VC Turned Entrepreneur

Mark Suster writes a great blog, Both Sides of the Table.  He is an entrepreneur turned VC.  A lot of times, that’s what happens.  Marc Andreesen was an entrepreneur turned VC.  Brad Feld, entrepreneur turned VC.  In Chicago, Eddie Lou was a VC that became an entrepreneur!

Eddie is the CEO of Shiftgig.

Recently he was profiled in an article in Technori.  It’s an interesting read.  Here are four tips to becoming an successful entrepreneur.

  1. Pursue the right idea, at the right time
  2. Build a great team
  3. Learn to sell
  4. Create a great culture

All these are easy to type and tough to accomplish.  That’s what makes entrepreneurship so hard.  Waverly Deutsch a professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth told me once she invested in one of the first e-book companies.  Sounds like a massive winner right?  However, she did it in the early 1990’s and the world, nor the technology wasn’t up to speed yet.  It took the Kindle to make ebooks take off.  However, if you invested in Amazon ($AMZN) in the early 1990’s you did quite well!
AMZN Chart

AMZN data by YCharts

Building a great team is one of the hardest challenges an entrepreneur faces.  Countless blog posts have been devoted to human resources and labor economics.  In my life, I have been exposed to two of the deepest thinkers on this topic, Prof. Michael Gibbs and Prof Ron Burt at Chicago Booth.  If you are at all interested in the topic you should take both of their classes-or at least pay to hear them speak.  They approach HR from a different place-but they both use quantitative methods to reach decisions.  It’s highly engaging and because team building is the toughest skill to master, the most important point to educate yourself on.

Do you bet on jockeys or horses?  Answer that question correctly and you will know why it’s important.    The competition for great talent is fierce.

Learning to sell is something that everyone should know how to do. There are different ways of selling.  My wife and I both started our careers selling.  She is far better at it than I am.  Great salespeople use different methods, but they have some common characteristics.  They know how to control a conversation, and they know how to motivate their customers limbic brain to get them to act.  When you see a great salesperson in action it truly is a thing of beauty.  The best get the sale even when the customer knows they are getting sold to!

Creating a great culture goes hand in hand with creating a great team.  Different businesses require different cultures.  They have different strategic goals and different structures allow companies to attain that goal.  I love this photo.  It’s satirical, but you get the point.

It shows different tech businesses and how they approach the world. Different CEO’s can say exactly the same words, but the oomph behind those words can be totally different.  Great CEO’s are like great coaches.  They get them most out of their players.  Great coaches coach differently too.  There isn’t one way to coach.  For example, if you look at John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski; all coached college kids and won championships.  There were similarities, but I bet if you asked players how they coached and what they did to motivate them they were all different.

Most of the time, entrepreneurs become VCs.  That’s why it’s refreshing to see Eddie go the other way.  Good luck to him!