Last week, I began corresponding with VCs with the intent to raise money for Brief. By the end of the week, I had one request for follow-up materials and meetings (the best expected outcome) and 4 quick No’s. I felt terrible. I take pride in my deal-making skills and came away with a 20% success rate after the first week. What happened? Why were things going so poorly? Did I really have such a bad week?
The weekend gave me the opportunity to take a more detached look at the situation. While learning to surf for the first time, I ran some rough calculations in the back of my head. (Obviously, I didn’t surf well.) Friends of mine raised a really successful round in ~10 weeks of pitching. If I go 1 for 5 ten weeks in a row, I’ll hear “no” 40 times but have 10 interested investors. Say I have an off week or two and end up with only 5 to 7 interested VCs. That should be more than enough to put together a seed round. Suddenly, a 20% success rate was looking very good.
It turns out pitching is more like batting. Baseball players are doing tremendously well if they fail 7 out of 10 times. Fail 8 out of 10 times? You’re hovering around the Mendoza line (.200) and still in the big leagues.*
I played baseball for years as a kid and was pretty good until mid-high school when I didn’t realize I needed glasses. (“Coach, why are we playing in the dark?” “Jared, it’s 6pm in August. What are you talking about?”)
Once you get the basic physical pre-reqs down, hitting is enormously mental. (“90% of the game is half mental.”) The math says you’re going to fail most of the time. You have to play two mental tricks to handle this and perform well.
1. At the start of an at-bat, willfully forget the fail factor.
In the moments before stepping to the plate, if you don’t believe you’re about to get a hit with every fiber of your being, forget about 3 of 10. You’ll never get a hit. Even when you just got 3 hits in a row and the stats say there’s an incredibly small likelihood you’ll get a 4th, you walk up there thinking, “This is the at-bat in which I’m going to get a hit. This pitcher better watch out.”
2. At the end of the at-bat, willfully forget how wrong you were about thinking you’d get a hit.
When you get out, you undergo an emotional swing from being certain something good would happen to being bluntly struck with the reality that something bad happened. But guess what, if this happens 70% of the time, you’ll be more than fine. Let this emotional swing get to you like a normal human, wallow in it just a little, and you’re done. Hopeless. Because the next at-bat will come and if you walk into it with the memory of your failure, you’re breaking rule #1. If you don’t believe you’ll get a hit, you never will.
These two mental tricks together are called having a “short memory.” And I realize that it’s time for me to resuscitate my “short memory” (my wife would tell you it never died), if I’m going to succeed in raising funds for Brief.
By the way, pitching VCs and hitting baseballs have so much in common, you wonder why the former is even called “pitching.” After all, pitchers have to have the total opposite mindset to succeed. They need the right outcome more than 70% of the time and have to remember everything about previous at-bats to execute winning pitch selection. Maybe they should call it “hitting inv…” Oh, right…
*I know in the age of Moneyball I should be talking about OPS or WAR, but this post is for business people, not baseball people.