Breakfast with an Angel

Breakfast with an Angel

Good morning, All,

our October Breakfast with an Angel is tomorrow morning, Wednesday, October 15th, and our guest investor is Jason Klein. We keep the group small, so everyone will have a chance to talk to Jason, 1-on-1 and always worth the price of admission and remember: our guest investors are always well-connected – and are always happy to make introductions for people who make it a point to show up.

Jason Klein has a background in media, consulting, and healthcare. He is founder and CEO of On Grid Ventures, an advisory and investment firm specializing in digital media and marketing. He is also Chairman of the Harvard Business School Alumni Angels (the second largest angel group in NY, with more than $4 million invested across 25 companies), and a member of the New York Angels, the largest angel group in NY. Register here, and hope to see you there!

For all of the so-called disruption going on, it seems we need to either redefine the term ‘disruption,’ or set the bar higher.

As an SOS reader wrote to us last week, what we’re seeing is a “lack of substantive innovation. Only incremental, nothing resembling a game changer.”

Using the word ‘disruption’ doesn’t make it so, and it’s certainly contributing to startup fatigue.

We understand that there are very few Elon Musks in the world: people who come along and completely rethink an industry. Tesla Motors is disruption. Coming up with a form that allows doctors to be reimbursed more easily is a ‘nice to have’ and no doubt will make money for the company that created it, but it’s not disruption. It’s disintermediation. So as you’re crafting your elevator pitch, see if you can’t replace the word ‘disruption’ with ‘disintermediation.’ If you can, that’s what you’re doing – disintermediating. You’re not going off-road and creating something that the world has not seen before, in some form or another. You haven’t pushed the envelope.

What’s missing from the industry in general and has been for quite a while is the sense of wonder. Equally importantly is that we don’t have an ecosystem that supports radical change readily, and if it does, it’s only rarely. Musk had a somewhat easier time of it, because he had a track record. On balance, investors are not radical thinkers and somewhere in their food chain is a bean counter who thinks inside very little boxes on a balance sheet. The system isn’t broken because of the wild valuations that have gotten so much attention as of late. The disconnect is more systemic and has more to do with misalignment of ideals/goals. Who decided that we’re living in the Age of Social and Big Data – almost to the exclusion of all else? Although the bigger problem is that a true out of the box thinker – someone who does go off-road as a matter of course – would be roundly dismissed. Here’s this week’s must read: Peter Thiel Is Wrong About the Future. Says the writer, “In Zero to One, a book mostly about startups, Thiel makes the argument that ‘we have to find our way back to a definite future, and the Western world needs nothing short of a cultural revolution to do it.’…“political barriers have in fact made it harder to innovate with atoms than with bits.”

And therein lies the problem: social has driven us towards a world driven by popularity/correctness over truth/facts. And money/power over innovation. True disruption is just that: it brings about upheaval, and upheaval is messy.

But it’s what rises out of the heap that’s interesting and novel and truly disruptive. It’s disintermediation that’s causing startup fatigue. Yeah, been there, heard that. It’s always much more interesting – and more difficult – to go off road. It’s time. And make no mistake about it: if you do go that route, you’ll be in for a bumpy ride. But the scenery will be breath-taking. Onward and forward.

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