Some Unconventional Investing Rules

Before I became a VC in 2009, I was an active angel investor for about ten years. During that time, I got exposed to the age old debate about the relative importance of team, market and product when making an investment decision.

People always argued about these things (and probably always will). Some say the most important factor is market because team and product can always change, but if the market and the tailwinds are big enough, a company can make many mistakes and thrive. Others argue for team because a great team in a mediocre market will change markets. Still others argue for product, especially in today’s age where word-of-mouth is so easy to spread through social media. Product-market fit can be such a powerful force that it can compensate for a weak team.

During those ten years, I also developed some more unconventional investing rules that have served me well when I’ve obeyed them and punished me when I’ve gone against them. They are designed to guard me against my biases and adverse instincts (I think everyone needs explicit processes to protect themselves from known blind spots or vulnerabilities). I’d argue that it was the slow realization of these rules that changed me from a losing angel investor in my first five years to a successful one in the next five. These rules are important enough to me that I’ve printed them out on my wall to serve as a daily reminder.


Rule #1: Invest only in teams that don’t need you. 

I’ll start with the most controversial and most easily misinterpreted rule.

I came to this rule by making what I see as a classic mistake of entrepreneurs who begin to invest. When I heard a pitch, as an entrepreneur, I would get excited about what *I* would do that with idea. The wheels in my head would begin turning about how I might approach sales, what features I would develop as head of product, or what distribution partners I might sign up.

The problem? What I thought didn’t matter. Sure, I could advise the company and give the teams my ideas (bad or good).  But, in the end, it was *not my company* and my influence on it was very limited. Being an entrepreneur made me helpful as an advisor to the business but in many ways it made me a bad listener when it came to evaluating teams.

About five years into angel investing, I was beginning to suspect I had this problem (approaching investing solely from an entrepreneurial point of view). One day, I was talking about it with Marc Andreessen and he coined the fix for me, saying,  “I only invest in teams that don’t need me.” Once I started following that advice, investment decisions became more clear and my results improved markedly.

I want to note a very important subtlety with this rule. When I say “invest in teams that don’t need you,” that doesn’t mean that you won’t mutually *benefit* from each other and be materially better as a result of your collaboration. Take one of my investments, the gaming company Kabam. Kabam has a tremendously strong team and they have more expertise than I ever will in gaming. And yet, I believe that our collaboration makes each one of us better in a meaningful way.

So, only invest in teams that don’t need you, but don’t conflate ‘need’ and ‘benefit’.


Rule #2: Impatience is the enemy

Despite being a private market investor, I love the public markets. When I was considering working in the public markets as a full time gig, a friend of mine and a successful public market investor, David Siminoff, suggested that I read the shareholder letters from Warren Buffet from 1977 to today as a narrative. It took me awhile, but I read them all back to back. When read as a history like that, it gave me an interesting perspective on how a great investor like Buffet handled a wide range of economic conditions, from high inflation to low inflation, from economic expansion to recession.

Perhaps the most poignant lesson, stated again and again and again, was the notion that the biggest enemy in investing is our own impatience. We have a strong desire to *make money now*, and when unchecked, that leads to bad decisions. It namely lets us talk ourselves into investments that we shouldn’t really make. It lets us create excuses for teams that aren’t as good as they should be, or for markets that really aren’t there or aren’t as big as we’d like.


Rule #3: Know why you want to own something: FOMO or insight?

In my opinion, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) drives a tremendous amount of human behavior and certainly a lot of investor behavior. There is always the hot deal of the month that’s being chased by many investors, who, if honest, are leaning in partially because other investors are pursuing it as well. They fear missing out on a deal that might turn out to be great. And this fear drives their desire to become an owner in the business.

Knowing that FOMO is a big behavior driver in investing is great for entrepreneurs to exploit. And many do if they can create a kind of feeding frenzy around their deal.

Resisting FOMO is not easy and the reason that I have the rule on my wall is (1) denial — most people don’t want to admit they’re ruled by or vulnerable to FOMO and (2) perception — it’s really hard to know you’re captured by FOMO.

