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Resilience and Stubbornness

 Fred Wilson, of the AVC, recently wrote about resilience on his blog:

"A friend and I dined last night at a restaurant that opened in our neighborhood last summer, in the middle of the pandemic. For the first six months of its existence, they could not welcome diners into the space that they had spent time and money creating. They carried on, figured out how to make money serving customers outside. As the NYC economy starts to recover, they are still standing. And they are now welcoming diners into the lovely space they created for them a year ago.

Resilience is an extremely valuable trait when you are starting and running a business. In a bull market that rewards other things, it is often overlooked. But I don’t overlook it.

A reporter asked me recently about a company that I am on the board of that has become very successful. I told the reporter that for years, the founder carried on while every competitor left the market in search of a viable business. The viable business arrived eventually and the founder was rewarded for his patience.

Sticking with something, even when the chips are down, is hard. Many people (most?) can’t do it. They are impatient. They want the easy money.

While the world has been going through a painful and deadly global pandemic, the tech sector has experienced a bull market of epic proportions that has lifted all boats and made some incredibly wealthy. But that bull market will eventually end and things will get harder for founders and CEOs and investors.

And that is when resilience will be in short supply. So look for it in founders now, when it is less necessary."

Since I often hear such stories, I wanted to clarify the difference between resilience and stubbornness. So, here's what I responded to Fred.

"Hi Fred, 

I've been reading AVC for over a decade now and thank you for your generosity in sharing insightful and powerful ideas.

I agree with you here on the power of resilience. I would also like your thoughts on how to balance resilience with a decision to quit. How do you evaluate when the time is right to quit?

In cases where we look at those who were resilient and eventually successful, we might be blinded by survivor bias as all those others who were also resilient but weren't successful in the end go unnoticed. 

I personally prefer to define my exit conditions up front so that I know I'm going to be resilient and power through as long as my exit conditions haven't been met (in the case of this new restaurant, it could be something like $100,000 in operating losses). But, without a pre-defined exit criteria, I find it hard to distinguish between rightful resilience and sheer stubbornness. 

With luck, stubbornness may be rewarded. But we shouldn't confuse it with resilience. 

Thanks for the amazing work you do and look forward to hearing your thoughts."

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