BABSON MBA Alumni Entrepreneurs and VCs
1st Year MBA class, Section 2
Fresh highlights from today's Entrepreneurship class with BABSON MBA Alumni that came "home"... great stories of resilience, team work and of course, satisfaction... "the things the way they are".
- "We have grown our venture through validation"
- "Convertible debt"
- "The 'stupidity' of what was offered at that time is what motivated our launch this product"
- "He is the one that manages the finances, I take care of product development ... I'm not a finance guy"
- "Nobody was willing to give us money ... we were 'unproven' Entrepreneurs"
- "I have been a struggling entrepreneur since 2007 ...the struggle for us has been raising money" (Note: he has raised 4.5 million USD already)
- "Professional investors are the nicest people you can even think of! The VCs are the first people to tell us: "you are not quite where you think you are ... they help us understand why we are a 2 Mio instead of a 6 Mio company, as entrepreneurs at times we have a lot of misunderstandings of the industry we are at"
- "Boston is known for being a tough climate for a first time entrepreneur"
- "We really liked the fact that they recognized the own limitations and hired a CEO and other smart people that had a lot of expertise" (said by the Venture Capital)
- "We are not afraid to invest in first time Entrepreneurs, but we understand that they are companies that will need a lot of attention"(said by the Venture Capital)
Some questions done by the students and some pieces of the answers ...
On approaching FAMILY and (good) FRIENDS for initial investment
- "For initial friends and family founding, YOU DO NOT APPROACH your poor family members!"
- "It's the most 'expensive' money I have got, those investors were the ones that kept me awake at night"
- "Forget the grandchildren .. how is the business?" (that's how the conversations with your father start after they invest in you!)
- "Treat them carefully, as if they were institutional investors"
- "Their exit strategy was important, but they were more proud of seeing our product in the TIME magazine ... they were really investing in us"
On RESILIENCE (How often do you ask yourself if you want to continue, if you are doing the right thing?)
- "About 4 times a day!"
- "I have a friend that calls me once in a while and what he always asks me is 'Are you still having fun?' And as long as I say yes, that's what matters. We do not feel pity. Those moments of success bring you to the next one ... and your need for success becomes larger ... those moments help you through the dark times ... it is like a roller coaster ... as your company grows, your highs get 'higher' and your lows get 'lower'"
- "When your employees start getting married and having kids, and you realize how many kids the company is feeding ... that makes you go on"
On FINDING THE TECHNICAL PARTNERS/EMPLOYEES (I have the idea but, I do not know how to materialize it, I'm not an engineer!)
- We were in our BCAP (BCAP is an experiential learning program at BABSON) room and sketched the first idea of our product ... the sketch was awful, it was clear that we needed real design talent.We decided to find a design school that WOULD HELP us. We just called the design schools and asked to speak with the deans ... nobody paid attention. But I got attention of ONE school, I do not know what happened that day, but the dean gave us an appointment. What called her attention was the STORY we could build around working together: we will have a design school and business school creating a company! They liked having a designers understanding how to bring a product to the market. 6 months, 30 students, a professors, and us ... it was a very interesting product development process ... and the result was a 100 USD play table. After that process we had almost 30 designers that were familiar with us and we leveraged on that network.
- Recruiting software engineers was very difficult, what would drive them to do something WITH YOU, with a START UP? Are you able to give them the experience they are looking for? It was a sales process, it is about selling a person that at times is smarter than you, that has maybe at the time more opportunities that the one you can give that he/she, the idea that he/she should work with you.
On THINGS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE DIFFERENT
- "There are too many things that we would have done different. But this is part of the learning curve, you will never have all the answers, what matters is your ability to react and that is what brings you to success"
- "If you are not making mistakes, you must be doing something wrong"
Disclaimer: The past highlights do not necessarily reflect my personal opinions or the ones of BABSON. It is just a blog post to share an interesting class activity.