Mike Maples on his fellow VCs: "Most just suck at it"

By James Robinson , written on May 8, 2014

From The News Desk

Floodgate’s Mike Maples -- an investor in Twitter, Digg and Lyft -- made the jump from entrepreneur to venture capitalist in 2006. He gave himself three years to make a go of it and promised himself that he wasn’t going to fall back on reliving his entrepreneur glory days, he reflected at tonight’s PandoMonthly event in San Francisco.

“Most VCs lose money. Most just suck at it,” Maples said. "Every job has a one percent."

The key to being a good VC, Maples thought, was remembering what it was like to be the one in the founder’s seat and respecting those pressures. “When I was a founder I hardly thought about my VCs. I was doing real company stuff. If I’d asked [Breyer Capital’s] Jim Breyer how I should recruit people, I would have felt weak sauce, like I was lame,” he said. “The best VCs I’ve seen in the business act as if they’re working with a strong founder.”

Crossing over from operating a business to being a VC is more complicated than people gave it credit. “The fundamental thing I realized is that most operators are not great VCs. When you’re an operator you make deals. When you’re a VC you’re a buyer,” Maples said.

“Most people suck at this and if you don’t get your head on straight you’re gonna suck.”

The divining factor, Maples thought, was establishing the right level of control and power dynamic between VC and founder. “The entrepreneur is going to do what they want. The operator is going to do what they do,” he said.

“The fun is backing great founders. You need to get comfortable with riding shotgun. If you’re not ok with that, you’re in the wrong line of work. I want for them to call me. I don’t really think about it as ‘I’m an owner,’” Maples said.

“The idea that the founder reports to the VC doesn’t jive with my experience. My role at Twitter was to say something so they can do the opposite. If it works, awesome.”

[photo by Brad Jonas for Pando]