Category Archives: entrepreneurship

SBSS Week 1: Entrepreneurs Need Passion

I’m helping facilitate the first FastTrac TechVenture program in North Florida, called Success Breeds Success Series (SBSS). It’s an intensive 8-week bootcamp for entrepreneurs, including “secrets of success” from most of the top entrepreneurs in the area.

We have a fantastic group participating and our first week focused on the Characteristics of Entrepreneurs. Jamie Grooms, founder of Regeneration Technologies and AxoGen, was the speaker and we spent considerable time discussing the key traits of entrepreneurs. It was a wide-ranging discussion that I won’t attempt to summarize here; however, there was one takeaway that was a mild surprise to me.

I’m a terribly passionate person and that has an impact on the type of people I back — I’m drawn to others whose passion shows in their efforts and dedication to their companies. However, at SBSS I expected to hear diverse views on whether passion was a defining trait of entrepreneurs — maybe from tech-heavy founders. Boy was I wrong.

Everyone felt passion was a defining trait of successful entrepreneurs. A commitment to do whatever it takes is critical to fight through all the inevitable “no’s” heard when building a business. I believe this also shows itself in creativity — passion makes an entrepreneur think of new ways to create success.

Are you ready to run through walls for your idea? If not, maybe it’s not the right idea or the right time for you — or you need to find co-founders with that core. The road to entrepreneurial success contains plenty of walls, will you stop or keep running?

A Double Dash of Dingo…er, Wingo

Scot Wingo is one of my all-time favorite entrepreneurs (and current Inflexion Advisor). It doesn’t hurt that he was one of the first entrepreneurs I backed (AuctionRover) and proceeded to knock it out of the park in less than a year (acquired by GoTo/Overture). He builds great teams, a passionate culture and eats competitors for breakfast. I think he’s also the guy who launched the “startup office dog” trend with his border collie Mack — a 3-time serial dogpreneur.

Yesterday Wingo came up a couple times.

First, because his latest company, ChannelAdvisor, acquired competitor Marketworks — giving the combined entity $2.5 billion of gross merchandise value (GMV). If accurate, that would be about 5% of eBay’s $52.5 billion global GMV! Congrats Scot, Aris, Michael and the whole CA crew on your latest step towards world domination.

Second, when talking with a current portfolio company I remembered one of my early discussions with Scot while starting ChannelAdvisor (CA). It was the worst time in the market and being profitable was even more critical than it is today. CA wasn’t profitable, but Scot came up with a great way to demonstrate progress towards that goal. Specifically, Scot started reporting CA “divisions” based upon the categories of products they were managing. For example, consumer electronics and luggage may have been profitable; whereas tools and home products were not. Thus, being profitable in 2 of 4 divisions was better than being profitable in 0 of 1 companies. This way of telling the CA story was a lot more palatable, and helped investors understand a path to company profitability. Some might call it “spin” and the idea of “divisions” in an early-stage company seemed crazy, but it really helped align company resources and tell the CA story. From that story forward, ChannelAdvisor has secured over $60M in funding, grown many times over, acquired its closest competitor and is the leader in auction management.

Does your startup have profitable “divisions” that get lost in the broader story?

Related images: scot wingo, aris buinevicius, michael jones, auctionrover, channeladvisor, marketworks

Enjoy Your Avalon This 4th of July

Avalon is my favorite film of all time. It covers topics ranging from childhood, to early immigrants, to technology, to entrepreneurship, to family. I’ve been lucky enough the last few years to host a July 4th extended family cookout and I always sneak Avalon on the TV so, at the least, its themes/lessons will be reinforced subconsciously.

Although I am a huge champion of technology, Avalon really makes me think about some of the societal changes brought about by cars, TVs and other advances — changes that were good and bad. Most importantly, it makes me think about the importance of family and how it’s worth the effort today to capture the multi-generational connectedness that existed by default in past decades.

Whether you’ve seen Avalon before or not, it’s worth another view for you and your family around this 4th of July. I’ve embedded the opening below. Enjoy the movie and your holiday…

Related images: Avalon Movie, Aidan Quinn, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Barry Levinson, Elijah Wood, Joan Plowright