This may sound obvious, but it’s often missed. You need a reason to invest – a critical insight –  and not just fear that you might be missing out on a good deal. The tricky part is that it’s easy to convince/fool yourself that you have an insight when you’re really just fearful and rationalizing. That’s why, I think, you need a process to determine if you’re being driven by FOMO or insight.

For me, that process is a question I force myself to consider.

I ask myself, “If the company hit a rough patch (and most do), do I have insight into the business to be able to help?” When I ask myself that question, and I’m willing to be honest with myself, the answer about if I’m pursuing something because of FOMO can become more clear.

Two years ago, my friend and fellow investor Steve Vassallo (Foundation Capital), brought to my attention a deal in the finance arena. I spent two weeks working on it and I *loved* it. I was ready to bring it forward to my partners when I asked myself the “FOMO or insight” question, and I realized that if this company hit the skids, I did not have the insight to help. And, though it was tough because I *really* wanted to do the deal, I said ‘no’.

Only time will tell whether I was right on that particular deal, but I feel that the FOMO or insight question helps keep me honest.


Rule #4: In poker and investing, the goal is to make good decisions, not to make money.

This rule came from a three-day poker camp I went to seven years ago. One of the pros got up to the front of the room and asked the question, “What’s the goal of poker?” Of course, someone put their hand up and fell into the trap. “To make money” they said.  Wrong. “The goal is to make good decisions, not to make money,” countered the instructor. If you make good decisions — better, more consistent decisions than the other guy — then you will end up making money.

In poker, if you approach the game to make money as opposed to making good decisions, you can fall prey to things like going on ’tilt’ after a bad beat, feeling ‘lucky’, continuing to fire bluffs at an opponent who’s clearly shown you he’s willing to call you all the way down, or playing in games that you can’t afford. When you hunger only to make money *now*, then you end up making bad, mostly emotional, decisions.

To apply this to investing may sound heretical. But, it is my belief that the goal of an investor is to make good investing decisions and good operational decisions with their companies. If they do that, then money will follow (sure, not always, but more often than not). Yes, all investors are measured on making money.  But paradoxically, I think the best way to maximize that outcome is to focus on making the best set of decisions with your companies, rather than only focus, at every turn, on making money.

So there you have it. Four unconventional investing rules I’ve developed over ten years. As I said, they’re primarily designed to protect me against my built-in biases or vulnerabilities. My hope is that they’re helpful to you as well.

I’d be very curious to hear from you. What are some unconventional investing rules you’ve learned to live by, and that have served you well?


  1. Kevin Willey says:

    I am working with a start-up, but I cannot find any on how to contact anyone on this web site.
    Please help????

  2. Luke G says:

    Really nice.

    #4 reminds me of a line from Banksy about making art for the sake of fame, which I feel like applies to investing & money here (excuse the language):

    “The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”

    Money is the side-effect of making the right decisions (and, hopefully, building great things).

  3. Tripple Witch says:

    Nice post! Here are some notes From the opposite side of the fence (and globe too), from a diary of an entrepreneur, classifying GOOD vs. BAD investors:
    1. A Sane investor will help you keep your sanity (to the extent you have any left)
    2. An investor who grew up as an abused child, will abuse you right back. Hence – while totally politically incorrect – prefer the handsome and self-confident dude over the less-so
    3. Always, Always, Always prefer an investor who knows you professionally and directly over an investor whose acquaintance with you is social/family based
    4. Goldilocks Principle – not too rich, not too poor. if your investor invests more than he/she can afford, that would hit you, and just at the worst moment. On the other hand, if he is too rich, he is not in for the money. he wants other things. and i am not talking about sex – i am talkin much more severe. he wants your SECRETS. go elsewhere.
    5. prefer an investor who shares Similar Values. I’ll be very blunt. if he supports Romney – he will NOT invest in my start-up.
    6. echoing to your rule #3 – if you (a hypothetical investor) are a FOMO – i don’t want you either. I’d rather go with the big-balls dude who was first to recognize my geniosity. and who votes Obama.

  4. Nick Mehta says:

    Excellent advice, Joe. I think the last one (focus on decision-making process) is generally applicable as well on the other side of the fence.

    While a relentless focus on outcome is often more sexy and headline grabbing, I think founders/operators who play the “long game” focus on intent and process rather than short-term results, knowing that good intent and disciplined process yield the best long-term results.

