A general partner from one of the world's largest and most active venture capital firms offers invaluable advice.
*Article from Inc. Magazing found here.
The word 'disruptive' is criminally overused and often misunderstood when talking about technology or innovation. Spreading these negative connotations like a sleuth of bad news bears often grabs a few quick and easy headlines. But it seldom tells the story about tech being disruptive in a constructive way.
Barriers that previously prevented entrepreneurs from creating something are already just a distant memory. Now that the gap between dreaming an idea and the build phase is smaller than ever, technology is providing almost limitless possibilities for all.
A great example of a recent digital success story is the Knocki smart device that arrived on Kickstarter looking for $35,000 funding. Within a week it has reached over $500,000.
If you are lucky, you could find that your own innovative idea will be snapped up by a venture capitalist. But what do they look for when searching to invest in new ideas? And how can a startup make themselves more appealing to potential investors?
The world's largest venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA) famously invests in technology. They also have more than $17 billion in committed capital across 15 funds. General Partner of NEA, Harry Weller is one of the world's top venture capitalists with honors after featuring in Forbes magazine's Midas touch list for nine years running.
I spoke to Harry recently to obtain a greater understanding of how he chooses which projects to invest in. I was pleasantly surprised to hear he had enough self-awareness to know that his role is frequently referred to as a vulture capitalist. But he was quick to point out that he simply enjoys investing in people or ideas at every stage of the creation process.
Harry freely admits he's not an innovator or a talented individual, he's just a guy whose curiosity keeps him looking around corners. Just when he thinks he fully understands the technology landscape, it's the talented ones that pitch an idea to him that blows his whole thought process out the water.
Modestly admitting that it's his golden curiosity that leads to people who do have the golden touch is incredibly refreshing. Harry's passion for both innovation and technology was evident to see. Motivated by observing how technology interfaces collide with human beings and the cool things to come with it particularly captured my attention.
I instantly realized that in this age of the million-dollar start-ups and unicorns, it isn't about technology or even innovation. Investing in entrepreneurs and helping to make their dreams come true to deliver real value is the real secret sauce of success.
For those wondering how to approach a venture capitalist for funding, Harry challenged innovators to do something impressive. Test it with users outside of your comfort zone or circle of family and friends before reaching out. Showcasing actual evidence that you have something exceptional on your hands makes a all the difference.
Consumers are notoriously unpredictable. Having a wealth of test data across a wide range of users will act as a barometer for how well it to received by the public. This information is invaluable to any potential investors.
Sure there are a few creatives who seem to possess a reality distortion field. But Harry is convinced that most people know when they are onto something special. For this reason, he invites anyone to submit ideas directly to him via email. Although he freely admits that it's not a channel he feels obligated to respond, he guarantees to read each and every message sent to him.
The journey from the dream it, make it and sell it process is now moving at breathtaking speed. There are a wealth of funding options to make your dream a reality to create an abundance of opportunities. When you combine this with a general partner at the world's largest venture capital firm having an open door policy by reading every message. What are you waiting for?
I talk in-depth with Harry Weller on my podcast about both the highs and lows of being a venture capitalist. Although, it's the million dollar investments or technology that often get all the headlines, this episode is a timely reminder of how it's actually about real lives and dreams.