11/16/20

Interviewing Venture Capitalists

The other day I had a conversation with a CEO who was strapping on his kneepads and polishing up his tin cup to hit the fundraising circuit.

He is not a complete novitiate, but neither could he write the book on the subject. He was a good student, smarter than a Shih Tzu — which is pretty damn smart.

I made bold to say to him, “Remember you are interviewing the venture capitalist just as much as they are assessing you.”

The most important element of fundraising is to ensure you enter into a transaction with a “good” venture capitalist which requires you to interview them.

Here is Dante’s view of the venture capital world.

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10/8/20

Is It Essential To Be Nuts To Be An Entrepreneur?

I was reflecting on the nature of entrepreneurs on the heels of three discussions I recently had with prospective clients. I was also thinking about my two Perfect Granddaughters — Peaceful Eadie (4 months) and Tempe the Bold (almost “fwee”).

In the discussion with the founders, we wandered into the area of what hurdles must an entrepreneur overcome and caught our heel on the notion that an entrepreneur had to develop a pretty damn thick skin, be able to hear the word “NO” in several different languages, and the benefit of the programming of an entrepreneur’s life prior to sticking their stake in the ground.

This last point was why I was thinking of Peaceful Eadie and Tempe the Bold. Their mother is an entrepreneur who co-founded a company called Weezie Towels which is savaging the luxury towel vertical.

When Momma works at the kitchen table, Tempe the Bold works alongside her with her own plastic phone and keyboard. You have never seen anything as cute as T the B fielding imaginary calls that often sound identical to her Momma’s. The probability that Tempe the Bold will become an entrepreneur like her Momma? I will let you evaluate that.

As an entrepreneur — or as a prospective entrepreneur — you are held captive to the jockey, horse, course evaluation wherein the “jockey” plays trump to the other aspects. You, of course, are the jockey.

The horse is the business engine, and the course is the market.

What does that jockey have to embrace mentally in order to become an entrepreneur and is it easier if you are nuts?

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04/7/20

The Gratification Of Personal Development, CEO Transformation

There is nothing as gratifying in my CEO coaching than watching hardworking CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs blossom and develop.

Right now is a time whereat a CEO is exposed to the business friction of the COVID19 saga. In this friction, one finds the revealed strength of CEOs. Frankly, not everyone has it while everyone needs it.

When you see a CEO with whom you have worked blossom and rise to the occasion, it is extraordinarily gratifying and just makes you want to sing Hosanna!

Amongst the characteristics I see with this subset are the following:

 1. The CEOs who undergo transformation to a higher level of performance in times of crisis have done the work, day in day out over a protracted period of time. There are no overnight success stories. Sorry.

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11/24/19

CEO Shoptalk — Balance, Intensity

Lovely sunny day in the ATX. Ahh, on Earth as it is in Texas!

As a young, first time CEO, you may hear a lot about work-life balance. It is a worthy subject and suggests that there is some balance beam wherein work sits calmly on the left and life sits serenely on the right and it is your job to find the delicate balance between these two extremes, or, worse still, to create that balance. Good luck with that.

To which notion your Big Red Car says: Poppycock!

First, go look at my qualifier — “. . . young, first time CEO.” I am talking to you and not the serial 5X entrepreneur, who not only can achieve such balance in his/her life, but can teach the subject.

I am speaking to you if you are that young, first time CEO — slightly confused by the novelty of it all, a bit perplexed by the complexity, willing to work your way out of a jam, and with a fire in your belly that can weld titanium.

For you, go all in. Take the leap. Burn the boats. Get the tattoo. Feed the monster. Just do it.

The intensity that a young person — let’s say 22-35 — brings to an entrepreneurial, startup endeavor is similar to what I experienced in the Army upon graduation from Virginia Military Institute last century.

The last vestiges of the Vietnam War were still about (the US Embassy in Saigon would be stormed and taken in early May 1975). It was a time in which the Army was working 24/7/365 and nobody was feeling sorry for themselves or complaining. It was what was done.

Similarly, I want to urge you as a young, first time CEO to operate on a equivalent war time footing.

There are a few caveats:

 1. Exercise regularly to counter the stress.

 2. Eat right. Eat well. Drive your energy from your food.

 3. Get a physical and adhere to the doctor’s admonitions. Tell him you are an entrepreneur and that you are working some incredible hours. [Maybe he will want to invest some of his healthcare bonanza in your fledgling startup. JK]

 4. Have a written plan. Please have a written Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, and be receptive to developing a Culture.

A written plan ensures that you strike a square blow on the nail that is your business. An angled blow, a disorganized blow — bends the nail, requires remedial work, and results in a weakened nail when next you get ready to strike it. For all that is good and holy, have a written plan.

 5. Take regular cleansing vacations — not to Bali — wherein you disconnect from everything digital. Do it for at last 2 days, twice a year.

