A former lemonade stand entrepreneur turned Venture Capitalist
I recently watched some highlights of Jeremy Lin experience a career high of 24 points in a game against the New Jersey Nets. Who’s Jeremy Lin? For those of you who aren’t familiar w/ Jeremy Lin, he’s a Christian Taiwanese American born and raised in Palo Alto, CA, graduated from Harvard College, and entered the NBA as the first Asian-American basketball player in the league, initially playing for the Golden State Warriors and now for the New York Knicks.
What’s amazing about Jeremy Lin isn’t necessarily what he’s accomplished, but his interesting journey and what it means for VCs who rely on pattern recognition in making investments. If you look at the ethnic make-up of the NBA players, it’s clear that there aren’t too many Asian-Americans. In fact, it’s just Jeremy Lin. Even though Jeremy Lin led his Palo Alto high school team to the state championships and was the league’s all time leading scorer, no one from the Pac-10 gave him a call. Is it because he didn’t fit the typical profile of a basketball player? After he led Harvard to multiple championships, he didn’t get drafted in to the NBA. I get it. Harvard doesn’t exactly produce NBA superstars. It wasn’t until Mark Cuban invited Jeremy Lin to play in his summer league that people started taking Jeremy Lin seriously. Even though he was Asian American, not that big, not black, white, European or from China, he had serious skills on the court. He let his skills on the court speak for themselves.
The parallels to the VC world are quite similar. What do VCs do when they meet an entrepreneur that doesn’t exactly fit the bill? Those entrepreneurs often have to work a lot harder in order to build “street-cred.” I wonder how many fantastic entrepreneurs we miss because our pattern recognition is failing to pick-up on stars like Jeremy Lin who may not fit the bill, but can really play well. If they’re anything like Jeremy Lin, they don’t give up always keep their head up.