Technology or People?
A long time ago, at an interview with the most famous venture capital fund in our region, I got the question, “What attracts you more, technology or people?” I guessed what the right answer was, but I said: “People.” I did not get into that fund, which turned out to be for the best. A year later, I found an investor and launched my own private equity and venture capital fund. Looking back, I see that no matter where I worked or what I did, I always placed my bets not on the market, assets, methods, or technology, but on the potential of a particular person or team. Often this has been fruitful, but there have also been mistakes.
Life, of course, is more complicated than any representation we have of it. For example, I remember periods when there was such a powerful pull on the market that all the players were dragged upward with them. There was no need to have a high IQ, network or capital. The main thing was not to be lazy to come to the office and answer the phone, and the customers’ money erupted like from a horn of plenty. On the contrary, I have also seen situations where a cohesive team of energetic and talented people failed to make a breakthrough when their industry was in an Ice Age. I recall a company for which having objectively the best technology in the world wasn’t enough to turn it into a commercial success. But I also know of an example where it was the possession of technology that helped a founder in an initially weak position squeeze millions of dollars out of a corporate giant.
My view today is full of nuance and clarification: “If, then.” Instead of generalizations, I prefer to pick up a specific case study. I recognize that a unique technology, a market timing, or a new trend on its own can prove to be a deciding factor in business. However, the starting point for me is the individual. All other things being equal, a true entrepreneur will lose the least in a crisis, be the first to rise from the ashes, and benefit the most when the economy blossoms. And while even mediocrity can benefit from technology, a talented founder armed with technology will be an unstoppable force.
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