Response from Ben Blumenfeld, co-director at Designer Fund, former head of design at Facebook, on Quora.
As co-director ofa company that invests in start-ups co-founded by designers, I think a lot about what makes a good designer and what designers need to develop . . In addition, as a founding designer, I constantly apply these learnings to my own work as an entrepreneur.
Like engineers, designers have the ability to build the products and services envisioned. This is a huge benefit because you do not need to rely on another person to get a first version of your product and test some of your assumptions.
Unlike engineers, designers also have the benefit of being visual storytellers. What this means is that they can often create the perception that something is real / tangible in the beginning to bring together potential co-founders and investors around their vision. This is a great benefit in the early days of starting a business and can continue to be a huge benefit because much of what a CEO does is to define and communicate the vision from the company.
In addition, designers can apply a design problem-solving mentality to other parts of their business. For example, take the story of the founders of Airbnbto solve their financial problems. This is not a solution that most engineers or business people would find and that allowed them to survive and weather a financial storm.
We invest in companies that have great experience in business, technology and design in their founding team. The reason we do this is that we believe that the harmonious balance of these three areas of expertise is developing the next generation of big business for success. So, one of the disadvantages of founders designers is that they could over-index on the design. This can be manifested by sweaty details that do not matter, do not have a clear understanding of their business model, or lack the necessary technical skills in the founding team to quickly build and iterate on the product.
Another disadvantage is that of perception. While we see more designers taking the path to entrepreneurship, they are still the exception and not the rule. For many venture capitalists, investing in a company founded by a designer will always be perceived as a risk. One way to mitigate this is to make sure you have that mix of design, technology and business skills and experience in your founding team.
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