How Investors Find, Mentor & Work with Successful Entrepreneurs

On November 2, Foley & Lardner and CONNECT hosted another solid emerging technologies conference in San Diego. The theme this year was “Do You Speak Entrepreneur?”.

Foley & Lardner LLPCONNECT




While the full day of panel-driven sessions was meant for tech companies, most the wisdom shared applies to almost any emerging company in any industry.

While there was plenty of content about intellectual property, privacy and outsourcing, not surprisingly, the most popular session topics centered on investment, funding and financing.

The opening general session included a panel of local southern California angels and venture capitalists, including JP Lapeyre of the Tech Coast Angels, Ted Alexander of Mission Ventures and Carl Eibl of Enterprise Partners.

One particular exchange revealed some excellent insight worth sharing here with entrepreneurs in any industry.  Even those who are not looking for funding will find this dialogue insightful. The moderator, James Chapman of Foley & Lardner, asked the panelists, “What do you look for in an entrepreneur?”

The answers included:

  • “Passion.”
  • “People who can get it done.”
  • “Done is better than perfect.”
  • “It’s all about execution.”
  • “Someone willing to have a dialogue with, and listen to, their investor.”
  • “Rapport is important.”
  • “Self-awareness. Knowing where your gaps are”
  • “Adaptability.”

These answers resonate with the ActSeed team and we hope resonate with every entrepreneur. These responses emphasize our mantra that investors seek not only the good idea, but a team with a demonstrated ability to execute the idea in a disciplined, planned manner.

This does not suggest creating a rigid plan and pursuing without regard to realities as they unfold. This also does not suggest “making it up as you go”.

It does, however, underscore the need to have a thorough plan that is constantly being interrogated and refined, which is the foundation and purpose of ActSeed’s Entrepreneur Profile / Evaluation process.

What answers would you add to the ones given by the conference panel?



0 thoughts on “How Investors Find, Mentor & Work with Successful Entrepreneurs

  1. Any time I see investors mentioned as mentors for entrepreneurs it makes me cringe. Unless those investors have themselves built many companies in some kind of similar environment, they aren’t qualified to mentor an entrepreneur worthy of investing in, but actually just the opposite.

    Our markets are full of investors who aren’t qualified — angels, VCs, IBs, institutions — a lot of folks have become wealthy from financial engineering, or even building technology– a much different experience requiring much different strategies, skills, and people than building durable businesses for the long-term.

    Otherwise it’s reasonably good advice. — MM

  2. Your point is well-taken, Mark. We’ve experienced first-hand what you’re talking about, especially when we were launching our first venture-backed company in the late 1990’s. There were too many GPs of VC funds who had never had to hire, or fire, or even manage someone within a P&L or budget.

    Also, many of the VCs were sitting on over a dozen boards at once – too many to be an effective mentor to any of them, and the portfolio companies with the largest amounts invested were the ones that received the most attention, even if their business models were terrible.

    Having said that, I do see quite a few of the angels and venture capitalists reverting back to basics in terms of a hands-on approach to nurturing a portfolio company with the expectation that it may take a few years to properly incubate instead of playing the “18-month flip”.

    The panels from the Foley & Lardner conference were top notch in this respect. Again, hats off to Paul Broude and Adam Lenain – two of the conference organizers with whom we spoke; they and their partners pulled off an excellent event.