Intuition Doesn’t Scale
by Adam Rentschler
As the culture of entrepreneurship continues its shift from reliance on paid consultants to volunteer mentors, we collectively cheer about the money we’re saving. But, this shift trades one problem for another. Mentors’ time is perhaps more precious than money. Yet, our startup communities are hopelessly inefficient in turning mentors’ expertise into good startup-company outcomes.
If your community doesn’t adapt, you are in danger of burning through your mentors’ goodwill, and your startups will increasingly be left to fend for themselves.
Why? The learning model in which we are stuck is based on one-to-one exchange of intuitive impressions that experts share with startups. This has two implications:
(1) Mystery. Many experts in startup communities insist the difference between a fundable strategy and a one that cannot attract funding is like the difference between art and porn. “I know it when I see it,” they’ll tell you. (Smut, like a good strategy, is difficult to define in the abstract.)
(2) Access. This type of learning relies on high caliber experts who are gifted in applying their intuition to the unique strategic challenges of a given startup. Mentors’ volunteer time is a scarce and carefully guarded resource. This makes sense; we are making novice entrepreneurs much faster than we are making new, kick-ass mentors.
Mystery creates efficiency problems. Access constraints are a symptom is a growing supply and demand imbalance in our communities. The intuition our communities rely on as the wellspring of entrepreneurial learning doesn’t scale. Until we address this issue, our communities cannot scale either.