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I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

June 5, 2008


One of my portfolio company CEOs asked for some help on a particular topic this morning, and in the process said something like: “I’d love some help here, I think we are doing the right things but to be honest I don’t know what I don’t know.”

This was music to my ears.  This company, like many early stage ventures, is playing in a few very different sandboxes, and the reality is there are probably no execs on the planet who are actually deep in all of them.  While this poses challenges, it is also what makes alot of stuff in today’s web startup world fun and exciting.

To be successful, though, entrepreneurs and startup CEOs need to have the maturity and confidence to know when they are treading in foreign waters and ask for help.  This maturity and confidence actually is often hard to come by, but it sure is welcome.

PS: For the record, VCs are probably more guilty than any in not recognizing what we don’t know…


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  1. Matt Soldo #
    June 6, 2008

    Mike, great observation. There’s way too much pressure in the business world today to have the appearance of always having the answer. Particularly if you are trying to sell something (a bus dev deal, business plan, etc). It’s a tough trade off to be able to admit what you don’t know, but still inspire confidence in those around you.

    If a founder said something similar during a pitch to your partnership, would you be more or less likely to invest?

  2. June 13, 2008

    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” —Confucious

    Funny, how the idea’s been around for so long, yet we still struggle with it…

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