Why We Should Look for Outliers

by Kera DeMars

On June 9 + 10, 2022, Hustle Fund hosted Camp Hustle: a 2-day event in the gorgeous redwoods of Northern California. About 180 people joined us to make friends, connect with people they haven't seen in years, and hear from innovative founders and early-stage investors.

One of my favorite talks was led by Tara Viswanathan, founder of Rupa Health.

Rupa is a Hustle Fund portfolio company, so our team has had the honor of watching Tara take the business from zero to serving over 50,000 practitioners across all 50 states.

Tara only had 15 minutes onstage, but she packed a ton into that time.

Here's the gist of her talk.

 

Why do we look for patterns when it's the outliers that win?

Tara's talk centered around this question. 

As entrepreneurs, as investors, and as human beings we are constantly on the lookout for patterns.

For example:

Find founders who have had successful exits, then build the same way
Find investors who have seen big returns, then invest the same way
Find people who are happy and successful, then live the same way

It makes sense. Patterns help us move through the world with fewer surprises. 

But when you think about the biggest companies, the most outrageously successful investors, and the best humans... they tend to do things a little differently.

And so Tara wanted to know... why do we keep looking for patterns, when it's the outliers who deliver outsized returns? 


Types of Outliers

Tara identified a few ways in which a company can break the typical pattern and find unexpected success: 


Outlier Markets

When Tara first started Rupa, investors wouldn't give her the time of day.

The reason? They told her she didn't have a big enough TAM (total addressable market).

And they weren't wrong. I mean, Tara was going after a niche section of the healthcare industry, which only applied to about 1,000 doctors.

No one is going to back a business that only has 1,000 potential customers.

But Tara thought differently about her market. She believed the problem she was solving was so great that she could build a bigger market.

And so that's what she did.

She used education to transform her un-addressable market into an addressable one. And she now serves tens of thousands of practitioners.  

Her point?

If it's the right founder solving the right problem at the right time, they just might be able to build themselves a bigger market.

 

Outlier Team Members

Tara was looking for a growth marketer to join Rupa when a friend recommended someone to her.

This person didn't come from a big tech background. He didn't go to a fancy school. There was nothing about his resume that indicated he would be a good fit.

But Tara respected the friend who made the referral, and she reluctantly agreed to the meeting.

The day before the interview, Tara noticed that someone spent hours and hours on the Rupa website. She was convinced it was a competitor.

But the next day the candidate came in with a full growth plan ready to present to Tara. And it was brilliant. 

It also worked.

This candidate was so passionate about what Tara was building that he became obsessed with helping her solve the problem. And since he didn't have the same exact background as her other candidates, he didn't come up with the same solution as them.

He came up with a better one.

Her point?

If you shut someone down because they don't fit the pattern of what a "good candidate" looks like, you may also be shutting down ideas that can revolutionize your business. 


So what's the takeaway?

As investors, we tend to follow patterns.

We look for a certain type of founder, we expect startups to his certain milestones, and we recommend certain growth strategies that we have seen work in the past.

And that's fine. We don't have to stop doing that.

But to Tara's point, perhaps it's time to look at what patterns we follow because we believe in them, and what patterns we follow because they look good on paper.

I know I will.

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