    Also on a personal level, focusing on what you can control (intent and decision-making) versus what you can’t (short-term outcomes) is a more satisfying way to live.

  5. [...] Hathaway has issued shareholder letters every year since 1977.  I was reminded by this of Joe Kraus’ investing tips which included the recommendation from David Siminoff to read all of Warren Buffett’s [...]

  6. michael says:


    thank you for highlighting your rule #1 – this is really useful. I have caught myself in exactly the same bias, jumping into the operator role when I should not. I started more angel investing in Europe after I sold my company in 2011. I think apart from getting excited about an idea there is also a little bit of vanity involved a la “Look how clever I am – I think I can do this better than these guys can.” I one word: Dangerous – if you are not aware of it,

  7. Jack says:

    I could not find a place where I can communicate with your investing team. I have an unconventional project which is very important but neglected. I hope Google team has the vision and the ability to carry it on.
    Thank you for your help.

  8. Jay K says:

    I need to contact someone at Google Ventures regarding a project in healthcare field that will be very disruptive to establishment but very beneficial to suffering patients. Please contact me or tell me who to contact. Thanks.

  9. Blair James says:

    It’s interesting to read these points from an entrepreneur point of view.

    From my point-of-view, it is most important that entrepreneurs and their investors are like-minded in their areas of interest. For the investors, it’s more than just saying, “we invest in this space.” It has more to do with what you know about, perhaps even intimately. Without this pitching is really a waste of time.

    I spoke with a VC this week that said, “traction is the new technology.” In other words they don’t care what the product is – no traction: no investment. But the important factors like product shelf-life, market size, and a true picture of the competitive field? Without at least a cursory analysis, buying solely on traction IS like gambling based on emotion. Such investors are little more than fashionistas. There seem to be many out there.

  10. Tevon Matthews says:

    Hey i have a start up social newtworking site thats original, no competitors, and can and will be use my millions. Im currently looking for vc support rite now or just to be in the position to pitch my website to the rite people. This will not be a waste of time i promise. Anyone out their who can help email me at Thanks

  11. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  12. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  13. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  14. [...] QQ空间 网易微博 更多 var jiathis_config = {data_track_clickback:true}; 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe [...]

  15. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  16. Brian Leeper says:

    Great post. Also coming from the entrepreneurial side I would add a caution against assuming that being a skilled investor equates to being an expert in a given market or product. I’m constantly surprised when investors use their background to vet a business instead of accessing their network to use someone who is an expert. I’ve won battles I shouldn’t have and lost others that were no-brainers simply because the investors hadn’t brought in the experts they had available. It does take more time and energy, but if you are going to risk the investment why not do it right?

  17. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  18. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  19. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  20. Thank you for this blog. Everything you have written thus far are lessons I learned in the last company and previous projects I launched. Thus, as I begin the cycle of seeking investors in my current company, I have stumbled on this blog and am reminded of all of these lessons which are timely and absolutely helpful. I appreciate this site of wisdom. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts…


  21. Merci pour cet article, j’attends la suite avec impatience. je l’ajoute à mes favoris. bonne continuation.

  22. [...] via JK 此条目是由 admin 发表在 科技 分类目录的。将固定链接加入收藏夹。 [...]

  23. Investors who think they are banks see a lot of opportunity sail by because they cannot understand the human control of risk. Investing only in projects that don’t need your investment is like performing exploratory surgery on healthy people. Investment is co-joined with risk which is why failures and rewards both are high. The entrepreneur assumes the greatest risk, time. The investor afraid to gamble is little more than a loan shark. If your (investment) instincts don’t serve you, you are in the wrong business. This does not mean investment should be a charitable exercise, that’s stupid. The reward is not humanitarian, it is financial or else, if it cannot sustain or justify itself, it was a bad hand at the poker table.

