David B. Lerner

Dave Lerner, 3x Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Host of Venture Studio
Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Director of Columbia University Venture Lab, Blogger, Community Organizer, Golfer-in-Exile.

The Founder's Eye

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This is part of both my ongoing Series on Entrepreneurial Culture as well as my ongoing Series on Getting from Zero to One.

I had the pleasure of reading Patrick O'Brian's biography of Picasso in the mid-nineties. O'Brian is of course best known for his magnificent Aubrey-Maturin series, but he was actually also friendly with Picasso and wrote a tremendous biography about him in the seventies. Throughout the book are references to Picasso's magnificent artistic eye. The "eye" is at various points called "beaming", "knowing", "young", "intelligent", "dark", "lustrous", "gleaming", "compassionate", the "brilliant window to his mind", "piercing". I never forgot this emphasis O'Brian put on that all-seeing Picassoan eye which, in O'Brian's judgment, was the source of the great genius of the man. All this stood out to me because it was one of the few occasions in the biography of an artist or writer that I'd read, in which the author even tried to comprehend the nature/origins of his subject's genius. As an artist himself (and a great one), and as a friend of Picasso's, O'Brian dared to tread in that realm.

So where am I going with this? Well, it's well established by now that many visionary founders are artists in their own right. The world-changing companies they build are their particular canvas.

I think all visionary founders who have built great companies possess a "magnificent eye". Think of all that it must capture and perceive:

  • an immense and compelling vision for something that doesn't exist and that few can see or understand
  • the innate understanding of what team members are needed to help make some version of this vision a reality
  • the confidence and charisma to convince teammates, partners, investors, customers, the media, and others that their vision (or something close to it) coming to fruition is inevitable
  • the tenacity to overcome extreme opposition, to pivot, to change direction and adapt to new information and changing circumstances

So next time you're looking to join a startup, or, if you're an angel or VC to invest in an entrepreneur's company, look for the Picassoan eye, that mythical Founder's Eye.... is it there or are they kidding themselves and perhaps you?

Or maybe you have it yourself? If so, make haste, the world is waiting for you.

For the next post in the Getting from Zero to One Series click here

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