A huge edge for angels & start-ups: Learn to Guess!

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A huge edge for angels & start-ups: Learn to Guess!

Beach volleyball taught me something very valuable in angel investing: how to guess.

I’ve been playing since the mid-90′s, when I discovered an open court in Aruba and fell in with an old Choate pal, Nick Webb, who ran Connecticut’s largest tourneys at Sherwood Island. For those not familiar, beach volleyball is a game of two-on-two, played on a regulation sand court. The balls are served and slammed at incredible velocity, and the reaction times are akin to those of a  baseball player at bat. There’s nowhere to hide, and only one partner to save you. Many volleys take a Herculean effort to keep alive; no wonder most beach volley players end up in pretty good shape.

One great example is defensing a good hitter. My partner would generally block, meaning he would be up in the air roughly covering one-fourth of the court, and unable to further adjust. This left the remaining 650 square feet of sand to me, an entirely indefensible area when the ball is coming at you at 120 mph. And even if you are in the right spot, you have to have your hands in the right place to even have a prayer of digging the ball.

Sounds hopeless, right?

But as the years roll by, one thing emerges that saves you : how to read the subtleties of the game and use them to Guess Well.

In beach volleyball, there are a ton of subtle hints that inform your guess while defensing a slam: how tired is this guy? What did he do to win the point last time? Does he look up (and see me) before he jumps? Does his partner scan the court and tip him off? Is he young and prone to swinging as hard as he can, or is he wily and likely to try some slop shot?  How high does he jump and at what angle can he hit the ball down? Was my partner able to block him earlier? Was his approach clean or not? How close to the net is the set? Would this slam be the game winner?

Answer these questions instantaneously and you can make a pretty informed guess as to which few square feet the ball is heading into and at what speed and arc. Arrive there in time to dig the smash and you look like a magic lightning-cat capable of tracking down anything on the court. Dig a few in a row this way, and you really have an advantage.

Likewise, there are a ton of reads in backing successful entrepreneurs- none of which I am going to give away today. Most of them are imperceptible to the untrained eye. But they are huge clues to making good guesses, and if you can read them well, you can cover a lot of court.

Editors note: The Compo Beach volleyball courts still among the best in Southern Connecticut.  Come by and see what real beach volleyball means- at least on the East Coast. (We know the gods live and play in Los Angeles and Rio).

» Compo Beach, Westport, CT

I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.