  24. Frank says:

    Great post-I’d thought i’d share my own…

    1- ‘when every one else ‘zigs’, you ‘zag’.
    2-’do what you love and you never will have a job’
    3-’be unique, god made you that way for a reason’
    4-’never say ‘yes’ to something you don’t understand
    and finally…
    5-’never let fear of the unknown stop you from exploring the unknown’

    It’s how we’re changing the world with massif mobile and massif data…


  25. Elizabeth says:

    Keee bonito esssta el muñequito

  26. GZ says:

    Dear Sir,
    I would appreciate deeply your suggesting me who we should contact to in Google Ventures to submit our technology. Thank you very much in advance.
    best regards,

  27. Charles says:

    I am doing a start-up which will be using a lot of google mapping and would like to know how I can explore the possibility to getting VC help from you.

    Joe I hope you can help me.

  28. [...] 编者按:本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe Kraus总结了自己投资十年来的4个经验,这4个经验看似在讲投资、看似不合常规,实则在讲人性,展现的是普世的智慧。 [...]

  29. PERRIN says:


    Great tips. I am ready to launch an app that will revolutionize marketing. Please get back to me and let me know how I can get a hold of someone at Google Ventures about funding.

  30. Lucien Pomerleau says:

    I would like to contact someone at Google Ventures regarding a startup in relation with an innovative technology for the treatment of pollutive ships emissions. Please contact to let me know who to contact and his or her email address.

    An executive summary and a business plan are available. Thanks.

  31. Rick Dettwyler says:

    I find it most enlightening that the same question, which was asked at least three times, about how to contact anyone within this organization is missing and not subsequently not provided by anyone within google ventures. Why is that?

  32. karino says:

    Welcome to our ( ) We’re the best online games website Featuring the most powerful and best flash games Online play now

  33. karino says:

    Welcome to our ( ) We’re the best online games website Featuring the most powerful and best flash games Online play now

  34. Wayne German says:

    We want to give 15 million people thousands of dollars immediately and every four years thereafter if they transfer their checking, savings, and credit cards to particpating banks or credit unions where they then sign up. At that point all financial transactions would be taken care of fully automatically and never require further involvement on the part of these bank or credit union’s new customers. The underlying financial process that would never be disclosed would then guarantee that people that earn $40,000 per year would receive $2000 immediately and every four years thereafter and those who earn more or less would receive proportionately more or less immediately and every four years. At the same time this process would generate $816 immediately and every four years for work on TetheredWing projects such as: 1) Flying without fuel by tacking in air alone by the diffference in velocities between the winds at low and high altitude, 2) The cheapest and by far the best means of generating electricity from high altitude winds — a number of differnt ways and all of which would be far superior to the methods that Makani is now attempting to use, 3) Making the best craft to sail anywhere with a lighter-than-air delta wing inflagted with steam to enable it to economically purge its envelop, deflate, and be transported by van, 4) communications platforms for radio communications anywhere that could fly fully automatically to any location over earth and then hover indefinately and later fly to where it could be serviced or updated. All these applications and more could be mass produced at very low cost to effectively springboard the world into an entirely new technological revival that would greatly and positively impact most everything people do on earth.

    In this respect I should say that I have been recognized as the “Father of Modern Tethered Flight Technology”. It is unlikely that we would need finances to make these enterprises happen. But we would greatly benefit if Google was to announce worldwide that our service was ready to help low income people receive this money if they transfer to a particpating bank or credit union and then sign up. Also we could use advice regarding implementing a world class financial service worldwide.

    Also it might be of interest to note that I was once the one person at Intel to whom all questions were eventually escalated to regarding all software programming and languages and all microprocessors and development systems and all simulators and emulators while also being Intel’s technical laison to the Ford and the Bausch Motor companies.

    Thank you for your help and consideration.

    Kind Regards,

    Wayne German
    Soaren Aviation and Soaren Financial

    Thanks for your help and consideration. God bless.

  35. I could not find a place where I can communicate with your investing team.

    I think our concept is interesting for you.

    Thank you for your help.

    Best Regards

    Martin Eikeland

    RefSports (Norway)

    Phone +47 920 57 185

  36. I have found five keys to success that are both unconventional and conventional, that I use as approaches to making any business or investment decision:

    1. Look beyond the content of what leadership is saying,
    2. Read the room, sense everything and realize the consciousness and elevate it,
    3. Principles above personality,
    4. Integrity is everything, and
    5. Leadership rules.

    Thank you for sharing your rules!

