For Startups, Knowledge is a Commodity but Insights are Valuable


People overvalue knowing. The Internet turns knowledge into a commodity. Most – market size, a Stack Overflow question, detailed Wikipedia page – are readily available via a Google search or two. At Homebrew we have the chance to meet a good number of teams each month. In the 1000+ we’ve discussed since 2013, I can’t really think of many that I wouldn’t consider to be knowledgable. They had lots of information about their industry, both learned and experienced. They possessed facts that were pretty much indisputable. But when I think about the founders we’ve backed, the teams we got most excited by, it wasn’t the depth of their knowledge, it was the uniqueness of their insights.

Facts are largely statements about the past and present, but startups are about the future. They’re bets about what is going to happen next – informed by knowledge but not limited by it. And while a fact is a truth, an insight is a hypothesis. It could be wrong. That’s the scary part. Running into the fog and assuming the ground is there beneath your feet.

When I see people pitch investors or interview for jobs, the difference between solid and exceptional is often the presence or lack of a POV. Sometimes it’s because they’re playing it safe. Sometimes it’s because they never were coached or challenged to embrace critical thinking. Sometimes it’s because there’s no passion there. “I want to work at a startup and you’re a hot company.”

So before you raise funding, apply for a job, tell a reporter about your startup, make sure you’ve got your insights ready to go. Not just the facts.