2010
05.29

One of the questions I’m most often asked as a VC is what I’m looking for in an investment. For me I’ve stated publicly that 70% of my investment decision is the team and most of this is skewed toward the founders. I’ve watched people who went to the top schools, got the best grades and worked for all the right companies flame out.

So what skills does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? What attributes am I looking for during the process? Having been through the experience as an entrepreneur twice myself I have developed a list of what I think it takes. This post covers the first out of 10 that I’ll write about.

1. Tenacity – Tenacity is probably the most important attribute in an entrepreneur. It’s the person who never gives up – who never accepts “no” for an answer. The world is filled with doubters who say that things can’t be done and then pronounce after the fact that they “knew it all along.” Look at Google. You think that anybody really believed 1999 that two young kids out of Stanford had a shot at unseating Yahoo!, Excite, Ask Jeeves and Lycos? Yeah, right. Trust me, whatever you want to build you’ll be told by most VC’s something like, “Social networking has already been done,” “You’ll never get a telecom carrier deal done,” or “Google already has a product in this area.” You’ll be told by the people you want to recruit that they’re not sure about joining, by a landlord that you’ll need a year’s deposit or by a potential business development partner that they’re too busy to work with you, “come back in 6 months.”
If you’re already running a startup you know all this. But some founders have that extra quality that makes them never give up. At times it goes as far as being chutzpah. And I see this extra dose of tenacity in only about 1 of 10 entrepreneurs that I see. And if you’re not naturally one of these people you probably know it, too. You see that peer who always pushes things further than you normally would. What are you going to get further out of your comfort zone and be more tenacious? It is really what separates the wheat from the chaff.

I once had a debate with a prominent VC on a panel. The moderator asked the question, “if an entrepreneur writes an email to a VC and doesn’t hear back what should they do?” This VC responded, “Move on. Next on the checklist. He’s not interested.” Without much thought I shot back, “That’s the worst advice I’ve ever heard someone give an entrepreneur.” Doh. I almost couldn’t believe I had blurted it out, but what came out of my mouth was so heart felt that it just rolled out.

If you fold at the first un-returned email what hope to you have as an entrepreneur? As an entrepreneur people who aren’t going to respond to you and it’s your responsibility to politely and assertively stay on people’s radar screen. You no longer work for Google, Oracle, Salesforce.com or McKinsey where everybody calls you back. You had no idea how important that brand name was until you left it behind. Your customers don’t care that you went to Stanford, Harvard or MIT. It’s just you now. And frankly if you went to a state college in Florida you’re at no disadvantage in the tenacity column. Persistence will pay off.

A simple example
When I launched my second company I was new to Silicon Valley. I had spent the previous 11 years in Europe and Japan. My company was relatively unknown. We were launching a cloud-based document management into a space that was increasingly being called Enterprise 2.0. It just so happened that there was a conference coming up run by a guy named Ismael Ghalimi, a very well respected software executive who also was keeping a blog at the time for companies in the space.

He was having his first ever conference and people from the who’s who of VC firms in Silicon Valley would be attending. There were also press and other senior executives from the sector. I got my friends over at Lewis PR to give me an introduction to Ismael, who kindly invited me to present at the conference. He sent me the schedule and I was to speak on the second day in an afternoon session in a break-out room. Ugh.

I wrote to Ismael requesting that I be on in the first day and in a panel on the main stage with Om Malik, Shel Israel, Rajen Sheth (from Google), Karen Leavitt (WebEx) and Ismael himself. He wrote back and told me it wasn’t going to be possible. I emailed him back with my bona fides and made the case again. He, being the nicest guy in the world, very politely told me it wasn’t possible. I had a friend email him and tell him what a great panelist I was. I called Ismael directly. I came up lots of reasons why I was the perfect fit. He said he would think about it but that the stage was already crowded. “Yes, but you don’t have any startups on the stage. I think it would make a better balance.”

I asked him to breakfast to talk about it. I know he didn’t really want me on the panel but I knew it was too important for me in gaining recognition. I walked the very fine line between pushing the boundaries with my chutzpah but not crossing the line. In the end he relented and this was a very important session for me in building out early awareness for Koral. The picture above is from the actual event courtesy of Dan Farber who was writing for ZDNet. And in the end I became quite good friends with Ismael, whom I miss since I’ve moved to LA.

For those who know me well know that this is just a normal day in the life of Mark Suster. It’s not always pretty, but it’s part of my DNA. I can’t help it. And it’s one of the things I look for in entrepreneurs I evaluate. Some companies don’t push hard enough. Others cross the line. I wish I could tell you some formula for the right amount of chutzpah but I’ve always said it’s a bit like art – you know it when you see it.

