By Colin Darretta, co-founder at DojoMojo and founder at WellPath
There is something of a crisis when it comes to entrepreneurship today. The overabundance of wisdom suggests that you should pay attention to the data. Jim Simons' Renaissance fund has been one of the best-performing hedge funds in history, built almost entirely by scientists and mathematicians, some of whom never learned finance or economics. Every startup seems to now employ a data scientist to enable them to make better-educated, better-informed decisions. And if it's not data, then there is some other piece of analysis that you're meant to do as you framework your decisions -- if not that, then an army of advisors who have all done it before who are there to tell you how to replicate their success.
Here's the thing, though: In the strange world of entrepreneurship, where you are tasked with creating a business from nothing but an idea and some sweat, the path to success is not formulaic. It cannot be modeled by a computer. Nor is it something where a simple playbook and easy-to-follow instructions will suffice.
That's not to say playbooks, modeling and formulas will not help, but they are tools wielded by the builders, and just as a single hammer is not sufficient for erecting a building, a single playbook is woefully inadequate for building a business. Too heavily relying on these tools, at the risk of betraying your vision, is a surefire path to failure.
The more that you play it safe and do what you are told is the prevailing wisdom from others, the less likely you are to stay true to yourself, your vision and your intuition. It's a difficult balance, and I most assuredly do not have the exact right recipe for you. Executing on your singular vision is a unique and personal sort of alchemy. I believe that most businesses, in their early stages, are expressions of their founders and earliest employees. When too much airtime is given to the voices of others, those opinions naturally start to dilute the purity of the original vision. It's how once-great, novel ideas get watered down by the supposed wisdom of investors and advisors and turn companies into just another brand.
I am here to profess to you that it is OK to ignore the prevailing wisdom, even when some very smart people are behind it, and instead go with your gut. What's good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Two businesses that may share many of the same outward characteristics and attributes are not necessarily the same thing when it comes to the important details that define them.
Bob Iger, in his new memoir, talks repeatedly about making enormous decisions that forever changed the course of Disney based on his intuition. One such decision was passing on the acquisition of Twitter. That was intuition hard-earned from 40 years spent at a single company. Disney was in his DNA, and he trusted in his intuition at moments when many armchair quarterbacks and talking heads alike were suggesting Disney needed to buy its way into social. He trusted his intuition again when it came to buying Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.
Even the patron saint of technologists and entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, has been outspoken about trusting his gut -- so much so that he released a song, "Don't Doubt ur Vibe," serving as a not-so-subtle middle finger to all those who have tried to tell him what could and could not be done.
Originality matters in a market that grows ever more crowded with upstarts. If you define a vision and voice that is very much your own, guard it zealously. This is not to suggest that you outright ignore the advice of smart advisors or fail to analyze the data that you have access to; rather, it is simply to make the case that sometimes, even after listening to the advice and analyzing the data, you still need to trust your intuition. There are simply some decisions where an outsider or a computer is not going to be better equipped to make the decision than you are.
Colin Darretta is co-founder at DojoMojo and founder at WellPath; former private equity at CI Capital and investment banker at Goldman Sachs.