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This week, The Atlantic ran an article by an MBA student who was noticing how startups aren’t ‘cool’ anymore. Between the threat of an economic downturn and looming student-loan payments, the author discusses how coffee-break conversations about business ideas with his classmates rarely come to fruition. My co-founder and I both were successful entrepreneurs before we became venture capitalists (and both obtained our MBAs) — so we found the post interesting on multiple levels.
The main goal at our firm, Next Coast Ventures, is to source and support the best entrepreneurs building companies outside the coasts. While that means making a financial investment, it also means attending board meetings, fielding late night calls from panicked founders, coaching CEOs on how to deliver tough news, and a myriad of other support functions on the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. However, as entrepreneurs ourselves, we’re not going to sugar coat the long and bumpy road to being a successful founder. So when current MBA students find that startups aren’t cool anymore, or just how difficult it is to scale a company, that’s not an entirely bad realization in our eyes.
Since the Great Recession of 2007, the last ten years have been extremely positive for the startup and investment communities. With venture investing at its highest levels and decacorns and mega-rounds dominating tech news, it’s no surprise that millennials’ views on entrepreneurship are extremely positive. This bullish attitude led to the rise of famous sayings in the startup world like ‘quit your job’ and cult followings of shows like Shark Tank. This trendiness around entrepreneurship coupled with success stories of billion-dollar companies invented in college dorm rooms begs the constant industry question: ‘Who will be the next Mark Zuckerberg?’ But, we know there’s only one Zuckerberg in a generation. And as this MBA student astutely realizes, and is starting to become clear to the next generation of entrepreneurs, it is really freaking hard to start a business — we know that firsthand. We understand that to become a successful entrepreneur it’s about a tremendous amount of hustle, sacrifice, timing and that pesky, unpredictable factor of good luck. That’s why we call our founders glass eaters (and we wrote an entire post about what term means): it’s an entrepreneur that simply will not quit, they’re going to keep eating glass, they’re that committed.
So as venture capitalists our job is to equip our founders with the best tools to succeed, and in early-stage investing, that begins with being honest about just how unglamorous and difficult it is to scale and successfully exit a well-run company.
We applaud the author’s thoughtful realization that he’s going to need some foundational work experience and business tools (even the boring things like accounting, which as a former CPA, I definitely applaud) before making sure entrepreneurship is a smart fit, at the right time, for him. This isn’t being lazy or giving up your dreams, it’s being pragmatic, which is an incredibly important skill for entrepreneurs. We want our entrepreneurs to be extremely purposeful about their business idea, it’s potential in the current customer climate and the crucial role timing plays. So instead, what we hope to see out of this bullish view on entrepreneurship are underrepresented founders seeking out entrepreneurship, cities outside the Bay Area and NYC supporting local entrepreneurs tackling pain points that affect the mass market and a candid dialogue among investors of the critical role we play in shaping the reputation of entrepreneurship. We agree that entrepreneurship has a branding issue, and having been fortunate enough to see both sides of the founder-investor relationship, and the great entrepreneurial talent in underrepresented markets, we hope to be another voice in demystifying it — even if that means making it a little more uncool in the process.
December 13, 2018 at 07:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs