Close Form

Written By: Marc Halpin

The average jockey in the US weighs somewhere in the region of 115lbs. I’m 172lbs (on a good day). It strikes me as funny that most of my career in tech I’ve been trying to represent myself as a good jockey!

I’ve got some work to do…bring on the lettuce wraps!

Unless you’re new to venture capital and the start up world then the concept of jockeys (founders) and horses (companies) will not be new to you. It’s a simple concept, but a really good one that should be remembered.

Early stage investors bet on the jockey just as much as the horse. Why? It’s pretty clever. Experienced investors know all too well that young companies have to be very reactive, very nimble in order to find what Don Valentine of Sequoia coined as ‘Product Market Fit’. The business will change, adapt, sometimes pivot in order to get traction with customers and ultimately succeed. This ability (in the founder) for many early stage investors, is much more important than the business idea itself.

Here’s an interesting point that came up in a conversation I had with one of my favorite investors a couple of weeks ago (he manages a $1B fund BTW). I asked him about how he ultimately decides on which companies to invest in and how he considers the whole jockey/horse balance.

His response represents an important lesson if you’re a founder looking to qualify investors. He said, “We’re all about a couple of business sectors/models at my firm: SaaS, robotics, insurance and one or two others. The verticals are my first filter. I don’t bet initially on the jockey or the horse, I’m looking at the track they’re racing on!

It struck me as a great extension to a great analogy and a really important consideration as you look at venture capital partners. Asking “what is your focus?”, may rule in or rule out an investor for you, save you a lot of time and maybe a little heartache.

I’m not sure if I still need to lose the 60lbs, maybe if I run around that track, it might be a good start?