Priceless Advice for Virginia Tech Entrepreneurs

Kind, direct, and thought-provoking answers to questions about entrepreneurship from Dan Gordon, Director of Research at Valhalla Partners in Vienna, Virginia:

If you could give entrepreneurs at VT KnowledgeWorks seeking early venture capital investment three pieces of advice, what would that advice be?

1) Make something that people or businesses want.  Not that they should want, but that they do want.  (Make sure it’s a “complete solution” for them, too, not just a part of a solution.)

2) Get potential customers to show that they want or would want what you’re making.  Purchases, testimonials, advisory boards, any kind of evidence that customers want what you’re making.

3) When you come to an investor, tell him or her what you plan to accomplish with the money you are asking for, in as much detail as you can.  Your knowledge of the business you are trying to build is what the investor is assessing.

If you could give Virginia Tech faculty members, staff members, scientists, inventors, graduate students, and/or undergraduate students who have an idea for starting a company three pieces of advice, what would you tell them?

1) Read all that you can about starting, building, and running a company.  It’s a very cheap way to find out whether the entrepreneurial life is for you.  It’s not for everyone.

2) Meet and get to know people in your university’s entrepreneurship programs, if any.  They know a lot of the ropes of starting up a company and can help you think it through.

3) Think dispassionately about what parts of running a business you are good at, and which you are not so good at.  Try to meet people who would supplement you in your weak areas.


  1. Marketing specialists perplex me with statements like " Make something not that they should want, but that they do want." That leaves out the very successful hula-hoop. It leaves out almost all really new products, inventions, and ideas.

    A state agency pirated research funds in the early 70's to do a survey of whether agencies wanted GIS (the computer mapping based geographic information systems work). All they and the public got from the survey was: "What's GIS?", lost funds, delays, and competitive advantage.

    They should have wanted it, and did not. Too bad. What about that first piece of advice?

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