Honoring the Past

Yesterday I was driving to NYC with my buddy Daniel for Blueprint Health Demo Day and as usual, we spent most of the car ride discussing VC and the startup ecosystem.  Every time I travel with Daniel, he knocks me over the head with some amazing story about the rich history of the VC community.

Yesterday’s moment was regarding the origin of the limited partnership in VC. Essentially, a limited partnership was supposed first used by Bill Elfers when he left American Research and Development Corporation (widely regarded as one of the first VC firms and an investor in Digital Equipment Corporation) to found Greylock Partners in 1965. The limited partnership was supposedly something Elfers had seen during his days in the oil wildcatting business.

Stories like these may not fundamentally change my outlook on limited partnerships or their use in VC, but they provide color and richness to many aspects of a business that are taken for granted. What’s particularly interesting about these sorts of stories is that much of the startup ecosystem is so focused on the present and the future, rather than the past.

I’m not sure why this is, but as a whole I think we need to spend more time making sense of and honoring the history of our community.  Real-time data feeds and the next big thing are great, but there’s so much that entrepreneurs, VCs, and even users can understand and learn from those that have come before us.  I love seeing startups like Timehop that are focused on collecting and organizing this historical data. Whether it’s through design approach, focus on historical data, or just through decision-making, I really hope we’ll see more startups show reverence to past.