Conviction over Consensus: Insights for Studio Leaders

Dianna Lesage
3 min readFeb 28, 2022

How do you commit to standardized processes while also making big bets on outliers that are, by definition, not standard?

In 2013, Fred Wilson- Partner at Union Square Ventures- published a blog post about how USV passed on Airbnb and why that will never happen again.

We made the classic mistake that all investors make. We focused too much on what they were doing at the time and not enough on what they could do, would do, and did do… We missed Airbnb even though we loved the team.
— Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

From the public emails between Fred and Paul Grahm of YC, I suspect that Fred had conviction about the founders and championed them inside the USV walls but ultimately couldn’t sell the rest of the team on what he saw.

In the end, consensus won, and USV lost.

So, how do you stop this from happening to your studio while also managing the repeatable playbooks that are the foundation of your economies of scale?

Bet on Outliers

Every studio and VC firm has criteria used to evaluate ideas and founders. I’m not suggesting you throw out the process, I’m saying edit the formula- define outliers as the evaluation criteria.

When a founder doesn’t have the “traditional” background or the idea seems absolutely ridiculous, that’s your clue to dig in. There will be an urge to come together to discuss the opportunity- and that will be a mistake.

“Groups search for consensus, individuals search for truth.” — Naval Ravikant

Empower Your People

If everyone on your team knows what special looks like and each individual feels empowered to champion people and ideas- you’ll capture success at scale. It’s that simple. You hired smart human beings instead of outsourcing this job to data crunching machines for a reason. Let your humans be.

If even one person wants to champion the founder or idea, they should be empowered to do so.

Kill Group Think

Dianna Lesage

Startup studio expert. Community building @Metaversal. Creator capitalist.