Contrary to Popular Belief…

Many entrepreneurs (myself included) have a contrarian streak. We don’t like to go with the crowd, figuring that their lemming-like behavior will get them killed, sooner or later.

For example, I’ve believed since 1998 that Internet stocks were ridiculously overvalued, and refused to invest in them. Actually, I decided that the only sane thing to do was to become a seller of stock, so I started a company, but that’s another story for another time.

This refusal to participate in the NASDAQ bubble earned me a lot of strange looks, especially from my business school classmates. “You mean you aren’t investing in Internet stocks,” they’d say, in a tone generally reserved for child pornographers and Yale alumni.

I have to admit that my faith wavered at points, especially after I found out that several classmates had maxed out their student loans, put it all into Internet stocks, and racked up 6-figure gains. Nevertheless, I stuck to my guns. Now, with the Nasdaq approaching 1600, I feel vindicated.

Nevertheless, my anecdote underlines the perils facing the dedicated contrarian. The world *is* subject to manias and irrational exhuberance, and it can be a trying task to be the lone voice of reason. In addition, a contrarian can be just plain wrong. You can argue that horses will replace the automobile, and that would be a contrary position, but you’d be waiting until doomsday (or a post-nuclear civilization).

Don’t be contrary just to be contrary–you have to carefully research and prove your position before you spit defiance at the gods of consensus.

One friend of mine believes that now is a good time to become a venture capitalist. Right now, the masses believe that the VCs fleeced them out of their hard-earned cash. Opinionis still split on whether this occurred because the VCs were feeble-minded simpletons or high-pressure con artists, but neither option is what I would consider flattering.

Yet his contrarian stance is well-supported. Entrepreneurship isn’t going away, and valuations are a lot more reasonable (for the VCs at least!) now that the bubble has burst. Furthermore, a look at the history of the VC industry reveals that many of the greatest venture investments of all time (Cisco comes to mind) were made during difficult economic times.

As a entrepreneur, you’ll often find yourself in the contrary position. Just make sure that your beliefs are well-supported, and stick to your guns, and you’ll find success.

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