How do you spot a cult leader in early stage tech?

I invest in cults. This is not a conventional investment strategy but has a powerful logic in early stage investments.

Yesterday I was asked ‘how do you spot a cult leader’?

So, here’s my view based on hunting them down over many years ;)

Some cults I’ve invested in

1/ They tend to have more than product-market-fit. They have founder-product-market-fit.

2/ They’ve thought more deeply about their cause than you can imaging. When you challenge them, they give you those bemused eyes like — “have you not thought about this”? I love that ;)

3/ They create reality distortion fields. They ‘bend reality’ and force you and others to see the world differently.

4/ They want to do unreasonable things that make you go ‘whaaaaa’ but break down the journey simply as if it were easy. My favourite EVER example was when Musk said we we’ll live on Mars and then broke down the logical steps, “1, 2, 3, 4" as if it were so noddy and obvious. Haha.

5/ They are learning machines. They are always seeking how to improve and find out how to be better.

6/ They convince people to work for them for nothing, or for free. People just want to be around their energy.

7/ They can sell. Their vision, their product, anything. But they are not BS merchants.

8/ They can think ‘macro and micro’ , ‘linear and non linear’, ‘vision and execution’, ‘Make leaps and can run a process’. One thing i massively look for is these two things in a single person. It’s rare. Sam Altman once said similar.

9. They tend to have a bigger worldview than tech. A16Z told the world that you could take tech people and turn them into CEO’s. That can happen of course, but i tend to value super rounded people who have a life / worldview beyond tech as it is at the intersection of multiple disciplines where interesting things often happen.

I see tech visionaries as a subset of visionaries — often the latter are better at building businesses.

So…there you go. Love your thoughts and please do let me know if you find any…?

Thanks again to my mate Richard Burton for making retrospective sense to my intuitive behaviours.

VC Partner@SAATCHiNVEST. Seed investor in Citymapper, Farewill, Ometria + more. Chief of Staff@Redbrain. NED@Picassolabs. Founder

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