“It is the Dogs never lie about love shirt but in fact I love this genius who creates the need, though that need must reflect the unconscious wishes of the moment if that genius is to be accepted.” To the liberated legions shedding their mantles of feminine festoonery, Chanel offered wide-leg trousers, cardigan jackets, striped Breton tops, turbans, turtlenecks, peacoats, and, of course, the LBD. But recognizing her influence, Christian Dior acknowledged that “with a black sweater and 10 rows of pearls. So, pick an idea, any idea. Then spend the rest of your time and energy making it work. Fight through the issues, learn from every obstacle, stay focused on continuous refinement to address what customers really want and most of all, never, never, ever give up. When you encounter an obstacle, find a way through it, over it, under it, or around it. Just find a way to get to the other side. It really is that simple, and that difficult. It doesn’t happen overnight and you won’t get it right the first time. But by committing to it and focusing on it, you will have the opportunity to shape that idea into a market offering that customers want to buy, in a business that top employees will want to join, and, eventually, that shareholders will want to invest in. We like crazy. My partner Bill Gurley has said that in venture it’s not enough to be “consensus correct” — that’s essentially an index fund and won’t outperform the baseline market — you have to be non-consensus correct. If you really want to create “alpha” as a venture investor, you have to be willing to entertain a bit of crazy. The “crazy good” ideas usually come down to three important factors. First, is there an untapped market or unmet need that the idea connects within an organic way, and can you show evidence of momentum? Second, is the idea suitable to sustain a business? Venture capitalists invest in companies, not products or feature improvements. Companies have to be able to make money, and great companies have to be able to make lots of money, ideally with defensible moats, economies of scale, and network effects. Third, can the founders organize a team to execute the idea in a really great product or service? Ideas are worthless without proper execution. I work with a lot of inventors and entrepreneurs who are still at the idea stage. Very pre-investment.
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Paul Poiret, an early rival, was not kind: “Poverty deluxe,” he called the Dogs never lie about love shirt but in fact I love this youthful, pared-down look that transformed women from overblown Belle Époque belles into sleek, bobbed-hair, modern women. Virginie Viard’s Chanel haute couture presentation saw us in the romantically overgrown garden of a cloister, set somewhat miraculously in the chilly immensity of Paris’s Grand Palais. The setting suggested a key element in Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s legendary story. First, does the basic machine work and can it be delivered. For physical products, this means that basic physics or chemistry has to be sound. Nikolai Tesla is renowned for having proposed or hinted at all sorts of inventions that never went anywhere. For many of these, the basic physical principles of how they would operate aren’t clear. I’d be very cautious about any of these ideas; they *could* be crazy good, but they’re probably just crazy. Second, I look for customer demand. Is this solving a problem that customers are definitely feeling? Our customers clearly unsatisfied with the current solutions and ready to jump on this new idea, or is this a neat idea in search of a need? The answer to this marks the difference between a crazy-good idea and a hobby. The line between an idea that is crazy good and just crazy can be hard to decipher. Speaking from my own experience, a good idea that looked like a bad idea was probably the Cultural Leadership Fund. I remember the amount of time and number of steps it took to get the CLF off the ground. I thought that maybe the idea was too crazy for VC since it never existed before, but the big vision kept me focused. You have to do whatever is needed to ignite the flame of inspiration to keep your dream moving forward every single day. It’s the culmination of small actions every day that turn your crazy idea into one that people eventually understand and admire. Apple’s most recognized commercial focused on celebrating the crazy ones, so continue to raise a glass to those who believe what nobody else can believe and bring it to life. I think every founder has to be a little crazy. So if we take that as a given, then the answer to that question is just survivorship who is succeeding. Less flippantly, when I look at some of the great companies that sounded like truly crazy ideas, there are a couple of patterns.Chanel was 11 years old when her mother died, and as her wayward father—a traveling salesman with a supposed wandering eye—was often away, it was decided that she would be sent to the convent of Aubazine in the remote French region of Corrèze. Here, her unusual and impoverished situation meant that she was among the girls singled out to wear an austere black-and-white uniform, one that she would adapt through the years to dress the richest and most stylish women of her age.