Q: With a number of great companies being born of ideas coming from a youthful group of entrepreneurs, how are investors reacting to twenty-somethings fresh out of college, with little to no professional experience, without a strong network of seasoned industry experience and with a inconceivable amount of life learning still ahead of them?
Assuming all else is favorable in an investors eyes, what are investors weary of and how can young entrepreneurs prepare for this? In addition, what advice to you have for the young person seeking to build a team of "time-tested, battle-hardened" professionals?
A: (Jason) We think young-entrepreneurs are great. In fact, we like spending time with the younger set so much that we are active mentors and investors with Techstars. And certainly with our fund, we wouldn’t hesitate to fund a first-time entrepreneur with a great idea.
I think the key to being a young entrepreneur is being self aware. Know what you know and also know what you don’t. If you can communicate to a prospective investor that you are smart, have a great idea AND are emotionally intelligent and realize what other skills sets you’ll need to surround yourself with, then I don’t think being young and / or inexperienced will hurt your chances. In fact, youthful exuberance is infectious and sometimes younger folks will think outside the box more often than older ones who are set in their ways.
What we are weary about would be the young / first-time team that thinks they "know everything." I’ve seen this from time-to-time and it’s an immediate turnoff. One can still be confident and driven and self aware. No good and experienced VC would expect a twenty-year old to know everything and be prepared for anything that can happen in a startup company, so don’t pretend that you do. Even after all of our years, we still haven’t seen "everything."
The key is putting a good team around you, or asking your funding partner for help and advice in building a team. Make sure that you have this discussion BEFORE you commit to an investor, as you don’t want an after-investment surprise.
Most VCs have great networks of executives and can help place particular skill sets into their companies. Otherwise, you can put together a team before taking on funding and to attract the "veteran" players, you’ll have to have a compelling idea and a mature set of twenty-somethings (in your case).
Good luck to you.