I’m an introvert or at least what Quiet author Susan Cain refers to as an “ambivert” (somewhere in between an introvert and extrovert depending on the situation). I love meeting new people, but prefer small gatherings to larger group settings. I’d rather listen than speak. I cherish quiet time and reading. I suffer from many of the afflictions that Andy Weissman aptly highlighted in a recent post.
The VC industry is full of extroverts. VCs are essentially in sales, and extroverts are drawn to those types of positions. The lack of diversity however does create a singular lens and bias. In Quiet, a successful but anonymous VC was quoted as saying:
I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.
Separating the “wheat from the chaff” is hard to do especially in a first meeting. Many VCs reward entrepreneurs that have good presentation and sales skills. While these skills are important they are not a prerequisite for success. Problem solving skills, product vision, tenacity, resilience and leadership skills are all just as, if not more, important. Founders can also develop and improve their sales skills over time. Look at Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt and even Mark Zuckerberg.
So my advice: next time you meet an entrepreneur, or anyone for that matter, take the time to really to get know the person, what they care about, their motivations, their fears and what makes them tick. Focus on the person and not the personality type.