I attended Techweek in New York a couple of weeks ago, and one of many events I found exciting was the panel of VCs focused on early-stage startups. I followed up with ff Venture Capital and had the pleasure of chatting with director Ryan Armbrust to harvest some tips for founders of young startups.
By way of background, ff is a founder-friendly VC that invests in early-stage technology companies and supports them with services ranging from accounting/finance to PR to engineering. About half of ff’s portfolio is comprised of startups of first-time entrepreneurs.
We all know that it’s tough being a first-time entrepreneur, so how did these entrepreneurs convince ff?
The entrepreneur needs to be the right person for that space, that vertical – having industry expertise and insight is critical. If you’re a non-technical founder, you also have to demonstrate that you have convinced technical people to support you. If people with relevant technical expertise are working with you, then they obviously believe in you and your business idea; they are essentially your first investors. Oh, and don’t forget extensive background checks and references; VCs want to know that you have a track record of success (and hussle!) in your previous life.
If you do secure VC funding, keep in mind that your investors are your partners. If you need to pivot, for example, this should not come as a surprise to your investors. Be transparent.
One theme that emerged during my conversation with Ryan and during techweek more generally was the importance of team and talent management. You may have the best idea, ever, but you still need the right team to bring it to life. The team dynamic between/among founders is critical and will absolutely come across during presentations and pitches. As the team grows, make sure to check your ego at the door – hire successful people who are “better” than you in ways that matter in order to grow. And if there is trouble in paradise, address the issues head-on and do not drain your precious resources (especially time!) trying to fix relationships that were not meant to be. Firing decisions are just as important as hiring decisions.
Connect good strategy to the right resources, and you’re on your way! Good luck!