When asked for advice about a career in tech my feedback varies based on the individual’s goals but always ends with “…you can recover from any failure except one where you ruined your reputation.” Basically, trying to make sure that the desire to succeed, to impress, doesn’t overwhelm someone young in their career and cause them to compromise their ethics or values.
My friend and frequent co-investor Semil Shah wrote a good post this weekend called The Market Ignores Inputs. He writes,
Absolutely true. Satya and I often describe how we’re thankful of the solid personal relationships we maintain with our investors and the shared values, but also know that ultimately our returns are the primary point of evaluation for the continuing business relationships.
The majority of investors I respect (Semil included) are output-focused but with a clear and consistent morality. For them the ends don’t justify the means, if that includes operating in a manner which is poisonous, ethically troubled or illegal. And it’s not about getting cute and trying to avoid knowing (ie “The doctor turned around so he could have deniability“). The Hippocratic oath of Venture Capital extends to helping founders maintain their true north, sometimes in the face of immense pressures and economic consequence. That’s an input you don’t compromise on.