Mar 242005

Dumb Money

Dumb Money

I don’t have a counter cliche to Fred’s two-for-one this week on Passing the Hat and Ponying Up, but I’ll counter with a different, somewhat related Fred cliche that I was reminded of today when reading Paul Graham’s essay entitled A Unified Theory of VC Suckage (form your own opinions of it, but it’s nothing if not thorough and experience-based).

There’s nothing worse than dumb money backing a dumb idea or management team.

The dumb idea or team can destroy an emerging sector pretty quickly, and the dumb VC behind the deal will just keep ponying up.  For the record, the converse is also true — there’s nothing better than smart money behind a great idea and solid team.

The classic dot com version of dumb money is the company who decides to give away its core service for free (the one where they compete with other players) in order to try to make money at something else.  It could take 2 years and a ton of VC money before that company is out of business, having figured out that they needed to charge for their core business — and that process can wash out other companies in the process who are being smarter and more conservative about things.

So instead of just cheering that your competitor is dumb, dig in and look at how smart the money is behind the company.  If the money is dumb, too, beware!