insights by tech leaders on design in venture capital

1. How does a design perspective help in evaluating an investment decision, in obvious ways?
Design is a manifestation of what a company values, the principles that guide their decisions, and its ability to execute. Bad experience design is a reflection of some internal failure within the company. Read my post here.

2. How does a design perspective help in evaluating an investment decision, in non-obvious ways?
Design is a manifestation of what a company values, the principles that guide their decisions, and its ability to execute. Bad experience design is a reflection of some internal failure within the company. Read more here.

3. Where have you seen a designer’s perspective possibly harmful in the investment process?
Just because a company’s offering is not aesthetically pleasing does not mean that it is not a potential investment hit. If we only look at potential investments through the lens of design, we might subject ourselves to blind spots where good investment opportunities are overlooked. Also, an overinvestment in design can sometimes lead to navel-gazing and too much focus on issues that are not really the core problem to solve.

4. What are three characteristics in a company’s structure/history that will likely lead to success in leveraging design?
— Clear vision and mission, sense of purpose, raison d’etre
— Strong point of view that guides key decisions for product
— Decisive leadership to support the first two

5. How do you best support CEOs with a purely technical and/or business background to leverage design in their startup?
— Help them recruit a great design leader / designer
— Point out potential pitfalls with their product if they do not get the design right
— Get them close to users to gain insight into their needs and how to best address their needs with their offering

6. What are a few challenges you’ve seen in working with companies that have caught “the design bug” -- especially the CEO?
— Naive understanding of what design is
— Talks the talk but doesn’t commit to making design a priority (failure to bring in great talent, failure to empower design, etc)

7. Which three public companies out there do you admire for their approach to design?
— Google
— Apple
— Amazon

8. Which three startups in the CONSUMER space do you think embody design in their companies particularly well, and why?
— Uber has executed tremendously well on their original vision of having passengers get transported around like rock stars. Details like not having to deal with payment or tips after a ride help create a great experience. Uber has great branding and emotional connection to users through visual details such as showing the black car in the app, and they have done a nice job of extending the original concept to other areas (UberX, UberPool, UberSUV, etc). Its model has inspired countless companies to extend the model to a variety of domains.
— Medium - This publishing platform makes it easy for anyone to post a great looking article and get traffic. They have a terrific content discovery experience; it will be the de facto publishing platform for the web.
— Spotify - This company has radically changed the way we buy, discover, share, and listen to music.

9. Which three startups in the ENTERPRISE space do you think embody design in their companies particularly well, and why?
— Nutanix - Nutanix’s data center management software focuses on design first, with intention, a deliberate point of view, and value on aesthetically pleasing design. They pride themselves on their “consumer-grade design” as the source of their success.
— Square - Square has transformed small businesses through beautiful, easy to use technology.
— ThoughtSpot - Thoughtspot empowers its users to make better informed decisions by making data tangible to users -- easy to understand, easy to search, easy to share with others. Their design is beautiful -- clean, minimal, easy to use.

10. What are a few URLs of your favorite writings on design in the VC space (including your own)?
UX is a Canary in a Coal Mine
Khosla Ventures Design / UX
GV Sprint

Made in 2016 by John Maeda