insights by tech leaders on design in venture capital

1. How does a design perspective help in evaluating an investment decision, in obvious ways?
We see the long term opportunities for brand distinction, product evolution and the residual value of the companies innovation.

2. How does a design perspective help in evaluating an investment decision, in non-obvious ways?
We are trained to understand people in ways that typical investors are not. We look at behavioral signatures, emotional/environmental/cognitive stimuli to derive a sense of empathy and we can distill down their idea into its simplest forms which allows us to truly see the “value” of their solutions. This is far different than the traditional “pattern recognition” approach.

3. Where have you seen a designer’s perspective possibly harmful in the investment process?
When it’s ignored. That’s the only time, in my opinion, when it can be harmful.

4. What are three characteristics in a company’s structure/history that will likely lead to success in leveraging design?
High taste filter, clear ability to identify AND articulate their consumer and his/her pain points and a culture that biases towards action.

5. How do you best support CEOs with a purely technical and/or business background to leverage design in their startup?
I try to build a philosophical bridge between tech and Design. The common bridge is often the act of democratizing and distributing, Creativity.

6. What are a few challenges you’ve seen in working with companies that have caught “the design bug” -- especially the CEO?
That design is a “magic bullet,” confusing Design with making things “look better” rather than as a way to identify better problems to solve and assuming that Designers aren't analytical and that Engineers aren’t creative.

7. Which public companies out there do you admire for their approach to design?
— Nike
— Target
— VW
They all have a clear persona that drives the way they create value and scale innovation.

8. Which startups in the CONSUMER space do you think embody design in their companies particularly well, and why?
— Fyuse
— Away
— VSCO
They all have a very clear understanding of their market and their opportunity. Which is a result of having a design centric organization.

9. Which three startups in the ENTERPRISE space do you think embody design in their companies particularly well, and why?
I have seen several, that I can’t name right now, in the security/IT/Infrastructure space that will disrupt the way enterprise is viewed. SAP is a great example of an enterprise company that is large and well known that has used design to change the way they work with their customers.

10. What are a few URLs of your favorite writings on design in the VC space (including your own)?
Silicon Valley and The Intangibles Of Champions
Focus On Design: A New Venture Investment Strategy
Why Creativity Matters Most for Entrepreneurs

Made in 2016 by John Maeda