Feeding the Pipeline vs. Thinking Deep

Among the many things I learned in my brief time working in private equity was the importance of feeding lots of opportunities into the deal pipeline. For us, finding a deal was a matter of keeping the volume of relevant items entering the pipeline as high as possible, turning the crank — having the meetings, reading the decks, debating internally, deciding whether to move forward or not — until, finally, one day, eventually, maybe, a pristine diamond of a deal came out the other end.

The notion that the way to find deals is to mechanically (which is not to say mindlessly) work through lots of leads and prospects is one that I’ve kept in mind these past few months as I’ve moved into the NYC tech/startup scene. I’ve conceived of the position I’m looking for as analogous to the dream deal that investors search high and low for and, with that in mind, have tried to keep my own opportunity pipeline full. This has meant landscaping the market, using my existing network, cultivating new network branches by getting out and about, following up with every interesting person or company, and checking back in regularly. It has meant figuring out ways not to be a 100% ask-er by helping out others when I can — making an introduction, providing informal legal advice or giving honest feedback.

Happily, the process has worked and opportunities have emerged from the black box.

I realized this week, however, that too much of a focus on the meeting treadmill was causing me to de-emphasize deeper thinking. Lately, I’ve spent less time than I like identifying companies that excite me, writing blog posts that tie together different threads, pursuing projects of my own, and so on. Bryce dot VC posted about this very problem from his VC perspective, although his never-ending process analogy was to a hamster wheel instead of a treadmill.

So, my plan is to reserve one day per week for thinking, writing and planning only. While I find days without meetings and spent in front of the computer tough, I suspect that the opportunity to think deeply will be worth it.