April 27, 2017

Fred Wilson: some VC lessons from one of the best in the business

A couple of days ago, Fred Wilson, co-founder and managing partner of Union Square Ventures (USV), one of the most reputable and successful VC firms in the world, and the blogger behind AVC (a must read blog for anyone interested in the startup, tech and VC businesses) posted a video of a talk (the annual Georges Doriot Lecture) that he gave at MIT in Boston.

You can see the video here:

The chat is priceless and full of VC wisdom and I thought about summarizing some of the points that I found particularly interesting:

  • A VC's most important role is that of a cheerleader (...). It is everything and just very few VCs can do it.
  • The best time to invest in something  is when nobody believes in it besides you (...). You have to totally believe in it and you have to know why.
  • Entrepreneurs and the companies they build are the VCs' customers - not the VCs' investors, who are their shareholders. The entrepreneurs are the center of gravity in the business and VCs are service providers to entrepreneurs.
  • Even though venture capital requires a sophisticated understanding of finance, technology, markets and strategy, it is ultimately a people business.
  • Three things that USV looks at when investing in an entrepreneur: charisma (the ability to convince people...it goes beyond salesmanship), technical expertise (knowing how to make aomething, not outsourcing the making of sonething to somebody else but leading it), integrity (honesty).
  • In order to have better chances to succeed, he recommends angel investors to build a portfolio as broad as possible - broader than that of a traditional VC - and build networks with other angel investors. He also points out that angel investors should help entrepreneurs get to the VCs to raise their series A and subsequent rounds.
  • On how to getting into VC as a profession, as a general piece of advice, very graphically he recommends spending your 20s and 30s working at startups as a path to dedicating your 40s, 50s and 60s to being a venture capitalist. Ironically, he feels like the best VC investors did not take that path.

Interestingly, as a closing remark, Fred pointed out that if he was 35 now he would probably go do VC investments in emerging markets.... anyone up for the next challenge?

Until next time!

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