Numbers Can Ruin A Good Story

As I was reading Josh Kopelman‘s excellent post on the seed boom and Series A bust, I got thinking of some words of wisdom Mike Arrington once shared with me. He said “numbers always ruin a good story.”

What Mike meant by this is you can raise a seed (or Series A) on a story. But at some point, you will have numbers; users, user growth, revenues, and revenue growth. You will also have a burn rate. And those numbers will become the thing you are judged on and your nice story will be “ruined” by the numbers.

Now this is not always true. You might be one of the few entrepreneurs on a real rocket ship and your numbers will be your friend. If that is true, raise while the numbers are great. Because they might not always be.

But, particularly at the Series A stage which Josh’s post is all about, the numbers aren’t always so great. And your story will conflict with the numbers. And so you’ll have to change the story to reflect the numbers. Because you can’t change the numbers to reflect the story you really want to tell.

It’s a painful experience. But as Josh explains, it’s like skinning your knee as a child. Painful but necessary.