With all the recent gyrations in the stock market, I started thinking about one of my favorite phrases in investing: “Don’t stare at the wiggles.”
This is an important point for long-term investors, because the daily and hourly moves of an individual stock or market rarely have much to do with long term performance. When you stare at the wiggles, you forget about that, and start making irrational decisions about buying and selling. You’re also likely to give yourself indigestion.
The same can be said for founding and running a startup. No single day can determine the success or failure of your company. Even the day you go public, sell, or shut down doesn’t actually determine success or failure. Those moments are the ends of long chains of events. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to what happens in your company on daily basis, but it does mean that the crazy ups and downs can’t distract you from your goals and what you need to do to achieve them.
In practice, this is hugely difficult. We’re conditioned to react to the things in front of us. I think it is also harder to ignore the wiggles in the earliest days of a startup, when there isn’t much of a track record against which to put things into context. You develop that context over time, but at the beginning, the wiggles feel like the story even though they aren’t.
So how do you make sure that you aren’t overly influenced by wiggles?
Establish the metrics that actually track the health of your business. It’s also important to set a logical timeframe over which you measure the change in those metrics.
Ignore stories about fundraising at other companies, even your competitors. I’m not just talking about press reports, which rarely have all the relevant information, but also what you hear through your friends.
Before making big decisions, ask yourself and your cofounders if you are taking actions because recent events have made you emotional, or because they make sense on a broader level.
Ignore, as much as possible, what’s going on in the stock market. This has essentially nothing to do with how well your company is doing. The broader market may have knock-on effects on some fundraising scenarios, but you can’t really predict that, so don’t try.