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.