Shared wisdom: Year-end thoughts from some of the industry's best

By Michael Carney , written on January 1, 2013

From The News Desk

I often stop and reflect on how blessed I am to have access to the minds of some of the greatest investors and entrepreneurs across the startup and technology landscape. Sure many of the choicest morsels are shared off the record over a quiet cocktail, or cup of coffee, but many of the most sought after influencers and thought leaders freely share their wisdom publicly via their blogs and through social media. It's arguably the biggest advantage to anyone looking to make their way in this unforgiving industry today, as compared to a decade ago.

With that in mind, here is a small sampling of year-end parting thoughts by several of the best known and most respected in the industry. Much of the discussion has been in the context of a Series A Crunch or a weakening of the broader macroeconomic environment, while others have imparted general wisdom on the art and science of building great companies.

Enjoy, and happy 2013. May it be your most fruitful year yet!

Fred Wilson: Partner at Union Square Ventures

So if I can give entrepreneurs a single piece of advice for 2013 it would be to deliver on your promises. Not just to your investors but also to your team and ultimately to yourself. This is no time to be in denial. That is a lethal attribute in times like these.  -- Advice for 2013: Deliver On Your Promises (12/26/12)
Brad Feld: Co-founder at Foundry Group and TechStars
As 2013 begins, I encourage you to adopt one of my deeply held beliefs, that of ‘give before you get.’ ... In a business context, my favorite example of this is the difference between a mentor and an advisor ... An advisor says ‘I’ll help you with your company if you give me 1% of the equity’ or ‘I’d be happy to spend up to a day a month advising you if you give me a retainer of $3,000.’ A mentor says, simply, ‘how can I help?’ -- Give Before You Get (1/1/13)
Chris Dixon: Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
It is widely believed that writing a business plan is a waste of time ... However, before you commit yourself to working on a project for 5+ years, it’s prudent to think hard about what you are trying to build and some of the things that might go wrong. For many people, writing out a detailed business plan is the best way to enforce intellectual rigor ... As Eisenhower famously said: ‘plans are nothing, but planning is indispensable.’ -- Plans are Nothing, but Planning is Indispensable (12/18/12)

[Disclosure, Chris Dixon is an individual investor in PandoDaily, as are his fellow Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Jeff Jordan.]

Ben Horowitz: Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
So, why bother with culture at all? Three reasons: 1.) It matters to the extent that it can help you achieve [your] goals; 2.) As your company grows, culture can help you preserve your key values, make your company a better place to work and help it perform better in the future; and 3.) Perhaps most importantly, after you and your people go through the inhuman amount of work that it will take to build a successful company, it will be an epic tragedy if your company culture is such that even you don’t want to work there. -- Programming Your Culture (12/18/12)
Roger Ehrenberg: Managing Partner at IA Ventures
Early stage VCs and founders are bound together by a spiritual relationship around the founders’ mission. This is made more complicated by the financial and legal dynamics introduced by a financing. Taking VC money is like getting married: when it’s good it’s great and both productive and fulfilling. When it’s bad, however, splitting up is hard to do, both emotionally and logistically. So bringing a VC into the mix is not something that should be taken lightly. ... My message is that if you do elect to take venture money, by all means do it the right way. Eyes wide open. -- Eyes Wide Open (12/15/12)
Mark Suster: Partner at GRP Partners and founder at LaunchpadLA
Behind every startup are amazing lawyers, mentors, exec coaches, recruiters, etc. that never get the full credit they deserve ... Successful entrepreneurs achieve much through their personal leadership traits that inspire others to do great things with them – sure. But without these unsung heroes [they’d] go nowhere. -- The Valuable Unsung Heroes of Startups (12/17/12)
Dave McClure: Founding Partner at 500Startups
Failure is hardly the worst thing that can happen to you in Silicon Valley. In fact, failure is a rather warm, safe blanket for most folks around these parts ... Far worse than hitting the ground, most of us are scared shitless of being able to fly high, stay aloft, and keep our arms extended wide as we climb into a big blue sky, reaching for ever higher heights ... Indeed, fear of flying is the most frightening thing ever for truly great entrepreneurs. Usually accompanied by a little voice inside your head that says ‘Crap, any minute now these fuckers are gonna realize i can’t keep this up for long, and then i won’t be a Golden God anymore.’” -- Fear of Flying (12/29/12)
[Image courtesy laughlin]