10 Excellent Pieces of Expert Advice for Entrepreneurs from VCs
If you want to build a successful startup and score funding, who better to look to for advice than the investors? VCs have a wealth of experience and know what separates the unicorns (winners) from the donkeys (losers).
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Entrepreneurs, take note! Here are 10 excellent pieces of advice from VCs.
1. Understand Your Space
"If you are going to dedicate five to seven years of your life in a company, don't do it based on some tech article you read. Do your homework and strive to understand the space you are going into and try to understand the real drivers and issues behind it. Also, get the right advice and advisors around you. If you do your homework, it should be incredibly natural."
-- Richard Wong, general partner, Accel
2. Think About the Worst Case Scenario
"Do you have the endurance for the marathon version of your company, or does this only work as a sprint? Can you survive if your product doesn't take off for 12-24 months? How about 36 months? The reality is that startups often struggle for a long time, and the beginning can be the slowest part."
--Parul Singh, principal, Founder Collective
3. Have a Superpower
"Extraordinary companies can't be built without extraordinary entrepreneurs, especially at the earliest stages. I'd argue that successful founders must actually possess a superpower to make the nearly impossible task of getting a startup off the ground become a reality. ... So to prospective founders I ask: What's your founding superpower?"
-- David Beisel, co-founder and partner, NextView Ventures
4. Build Something That Matters
"Creating something that matters is table stakes for getting your name on the map. Forget news for the sake of news; focus on being recognized for your impact. Consider why your idea is game-changing, then relentlessly build toward your vision."
--Sarah Hodges, partner, Pillar VC
5. Learn to Manage Your Business
"Today, there's an ample supply of money, ideas and talent. I think we're short on great general management. Gears grind when people struggle to make a business work. ... That means stuff is harder than it needs to be, things take longer, the runway gets eaten up faster than it should. If we fix that, we can massively amplify the power of our talent, good ideas, and money. That's why great general managers are so important."
--Michael Dearing, founder, Harrison Metal
6. Demonstrate Knowledge & Broad Strategic Vision
"The personal characteristics of the entrepreneur have huge influence over my interest level in an opportunity, almost independent of what the business is. ... There are very few entrepreneurs I've met in my career who have the ability to sell the vision at 30,000 feet, convince a room of otherwise skeptical adults that something they didn't believe could be true is likely to come true, and also at the same time dive down into every excruciating detail of the business with credibility and understanding. That combination is rare, but incredibly powerful."
--Scott Friend, managing director, Bain Capital Ventures
7. Be an Amazing Storyteller
"If you want to launch something ambitious on the scale of [Apple CEO Steve] Jobs, you need to get amazing (not adequate) at communicating why people--investors, consumers, prospective hires--should care about whatever it is you're trying to build. Great storytelling can be your most powerful tool for disseminating and scaling your vision."
--Steve Vassallo, partner, Foundation Capital
8. Stay Focused
"Above all else, never lose focus on what you're building. The numbers don't lie. If your thing is working then VCs will always pay attention."
--Chris Moore, partner, Redpoint Ventures
9. Make the Impossible Possible
"We primarily invest in people who are very smart and incredibly driven. We look for people who have done the impossible and have the drive to keep doing it. It is impressive to see a first time founder who has built something of substance with limited time and money."
--Graham Brooks, partner, 406 ventures
10. Don't Focus on Your Product
"For each investment, I look at three things in the following order:
People - What is the team and what have they done? How have their careers progressed to the point where they are now uniquely qualified to build this business together today? Ultimately, world class founders build world class businesses.
Market - I'm looking for entrepreneurs who are looking to build a business in a massive market. For example, a team that can acquire a small share of a $100B market wins every time over a company that acquires a larger share of a smaller $100M market. Big and growing markets are exciting and create many companies of distinction.
Product - What is the product and what is your go to market strategy? If I'm sold on the team and market, then how is your mouse trap better?"
-- Bob Davis, general partner, Highland Capital