Here’s a funny story — and one that’s probably familiar for most entrepreneurs who’ve raised money. It’s about how the picture of what worked or what didn’t work during the founding of a company is frequently different, depending on which side of the table you are on.
There’s a long running debate in the Valley about how much “value add” investors really add beyond their checkbooks. I should note that several of Pando’s investors have been extraordinarily helpful, so I don’t tend to come down on the side of “all investors are useless.”
But what’s Pintrest CEO Ben Silbermann’s take on the subject? Well that depends who you ask…
On March 3, Mashable ran an interview with the company’s first investors Brian Cohen. From the interview:
“There are also, Cohen believes, valuable lessons in the Pinterest story for other social entrepreneurs. ‘They listened,’ Cohen said — repeatedly. The investor, who also mentored Silbermann, constantly marveled at how Silbermann listened to advice from investors, customers and partners. ‘They were incredibly open for input. That’s really important as an instructive element for social entrepreneurs—anyone—[they were open] to those angel investors who care deeply about their success.’”
A clear message from Cohen, then: Pinterest listened carefully to its initial investors, and that willingness to take advice has been key to the company’s success.
Two days later, here’s a verrrry pinteresting extract from an AllThingsD interview with Silbermann, dealing with that exact same subject:
“Telling people how to create and run their own Internet start-up is a booming mini-industry. But here’s Pinterest co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann’s advice: “Don’t take too much advice.”
Out of context? Here he is again, this time from a BusinessInsider write up of Silbermann’s SXSW talk:
“Don’t take too much advice,” says Silbermann. “Most people who have a lot of advice to give — with a few exceptions — generalize whatever they did,” he says.
It sounds like what Silbermann’s real advice to entrepreneurs is this: Investors love to feel like they’re giving good advice — and no-one ever went broke by pretending to take it.