Last Monday, inSITE fellows kicked off the year with a special guest speaker, David Tisch, one of New York’s most prominent angel investors. David, who practiced law for “5 seconds” after obtaining his J.D. from New York University Law School, co-founded TechStars NY in August 2010. He recently stepped down from his role as Managing Director at TechStars to start his journey as an angel investor. Some of his most well known investments include Boxee, Fab.com, Art.sy, and Group.me. Given his successful streak of investments, David was surprisingly humble about his accomplishments, telling us “he still has a lot to learn”. In a grey hoodie (hoodies happen to be his second passion, after the internet), David was casual and witty, answering our questions about teams, branding, MBAs, and opportunities that exist in New York.
When looking to invest in a company, David looks at the process as a funnel: team, market, product and idea. He considers Team to be the most important aspect. He advised aspiring entrepreneurs to be cautious about the types of investors or VC’s they seek. “They will be your mentors. Ask yourself: are they types of people that will be there for you in good and tough times?”
David emphasized the importance of branding your company, your VC and yourself in order to stand out from the crowd, saying: “when you are starting a company you are rebelling against the world.” If you are challenging the status quo, you have to love what you do. A lot of hype builds around startups that are ambitious and teams that are passionate. “The thing that fills the void, is the brand”.
On New York City:
As barriers to entry diminish with technology penetrating more and more industries, New York City is an exciting place to be. David advised: “think about the kind of culture you want to build, and go to that city. If New York fits that culture, then start a business here. If Boston does, because historically employees are more loyal in Boston than any other city in the US, go there.” He also mentioned that the mixed demographic is very unique to New York. It enables any entrepreneur to test almost any product. “Get off every subway stop and test your product”, he advised.
Fellows wanted to know if there is any stigma to obtaining an MBA in the startup world. David advised to not brand yourself as an “MBA”, but “brand yourself as a skill set that you can bring to the table”. Many startups are looking for experts in finance, for instance, talk about prior experiences and how your expertise fits with a startup. Although you may not contribute to the product development, he said, you can help a great deal with building out a company’s financials and helping them understand if their business is viable. There are so many skills that startups need, and branding yourself a certain skill set, and not an MBA can be very valuable.
This post was written by Christina Yugai, Class of 2014 at New York University, Stern Business School.