As Angels/Seed Investors the mantra which comes to bear by lessons learned. No matter how great the idea and the opportunity, at the end of the day it is only the execution that creates change and generates wealth, which explains why Angels/Seed investors bet on the jockey (people) more than the horse (idea). At Blackstone Valley Group we see a fair number of pitches, and in course there are about ~ 5 attributes that help us discover the entrepreneur and the team with whom we can align and we believe have higher probability of delivering & executing.
1) The Passion & Persistence. Passion is always on the top list of qualities we look at entrepreneur teams but in our experience Persistence carries more value. Time again we have rejected pitches with constructive feedback to never hear from the entrepreneur team again. One of the deals we are looking to fund is an example of both Passion and Persistence – where after three rejections (each round the entrepreneur team came back with the idea/plan more refined) the entrepreneurs persisted to get this looked upon again.
How they did it and Why we accepted it on the 4th try – will be an interesting blog post, but it did reflect on the qualities we want our management teams to have to execute on the milestones.
2) Open Ears and Open Minds. This is a quality which almost the entire sub set of first time entrepreneurs feel that they inherently have but in essence we found that majority of the entrepreneurial teams unwilling to adjust/or abandon the original idea in lieu of pursuing the refined idea as they feel that they have invested lot of capital (emotional/cash/sweat) to adjust the rails now.
What we are looking at is the Open Ears and Open Minds approach– ability to hear honest feedback, go back to the drawing board and keep asking questions till they understand what works and what doesn’t.
3) In It to Win It! We want the entrepreneurs who have jumped in with both feet and are actively seeking people who can help make turn their idea into a business, including potential customers, suppliers, employees, investors, friends and peers. These teams usually have ‘skin in the game’ i.e. ‘Cash Capital invested in getting their idea past the POC stage and have the market validating the idea by paying clients and in due course we have found that that this group comes under the “most likely to succeed” with their idea.
4) Metrics and Milestones Tracking. I know this is somewhat subjective but in our experience entrepreneur teams who have their pulse on the metrics and milestones that they need to achieve to get the business off the run way and have been constantly tracking their own real progress vs. projections till the date they get in front of us – get our special attention. Why? It shows that the ‘implementation’ streak, understanding the cost and value of their time to be measured against set timelines to achieve them and are monitoring them without oversight. Wouldn’t you want these guys running the business?
5) Adaptable and Coachable. Rarely does the first business plan remain unchanged, and so smart entrepreneurial teams take ownership of their plan and make it a living document. They “roll with the punches,” and get back on their feet if they’re knocked down. They also are willing to take the advice of more seasoned business people to help them be successful. As Angels we tend to focus on startups in verticals in which we have significant knowledge and/or experience, and we appreciate it when our advice is heeded.
With everything said and done we are only human, and can sometimes let our own biases and emotions get in the way of making good decisions about a startup or an idea and I can probably write a short novel on the mistakes I make as an angel and will keep making (sorry can’t even say that I don’t repeat the mistakes – unfortunately I do) but I hold myself to the same attributes we look at the entrepreneurs coming to us.
We’ve all listened/read to countless startups touting their amazing, colossal idea as “the best thing since sliced bread!” But as an investor and an advisor, I have to think quite a lot harder to make a list of great examples of good execution. How about you?