A couple of the BGV teams have told me recently how surprised they’ve been at the generosity people from the startup world have shown towards them during the programme. When you think about it, it is slightly odd, especially if you watch TV portrayals of business where everything is about ‘dragons’ or ‘you’re fired’. Don’t get me wrong, those people are out there, but far fewer than you’d imagine in the tech startup world and you can generally avoid them. Almost everybody we come into contact with wants to help.
Even if you’re just starting out and focused on trying to get your startup to work it’s worth helping other people. Tim O’Reilly says that companies should “create more value than they capture” and I think that goes for individuals as well.Â The basic psychology is “if this goes well it will be good for all of us”. In the case of BGV teams we hope there will also be a benefit to society — and the bigger the startup gets, the bigger the benefit.Â We certainly always try to end all our meetings with ‘how can we help?’ — a trick we learned from Reid Hoffman — even if it’s not with a startup we have a direct stake or interest in.
It might even be that the amount of ‘generosity’ is the best signal of a healthy startup ecosystem. Recently I’ve heard more stories of startups turning investors down if they start coming in heavy on terms, which is interesting. I remember one of the people I most respect in the London startup scene telling me that’s what you should do five years ago but it didn’t use to be like that. While there are still sharks around, London seed stage investors are less like predators now. That’s a very good thing. And you just have to look at the growth of the mentor networks of Seedcamp, Springboard and BGV to see how willing people who’ve ‘made it’ are to give something back. I have no idea how you would measure the amount of generosity in a network, but it certainly feels like it’s increasing in the London startup world at the moment.