When an Investment Thesis Moves Beyond You

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At the end of the cycle come the laggards. This can mean simply that there are those who believe that they can still find some startup that can survive the existence of heavy competition that can grow to great heights. It can also mean that the next phase is IPO, as the largest of the companies drive towards the public markets and the stock market takes hold, which usually means there is significant traction and revenue generated. But paradoxically, once companies become big, history has shown that they stop innovating and then it can be a great opportunity for new investment theses to develop in areas where opportunity was disappearing not too long ago.

When I applied this to the theses I had been using up until now, I realized that two of my theses were racing along the graph now. And that was when I also realized that one of my theses was quickly moving beyond us.

What do I mean by that? As an early stage investor, we need certain parameters to fall into place for us to execute a meaningful strategy in selecting investments. One of these is the fact that startups we select must have market conditions maximized for their success. In the case of one of my theses, and when I applied this chasm graph to it, I realized that the market had definitely jumped the chasm a year or so ago and we were racing up through Early Majority and into Late Majority. When this happens, it means that there is still a market opportunity but just that this opportunity is not as viable for us at early stage as it was before. Mostly, this is because companies who emerge in this thesis category require a ton of capital to survive the market dynamics of fast, easy competition and a consumer attention problem of enormous proportions. You essentially need a lot of capital simply to go out and buy users to accelerate the customer acquisition process or else your chances of surviving by utilizing free methods of acquisition are too slow. At early stage, we simply cannot do things to move the odds in our favor any more; these investments become the province of those with a lot more capital than us.

Can you guess which of my theses I refer to?

Developing investment theses has been a fascinating exercise for me. However, now that I had developed some, it is even more fascinating to watch how I apply them to my investment strategy, see them evolve through years (sometimes months now), and then go through the mental and emotional exercise of dropping them when they are not valid for us any more.

1 Comment

  • Marion Surettte wrote: 05/21/2012 1:48 PM

    This is so absolutely correct. It seems that there is so much investment activity in the internet realm in concepts that are already late market concepts. Facebook, pinterest, tumbr, polyvore, "by-invitation-only" shopping sites and "75%-90% off" one time deals are so old at this point. Consumers get inundated with the same old same old.
    We are developing the next generation internet interaction, one that addresses the fact that artificial intelligence still to this day does not interact or learn like humans do (sorry Watson). It provides an investment opportunity in a concept that has not crossed the chasm, but is guaranteed to draw the masses!!

    Reply

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