本系列文章是由原 Salesforce 副总裁、风投 Mark Suster 撰写的对创业的一些思考以及建议。下面是该系列的首篇,后面文章将在今后陆续刊载。在文中,作者认为:一个企业家最重要的品质是永不言弃。

作为一个风投我最常被问及的问题之一便是如何能博取我的投资。我曾公开表示 70% 的情况下我的决定取决于你的团队,而团队的好坏则又取决于创始人。我观察过那些上顶级学校、成绩名列前茅并且在所有优秀企业工作过的人。

那么要成为一个成功的企业家到底需要些什么技能呢?在选拔过程中我会注意哪些指标?在拥有了两次创业经历的前提下,对以上问题的答案我有了一个列表。本文会主要讲述列表中的第一项。

1、意志力 —— 顽强的意志力对一个企业家而言可能是最重要的品质。它指的是一个人永不放弃 —— 从不接受「不」这个答案。这个世界充满了质疑者,他们认为很多事都无法完成,而当其他人失败时就跳出来宣布「我早知如此。」瞧瞧谷歌吧。你以为 1999 年真的有人相信两个斯坦福出来的小孩儿能把雅虎、Excite、Ask 和 Lycos 拉下马?哈,想得美。相信我,无论你想做什么大多数风投都会告诉你类似如下的箴言「社交网络格局已定,」「你不会找到合适的运营商的,」或者「谷歌已经涉足了这块领域了。」你想要招募的人会告诉你自己不确定是否应该加入,办公室的房东会要你先交一整年的押金,或者潜在的商务伙伴说他们目前抽不出时间与你合作,「半年之后再来吧。」

如果你已在创业就会知道所有的这些。然而有些创始人就比别人多一点永不言弃的品质。这种品质有时可以达到肆无忌惮的程度。拥有这样比别人「多一点」意志力的人在我看来是十里挑一。如果你不属于这类人群你恐怕自己也心知肚明。你见过那个总是不满现状而想把事情做得比普通人更好的家伙吧。让你离开自己的安乐窝而变得更顽强到底有什么好处呢?那其实是区分谷与糠的关键。

我曾跟一位颇有名气的风投有过一次辩论。主持人问道,「如果一个企业家向风投写了一封电子邮件而未收到回复该怎么办?」这位仁兄答曰,「那么他应向下一位风投写信。现在这位明显不感兴趣。」我没想太多便反驳道,「那简直是我听到给企业家最差劲的建议了。」啊哦。我几乎不敢相信自己竟说出那样的话,不过它实为我心之所想于是便脱口而出。

作为一名企业家如果因为一封未回复的邮件就认输了,那你还有什么希望呢?

对一名企业家而言,如果别人不搭理你的请求,那么你自己应该想办法礼貌而不懈地努力引起他人的注意。你不再为谷歌、甲骨文、Salesforce.com 或 McKinsey 这些别人在意的企业工作。只有当这些品牌被弃于身后之时你才会意识到它是多么的重要。你的顾客不在乎你曾经上过斯坦福、哈佛或麻省理工。你只是你自己而已。事实上如果你曾经上的是佛罗里达州的某个二流大学,在意志力这一栏里你并没有任何劣势。坚持不懈才是关键。

一个简单的例子

当我第二次创业时在硅谷还是个新面孔。过去的 11 年我都在欧洲和日本。我的公司相比之下显得不见经传。我们当时准备为所谓的 Enterprise 2.0(企业 2.0)领域做一个以云计算为本的文件管理公司。天赐良机,一个名叫伊斯梅·加利米(Ismael Ghalimi)的人正筹备研讨大会。此君在软件业高薪厚职,备受尊敬。他亦曾经营博客一枚,专门面向业内公司,传道解惑,指点江山。

这是他第一次召开大会,硅谷风投界的不少重量级人物都会出席。前来参加的还有媒体以及产业中其他公司的几位高管。我让在 Lewis PR 的朋友介绍自己和伊斯梅认识,他好心的邀请我参加他的会议。他把日程安排发给了我,让我在第二天下午的一个分会场演讲。这…

我回信给伊斯梅要求自己在第一天的主会场讲话,和奥姆·马利克(Om Malik)、希尔·以色列(Shel Israel)、谷歌的拉金·西斯(Rajen Sheth)、WebEx 的凯伦·李维特(Karen Leavitt)以及伊斯梅本人同台一道。他回信说那不可能。我又诚恳地回复并重述了自己的请求。伊斯梅,这个世界上最好的人,再次礼貌地回答说不行。我请一个朋友向他写邮件说我是多么好的一个演讲者。此外我又专门给伊斯梅打了电话。我陈述了大量理由试图说明自己是合适的人选。他称会考虑我的请求但也需要我明白名额已经很满了。「我明白您的意思,不过讲话的人里没有来自创业公司的代表。我想我的出现能使发言更加全面。」

我邀请他共进早餐来讨论这件事。我明白他并不想给我这次机会,但那对我自己获得早期声誉实在太重要了。我小心行事,既使自己能探查对方的底线又不过分要求而伤了双方和气。最后他答应了我的提议,而那次会议则成了我为 Koral 创建早期影响力的重要事件之一。后来我与伊斯梅成了十分要好的朋友,可惜自我搬到洛杉矶后竟再未谋面。

熟悉我的人都知道那仅是我生命中再平常不过的一天了。虽然它并不一定轻巧愉快,却是构成我 DNA 的一部分。对此我还真无能为力。事实上它也是我在考察企业家时至关重要的一方面。有的人太随遇而安,余者又太得寸进尺。我希望我能告诉你如何精确地把握其尺度,然而就像我一直认为的那样,它更是一种艺术 —— 知之为知之。

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  1. thanks for this great post wow… it’s very

    wonderful

  2. Was an interesting article, thank you..

  3. Great article, thank you very much!