Rohit Malekar

June 12, 2021

The Power of Healthy Skepticism for Popular Opinions

It was the end of 2015. I was in the U.S. and had been exposed to politics there for a few years at that time. The Right was clamoring that the biggest threat to their country is ISIS. The Left was bent that it is climate change. I thought to myself the gradual loss of unbiased, critical, and objective thinking in human minds will be the likeliest cause of our misery.

Look no further than the two of the largest democracies in the world. Since the run-up to the 2016 elections in the U.S., the two camps  split so far apart by the political rhetoric that it trumps (no pun intended!) logic and common sense. Following the then change of regime in India, people have elevated their political leaders to demi-gods who can do no wrong and their ideologies into pseudo religion.

Critical thinking requires one to praise a worthy foe and criticize your hero when needed. But when we let go our line of reasoning, allow our political leaders to pander to our emotions and break our ethical standards, we fail our democracies.

This is not just about the future of societies. The same extends to how we perceive popular opinions in our careers. A dose of healthy skepticism might just help you uncover your next best career move.

We recently reached a collective milestone at work that was in the making for a few years going against the wind. I love the following stories for a reason. It helps me reinforce that context and healthy skepticism matter, no matter how well-intended any advice or popular opinion is.

Opinion: "Investing for impact implies sacrifice in financial returns for a VC."

8 years into Kapor Capital's “impact only” experiment, their portfolio ranked in the top quartile of funds of comparable size. This is not news. This was proven in 2019. Since 2011, they have invested exclusively in startups that are in turn committed to "closing the gaps of access, opportunity, and outcomes for low-income communities and communities of color in the US". You can read the entire report here.

Opinion: "Start-up journey is a J-curve growth pumped by venture funds raised at incremental milestones."

Zebras Unite.Org is redefining ownership models, creating alternative capital taxonomy, and much more for a holistic and inclusive ecosystem for start-ups. Specifically, in collaboration with Media Enterprise Design Lab, their approach to exploring if startups could “exit to community” transitioning ownership to the people who built and use it is fascinating. 

Opinion: "An exit at higher valuation automatically implies greater earnings for the founder"

This is an example from "Meaningful Exits for Founders" by Bryce Roberts, who founded one of the first-ever institutional seed funds.

"Reframing those numbers another way, a founder selling at the Series D price of $210M, would make the same amount of money at exit as they would have if they’d sold for $38M after having only raised a seed round."

Opinion: "Building a start-up off of a platform you don't own will limit your growth"

Salesforce has long evolved from a CRM application to a platform software company. Publicly traded Veeva is now at $44.5B and nCino is at $5.9B. Vlocity got acquired at $1.3B. ServiceMax is growing as a private firm having earned the unicorn tag. All of these companies have been built on top of Salesforce.