This week, Chang Xu and I are running our very first Braintrust LA event. While the event is private and we won’t talk about who’s presenting and who’s attending, I wanted to share with you a note we wrote to the attendees.
The idea of organizing Braintrust LA came to us when we discussed what we could do to help the LA ecosystem. Between the two of us, Chang as a VC and Matt as a founder, we wanted to find a selfless way to support entrepreneurs beyond introducing them to our networks or helping them with their decks. We opted to follow an early Pixar key mechanism: the Braintrust. The concept is pretty simple, we put smart, passionate people in a room together and encourage them to be candid with one another. This process naturally pushes us towards excellence.
We handpicked Braintrust attendees because we believe each of you have tremendous value to bring to the discussions and because we trust you. This process can only work if there is trust. Two Entrepreneurs trusted us and will make themselves vulnerable so they can benefit from the collective brain power in the room. And we trust each of you to be candid and benevolent.
It’s natural for attendees to have self-preservation tendencies causing you to hold back. But candor is forthrightness and frankness. Chang and I will be there to moderate. Entrepreneurs are constantly lied to, all the time, from friends to investors to even customers. The reason we are bringing you all together is to help the Entrepreneurs see what they might have missed and/or to learn from your experience. Don’t hold back, let them hear what people are thinking but not telling them.
The Braintrust, unlike a potential board of directors, has no authority. The Entrepreneur does not have to follow any of the specific suggestions given. After a Braintrust session, it’s up to her or him to to figure out how to address the feedback. Braintrust meetings are obviously not top-down or do-this-or-else affairs. By removing from the Braintrust the power to mandate solutions, we affect the dynamic of the group in ways we believe will benefit entrepreneurs and Braintrust attendees.
The Braintrust feedback is never about asking for a specific remedy or answer. The Braintrust is benevolent. We are here to help and we have no selfish agenda.