Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed: David Cowan

by Scott Edward Walker on June 28th, 2012

To Our Clients & Friends: Welcome to our weekly series “Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed.”  Each week, we share a favorite video of a successful entrepreneur, investor or business leader on a variety of topics.  This week, we present David Cowan, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and a smart investor.

In this interesting 50-minute interview from 2011 (courtesy of Startup Grind), David provides the following solid advice for entrepreneurs:

  • founders must be able to describe their startup in very simple terms in three sentences or less (starting at 18:01);
  •  “failure is an option” – it’s an option that founders should expect, and it’s a normal part of figuring out what works and what doesn’t work (starting at 24:36);
  • “you gotta do what you love” (starting at 31:10);
  • the best entrepreneurs are those who want to start a company to solve a problem that they’re passionate about (e.g., because they are a customer of the technology) — as opposed to just wanting to start a company (starting at 31:55);
  • the process for getting funding at Bessemer and most VC firms is to first pitch a junior person at the firm, as opposed to a partner (starting at 36:15);
  • luck is the most common characteristic of a successful entrepreneur; the most important characteristic that David is looking for is a “scientific mindset” – i.e., a person who is really interested in hard questions and has no problem talking about mistakes (starting at 36:55);
  • other important characteristics include the ability to work well with a team and to attract talented people (starting at 38:05);
  • when an entrepreneur asks for help, “that’s an entrepreneur” – the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who makes something with limited resources (starting at 41:56);
  • there are two teams in any company: (i) the founding team (2 or 3 co-founders); and (ii) once the startup has some success, “then you go build the team” around the functional experience; don’t try to hire the functional experience before you have a successful product (starting at 48:05); and
  • the best due diligence on any internet company is “just build the damn thing and see what happens” (starting at 50:43).

I hope you enjoy it.  Many thanks, Scott

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