September 14-15, 2016 GSVlabs, Silicon Valley, USA

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Pioneer Notes: Investing Organically

Pioneer Notes: Investing Organically

Pioneer Notes is a weekly segment of the GSV A2Apple newsletter. Li Jiang, the co-founder of the GSV Pioneer Summit and a venture capitalist, writes Pioneer Notes and we will be sharing them here as well. 

Investing Organically

As our first cohort of Pioneer Accelerator startups settle into their program, I started reflecting on the timeless question of what characterizes great startups. I came up with a simple formula:

Formula for organic investingThat is not to say that having those two attributes will guarantee more success, but those are baseline requirements for me to get excited about a company. Now let’s delve into the two components that make up this formula.

1. Organic team

An organic team is easy to identify — have the founders worked together in some meaningful capacity before? If yes, this is an organic partnership.

The reason you want to back an organic team is because starting a company is so difficult. Teams who haven’t worked together before won’t know how to handle the most difficult periods.

Inorganic teams are those that may seem totally qualified and have the right experience but are hired together just to address an opportunity. Without the right team chemistry, however, it is very difficult to survive the tough moments in a startup’s lifecycle.

2. Organic product/idea

An organic idea is either a personal problem that the founders want to solve, or a problem that the founders have been very close to.

Inorganic ideas are the ones that people sit around thinking about by asking themselves, “What can I make a lot of money on?”

I run in fear of inorganic teams who got together because they saw a big financial opportunity —an  inorganic idea. You can spot those from a mile away and if it’s not totally authentic, the company is likely to fail to attract investors and more employees down the road.

I only invest in organic teams working on organic ideas. This might seem like a simple and limiting heuristic, but the core thesis stems from a core fact: startups are HARD.  Unless the team is organic and the idea is authentic, people will give up on the team or product sooner or later as they hit the rocky spots on the rollercoaster that we call a startup.


Love startups as much as we do? Then the GSV Pioneer Summit  is for you. It is THE conference for breakthrough innovation and game-changing entrepreneurs. Pioneer Summit is two-day technology conference (September 14-15, 2016) in the heart of Silicon Valley that is focused on the people and companies building tomorrow’s industries. The Pioneer Summit convenes a global community of daring entrepreneurs and connects them with leading growth investors and global corporations who can help scale their efforts. GSVlabs in Redwood City, California will host the 2016 GSV Pioneer Summit. Buy your ticket now to reserve your place.


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