Jeff Clavier Breaks Down His “Three Asses” Rule for Investing

January 9, 2014

12:01 pm

At a TCWEEK fireside chat last night in downtown Vegas, SoftTechVC founder Jeff Clavier explained his famous “three asses” rule: he’s looking for “a smart-ass team building a kick-ass product in a big-ass market.”

You’ll find this rule on the back of Clavier’s business card, on his website, in a painting in his office, and in the book Do More Faster by Brad Feld and David Cohen. It was an extension of a maxim by First Round Capital’s Rob Hayes, who looks for a kick-ass team in a big-ass market.

But what does this catchy rule mean? For SoftTechVC, the “smart-ass team” accounts for over half the importance. While they’re open to funding multiple or solo founders, they want to see teams who exhibit the three D’s:

  • Developer: Strong technical talent.
  • Design: An eye for user experience.
  • Distribution: Understanding the tricks and rules of getting users.

But in the end, finding a smart-ass team is really a question of judgment:

“It’s a mix of vision, it’s tenacity, it’s empathy,” says Clavier. “Do we feel that they have the passion, the domain knowledge, this unfair advantage that will make them execute and realize the potential of the company in a different way than the rest of the market?”

He adds, “We really respect people who have this belief that if there is a wall, they can walk through it.”

Watch the full interview with Jeff Clavier of SoftTechVC and Frank Gruber of Tech.Co below.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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