I was having an emotional conversation with a friend. They were giving me a piece of feedback that was truthful but hurt me. Because I feel psychologically safe with them, I was able to take the feedback in a receptive and open manner. I could incorporate it into my mental framework immediately because I trusted my friend. And I knew that their feedback was important and accurate.
One of the traits that I feel is most central to success in founding a company is the ability to process feedback effectively. Founders are constantly getting feedback. An average day might include angry customers with product complaints, a venture capitalist with heartfelt but partially useless advice, an unproductive strategy meeting where no one can seem to align, and a bunch of smart ass shitposters on social media with job advice for you.
A startup CEO gets a lot of feedback. Every day is a deluge of the stuff. And founders have to be gracious about it. Even when a lot of the feedback is useless, or even occasionally downright bad. You as a founder have to decide what to take and what to ignore. Because learning how to synthesize and integrate feedback; positive, negative or even profoundly unhelpful, is in fact your job. Being good at it matters. It’s the closest thing I have to a litmus test as an investor.
This is a trait I prioritize highly in founders. If you yourself are a founder that is working on improving your capacity for feedback processing, I want to hear from you. That mental flexibility is one of the core criteria I look for when I decide on an investment. Do I think you will be able to intake enough information about their market to get to product market fit? Will you be able to adjust your mindset and mental models quickly enough to outrun inertia? How emotionally strong are they that there can hear constant negative input and still hold their positive vision? But equally can you adjust that positive vision when negative feedback that actually matters presents itself.
These are the questions you need to have answers to for yourself. If you can drop me a line on Twitter DM. I’ve got an entire primer on now I like to get to know founders.