This is a guest post written by Aquaus Kelley.
Troy Carter doesn't mind being known as "the VC formerly known as Lady Gaga's manager." The bets he made to move the iconic artist from obscurity to super-stardom are the same bets he's made for organizations like Lyft, Uber, Spotify, Warby Parker, and countless others. His ability to spot winners in both entertainment (Meghan Trainor, John Legend, and others) and as venture capitalist is uncanny, fueled by his one true skill--empathy. It's this empathy that gives him the wherewithal to think like a consumer, feel like an artist, move like hustler, and make money like a BOSS.
In my interview with him on Innovation Crush, I got a chance to chat with Troy about the importance of using our common sense, being tough, opening doors, and caring about the consumer.
Here are 5 tips we learned from the Atom Factory CEO on entrepreneurship and innovation:
1. Use Common Sense.
When Troy was asked what he looks for in regards to potential business opportunities, he mentions, "First and foremost, I'm a consumer. I ask myself, would I listen to this? Would I understand why people would want to listen to this? Would I buy this? Would I understand why people would want to buy this? I didn't go to business school or anything like that. My analytics is just through common sense. I can listen to an idea and break it down to it's simplest form. From there, it's just a matter of whether or not I would write a check."
2. Be Tough.
"You have to be a tough founder in order to challenge and compete with incumbents," says Troy. "We look for leaders with tenacity, wherewithal, and strong teams. No one is born an entrepreneur. It's something that we develop over a period of time. Our grit is a result of the difficult experiences we deal with in our daily lives. This toughens up our muscles in both our stomach and spirit to help us get through the tough times."
3. Open Doors.
Troy mentions, "It's important for me to create a pathway toward success for kids who come from where I come from. It was people like Russell Simmons, Reginald Lewis, and Puff who I modeled myself after. I looked at them and told myself that if they can do it, I can do it. They all helped to pave the way for me. In return, I'm just looking to blast open the door for 100's of thousands of kids."
"I was recently told that some investors didn't invest in our fund because they thought that we were only going to focus on minority founders" says Troy. "This blew my mind and caused me to ask myself, who said a Black guy can't build a billion-dollar company? Based off of this conversation solely, now I feel obligated to open up doors and give minority entrepreneurs a chance. There are multi-billion dollar opportunities out there. Lets find them and lets get it!"
4. Care About The Consumer.
"If you're still building your business around carbonated beverages, you are in trouble," says Troy. "It's no coincidence that the soda category started to erode when the information age hit. When people can read and see a direct correlation between health issues and ingredients, they are going to make smarter decisions. As a result, they will eventually gravitate toward the products and services that are in their best interest."
5. Judge People By Their Intent.
When Troy asked the CEO of Sony Music, Doug Morris how he handles executive talent, Doug told Troy, "Judge people by their intent. When people make a mistake, look at their intent in that decision. If it was intended to be beneficial to the company, let them make that mistake and learn from that mistake as long as it wasn't malicious."
What does innovation mean to Troy Carter?
"It means living around the corner. Be there before everyone else gets there. See what happens before everyone else sees it." - Troy Carter