Two interns finished their learning cycle with Artha this week. One of them wanted to speak to me and get my feedback on his performance during his 4–month internship. The schedule short feedback session went on much longer, and at the end of it, we got into an exciting topic – the importance of forming an opinion.
I believe our discussion applies to anyone who wants to work in the investment business, especially early–stage venture capital. I am sharing a synopsis of that conversation with the permission of the intern.
Intern: What is one piece of advice for me?
Me: Form an opinion and be vocal about it. It is acceptable to be wrong, completely wrong, and heinously wrong. However, it is a cardinal mistake to have the ability to accumulate and analyze data but lack the courage to form a decisive opinion. The best investors have often sought out views from their peers and from people who could provide them with a fresh perspective. In fact, the investors I emulate often seek out contrarian views to their own to test their hypothesis.
Intern: Why is the trait of forming and communicating our opinions so important?
I believe that investing is the ability to predict future outcomes of current decisions, and an investor’s brilliant foresight finds appreciation only in hindsight. That is why I consider investing more of an art than a science. A room full of experienced appreciators of art would almost inevitably have deep-felt disagreements on the value of a Van Gogh. They could all be right or be wrong – we would only find out once the money gets transferred into the sellers‘ account.
What should an intern do?
I fondly remember eye–opening realizations I have had during discussions (sometimes heated) with interns, associates, principals, partners, co–investors, and even entrepreneurs over the last 10 years in venture capital. Initially, it was intimidating for me to showcase my opinions in front of the experienced hands of this game. But I realized that I wasn‘t learning anything by keeping them to myself. I learned more by expressing my incorrect opinions and recognizing the gaps in my understanding, over keeping my opinion to myself for fear of getting called out.
A newcomer to the investment industry should seek out experiences where they can form these opinions. Join investment clubs, seek out investors who have strong opinions, even if they are contrarians to their own, but learn how to build and present your investment viewpoint.
Don’t be afraid of being wrong; we learn best through the mistakes we make. Expressing your opinion is a win-win situation. You either get called out and learn where you went wrong, or your opinion contributes valuably to the discussion. Most importantly, you grow with each interaction and learn to receive constructive criticism.