Sep 18

Entrepreneurial Success as seen by a Serial Successful Entrepreneur

Last Thursday in Boston I had the pleasure to attend a talk hosted by the UMASS Alumni Association by successful entrepreneur and venture capital partner Larry Bohn. Larry touched on a series of topics including the model for venture capital firms, entrepreneurship and the risks versus rewards one encounters in life. Below are some of the key takeaways from his talk.

The New Model For Venture Capital Firms:

 Ten years ago most venture capital firms were run by bankers and financial number crunchers, today we are increasingly seeing more successful serial entrepreneurs as managing partners. One of the secret sauces for the success of Larry’s firm General Catalyst is that each Partner was a successful serial entrepreneur for many years before joining the firm. When General Catalyst was started, it was one of the first venture capital firms to have all of its partners as former entrepreneurs. This experience enables them to understand the profile of entrepreneurs that will succeed, and ably support them and guide them as needed.

“Nothing fails like success”:

The path to successful entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It requires the ability to be bold, quick, continuously learning, without an over focus on the rearview mirror, while still maintaining a hunger to succeed.  The right entrepreneur will know how to pivot and make the needed moves and learn from his mistakes.  There is no such thing as error free successful entrepreneurship.

Who Needs Harvard & Stanford?: 

The typical entrepreneur that is in General Catalysts portfolio is not the prototype Ivy League graduate but rather the UMASS or state school graduate. These graduates have an x factor typically not found in their Ivy League peers: an inherent scrappiness, an ability to take risks and break through walls to reach their goals.  These are the people that are coming with a chip on their shoulder and a vision and need to succeed. The key investment the VC makes is in the people within the firm and what he believes they will be able to achieve.

Investment Criteria: 

The perfect formula for GC investors, is an ambitious and driven team, and a disruptive, innovative and worthwhile technology.  As an example of this perfect formula, Larry talked about GC’s investment in Brightcove, Kayak, & Demandware. In each case these companies entrepreneurs were visionaries that re-defined and disrupted the market that they were in.

Many Entrepreneurs Come From Big Companies:

Contrary to popular belief, Larry believes the current gap between Silicon Valley and Boston is primarily based on Boston lacking big technology companies in the early 90’s.  Most entrepreneurs actually come from big companies and bring their ideas of change and innovation based on their observations of the limitations within the organization and possibilities that exist outside the corporation. With the collapse of giants like Wang Computing and Digital, there were less opportunities for technological innovation in Boston. Silicon Valley on the other hand’s large industries were the perfect place for numerous innovations.

We live in a market of cycles, you need to learn from each aspect”: 

While Larry’s career has been largely successful he, like anyone who has been in the market over the last thirty years, has endured the bubbles, recessions, and downsizes that follow the economy. There is always something to learn from each situation and a takeaway that can make you stronger in the long run. As Larry stated “luck favors the informed mind.”

Final Thoughts:

Larry’s experiences can be looked at as a roadmap or blueprint for entrepreneurial success. You need to be bold, take calculated risks, and always understand that paving the path to success is not an overnight phenomenon but one that requires a great amount of consistent and continuous passion, patience and perseverance.




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