 6. Celebrate your birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and those of your parents. If you have a beloved, then get them in the mix.

 7. Go to church and learn to pray. This will turn out to be very soothing and calming. It is a skill, like learning to code.

 8. Get a CEO coach, a mentor, a gray haired eminence. This is a relief valve, and it is always helpful to have someone tell you, “Sorry, that’s normal” when the butterflies turn to condors and try to claw their way out of your acid pool of a stomach on THOSE days. Sorry. It is normal.

 9. Spend ten minutes a day writing in a diary. This will document something very important — the journey. You will look back after a year and say, “Holy smokes was I that freakin’ naive. Did I really get that much stuff done?”

If you will only do those nine things, then you can work like a whirling dervish and say, “Work balance, be damned!”

You can’t do it forever, but you can while you’re young and a first time CEO. While you’re learning your craft.

Then, guess what? You learn your craft, you become an experienced CEO and the world is all milk and honey. Unfortunately, you turn out to be lactose intolerant and it never really gets “easy” but you learn to do it.

Be well, amigo.

But, hey,  what the Hell do I really known anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Have a great week.

10/8/19

Chaos >>> Order

If you are a founder, entrepreneur, startup CEO then you are familiar with the notion of transforming chaos into order. [OK, let me say — “I hope you are.” However, we both know it is not as well ingrained as we might hope.]

If you are an “aspirin” startup — meaning the raison d’etre of your love child is to reduce the pain of mankind, the chaos is the pain and the order is the pain free — or lessened pain — environment that results thereafter.

If you are a “vitamin” startup — meaning the raison d’etre of your little bastard is to improve the quality of life, the chaos is the inferior quality of the before and the order is the higher quality plane of the after.

There is a decided “before” v “after” transformation.

Bit extreme, but it makes my point. Guy lost a lot of weight? What a magical transformation. I imagine he feels a lot better. Took those bad eating habits and created some order, no?

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04/1/19

Believing — An Essential Leadership Skill

This is the big month for a few things — Christianity, college basketball, and CEOs. It is all about believing.

For Christians, Easter is the essence of their belief. Jesus came to Earth to atone for our sins, lived amongst us, taught, provided a living example, offered a few miracles for the disbelievers, was crucified, died, and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father to judge the living and the dead.

If you are a Christian you believe the preceding paragraph to be a true statement. That belief — faith — is the glue that holds your life together. It is, literally, what makes you a Christ follower.

If you are a college basketball fan, next weekend is the Final Four and you believe with all your heart that your team is going to win it all.

You have had a tough time of it as the #1 seeds have been decimated — Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga — leaving only Virginia to represent the elite and the Atlantic Coast Conference. ACC had three #1 seeds and only one remains.

You — like me — have been forced to transfer your allegiance to, say, Auburn University. War Eagle!

Image result for war eagle images

[Allow me to digress for just a second, WAR EAGLE! Is that a great motto or what? I went to a military school and we never came up with WAR EAGLE! Auburn was, once upon a time, a military school, but still. WAR EAGLE!]

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03/13/19

You Are All Alone

Nice warm day in the ATX after a morning of rain. Ahh, On Earth as it is in Texas! It’s SXSW time in the ATX.

As a founder, entrepreneur, CEO there are times — most of the time — when you must rely solely upon yourself. You are all alone.

Even when you are a member of a team, at times you are all alone because you are the decider.

This is not a bad thing; it is just a thing. You can relax knowing that every other founder, entrepreneur, CEO has had the same feeling.

That feeling — when the butterflies in your gut become condors and they try to slice their way out with their sharp talons. Your stomach is an acid pit and your breath is like kerosene.

It is real, but you can handle it. Learning to rely upon your own judgment is critical.

I am not counseling you to ignore advice. Solicit advice, but know that sometimes, you will jump alone.

Here is a video of a stick of paratroopers (with equipment) getting ready to jump over White Sands as part of a training exercise. Every soldier who approaches that door is a member of a team, but when they jump they make that decision alone. You as a founder, entrepreneur, CEO will make that same decision.

You got this, trust me.

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01/3/19

Inspiration – Beginning a New Year

Big Red Car here on a brilliant, sunny Thursday in the New Year. 2019, YOUR year!

Every new year I look for inspiration and for inspiration for my clients. I always find inspiration in Churchill. Surprised?

No, the guy saved the Western World from the scourge of the Nazis at a time when the English had gotten their teeth kicked in by the Germans in France.

After he had overseen the cobbled together evacuation of the English army by pleasure boat across the Channel, he was faced with leading a scared nation whose army had left their heavy weapons in France.

Image result for images churchill

Look into those eyes. See what it looks like to stare down evil, to deliver a message to the Nazis of ultimate, complete, total, unconditional surrender.

Hitler was readying an airborne and seaborne invasion of England called Sea Lion.

So what did Churchill do?

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