Forcing Functions

Eric Friedman
5 min readJun 11, 2019

I have always liked the idea of having forcing functions, a forced reason to take action and produce a result, when dealing with most situations. Whether a fundraising event, hiring, or sales/partnership opportunity- these can be especially useful to make all parties move faster. In the end, time will kill all deals.

Interestingly in the computer interaction design sense there is a very different definition;

A forcing function is an aspect of a design that prevents the user from taking an action without consciously considering information relevant to that action. It forces conscious attention upon something (“bringing to consciousness”) and thus deliberately disrupts the efficient or automatized performance of a task.

This can obviously be a distraction or interruption (as mentioned above) so the nuance is important. Having worked on many deals that seem to go dark with the other party (think endless sales calls or follow ups) getting back in front of someone in the right way is key. If you interrupt it is worthless, but if you add value you can get back into their flow intelligently.

There are a few types of forcing functions and methods I have seen work and wanted to share them below.

Fundraising forcing functions are important because VCs will endlessly kick the can down the road until the next launch, the next milestone, the next version — all the while letting folks know they are excited. If you really break things down, this is there job — de-risk a venture scale investment to deploy capital at the right time. This keeps the firm and final answer on investing nebulous and entrepreneurs moving the firm in their tracking sheet or CRM around for no reason. Forcing functions that can helpful here;

  • A Material Update — something big happened to the business, landed a big customer, acquisition costs went down, strategy started working, new city launch, breakout growth, etc…
  • A term sheet (seems obvious but not communicated often) — someone willing to lead the investment and now you can heard all the others in
  • An Epic Hire — brought on someone new that is going to change the business
  • A pivot — may not seem obvious but some investors that weren’t a fit before may see things differently