Liang Wu is the Co-founding Managing Partner at Eleven26 Capital, an early-stage VC fund investing in diverse founders on the evolving Internet across Web2 and Web3.
Liang is also a Web3 Research Fellow at Harvard Business School where he helps shape the Web3 curriculum by writing case studies on leading Web3 companies, as well as supporting community building and business development for Harvard’s Crypto Lab.
He writes regularly on his Life in Color blog where he explores the “Why” behind Web3. His professional background is a mix of startups, venture capital and management consulting, and Liang is also a mentor for the Techstars Web3 accelerator.
In this episode, Liang riffs with Pete Townsend on his one-year reflections on writing his weekly Life in Color blog, including thoughts on chasing his curiosity, growth and flywheels in content creation, shamelessness as a superpower, and how all of these experiences inform his journey as an investor.
Liang Wu on chasing his curiosity through writing:
“I think that these days, people should ask more questions. In the first part of my career in more traditional jobs like management consulting and venture capital, chasing curiosity was something that people said, but you were always taught to stay in your lane.
“I think chasing curiosity for me now is a way to really explore a bunch of different things because I don’t like the frameworks that exist today that you have to be X or Y. You could be a combination of X and Y and Z and maybe some days you’re X and some days you’re Y.
“I probably have a hundred essays I’m working on, but not actively. Even as we’re talking, I have ideas for things I’m working on, but my action after this isn’t to write an essay, it’s to take down a bullet point in an organization system I have in Notion and Apple Notes.
“So, when I sit down to write about something, I then have a place to go, and I already have 10 or 20 bullet points of content already written and I’m confident enough to now write an essay.
“The writing process becomes less of new idea generation as I already have this box of Lego blocks, and then I start organizing. Am I building a house? Am I building a car? Am I using blue versus red versus yellow? And so that decision becomes a lot less intense because you’re not staring at a blank piece of paper.”
Liang Wu on growth and flywheels in content creation:
“What you often see is BizDev and marketing are not parts of a flywheel. They’re different departments, which means there are very few people who know how to do both because you don’t go into a company and raise your hand for a marketing job and a sales job.
“What happens is that the marketing people are really great at marketing, but they throw their stuff out on the internet and maybe they get a huge following. But the reality is, if a hundred thousand people follow you, you can’t interact with all of them and you’re missing the 1% of people who are super fans who you should engage with.
“The other side of it is business development, which is very targeted and high value. Instead of ‘Hey, I’m sending out a tweet, just please read it,’ it’s ‘Hey, I have this project, would you want to be involved?
“Inevitably, when you reach X number of people, some per cent of them would benefit from a more high touch approach, like ‘Hey, whoever really likes this content, we’ll do a small AMA’ or we’ll do some kind of community activation.
“The way the flywheel works is that you activate certain people who then become diehard fans and they do the marketing for you and so on and so forth. I think the key here is if you come from BizDev or marketing, try to lean into the other and learn the other.”
Liang Wu on shamelessness as a superpower:
“If you’re a little bit more shameless, it’s like, ‘Well, I don’t need to be the best marketer in the world, but maybe I’ll send out three tweets this week.’ Why people don’t do it is this fear that when they do it, nothing happens.
“Shamelessness, to me, is that if you have a long enough time horizon, all of these little things are just experiments. You need to be shameless enough to run experiments, but not shameless enough to be in this absolute world of ‘I’m the best and I definitively know that and you should just work with me and be happy to do that’. I think that’s arrogance.
“Shamelessness is – and I see this in the best founders – something like ‘I don’t know marketing, but you know what, ‘yolo’, let’s just try a couple of tweets or let’s run a couple of experiments and if they fail, they fail.’
“Instead of defaulting to ‘I can’t’, shamelessness is a way to default more to ‘I will try’. And if you try a bunch of times and it doesn’t work and you get feedback, you’ll iterate. If you try something and it doesn’t work, I guarantee you’ll still be further along than when you first had the conversation of whether you should do it or not.”
Liang Wu on how writing informs his journey as an investor:
“There’s a thread across all investors – they’re usually pretty opinionated and fairly sharp in their thinking. If that’s the baseline, those are the things I need to work on. The hard part about being an investor or a founder is finding your flavour.
“It took me a while to understand because you also have to enjoy all of it, otherwise you are just doing a job, which is boring. When I first started the investor journey, I thought a lot about how the greats do it, and I was like, ‘Oh, if I could just be like them, I would just be a great investor’.
“But it’s a pretty bad statement to make because those people are better at being themselves than I ever will. So I’ve had to learn a lot about understanding my service to founders and what I’m actually good at, which is being a chameleon and leaning into situations.
“When I think about being an investor, the things I try to do to support founders are the things I actually want to work on as crafts for myself. So I think writing is something that is super important because a lot of founders I talk to want to write because they have a lot to say.
‘That’s why they’re starting a company. It’s like the biggest statement you could ever make is to start a company to change something. And so they don’t know how to translate that, but they all desire it. So I think writing will be helpful in the sense of helping people craft their thoughts and put writing together.”
Liang Wu on how reflections on the past can inform the future:
“If you think about Bitcoin when it was born, it was born after the financial crisis. If you could run a statistical analysis on how people felt about this, it doesn’t really matter.
“The fact was this thing happened, a lot of people were upset and this crazy idea called internet money was thrown out onto the internet and a bunch of people showed up. I think that’s all the proof people needed to say, ‘well, maybe this is an investing area’. You need to iron out the details, but that’s always the case.
“The ideas behind these things are rooted in history. All of these experiences are captured in either your consciousness or some collective consciousness that then pushes these new things – products, ideas, services, innovations – out into the world.
“These new things only survived because people generally have a status quo way of thinking, so when something interesting comes along, we all jump in and then if it survives, more people will jump in, and then more people will jump in. I think that’s the right system for things because it’s fair.
“If crypto is supposed to be useful enough or if AI is supposed to be useful enough, it will survive. It’s just natural selection in this really weird kind of way. On the personal side though, this one is harder, because it’s about me but I’m thinking the same way.
“I’m taking this big bet of going out and doing a bunch of these things, but if it is supposed to work out this way, at the end of it, I will find the success I’m looking for”
Subscribe to Liang Wu’s Life in Color blog
Episode title inspired by Word is Bond by Brand Nubian