I’ve said before that entrepreneurs are truly incredible people. They are a rare breed of resilience and passion who press on even when there’s only one reason to keep on and nine to stop. True entrepreneurs are hard to find. They must be able to sell the vision, execute the vision, and manage others (something my partner Rich Levandov refers to as a finders, minders and grinders). For a VC, it takes time, and maybe even a missed opportunity or two, to recognize genius when you come across it.
They are hard to spot (and harder to work with)
As with many extremely talented people, highly talented entrepreneurs can have big flaws, overlook things that are obvious to others, or are generally difficult to work with. Just think of a few of the most successful recent entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Bezos. Each of them carry with them a cocktail party anecdote of eccentricity, impatience, obsessiveness, or all of the above. Part of that comes from the loneliness of being a leader and being the one to make the tough decisions. But part of it just comes with the territory of genius – you think differently.
They need the right motive
Not everyone is right for entrepreneurship. It starts with the right motive. The right idea at the wrong time or for the wrong reason is the wrong investment. It is why we are deeply interested in a person’s story and their motivation for starting something. That’s why we are sometimes more interested in their story and the team’s story than we are in the product itself. It bears repeating that your idea is not as important as your ability to execute. We’ve invested in ideas and problems before they even had a name because we believed in the team (Cloudant, for example). We need to see a personal drive, connection, and commitment to the business they’ve founded. There is much more beyond the superficial – there is substance and something special.
A recent example: Skycatch in Nepal
One recent example that clearly exhibits the quality of the people we are proud to work with is our portfolio company Skycatch. Last week, Skycatch developed and deployed a fleet of UAVs and two of their very own engineers to Nepal for Earthquake Relief. Working in conjunction with UNESCO World Heritage and other organizations, Skycatch drones are on the ground producing high-resolution 2D and 3D maps of sites to aid in rescue and recovery efforts. We are proud of Skycatch as they help with this humanitarian effort (as well as many others like the World Wildlife Foundation).
The takeaway: People matter
Our firm doesn’t invest in a group of people who throw ideas on a white board and choose the most likely to succeed. We invest in incredibly talented people who have come to a point in their story where their passion has collided with something the world needs and they are here to bring that into being. While Skycatch is a recent example, all of our founders are truly incredible people building companies of tremendous value. We are proud to partner with each and every one of them.