What founders can learn from Jeff Spicoli you don't have to have all of the answers

I know I may be dating myself here, but over the past few weeks I couldn’t help but think about the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High and one of the standout characters, Jeff Spicoli.  When asked by Mr. Hand, his teacher, why he keeps coming late and wasting his time, Spicoli answers, “I don’t know.”

In several meetings with founders during the past few weeks, they would have been better off answering like Spicoli rather than giving me some hollow answer.  I want to make it very clear that I don’t expect founders to have all of the answers questions, especially in the early days as startups are a series of hypotheses that need to be tested.  In fact, many questions I have may not have an answer today so “I don’t know” will be the best answer. My one caveat is that the “I don’t know” is followed by a how might you figure out the answer or a when might you figure it out.  This line of questioning is really just another way to test how you think and determine how our working relationship might be were I to invest.  I would rather have the honest “I don’t know but I’ll figure it out” then a made-up answer that will never allow you or your investors to really understand what is driving your business.

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

3 comments on “What founders can learn from Jeff Spicoli you don't have to have all of the answers

  1. I would have to agree with most of what you look for as a investor. Lots of the things will get answered as you evolve with your company or you wouldn’t be having a meeting. At what point do you bet on the person behind the pro-form sheets and know they will make it work. From my side of things the developer and the creative side. If i’m driven by the your approval of things then I’m self doubting myself and therein lies the paradox. We don’t know all the answers but we figure them out and then adjust accordingly.

    i enjoy our blog.

  2. Also Ed, “If I’m here… and you’re here… doesn’t that make it OUR time?”

    I encourage founders to avoid the investor who thinks their time is more important than yours. They’ll likely put the company’s interests behind their own every time.

    Ok, off to figure out what startups can learn from Fletch and Caddyshack.

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