Elizabeth Yin is a General Partner at Hustle Fund, a VC fund that invests in pre-seed software startups. She is a tech entrepreneur turned startup investor with a mission to democratize wealth through entrepreneurship.
On how to identify a hustler
In a pitch meeting, there are some things you can see right away about the effort a founder puts into their business.
“I define hustle as being able to execute with velocity. For example, if you are doing customer development, how quickly are you getting your learnings? Are you calling up ten people every day, week, or month? Those are very different velocities. Those who can get more wisdom and more experiments done in a shorter time, their odds of success dramatically go up because they have more shots on goal. More experiments they can run in trying to figure things out.
In assessing a founder, some of the things that we try to get at are how quickly they are moving. What specifically are they doing? What sort of time frame are we talking about? What have their learnings been? Do they have a good understanding of their customer persona? How has that thinking evolved?”
On what conviction means to Hustle Fund
The partners at Hustle Fund have conviction in themselves, but it varies when it comes to founders, teams, and ideas.
“Conviction to me is probably an overused word. We have enough belief in some of the assumptions and hypotheses about the business and also the team. We take the team with a grain of salt, knowing that we will learn a lot about the team once we have made the investment and start working with them. Conviction around the idea is important. Is this a real problem that people will pay money for? Do we believe in that hypothesis from day one?”
On managing stress
Often, avoiding stress is about understanding the adverse outcomes and having a plan if you face them.
“Stress can manifest itself in a lot of strange ways. I have so many friends who have had very poor health because of fundraising stress. It’s a big problem that no one talks about. So what do you do? A lot of it is a mind game where you have to be comfortable with the worst-case scenario. Maybe you don't raise money, or perhaps you don't raise as much money as you wanted to. There's always a plan B, C, and D.
If you are raising money for a product startup, especially a software startup, the cost of getting started is very low these days. Maybe you can't hire as many people as you want, you can't pay yourself as much as you want, or you're forced to take some side jobs to make ends meet. Whatever it is, there is always a plan that you can execute on to continue your business.”
On making decisions
Making decisions, and understanding their impacts, can be difficult. Yin offers a helpful framework for making decisions.
“The framework I use differs, depending on the situation. If you're talking about, is this a good short-term or long-term decision? Think about things at three stages. Ten years out is the long stage, ten days out is the short stage, and ten months out is that intermediary stage.
If you think about your decision, how do you think this would impact you at ten days, ten months, or ten years out? If it seems like it's a good idea on all three, then you should probably do it. Sometimes we think about if something seems like a good idea right now. However, the ten years out thing is a very interesting thought exercise because then you have to imagine what the world looks like then.”