You may have discovered this essay from the social media I’m publishing and wondering: “Who is Geoff Woo? Why is he investing time and resources into a social media and video infrastructure?”
I’m an entrepreneur and investor. My primary method of making a living is to earn stock equity in businesses I start or invest in, work to make those businesses succeed, and thus make the stock more valuable. I have a specific strategy for why I’m making content. My content approach derives from my academic sensibilities, not as a performer or influencer. It won’t move the financial needle for me to sell courses, information products, or run ads, but I absolutely will be capturing value for my social media efforts.
I cannot compete with Roelof of Sequoia Capital [insert your preferred equivalent industry living legends].
In venture capital, everyone is selling the same (mostly undifferentiated) venture capital dollar to the same small set of elite founders and companies that will drive most of the economic return in a vintage year. Every software founder is selling their (mostly undifferentiated) software to the same set of logos. Every consumer product founder is pitching the same buyer demographic and the same set of celebrity tastemakers to promote their (mostly undifferentiated) consumer product. The pitch is always some permutation of:
As someone who’s sat and negotiated on both sides of the table as both a founder x venture capitalist and venture capitalist x fund LP, most pitches sound the same as it’s very rare to have actual product or service differentiation. High-tech as an ecosystem is highly efficient, moves very quickly, and differentiation is rapidly competed down.
Thus, an increasingly dominant attribute is the ability to command attention. In fact, a provably durable ability to command attention might arguably be the most competitive moat, full stop. Attention is commanded two ways:
Assume incorrectly that I am just as smart and hard-working as Roelof. I would still need to compete against the Sequoia Capital brand legacy he’s inherited. Sequoia Capital is a 50+ year old platform that has been built by hundreds of very smart and hardworking people and thousands of business partners compounded over five decades of excellent execution. No matter how smart or hard-working I am, unless I have a time-machine, I won’t be able to catch up to Roelof’s 50+ year headstart competing on his turf.
However in 2020’s, we are seeing a rapid attention shift driven by new affinity discovery algorithms and a generational preference shift towards raw, authentic content. While I have no chance against a 50+ year legacy brand, I might be able win on relevancy, especially for the next generation of founders who are just learning about tech, startups, and venture capital today.
At Roelof’s level of institutional prestige, he has serious compliance obligations. He has to consider reputation risk and has something to protect and preserve, whereas I have much less to lose and thus less constraints to play higher risk for higher variance. I can win on speed, pace, and ubiquity and think about running experiments with low-prestige content formats and platforms versus burning time with compliance lawyers who despite their intentions will inevitably water down genuine insight into corpo-speak.
So as the last generation of brands become more and more risk-adverse, I can be increasingly risk-on with highly timely and relevant content and opinions in the preferred content formats of the next generation. I can have my production team pop up an iPhone and tape a 30 second chunk of a Board meeting or quickly capture a candid, behind-the-scenes conversation with founders. I can share the reality of the dirty grind of the sausage-making factory that is a new venture start-up. I can be decisive and polarize around specific business opportunities at the frontiers, and in those narrow sectors, I might actually have a shot to actually beat Roelof.
I am willing to appear like a clown in the short-term, if it means I have a chance to win big and return superior financial returns in the long-term. In other words, this is classic innovator’s dilemma applied to the venture capital business, and the generational attention gap is my wedge.
Synchronous meetings and calls only scales linearly. I’ve personally gone through the full personal optimization journey: I constantly convert in-person meetings into calls, calls into emails, emails into texts or voice memos. I’ve shortened my default meetings lengths from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. I became a biohacker (and gained notoriety for it which I talk about next section) to eke more mental endurance and clarity. I have high work output and can work 7 days a week, 16 hours a day. However, any incremental gain on synchronous time quickly plateaus. No amount of optimization scales this further.
However, I view my social media install base as a deliberate idea and A/B testing platform to deliver highly-targeted messaging inventory and elicit feedback supra-linearly. And thus I treat my social media as a business system to be operated with a team with systems and process. I batch create content through highly structured production days with the support of a full creative, production, and editing team. The content is then dripped out on a daily schedule to maximize the overall integral of attention over time.
So for an upfront investment into systems, process, and team and smaller incremental investment of about 10-20 hours a month, I can produce a simulacra of ubiquity and constant activity. This is also what is favored by affinity discovery algorithms as well, which will favor and deliver my content to a bigger and bigger audience. The benefit here is dual: I scale communication from one-to-one to one-to-many and the system disseminates it asynchronously. I scale reach and, more importantly, my time.
By always being top of mind, I mimic having the benefit of owning a ‘legacy brand’ by winning on relevancy. When great founders or future business partners are contemplating a new transaction, I just need them to think of me too.
But the most economically valuable part of owning an install base is that I can sell way more effectively. Through my content channel, I essentially train an audience to regularly follow my behind-the-scenes business life; this is equivalent to creating a number of regular advertising inventory slots for a highly specific and curated audience that is valuable to my business interests. Owning inventory to highlight my own businesses, products, services organically is far superior to renting someone else’s advertising inventory.
I’ve actually done this before with H.V.M.N. Podcast, which I scaled to 50K+ subscribers and millions of downloads. The business rationale for H.V.M.N. is the same as the above two sections.