One of the perks of being a student at MIT or a business school for that matter, is that you get to attend talks by prominent leaders, for free.
Today, I had the opportunity to meet the guy who inspired me to blog every single day, without fail. He is Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist. Read my 1st post and 2nd post about how he inspired me.
Now that I’m his avid blog reader (among many others), I figured that he must mention something about his talk at MIT today. And indeed he did. You can read about it here. He didn’t talk about what he said though, it was just a mention and he talked more about General Doriot, the father of modern VC. As usual, I read through all the comments. Most people got excited about him giving a talk at his alma meter and that they wished the talk had been recorded.
While it was recorded, I thought maybe I should just share his key lessons and takeaways here, for me to read back in a few years time and for those of you who didn’t get to attend his talk today.
He told us to bring back 4 key lessons:
- VC’s most important role is being a cheerleader (to their entrepreneurs)
- Everyone needs a cheerleader in their lives (for him, it’s Gotham Gal, his wife and she also has a blog and she is a VC too! I hope my husband thinks I’m his cheerleader)
- F*****g up is fruitful as long as you learn from it (business context)
- The best time to invest in something is when nobody believes in it besides you (but you must totally believe in it and know why)
When asked what does he look for in entrepreneurs:
- Charismatic – must be able to convince investors, customers, team etc
- Technical expertise – knowing how to make something, or rather owning the making of it, instead of outsourcing the making to somebody else
- Integrity – be honest, be good partners
Other key points which I thought are important:
- Working with entrepreneurs are like parenting
- Writing is super important to practice your thinking, a way of thinking out loud
- Take risks for outsized returns, biggest capital gain mostly comes from funding companies from scratch/early-stage
- Internalized all lessons learnt in failure late 90s to early 2000s
- VCs are service providers to entrepreneurs (it’s a people business, must learn how to deal with a breed of people)
- Build network with other angel investors and the more professional investors
- Work in start ups first then only become VCs, so that it’s easier for you to make the difficult decisions as a VC/investor of the start up
- Companies that optimize for sustainability that sacrifice short term returns for long term returns/objectives will perform better
Thank you Fred, it’s an honour.