The idea of the Steph Curry Fallacy — which we first wrote about a couple weeks ago — stems from a comment made by NBA Analyst (and former player and coach) Mark Jackson about the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player:
“Understand what I’m saying when I say this. He’s hurting the game. And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game.”
Kids look at Steph Curry — small, skinny, doesn’t dunk on a regular basis — and see themselves in him. There are billions of dollars at stake in convincing kids that they can be him.
And so those kids walk into a gym, grab a ball, and start chucking errantly from 30 feet away from the basket because, well…like Steph, they are small, skinny, and can’t dunk.
The success narrative that these kids have built around Steph Curry centers on those surface level, cosmetic traits. This happens all the time in all different pursuits — onlookers ascribe an outsize level of importance to things easily visible without making an attempt to dive deeper to a second level.
In our post, we talked about venture communities outside of Silicon Valley misattributing the success of the region to things like events and trendy coworking spaces and thinking that building those in their cities and countries will make an impact. In reality, those things are effects, not causes of regional success.
During a recent podcast conversation, Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya said that “startups copy what good companies do because they think it contributes to success. The Kind Bars don’t do shit!” Instead, he notes that they should focus on copying less obvious things (that take more work) like workforce diversity.
Mahesh Vellanki of Redpoint Ventures called this “comparing apples to oranges” in his recent list of Silicon Valley’s fallacies and pointed to the rash of Uber-for-X companies founded and funded on the premise that the on-demand economy would quickly obviate existing models.
As it turns out, and as Greylock’s Sarah Tavel (to loop yet another VC into this post) effectively argued, not every market has the economics to support the Uber-for-X model.
“Which brings me back to the “on demand economy”. The challenge I see with so many of these services is that most often, 1) they are new costs, and 2) they don’t fundamentally recast cost structures like Uber did — instead, many of them are an arbitrage on the cost of wealthy people’s time vs the less wealthy.”
Since the Steph Curry Fallacy is a close cousin of the Narrative Fallacy — which says that we as humans are predisposed to try to turn complex realities into oversimplified stories — the approach to defeating the type of thinking should be similar: Favor experimentation and a clinical approach to understanding whether something moves the needle for your company.
Do the free KIND bars actually make people happier and more productive at work? Do the economics of your business model truly make sense when unleashed in the marketplace? Do you have the hand eye coordination to make those 30-footers and the quickness to keep defenders honest?
If the answers to those questions are ‘no’, it doesn’t make sense to keep spinning your wheels just because “you are the same height as Steph Curry”. The best next step is to circle back to the start, build a new hypothesis to test, and repeat the cycle until your success narrative becomes so tidy than “anybody can do it”.