Last month, I had the good fortune to host a group students from Duke University who had come out to SF & Silicon Valley for their spring break to get exposed to the startup world here. We ended up at The Counter on California Avenue in Palo Alto, and the folks there at the Counter really took great care of us (topic for another post).
During our time together, one of the students asked me “What exactly are you looking for in the people or the teams you invest in?” This student then followed it up saying he wanted to understand how what he’d need to do to break-through and gain the attention of an investor despite being just a student.
Now before I go off on my thoughts on this, I’d say that “being just a student” isn’t an obstacle to investment, at least from what I consider the best venture investors. Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley’s recent post, Why Youth Has An Advantage in Innovation & Why You Want To Be A Learn-It-All, illustrates why it’d be a sucker’s bet for venture investors to look past an investment opportunity purely based on the youth of the founder.
Net: if you’re a student and you want to start a company and need to raise money, my view is that you have the same challenges that every other founder faces—you’ve got to build something people want and you’ve got to blast through whichever walls are in your way.
So with the being just a student thing set aside, then to the heart of this guys question, namely, what am I looking for? If there were 1 single word that I’d site as the thing I’m looking for with the people that I invest in, it’d be this….
Inevitability means that no obstacle will be too large. Inevitability means you have a vision of where the world can go that you see, and that you’re the unstoppable force to get the world to buy in to that world. Inevitability is about focusing on not stopping until you get any number of commitments that are needed—the code written, the product shipped, the customer sold, the investor closed. Inevitability.
When I think about the many CEOs we are actively working with at BlueRun Ventures, we see different personalities. Some are very technical, some business driven, some both. Some are extroverted, others are introverted. Whatever, there really isn’t a template in my view, different folks thrive at running different types of companies.
But a common thread that I definitely see is a push that drives for inevitability.
So don’t worry about whether you’re still a college student or whether you’re even in college. (Believe me, having a college degree does not correlate to startup success, just ask Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Michael Dell.) But do worry about how much inevitability you are driving in your business effort.