YC alumni.


I think the track record component more than anything else nails it, that's why he got funded and for very little besides that.

Having a $850M exit on your resume makes you look pretty good when you're pitching an otherwise crazy idea.


To be fair, $850M exit should impress almost anybody.


The halo created around some of the people that exhibit the qualities you mention is a really powerful motivator.

The only thing I would add is the fact that you have to know all the players and all the buzz and buzz words.

You don't want to say "no I don't know who Fred Wilson is or who Mike Arrington or PG is etc. Or you're not up on what's going on in the startup community. (Which could happen with someone who has a killer track record from a different industry.) In other words you know the lay of the land.


you have to know all the players

I might suggest cough having the players know you. There's a famous line in Chicago politics: "Don't be sent by nobody" (An apocryphal applicant, on asking for a job at a local politician's office, was asked "Who sent you?" "Nobody." "Kid, one piece of advice: don't be sent by nobody.")


Or, in networking in general, it isn't so much who you know, it is who knows you.


My reaction was the same. This pull-quote makes me think of a little kid:

"There is no one in the world who I won't outlast. There's no way. There's no way. There's no way."




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