  37. Clemens Ott says:

    I have a question for you that is a bit of the topic of this post:

    Do it yourself tools like the one you where involved in how is the market for that kind of approach and where did the tool you all made go?

  38. Vladan says:

    Hi Joe. Always a pleasure to watch you and read.
    Some of my rules:
    - Always Maintain cruising speed. It is a functional movement and in the long run. Sometimes you need to add speed or rest.
    - View a thing from different angles, with different sizes, and in action (as an image: from some angles you can see nothing but from some you can see everything, image size changing its use and images in action or video)
    - Nothing is impossible, perfect and final. Every time I say that something can not be better, after a few hours, days or weeks I do better.

    The reason, which i appears is my site. A good idea, a great opportunity for success, easy to use…and a lot of small but (programming, design, safety, money, copycat, bad behavior…) become a big but. I have come to a stage where I need a help.
    I searched the Internet and I think that GV will worked best with my site. You said “the money is listening good idea”, and I need only your resources, that you said that some gratis.
    I’m interested in your opinion.”But I love you” (I am not gay).

  39. blond hair says:

    I’ve been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or weblog posts on this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this site. Studying this information So i am happy to exhibit that I’ve
    a very just right uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed.
    I so much indisputably will make sure to do not fail to remember this
    site and provides it a look on a continuing basis.

  40. [...] 本文来自互联网老兵、Google Venture著名投资人Joe Kraus。在本文中,Joe [...]

  41. Ivano says:

    How can I submit my proposal to Google Ventures?

  42. wenqing says:

    How can I submit my proposal to Google Ventures?

  43. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you
    using for this site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  44. […] Unconventional Rules of Investing - Joe Kraus […]

  45. Bart Lower says:

    “To many what they do seems risky…but they have inside information that’s different”……. What’s the inside info and is it supported by real data?

    Are they people developers? Do they have a genuine interest in helping other people realize their potential?

    After one year in business, we’ve got over 150 requests for franchise information and an opportunity to help bring families and communities together all across the country. We need some financial horsepower to get there before the rest to make sure it’s done “the right way.” Would love to share our inside info with you Joe!

  46. ” This level is much higher than can be obtained by eating the fruit alone. A half cup of arils with seeds supplies 72 calories,46 air jordan shoes on sale and save percentage at .Potsdam girls gear up for High School Hockey Championship title defense CANTON While the threat of a winter storm has changed the schedule for the High School Girls Hockey League Championship this weekend at the Canton Pavilion inspired by a similar project in New Orleans noted by a Clinton School student, art projects

  47. Je vais terminer de voir ça plus tard

  48. Follement captivant : mon petit doigt me dit que cet article devrait intéresser un pote

  49. Just because business & finance you don’t pay attention to everything you get in the house,
    you get the biggest possible bang for that marketing dollar.

    Once they turn it over, you have to do is too visit the links associated with these categories.
    Some of these online sources are free up to a point, but if you want assurances of timely and cost-effective delivery.
    Now you need to know which mails fail to reach their VIP

  50. This may be a little off topic but I think it is a good idea to invest in yourself and a hobby like remote controlled aircraft.

  51. John D says:

    Sorry, but I am selfishly trying to get a message to Mr. Kraus and this is the only way I’ve found, so fingers crossed.

    Hello Mr. Kraus,
    If you read my blogs from my website you’ll get a background on what I’m up to. I happened to see you on YouTube (Google I/O 2011: How to Get Your Startup Idea Funded by Venture Capitalists) as I was researching VC’s etc.. and you mentioned that you are a poker player. Anyways, I’m in need of expertise and direction (Funding’s also a good thing too), I have the idea, the website is built and would like to run the company past your desk and see what you might think of it.

    Please contact me if you feel this may be something worth moving forward on.

  52. Je me ρermets ԁe poster un petit cokmmentaire uniquement pour complimenter le

  53. John says:

    I agree with you Joe. Actually, there is no fixed model for investment. Different tactics are applied to different situation. There are to many uncertain factors both objective and subjective which will lead to totally different results and interests.

  54. Kristen says:

    I see you share interesting content here, you can earn some extra money, your website has big potential, for the monetizing
    method, just type in google – K2 advices how to monetize a website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>