Market, Team, Product
I get asked frequently whether it is better to back the team or the product (the “jockey or the horse”).
It is not that simple in my view.
When I think about the big wins we have had over the years, they almost all exhibited a combination of a large market, a great product, and a talented founding team.
Some investors feel that the team doesn’t matter. They believe that you can replace the team if everything else works out. But I don’t think everything else works out if you don’t have a talented founding team.
Some investors feel that product doesn’t matter. They believe that you can pivot into something else if you have a talented founding team. While that is certainly the case, pivots are expensive in terms of capital, time, and focus. I would not choose to go through one given the choice.
And large market is critical. You can build a nice business in a small market, but you can’t build a big business in a small market.
My point is you really need all three, market, product, and team, to get the big wins that the venture capital model requires.
And in terms of finding the best opportunities, I would start with large markets, go searching for teams working in them, and writing checks only when you find talented teams working in large markets who have built excellent products.