Oct 31

Leadership Breakfast Series, Tony Conrad of True Ventures

We kicked off our inaugural Leadership Breakfast Series last week with the awesome Tony Conrad. Tony is a Founding Partner at True Ventures on the West Coast and a serial entrepreneur. In addition to actively managing 13 investments at True (including WordPress, Typekit, KISSmetrics, 20×200), he is the Co-Founder of is an easy-to-build personal splash page that also provides the user with personal data analytics. It easily aggregates all your other “social networks” and allows you to portray yourself how you want to be represented. With the ubiquity of social networks combined with people interested in looking at data about themselves, has been termed “A Social Networking Profile to Rule Them All” (WSJ

During the 90 minute breakfast with 6 fellows in attendance, Tony spoke candidly about his lessons learned as a serial entrepreneur and investor. It’s a full-contact sport and surrounding yourself with people who can add value to your company (PR value, introductions, management advice, etc.) is critical to its success. From an investor’s point of view, it’s really about the people. Spending time with entrepreneurs that you see potential in, even 10 years before they launch their own company, can go a long way. Tony even gave advice to one of the fellows who just closed a round of funding. And of course, we talked about how important it is to protect your online brand and the different tools to do so – including and search engine optimization.

One thing that stuck with me was Tony’s story about telling his dad about what is now When you tell your dad about an idea and he gets it and thinks its a good idea, then you’re onto something. It says to me that when you’re thinking about solving a problem, bring it back to basics. Being able to articulate something that even your parents, who presumably are less up to date with the interweb, will give you an early indication of whether other will adopt it.

There were many other topics and stories, but I’ll leave it at this so that our guests can feel comfortable speaking freely.

As VP of Special Ops, my goal is to increase the fellowship’s interaction with the entrepreneurship community. The Leadership Breakfast Series is a series of breakfasts (or lunches) with Founders, CEOs, and General Counsels of established startups. Some others that we have lined up are Ben Lerer (Thrillist), Ron Gonen (RecycleBank), David Pashman (Legal Team Leader at, and David Lee (SV Angels). Our fellows are involved with their own startups, venture capital funds, and the NYC Startup ecosystem in general. The informal small settings with these guests are a great way to gain insights and candid advice from people who we look up to and aspire to be one day.

– Shirly Xu – Columbia Business School 2011

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